Lots of us are cooking and shopping singularly on a regular basis.
Solo shopping trips and cooking sessions are not uncommon – lots of us prepare meals for ourselves, and only ourselves, on a regular basis.
Interestingly, research has shown that people who frequently cook from scratch at home eat a healthier diet and consume fewer calories overall.
We understand that cooking for one can seem difficult, especially as many recipes are designed for greater numbers of people and ingredients are often sold in larger quantities
than one person may need.
It's not as tricky as it might seem...
We're here to show you that there are lots of options you can take to make cooking for one much more straightforward – read on for our practical advice such as adapting recipes, re-thinking the way you buy and store food, and using food in the most cost- and time-efficient way.
These tips and guidelines will help you create delicious, nutritious meals for one.
One of the main challenges when cooking for one is that pack sizes are too big - you’ll need to keep your wits about you in supermarkets and shops to avoid buying more than you need. It’s likely that you won’t need a whole pack or can for your meal, especially if you’re halving or quartering a recipe.
Try shopping at the meat or fish counter in your local supermarket or visiting markets, butchers or greengrocers – this way, you can buy only the quantity you need rather than pre-packed amounts.
Making a weekly meal plan really helps to save money and reduce food waste. As well as streamlining your shopping, planning allows you to cook a batch of food on a day when you have time, and decide when to take something out of the freezer on a day when you don’t want to cook.
With your week's eating mapped out in advance, you're also less likely to stray from your healthy eating plan and can resist excess snacking and grazing.
Fine-tune cooking times
Cooking for one does require a few changes to the way you prepare and make meals. One of the skills you’ll need to practise is adjusting cooking times to compensate for the smaller amount of food needed. In particular, cooking time may be slightly quicker for oven-cooked dishes.
If you’re only cooking one portion, keep an eye on the dish when its nearing the suggested cooking time – remember to check on it 5-10 minutes before.
Freeze your assets
No doubt you’ve found that a freezer is really useful when cooking for one. Follow our tips to use yours to the best of its ability and support your solo cooking ventures:
- With many recipes, you can simply divide the ingredients by four or two to get to the quantities for one. Here are a selection of easily-adapted recipes for you to try out:
- Many dishes can be cooked as per the recipe and then divided into portions and frozen. For example, this Bolognese sauce freezes really well. You can then defrost a portion in the microwave and cook some wholegrain pasta for a healthy meal in under 10 minutes.
- Often you can freeze ingredients used in the recipe as well as the cooked dish itself. If the original recipe calls for one tin of tomatoes, beans or lentils, you’ll only need a quarter of a tin for one person. Simply use what you need for the recipe, then freeze the remaining contents in freezer bags.
- You can also freeze fresh herbs - just chop or blend them and use an ice tray. These can then be easily stirred into dishes when needed. Freeze vegetables and fruit and they’ll be ready to be used later in soups, smoothies and puddings.
- Always clearly label home-frozen foods with the name and the date that it was made. You don’t want to come across UFOs (unidentified frozen objects!).
Store food properly
There are lots of tips and tricks you can use to make perishable foods last longer – they can be especially useful if you only need half or a quarter of something.
For example, if cooking with a red pepper, start cutting at the pointed end, leaving the stalk and seeds intact. Place the pepper cut-side down on a plate and store in the fridge. This will make it stay fresher for longer. For more tips on storing food, check outLove Food Hate Waste website.
Eating the same meal more than two days in a row can be unwelcome outcome of batch cooking – but there is a simple solution.
Many dishes can be totally transformed into a new recipe with the addition of a few spices. A traditional stew or casserole is easily transformed into curry with the simple addition of a teaspoon of curry paste or powder, and leftover pasta can be turned into a Chinese feast with the addition of some stock and a teaspoon of Chinese 5-spice.
Think creatively about how meals with similar ingredients can be adapted into several unique dishes – a batch of mince can become Bolognese, chilli, burritos or a cottage pie without too much trouble.
You're worth it...
A common perception is that cooking for one is not worth the hassle – at Enjoy Food, we completely disagree. Cooking your own food gives you greater control of your diet, so you can eat more healthily and manage your diabetes more effectively. Also, making meals and recipes from scratch saves you money and almost always tastes better than a ready-meal equivalent.
It’s worth remembering that there’s a difference between eating and dining. Just because you’re eating on your own, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t savour your food and make an occasion of your dinner. Set the table, light a candle, use the best china - you’ll be amazed how psychologically uplifting it can be and how much more you appreciate your food…