One is the loneliest number, especially when it comes to food. Think about the last few times you hung out with your friends. More often than not the occasion revolved around food. Even if your gang isn’t hunting down the city’s best brunch spots, you always socialize over some cocktails and carbs. Eating is a social activity, so what happens when there’s no one to share a meal with? For one thing, you get to eat whatever you want. No compromises here.
First things first, is cooking for one even worth it?
Growing up, my family rarely made dinner when the gang wasn’t all there. Not going to lie, it was a treat to eat Lucky Charms for dinner. I still indulge in half a box a bowl of cereal once in a while when I’m feeling lazy. But quick fixes like takeout, frozen dinners, and sugary cereal aren’t sustainable. Not to mention you’re neglecting a serious life skill. Practice makes perfect and there’s no way you can wow a crowd or a significant other if you can’t boil water without burning the house down. So while cooking for one may seem like a waste of time, it’s an easy way to live a happier and healthier life.
When you’re in the mood to meal prep
Ta-ta takeout. Meal prepping saves time, money, and calories. A few hours in the kitchen on Sunday lets you eat well all week long. But besides slicing and stirring, there’s a few things you should keep in mind…
Pick something you don’t mind on repeat
I’m the type of girl that gets on kicks. If I find something I like, I’ll want to eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While it’s not healthy to eat the same thing for every meal (you’re missing out on crucial nutrients), sticking to a handful of dishes throughout the week will save you a ton on groceries.
Find out if it’s fridge (or freezer!) safe
Okay, you know what I mean. Of course you can throw your leftovers in the refrigerator. But ask yourself this, “Will it reheat well?” I suffer from “dieters’ tongue” aka weird textures don’t bother me because I’m so used to healthy substitutions. A gun could be to my head and I couldn’t tell you the difference between whole wheat and regular pasta. But if you’re the kind of person who wants something to taste just as it did hot out of the oven, keep textures in mind. Also, you may not want to eat 12 gallons of soup over the next week. See if the recipe mentions if it freezes well. That way you can keep some “emergencies” on hand for when you’re in a rush.
Expect the unexpected
You know when you think something is a good idea but then realize how ridiculous it was? Like when you go grocery shopping and buy kale with all of the intentions in the world to eat healthy that week. And then it’s 9 o’clock at night and you’re cursing yourself for not picking up some chocolate while you were out? Yeah, hindsight is 20-20.
When it comes to ingredients, go for things that don’t spoil easily and are multipurpose. For example, you might have an Asian-inspired dish in mind, so you stock up on lemongrass. You plan to meal prep on Sunday, but you go wine tasting instead. No big deal, you’ll just do it tomorrow. Except your coworker is out sick and you find yourself staying late. The next thing you know, you open the fridge and that lemongrass is barely recognizable. When selecting a recipe, think of a Mexican menu. The same several ingredients are in every dish, just composed in different ways. You want to pick interchangeable recipes in case life (or your mind) changes on you.
When you’re hangry AF
You want food, and you want it now. It’s been more than 20 minutes since you’re last meal and you’re famished. Someone feed you right this second or you’re burning the building down. Girl, I feel you on a soul level. Here’s what to do if you didn’t meal prep but you’re preparing to do something you’re not-hungry self will regret.
Keep your pantry stocked with staples
You should always keep the basics on hand, whether you feel like whipping up a mini masterpiece or are seriously contemplating eating beans out of the can. Things like chicken stock, boil in the bag rice, and frozen veggies allows come in handy. Just because I said no frozen dinners doesn’t mean you can’t cheat a little. Trader Joe’s has some serious lifesavers. Some of my favorite things to keep on hand include burgers (turkey and veggie), naan bread, and frozen grain mixes. And if worse comes to worse, make some pasta. And call me if you happen to make the perfect amount, I’m convinced it’s not possible.
Become a math wiz
How many times have you come across an amazing recipe, but it’s designed to feed a small army? Don’t let that deter you. While math is one of my worst subjects, I don’t mind breaking out a calculator if it means a delicious hot meal. Remember, cooking isn’t as much of a science as baking, but be warned that cutting a recipe in half may have some side effects. Some things to consider:
- Amount of each ingredient
- Cook time
- Pan size
Here is a helpful guide to cutting ingredients by a half or third. In my experience, I only cut down recipes if I’m not sure if I’ll like them or they won’t preserve well.
- What’s your go-to dish when you’re just cooking for yourself?
- Either scrambled or eggs over easy, depending on my mood and my fridge’s contents.
- Would you rather have to cook every meal you eat or only be allowed to eat at restaurants for the rest of your life?
- Cook every meal. I ate out 95% of the time while studying abroad for a semester and eating became a chore by month two.
- What’s your favorite cooking show?
- Hands down The Great British Bake Off.