21 Tips On Cooking For One


Many people are complaining how cooking for one is neither worth the effort nor the messy kitchen. Or they say how it’s too expensive or how it’s even depressing at times. Sure, you go through all that effort just for one meal, but what if we told you that there are actually ways to cope with the fact that you’re cooking for one? Here’s a bunch of simple tricks and tips to get you started on accepting the fact that you’re cooking solo and eating solo – it’s really not that bad!

1. Deli counters and bulk bins are your friends

Bulk bins and deli counters are one of those places where you rarely get to go – mostly because you’re always buying packages in an attempt to save up as much money as possible. But the truth is that many people don’t even know how these things work, and we’re all taught that if you get an offer of 4 somethings for the price of 2, you just buy the dang thing.

Actually, what most people don’t know is that you are actually allowed to buy single pieces of food – a single chicken breast, three slices of cheese, 1/3 pound of beans, etc. Just make sure you’re nice to the people working behind these counters, make them your friends and you will be leaving with just enough groceries to make your planned meal without throwing away excess supplies.


2. Make a weekly cooking plan

Even though we know that you (probably) won’t make a plan, we’re here to advise you to do so. Everybody likes going to the grocery store and thinking about what they feel like eating on the spot, but this is not always the best course of action. You might end up buying things you don’t actually need, you might buy too much fresh groceries that will just rot in a couple of days, or you might change your mind on what you want to eat by the time you get home.

Just take a planner, or any piece of paper you won’t lose that easily and come up with several meals you fancy eating that week. Then somehow narrow the choice down to the number of days you plan on cooking and STICK TO THE PLAN.

And if you need some additional reminding, there’s a ton of free apps for your smart devices that will tell you all you need to know – if you forget what you wanted to eat.


3. Don’t overbuy

A lot of people can’t resist the urge to buy pretty much everything they put their hands on in supermarkets or bazaars. To your everyday, modern cook, the food sections are like a water park for your everyday, modern child. We want this, we want that, we want everything and we want it now. You load up your cart, go to the cashier, pay for everything, enthusiastically drive it home and stock up your fridge.

Next thing you know, you won’t be using half of the stuff you bought, they will spoil in days and you will end up forcing yourself to cook certain meals for yourself just not to let those groceries go to waste. It is money-consuming, time-consuming and most importantly, mind-consuming, and we don’t want that to be happening, now do we?


4. Stock up your freezer

You can stock it up with pretty much anything, just make sure that you put in food that you can heat again in a jiffy. Remember – a full freezer is a good freezer, so when you open those drawers, a full spectre of colours should tickle your eyes. Make a dish for two servings, eat the first half and freeze the other one. A day later, all you gotta do is heat it up – either on your stove or in your microwave.

One neat trick you should remember is that when you’re heating up things in a microwave, make sure to leave some room for a glass of water. The water will evaporate and your food will soak it up, retaining much of the freshness the dish had when you made it. Also, remember that it’s not just meat that can be frozen, vegetables can be too.


5. Serve light dinners

Not every dinner has to be grandiose and full as a lunch. We all have those tough days occasionally – when we get back home, we need to eat something, but we really can’t be bothered to fry meat or make sauces at 9 pm. Sometimes, you can make what you would eat for breakfast as dinner. Make a couple of fancy sandwiches and bake them in a baker, or stack a load of pancakes and relax next to the TV.

A lot of people tend to have light lunches and heavier dinners because of their busy work schedules, but many would agree that not only is it exhausting to cook in the evening, but it also isn’t the best thing for your health. Heavy meals need time and activity to be digested and if you just lie down with a full stomach, your entrails will be crying and asking you what they did to deserve such treatment.


6. Halve a recipe for two

A lot of recipes will be perfect for what you want to eat, but frequently unsuited for your solitary needs. The simple trick here is that a dish for four can easily turn into a dish for one. Just take the recipe and re-write it by taking quarter sizes of all the ingredients listed – pay attention that some ingredients, logically, need to be cooked for a smaller amount of time if their quantity is lowered.

For instance, you find a recipe for grilled chicken breasts and you really, really want to eat some grilled chicken breasts right here, right now. You start reading through the ingredients and it says “get 6 chicken breasts,” which is way more than you can possibly eat. Just lower the number to 2, make the necessary changes in the sauces and spices and you’re good to go.


7. Use leftovers, but be innovative

Nobody likes leftovers, especially if there are a lot of different leftovers, but not enough of each to make a solid meal. This also doesn’t have to be that big of a problem. Take what you have and mix it up! Why not take that half a cucumber you have left, that quarter of tomato and some onions and blend them all together to make a refreshing salad?

Another thing you can do is take all the meat you have left, no matter what form it’s in, clean it up, spice it nicely, put it all together in a huge pot and make a fabulous stew. Add some vegetables you have left from the freezer and you get a touch of green, healthy energy that is sure to get you on your feet. Don’t forget to eat your veggies!


8. Get yourself a sandwich baker

The sandwich baker is by far one of the most useful household appliances invented by the modern-day man. Come on, it’s a thing that makes old stuff taste fresh and new, and it makes those insanely good, triangle-shaped sandwiches that you can never get enough of. The thing about them is that they are relatively cheap, they don’t break down that easily (unless you decide playing football with them is a good idea) and they are incredibly fast.

Take a piece of toast, spray some butter on it, slap a slice of meat, cheese and put some ketchup on top, then cover with another toast piece. Make another one just like that and pair them in the baker – in 5 minutes you will have crispy, delicious sandwiches that pretty much resemble a pizza. And not to mention that these sandwiches are really cheap in terms of how much money you spend on the ingredients required to make a single sandwich.


9. Consider buying a toaster oven

Once you’ve bought your sandwich baker, you might want to go a step further and buy a toaster oven. Toaster ovens are these neat little appliances that can really step-up your solo cooking game. They are incredibly easy to use, and their applications are many. You want to bake some cookies? This oven will make a small portion of cookies just for you, instead of heating up the whole oven and making two dozens cookies (which you will undeniably eat, and curse your feeble will afterwards).

Or, you can reheat an old pizza. Nothing beats a nice, juicy, fresh, crispy slice of pizza on an empty stomach. You can even roast a serving of vegetables, you can roast fish, you can do pretty much anything with it. The average price is about $50-$90, which is really not a lot for something you’ll be using almost daily for a long period of time.


10. Use bottled sauces

Bottled sauces are not really that bad – if you aren’t looking to save every single cent imaginable. Chip in a couple of extra dollars and get yourself a nice bottle of pesto sauce, or any bottled marinara sauce.

Sauces are generally difficult to make when you’re planning on ‘saucing’ a single serving (who the hell goes through all the trouble to make 50ml of sauce?). Head on over to your grocery store and find yourself some nice, exotic sauces to spice up your meals.

We already mentioned pesto sauce, then there are the salsa and enchilada sauces that come canned or bottled – you can find them in nearly every Hispanic section of a supermarket. Then there are Asian sauces, such as the teriyaki sauce, the Greek tzatziki, sour, sweet, fruity, dry, there are tons to choose from. Not to mention that it’s pretty difficult for some people to make the ideal sauce.


11. Exchange groceries with your friends

Even though this is a guide for people who are dealing with cooking alone, that probably doesn’t mean that the Apocalypse has begun and you’re the last person on the planet. When you open your fridge and realize that you’ve bought way too many tomatoes (although one can never have too many tomatoes), call a friend over for a cup of coffee and tell them to bring all the groceries they don’t need. Then revive the classic trading system and exchange goods.

There are also cases when you buy a couple of somethings, you try cooking it for the first time and it simply tastes like shoes. Let’s assume you actually cooked it right and it’s just your personal preference that you don’t like it, call somebody over – they might adore it and you can trade it for something you really like.


12. Have some fun while you’re cooking

The most important thing in doing pretty much anything in life is to have fun while you’re doing it. Remember that first job you quit, even though the money was good, simply because you wanted to bash your head against a wall while doing it? Cooking doesn’t have to be dull and hard, always find recipes you are able to make easily, or with slight difficulties because you like a challenge.

Sure, cooking alone can sometimes be dull, boring, hard, difficult, and what not, but it really doesn’t have to be that way. Play your favourite TV show in the background, or if you hate watching TV, play your favourite playlist while cooking. Dance around the kitchen and wave your arms like a hen as you’re dancing the boogie while waiting for your water to boil. If the neighbors catch you doing it, give them a wink and shake it like you just don’t care.


13. Experiment with cooking

People always get bored after they’ve cooked the same meal over and over again, especially if you’re the only one that’s going to eat it. Try inventing new recipes, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have somebody who’s going to tell you it’s the best thing they’ve ever tried or throw the plate at you after the first bite – be your own judge. Write down your results and who knows where that will lead you.

Do some basic research on which flavours go well with each other and then hop to the store and buy an unusual combination of ingredients. The first person who said that pork goes well with cherry sauce was probably burned on the stake for blasphemy, but thankfully we’re not in the middle ages anymore so you can pretty much cook whatever you feel like cooking. If anything, you’ll be the only one who gets to taste the dish, so at least you’ll be free from the judging looks.


14. Remember that cooking for one means you get to choose. Always.

It’s not rare that people forget that when you’re cooking just for yourself, it means that you don’t have to adapt to anybody’s specific taste. We’re not here to tell you that you should move out of your home and live on top of a mountain as a hermit only because you’re the only one in your family who likes venison, nah. Cooking for yourself simply means that you are always making dishes that you KNOW you’re going to enjoy.

Imagine all the people living in families where the person who is cooking is the only vegan in the house. Or the only one eating meat, whatever, it amounts to the same thing. Not only are you cooking twice because you need to suit everybody’s wishes, but maybe you can’t stand the smell or sight of the food you’re making. It’s a pretty nasty picture, which is completely obliterated by the fact that you’re your own boss. Let that at least be a comfort if you don’t like that fact that you have nobody else to cook for.


15. Find recipes made specifically for a single person

You’re constantly looking to be effective and innovative in the kitchen, but at some point you’re bound to run out of ideas, it’s only normal. You will get tired of eating the same dishes over and over just to maintain your rhythm of cooking for one, so what’s the solution?

Well, this IS the age of technology after all, so we would definitely advise you to sail the endless seas of the Internet and try googling some recipes. That’s what we did and when we typed in “cooking for one,” we got almost 200 million results in a third of a second (thanks, Google!).

But seriously, though, there’s nothing wrong with searching the web in order to find ideas and guides on what to cook next. If there isn’t a single recipe, among the 200 milion results, that you like enough to try, then we’re out of options. Guess you’ll have to stick to whatever it is you’ve been making all the while.


16. Opt for healthier snacks

One of the biggest problems for those cooking for themselves is the motivation to get started with cooking at all. That’s why people who are in this situation often resort to snacks between meals and therefore sometimes skip meals. This is something you mustn’t do, skipping meals is one of the worst things you can do to your organism.

So, instead of taking that bag of chips and dipping it into mayonnaise, and then watering it down with a bottle of Mountain Dew (which is equivalent to punching yourself in the stomach for half an hour straight), try to invest in some fruits and/or vegetables. Feeling like having a snack? Eat an apple. Not only are they healthy, but they will also initiate some chemical reactions in your body that will provoke that healthy hunger. The kind that you just can’t ignore, but you’ll actually start making some food.


17. Don’t rely solely on takeaways and drive-throughs

Honestly, just don’t. It might be tempting to just take a stroll through your neighborhood to the hamburger stand down the street, and sure, there’s nothing wrong with doing it from time to time (we all get the munchies and have lazy days from time to time). But if you catch yourself going there five times a week for lunch, you’ll soon feel your pants squeezing you harder and harder and your blood pressure won’t be thankful for the extra 1000 milligrams of sodium you’ve eaten per day.

Whenever you feel like eating a burger or something similar, always ask yourself if you can make it on your own, in the comfort of your home, at your own pace. It might not be the overspiced and oversalted burger you would buy outside, but it will probably be about 70% healthier, and in the end, that’s really all that matters.


18. It’s easier to keep a diet when cooking alone

Whenever you’re on a diet, restraining yourself from eating more than you’re allowed is one of the hardest things to deal with. When you finish your workout, you want nothing more than to eat half of your fridge (the fridge itself included, of course), so you check your schedule. Carrots and celery. Dang.

The good thing is that, since you are cooking only for yourself, you won’t have to watch anybody else eating juicy, high-fat, high-calorie meals while you’re trying to survive on a few carrots and some celery. Plan ahead, prepare all the necessary food, and once you’re done for the day, eat it all up. Keep reminding yourself that it’s healthy and that it’s what you need to do. Always prepare your food the way you want to eat it – if it just says ‘carrots,’ you choose whether to boil them, bake them or eat them raw.


19. Organize your time well

Take a look at your schedule for the week and figure out when you have the most time. Don’t be completely unproductive during those days, but actually do something clever – clean your house, wash your car, write something, but most importantly, stock up your fridge.

We’ve already discussed leftovers and how and what to do with them, but we failed to mention the preparation. Well, this is exactly it, if you are cooking for one, it makes it much easier to stock up on prepared food, since you need lesser quantities and have more options to choose from (remember, it’s only your taste buds you need to please).

Once you’ve finished cooking two, three, fifteen meals, make sure they are all well-packed and just throw ‘em in the fridge or freezer, depending on when you plan on eating them. Your future self will thank your past self for being rational and thinking ahead.


20. Get a wok

Not many people are accustomed to using a wok that often, but let us tell you, it’s one of the best things any solo cook can have in their house. It’s a fairly versatile piece of cooking equipment – since you can stir fry, pan fry or deep fry pretty much anything in it. You might be used to your old iron skillet, but the wok can do almost anything a skillet can, and even more.

One of the reasons why you won’t be using a wok so much when cooking for more people is that a wok is usually used for mixing all kinds of things at the same time. Not everybody likes this; in fact, many people prefer simple dishes over the complex mixtures of seventeen different ingredients. You’re the boss and your only customer at the same time, if you want to fry beans, avocados and hoofs in a wok – be our guest.


21. Remember that you will become a much better cook

We’re adding an important psychological touch to the end of this list, but we feel that it shouldn’t be omitted. Apparently, people who cook for other people have a higher chance of having their cooking skill stagnate. If you’re a mother of three healthy kids and you’re a good cook, and you ask them if they like what you’ve made, they will usually reply with “Yeah, it’s great!” And it will probably be great.

The thing is that people naturally don’t complain about minor details when somebody else cooks for them (simply because there’s no need). A dish that’s a solid 9.5/10 is close to perfection, but if you were to taste that dish yourself, you would notice that it needed just a bit more salt. Or you would notice that you needed to boil it for just a few minutes more.

These are the things that separate an awesome chef from a master chef, so if you’re looking forward to achieving perfection – you are the best judge of you.

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