Cooking for one can throw up a few challenges, but it doesn’t have to be boring, or unhealthy. With a little thought and planning, solo dining can be varied, nutritious and delicious.
Make a plan
Get into the habit of planning ahead. That way you will only buy what you need, saving you money and cutting back on unnecessary food waste.
Start simply and plan 3 or 4 days at a time. Make extras for leftovers that you can have for lunch the next day, or freeze for another time. Add something new to your menu plan each week to keep things interesting. This does not have to be time consuming, or expensive.
Cook your favourites
Just because you are cooking for yourself doesn’t mean you have to eat a boring diet. What are your favourite things to eat? Include one or two of these in your menu plan.
Use your freezer
A well stocked freezer is the single cook’s best friend. As well as freezing leftovers, use your freezer to store chopped herbs that you can’t make use of, bags of frozen fruit that you can use as you need it, a selection of vegetables to steam, stir-fry or roast to add variety and some frozen fish or prawns as a quick and healthy protein source.
A few store cupboard essentials
Having a stock supply essentials that will add a pop of flavour to your food is a great way to keep things interesting. Some herbs and spices, tomato puree, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, olives, harissa paste, soy sauce, preserved lemon or roasted peppers will take you from a taste of the Mediterranean, to Asia flavours and add interest and variety to your cooking.
Buy what you need
Planning ahead stops impulse buys of weird and wonderful ingredients that you may never use. Look out for single serving packs of ingredients like curry pastes, half cans of coconut milk (available in some supermarkets and health food shops) and smaller packs of essentials. Also take a trip to the butcher or deli counter for your meat and cheese so that you are not overbuying. Refill shops are a great place to shop if you are cooking for one. You can just buy what you need. Most stock dry ingredients and store cupboard essentials like pasta, rice, lentils, beans and herbs and spices. Some also stock fresh fruit and vegetables that allows you to buy just enough for your needs.
Reinvent your leftovers
Fed up looking at the same dinner night after night? Get creative and think of different ways you can eat the same meal. For example chilli with brown rice becomes the filling for fajitas tomorrow, or roast beef dinner gives you the ingredients for a chilli beef stir-fry another time.
Share with friends
If you have friends who are single, they are likely to welcome sharing groceries, leftovers or a meal. This is a great way to get more variety into your diet and allows you to try different foods or recipes you may not cook for yourself.
Have a handful of go-to recipes
We all have a couple of recipes that we can quickly throw together for a quick lunch or dinner. Curry in a hurry, a vegetable packed omelette, stir-fries or super salads are packed with nutrition and are quick and easy fillers.
Scale down recipes
Most recipes are designed to feed 4 people, but with a little simple maths, you can divide the recipe and make 2 portions - one for today with leftovers for another time. There are loads of recipes for one person - Pinterest and the BBC food website are good places to start.
Make it fun
Turn up the tunes and enjoy cooking for yourself. Instead for eating in front of the tv, set your table with a tablecloth and a flower from your garden. Light a candle or tealight and make your dining table a relaxing place to eat.