I knew it was much cheaper to buy groceries and eat at home than to eat out all the time. But while this is true in general, if you end up wasting tons of food due to spoilage and leftovers that go uneaten, you aren’t really saving money.
My first few attempts at cooking for one were disastrous.
I distinctly remember cooking spaghetti and eating it for both lunch and dinner every day for at least a week. After that incident, I vowed that I would never again end up with so many leftovers.
Next, I tried to cut down each recipe by at least half, sometimes more. This works pretty well if you are cooking for one, until you come across some ingredients that can’t easily be split.
At this point I was so frustrated with eating leftovers, the complex math and hassle of splitting up recipes, all the time and effort of cooking small portions, and losing lots of food due to spoilage that I turned to fast food and convenience items, like canned soup and frozen pizza, for the majority of my meals. While certainly easier, these things are not healthy for your waistline or your budget.
Since then I’ve learned a few secret tricks to help save time and money in the kitchen.
Here are my top two secrets when cooking for one:
You need a weekly meal plan.
One of the easiest ways to cut down on food spoilage and the amount of leftovers you have is to use one main protein source for a variety of meals. For example, if you decide to make chicken stir fry on Monday and all you can find at the store is a big 4 lb. package of chicken breasts, that’s ok.
Creating a weekly meal plan will help you decide how to use the rest of the chicken later in the week. You could use some of the chicken for your stir fry and then use the rest for chicken soup and chicken Alf redo later in the week. This way you aren’t wasting any food and you aren’t stuck eating the same dish day in and day out.
The freezer is your friend.
If you go ahead and buy the 4 lb. package of chicken for your stir fry, but don’t feel like making any other chicken dishes that week, freeze it! It’s best to take the meat home and split it up right away into meal-sized portions, keeping one out for your planned dish and putting the rest in labeled freezer baggies or containers.
Meat isn’t the only thing you can freeze. If you get a little carried away with making your spaghetti sauce like I did in college, just portion it out and freeze some. Sauces and soups keep well in the freezer and are great for meals later when you’re pressed for time or just don’t feel like cooking.
It’s also a little known fact, but you can freeze lots of fresh fruits and veggies too. This helps a lot when you are cooking for one.
What are your secrets when cooking for one?
Image via Flickr by hawee