Whether you are cooking for one as the result of divorce, widowhood, an empty nest or personal choice, you are not alone. The U.S. Bureau of Census indicates that single-person households are becoming increasingly common. Someone lives alone in one of every five households in this country.
Most people don’t enjoy preparing meals just for themselves, and cooking healthful meals for one can feel like a chore. You have to eat to live, but nobody wants the same leftovers for a week. Instead of filling your grocery cart with frozen Lean Cuisines and Smart Ones, or just having a sandwich for dinner, try some of the suggestions here to help you prepare more nutritious meals for yourself.
Shopping and storage tips
- Buy frozen vegetables. The packages can be resealed and you only need cook what you want for a single meal. Buy fresh veggies only when you know you’ll be cooking and eating them in a day or two.
- Buy fresh fruit by the piece instead of by the bag. For example, don’t buy a bunch of bananas that are all ripe; buy one that is ripe, one that is almost ripe and one that is on the green side. Buy only what you can eat in a few days.
- Buy fruit juices and milk in single-serving containers. Even a quart goes bad more quickly than you think. One percent milk keeps longer than skim.
- Keep staples on hand in the pantry, such as dried pasta, rice, tomato sauce, onions, canned beans, chicken or vegetable broth and olive oil.
- Individual portions of meat, poultry and fish can be repackaged and then frozen. Wrap in heavy aluminum foil or a zipper-sealed bag to freeze.
- Some shelf-stable items that you don’t use quickly, such as coffee, flour, nuts, raisins and seeds, may be better off stored in the freezer.
Meals for one
Stir frying is a great way to add a variety of fresh vegetables and meats to your diet. You don’t need a fancy wok; just use a frying pan. Try chopped broccoli, carrots, onion, red peppers, and Chinese cabbage with bits of shrimp, beef or chicken. Add some commercial stir fry sauce or other seasoning if you like, and serve with brown rice. Stir-fry leftovers don’t freeze well, but they are great for lunch or supper the next day.
Meatloaf is a favorite comfort food. It takes a little work, but it keeps well. Combine a pound of ground beef with chopped onion, bread crumbs, an egg, a little ketchup and some herbs. Press into a loaf pan and cook at 350 for about an hour. Put a potato in the oven to cook along with it, and give yourself a green vegetable or a bit of salad. After supper, freeze the meatloaf in individual portions.
Chicken Parmesan calls for dipping chicken breasts in beaten eggs and rolling them in a mixture of Parmesan cheese and seasoned bread crumbs. Top with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 for about a half hour, until the centers are white with no pink. Freeze extra portions.
Omelets are quick, easy, tasty and good for you. Fold chopped vegetables and a bit of cheese into the beaten egg as it cooks. Use only the egg whites to reduce fat and cholesterol.
Other tips: Broiling or barbecuing on a small outdoor grill is quick and easy. You can grill meat, fish, poultry and many vegetables.
Liven up your meal time Invite a friend or neighbor for dinner, or bring a meal to share with them. Plan a monthly meal with friends around ethnic themes. Set your table for every meal; make it look appealing. Don’t eat in front of the television; play some quiet music in the background instead.
Although it is a challenge to shop smart and eat well as a single person, it will pay off in your mealtime enjoyment and your good health. Bon appetit!