FEATURE — Finding the motivation to cook for yourself when you live alone can be difficult. Many of us live alone for different reasons and circumstances. Maybe you haven’t married or are choosing not to. You may be a college student with roommates but without a coordinated meal plan together. Maybe you’ve lost a spouse. Whatever your reason may be, cooking for one can be hard.

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Why cook for yourself?

While being a single person can seem more affordable to just eat out or throw in a microwave dinner there are better options! Convenience food, though convenient, is typically low in nutrient value and high in saturated fat, sugar, sodium and calories. It’s also tougher on your wallet. Creating meal plans for yourself will likely result in healthier and better-tasting meals.

Meal planning

A good thing about cooking for one is that you can eat what you want whenever you want! No “backseat chefs” here! When meal planning, choose recipes that use some of the same ingredients! This will save you time and money.

Use your freezer

Freezers are great for two things when you’re cooking for one: stocking up on bulk foods you love and freezing your leftovers. Shopping in bulk may feel overwhelming, but when you have a freezer you’ll likely save yourself some money! Buying meats in bulk and freezing what you won’t eat within a few days is a great way to save some money.

Prepare the meat by dividing it up into portions you’ll use prior to freezing. Make things such as meatloaf and divide it in half. Use half for meatloaf to eat and roll and freeze the other half into meatballs, or divide a big batch of soup into serving sizes using storage containers or muffin tins.

Did you know you can freeze perishable foods like bread? You can! It’s not always easy to go through an entire loaf of bread on your own before you find some mold growing. Ew! Simply freeze the bread and take out what you need as you go. Bread thaws quickly!

Freezing is a great way to maximize the time and effort spent cooking for yourself too. Try a recipe with six servings and freeze the leftovers for an easy weeknight meal or lunch. You’ll thank yourself on those nights where you come home exhausted.

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Cooking for one recipes

Using cookbooks or finding a website that portions meals smaller allows you to create fresh, home-cooked meals without leaving unused fresh ingredients that go to waste each week. These meals usually cook faster and leave you with fewer leftovers than a traditional family meal too! Having a recipe to follow helps it feel less overwhelming and easy to whip out a grocery list.

If you already have a handful of recipes you love but they make large portions, try reducing the recipe. Here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic for reducing recipes:

If a recipe calls for three eggs, use two eggs and subtract two to four tablespoons of liquid.
If a recipe calls for a half can of beans or pumpkin, use half and refrigerate or freeze the rest.
Remember, there are 16 tablespoons per cup, three teaspoons per tablespoon, eight fluid ounces per cup and two tablespoons per fluid ounce.
Make sure to monitor a reduced recipe’s cook time more closely, as it will cook faster (likely five to 10 minutes earlier).

Be resourceful

Learn what to do with aging food! Eat fruits and vegetables that spoil first. Find new ways to use milk; a gallon is usually cheaper than a half gallon. Make your extra pasta into a cold salad for the next day. Utilize foods you’ve made in another dish the next day, such as pot roast. Slice it up and make a sandwich or two.

You don’t have to eat alone either. Invite a friend or two over!


This article originally appeared on Jan. 25, 2023, on the USU Extension Create Better Health blog.

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