When I think about the hardest part of living alone, I don't think about the possibility of someone breaking into my home and getting me; or who would kill this huge spider across the room as I stood on the kitchen counter, but the number one issue was cooking! Growing up I never was a cook. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners always consisted of contributions from my siblings, and as for me? Well. It was just accepted that I wouldn't cook. haha! Since then I've come a longgg way and actually enjoy my way around the kitchen. When I shared an apartment with friends in college, we took turns cooking and I learned a lot of good recipes from them. I was always used to cooking for 3 and having enough leftovers for lunch the next day. So how would this work with living alone?
When I first moved into my single apartment I remember purchasing frozen dinners and eating out A LOT! I wouldn't really cook because I was used to making larger portions. I mean who wants to eat the same meal for the entire week? *gags* I didn't really have a "budget" but I would take inventory every 3 months and see where most of my money was going and of course I was spending $100s on food from eating out. I finally decided something needed to change.
Now in just 3 short years since I've been living alone I have finally mastered how to prepare home cooked meals for just myself without killing my pockets:) Here's my 5 top tips...
1. Plan Ahead
The biggest piece of advice I can offer is to plan! Plan your meals for the week. If this is too much of a stretch, start with planning a few days at a time (Sun-Tues). Select some of your favorite recipes from pinterest to try this week, grocery shop and go! By planning you will also grocery shop based on your menu for the week so make a list! This way you're not just going to the store and buying up anything that looks good thus saving money.
I typically will cook dinner and have enough left over for lunch the next day (and possibly dinner) and then do a new meal. I refuse to eat the same meal more than 2 days in a row. I also tend to treat myself by eating out on Fridays.
2. Buy in Bulk
I once heard someone say that they think it's crazy for single people to have a Sam's Club card. Not true! You can still live alone and buy in bulk. This applies mainly for my meats. I like to buy larger packs because you get more bang for your buck. The trick is to separate them into portions right when you get home THEN freeze. For example, buy a large pack of 20 chicken legs and split them by putting 3-4 legs into individual freezer bags. This way you can just pull and thaw what you need without going overboard!
Just because you're cooking for one doesn't mean you have to give up all of your favorite large dishes such as Taco soup or Greek Spanakopita! These are examples of meals that you can't really cook "a little" of. Go ahead and cook the full meal, leave enough for a couple of lunches and dinners and just freeze the left overs! There are so many one dish meals that are super easy to make and taste just as good after freezing! Try it out!
4. Meal Prep
Meal prepping goes hand in hand with planning ahead. Cooking for one can be exhausting! Especially after a long day at work, many times the last thing you want to do is come home and prepare a meal and have to clean up. If laziness gets the best of you, meal prepping may be your best bet!
Here's how it would go. Saturday you make a list, plan your meals for the week and get your shopping done. Sunday you get in the kitchen! Prepare all the meals and separate them out. Usually this process is no longer than about 2 hours. You get everything going and then can do your clean up as things are in the oven. I plan to share a video later on how I sometimes meal prep for a busy week ahead! It makes it so much easier because during the week you just go in, grab a meal and heat it up! No work and you're still eating healthy!
5. Re-invent left overs
This is a easy one that comes up a lot with this topic but it is so true and easy to do. Due to the fact that the biggest issue with cooking alone is that your have a meal that typically is stretched longer than truly desired but you can mix it up! For example, if you cooked a roasted chicken on Sunday and had it for dinner also on Monday, chop it up! Add in some mayo, grapes, celery and pecans and now you have a nice yummy chicken salad! The possibilities are endless.
So there you have it! Doesn't seem so overwhelming right?! Also remember that you can always invite a friend over to share some of your lovely meals and remember to purchase smaller sizes of perishables such as milk.
Get in the kitchen! You can live alone, eat well and be perfectly happy with a table for one:)
What are some of your top tips for cooking for just yourself?