A lot of enjoyment comes from eating food with others and so when it comes to cooking for one, many of us can lose motivation to make the same effort with our meals. Now it isn’t just the social aspect of food that makes cooking for one challenging, it is also getting the right amount of ingredients. Many ingredients are packaged in amounts suitable for more than one person (think size of trays of meat), and if foods do come in smaller portions they are usually more expensive.

So how can we make cooking for one easier, more enjoyable and also (in this current economic climate) more affordable?

Utilize your freezer

There are many ways utilising a freezer can help make cooking for one easier.

  • Buy frozen vegetables and fruits: these days the range of frozen vegetables and fruits extends way beyond the traditional frozen peas and corn. Blueberries, specialist stir-fry mixes and even mango chunks now come frozen. Buying frozen fruits and vegetables helps make cooking for one easier as you can just portion out the amount you want to use and then pop the rest in the freezer where it will keep. This helps to minimise food wastage and ensures you have a range of ingredients always be on hand. Frozen vegetables and fruits are usually cheaper and are mostly just as nutritious (sometimes even more so) – bonus!
  • Pre-portion foods before freezing: buying some foods in bulk can be cheaper, such as meats, but if you are cooking for one then this meat can go off before it is all used. Putting it straight in the freezer can also lead to the same problem as it then needs to be defrosted all at once. A good strategy is to pre-portion ingredients into single portions before freezing. This way you can defrost only the amount you need for one meal, making it much easier to a variety of meals.
  • Cook larger portions and freeze for later: if you find cooking for one a little tedious or you are short of time, try cooking up a large portion that will last 3-4 meals (on a day that is convenient for you) and then freeze in individual portions. That way most of the work is done and you just need to defrost a meal from the freezer.

Choose a few star ingredients to use each week

If you are someone who doesn’t like eating the same meal a few nights in a row then instead of buying the ingredients to make one meal to last a few nights, plan recipes using similar ingredients. That way you can have different meals during the week, use up all the ingredients, and don’t have to buy loads of different ingredients. For example, fresh herbs can often go off as you usually use a small amount for a meal and then they just sit in your fridge. So you don’t waste fresh herbs choose meals that have the same herb in them for the week. Or if you need to open a tin of tomatoes for a dish then cook a dish the next night that also uses tomatoes. I do this a lot with avocadoes – a recipe might call for some avocado but then what do you do with the rest of it? If I make a dinner with avocado in it then I will plan to have avocado on toast with eggs for breakfast the next morning, and then a say a salad or sandwich with avocado for lunch.

There are many different recipe websites that help you do this – sometimes the recipes talk about different ways of using leftovers or sometimes they talk about similar ingredients and how you can make a few different meals. An example is: https://www.coles.com.au/recipes-inspiration/tips/two-for-one-dinners

Keep some staple ingredients in your pantry and fridge

Sometimes plans change throughout the week and you may find yourself thinking you don’t have anything to make as you haven’t been to the supermarket. By keeping some ingredients that you use regularly in meals in your pantry or fridge (that don’t go off quickly) makes it easy to make a meal at the last minute. For example, tinned salmon, tomatoes, coconut milk and chickpeas, tomato paste, frozen vegetables, eggs, grated cheese/block of cheese, rice, pasta, and dried herbs can be very versatile in making healthy meals. They also have a long shelf life and so if you don’t end up using them one week, then they are good to keep for a few weeks and even a few months.

Cook with a small frypan or saucepan

If you have a recipe that serves 4 and only want to cook enough for one person then you need to reduce the amount and only cook a quarter of the recipe. But it is not just the amounts of ingredients that you need to change but also the size of the pots and pans you use to cook it in. For example if you cook a smaller amount of ingredients in a large saucepan it can in some instances make the sauce simmer away to nothing before the meal is cooked. This may make your meal taste awful and be undercooked. So if you can, try cooking using smaller cookware such as a small saucepan, fry pan or baking dish – it can make a big difference cooking for one.

Look for simple recipes

Recipes don’t have to be complicated and contain lots of ingredients to be delicious or healthy. Many recipe magazines and websites have sections on cooking midweek using 4-5 ingredients. Looking through these recipes and finding ones you think sound delicious can help provide motivation to cook for one. This can help with budgeting and also reduce the time it takes to cook healthy, and tasty food. https://www.taste.com.au/recipes/collections/5-ingredient-dinner-recipes

Check out recipes for one

These days there are many recipes designed to be cooked for one person – whether you live by yourself or you find yourself eating at different times to those in your household. Either way it is great to see a huge variety of recipes now available – have a browse through these and pick recipes for the week that have similar main ingredients (or star ingredients as I call them). A great resource is the Healthy Food Guide Meals for One https://www.healthyfood.com/recipe-collections/healthy-meals-for-one-recipes/