Synovia Simons, MS, RDN, LDN
Brooke Beales, Keiser Dietetic Intern
Anita Frankhauser, MS, RDN, LDN
Cooking for one can seem like a considerable effort for a small reward. There are many reasons you may not want to cook for one person: it takes too much time, it’s expensive, or it’s boring. Moreover, cooking for one may not give you the sense of accomplishment it once did when cooking for your family.
However, cooking for yourself has many benefits. Your sense of accomplishment can now come from nourishing you and maintaining your health. You’re in control of the ingredients and you have the freedom to experiment with new foods and flavors. Cooking can also be cheaper and easier than takeout if you plan ahead. Here are some tips to make cooking nourishing easy, affordable, and fun.
Tip #1: Take control of the ingredients
Do you have nutrition goals to manage your health? How are you achieving these goals? For example, you may be managing your weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, or cholesterol. Cooking at home allows you to control portions, sugar, fat, salt, and other nutrients in a meal. This is a great first step to manage your health.
Tip #2: Plan it out with MyPlate
It’s easier to know what to cook and eat when you have a game plan. Not sure where to start? No problem, MyPlate is a great guide to follow! It’s best to include at least 3 different food groups in each meal.
Decide what you would like to eat for the next few days. Write down your meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Check your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry for any items you can include. Now that you’ve taken stock of what you have and made a plan, it’s time to make a grocery list.
Tip #3: Try ordering groceries online and stick to your list
Have you tried ordering your groceries? Grocery shopping has changed significantly in the past year; we now have the technology and convenience to order online with either pick-up or delivery. Check the delivery availability of your local grocery store. Some stores offer free delivery if you order over the minimum amount.
This option can save time and money because you are more likely to order only the items on your list. If you do shop in the store, stick to your list. Try your best to resist the urge to buy on impulse.
Tip #4 Divide or buy for convenience
Buying in large quantities, is a cheaper way to shop. But what do you do with all that food? Divide and freeze food into 1 or 2 serving sizes. Likewise, many meats come individually frozen or sealed for smaller portions.
When deciding on produce, take into consideration price, amount of preparation, and spoilage time. Fresh produce may be more vibrant and cheaper for seasonal items but may require more preparation and should be eaten within a few days. Check the produce aisle, frozen, and canned aisles for pre-prepped or ready-to-eat vegetables if preparation is physically challenging. Now that your pantry, fridge, and freezer are well-stocked, it is time to cook!
Tip #4: Reduce and Separate
Cut your favorite recipes in half to cook less. This will allow you to use smaller pans, that may be more physically manageable. Preparing many foods once or twice a week is takes less time than cooking a new meal every day. Cook multiple servings of different foods, such as meats, potatoes, rice, and pasta, that can be mixed and matched throughout the week.
Or why not cook them together! Roasting a protein, starch and vegetable all at once on a sheet pan is another simplified method of cooking. At mealtime, add in microwaveable or ready-to-eat produce like a salad or fresh fruit for even more variety.
Don’t let your leftovers go to waste! Freezing food into individual servings is a great way to guarantee yourself a quick, nutritious meal for another day. When reheating, jazz up your leftovers with sauteed vegetables or a sauce.
Tip #5 Make it Fun
Experiment with seasonal ingredients in your favorite recipes. Try a new recipe or ingredient each week. Search online or check magazines, cookbooks, or cooking shows, for recipe inspiration.
Make mealtime fun and enjoyable; add music or watch television while cooking and cleaning up. Don’t like eating alone? Share a meal with family or friends over the phone, FaceTime, Zoom, or other video chat apps.
Homemade meals give you the power to take control of your health and nourishment and gives you the opportunity to experiment and try new things! Whether you want to cook a new recipe or prepare your meals for the week, planning ahead will help budget and bring ease to the process. If you are stuck or don’t know where to start, MyPlate is a great guide to help get you going. Remember, the kitchen is a place of creativity. Have fun and follow some of the tips above to help make the most of cooking for one.
Want more tips on cooking for one or simple recipes? Call 727-573-9444 to speak with your licensed dietitian.
- Bobroff L, Minton E. Healthy Eating: Cooking for One. University of Florida IFAS Extension. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/fy1302. Published October 14, 2018. Accessed September 2, 2021.
- Allen R. Cooking for One or Two. Cooperative Extension Service. https://www.ksre.k-state.edu/humannutrition/nutrition-topics/eatingwell-budget/cookingfor1or2-documents/Recipes_Tips4Cooking4OneOrTwo.pdf. Accessed September 2, 2021.
- Cooking Tips for One or Two. Cooking tips and trends. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://www.eatright.org/food/planning-and-prep/cooking-tips-and-trends/cooking-tips-for-one-or-two