Cooking for one

Living alone you would still think to brush your teeth twice a day or take a shower and put on some clean clothes, but you may well not bother to cook yourself a decent meal.

Feeding yourself well is one of the fundamentals of self-care. Just because you’re dining solo, shouldn’t mean you don’t deserve to eat like a king or queen or that you shouldn’t prepare yourself a delicious and wholesome meal.

Though I do understand that finding the motivation might be hard and that it’s all too easy to grab a piece of toast or a bowl of cereal, so here are my tips to making cooking for one more appealing.

Cooking as self-care

Cooking can be fun, a stress-reliever and a way to relax, why not embrace it?! Put some music on and while away a little time in the kitchen instead of sitting in front of the TV.

Think of the benefits

Some of the pros of cooking for yourself – you get to eat what you want, when you want! No family member with a dislike of cheese to work around or partner who will only eat fish fingers to contend with and no one questioning why you’re having dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner.

Tray bakes and one pan meals

Have a list of tasty tray bakes and one pan meals up your sleeve – things you can quickly get in the oven and forget about for 30 mins or so. Take any leftovers to work for lunch the next day.

Batch cooking

Batch cooking is handy for everyone, not just those cooking for one. Do some batch prep one night so it doesn’t feel like you’re cooking every night. Vegetables, grains, lentils, beans, pasta, potatoes are all good to prepare in bulk to last you a good few days. Mix and match the ingredients to pull together a meal in just a few minutes, adding some fresh ingredients, fish, meat etc. as you wish.

It’s also a good idea to batch prepare and freeze maybe one meal a week, so you have a stash of homemade ready meals to hand. It’s the same advice I give to anyone I work with but when cooking for one, it doesn’t take as long to build up a good supply.

You can batch prepare breakfast and lunch as well as dinner – something like overnight oats that you can make a few portions of at a time or a large frittata that you can have a wedge of with some salad and eat them over several days.

Quick nutritional wins

Have some quick and easy nutritional wins to hand so that if you do find yourself tempted to go for the toast instead of cooking then you know you’re still going to eat well – avocado, toasted seeds, nut butter, eggs and frozen spinach to go on your toast or perhaps some frozen fruits and oats for a smoothie bowl for when you’re tempted to open a cereal packet.

Stock up

Ensure your store cupboard is well stocked with noodles, pasta, rice, tins and other long-lasting items that you know you can pull a speedy meal together with when the fridge is bare.

Buddy up

Buying vegetables like cabbages, cauliflowers and celeriac and other ingredients which are large can be tricky – there’s only so much one person can eat – but can you do food swaps with a colleague or someone who works in the same building who is in the same boat? Buy a cabbage, cut it in half and swap for half their swede?

Similarly, make a dish and swap a portion with a friend or colleague who brings you a portion of their meal the following day.

Or, how about cooking with friends – pick a theme, a cookbook or a TV chef and everyone cooks together or brings a dish to share.

Miniature shopping

Have a look for smaller alternatives for some of the ingredients you need – a sweet potato can often be substituted for a butternut squash, shallots or spring onions instead of onions, sprouts are just mini cabbages…

Cream cheese, for example, bought as a big tub might well go mouldy before you’re able to finish it. You might instead spend a little extra on a set of mini tubs, but you’ll be saving money in the long run with less going to waste. The compromise with avoiding the food waste is in an increase in plastic to recycle so you might need to find a friend with young children who can make use of the pots in their crafts!

More and more supermarkets have refill stations now, and there are also plenty of specialist shops where you can go and buy a scoop of this or a piece of that so that you only have to buy a small amount of ingredients that normally come in big packets.

It may add time to your shopping trip but, the greengrocer and butcher are also good places to buy just one of something if your supermarket sells big packs of things.

Meal planning

I’m sure you knew I’d mention it sooner or later! But, it’s even more important when cooking for one to help ensure you use up the ingredients you’re buying and that you don’t let them go to waste.

And finally, there really is nothing wrong with beans on toast every so often! Eat wholemeal toast and opt for reduced salt and sugar beans and you’ve got yourself a good high fibre, high protein, low fat meal.

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