I’ve had a lot of people ask lately how I get mealtime done after work. And first of all, I will say that cooking for one person is a bit easier than preparing meals for an entire family. First of all, I’m only thinking about my likes (bacon) and dislikes (olives), instead of trying to think through an entire family’s likes and dislikes.
Also, one dish can feed me for days because, yay leftovers!
But…I don’t want to discount the fact that it can be hard. I have nobody to help with the shopping, prep or clean-up, and after a long day, it can be really tempting to just eat a bowl of cereal.
Also, one dish can feed me for days, so sick of leftovers!
But, I do have some things that work for me. So I will share them with you 🙂
1. Meal plan. I can’t recommend this enough. Meal plan the heck out of your meals. Once a week I sit down with a bunch of recipes and try to figure out what I’m going to eat that week. Sometimes I cross-reference it with what’s on sale. Blah blah blah. Don’t get too caught up in the details, though. Make a list of dishes, make a list of groceries, take stock of your pantry. Once I’ve made my list, I usually do my shopping on a Saturday morning (or a weeknight at 8 when my Trader Joe’s isn’t bananas crazy). Meal planning works for me for a few reasons. One, I can plan the foods that take longer to cook for the days I can devote that time. It helps me to remember to thaw meats if I know what day I’m eating them. It saves me from going to the grocery store after work on a weeknight (always a terrible idea for me).
2. Use your slowcooker… I love me a good crockpot meal. And I love coming home to a complete, or nearly complete, meal. I’m hoping to post some of those recipes here in the coming months.
3. …and your freezer. As a single person, if I make anything over 6 servings, I can’t finish it. So, if I have a recipe that’s 8 servings or more, I will freeze half of it immediately. Or sometimes I’ll double a smaller recipe to freeze it. This works for things like chili and casseroles in particular. When I post recipes that are good for freezing (like this butternut squash lasagna) I will try to remember to include instructions for freezing. For most things, I can stick it in the fridge the night before and can cook it from at least mostly thawed, which cuts down on cooking time.
4. Don’t cook gross food. Seriously. This seems simple. But one thing that motivates me to cook is because I know it’s going to taste good. Use fresh ingredients. Use lots of spices and seasoning. Herbs are your friend. Please don’t be afraid of recipes with lots of steps and a long list of (simple) ingredients. Also, please stop saying you’re a bad cook. You may be an untrained cook. But that just means you need more practice 🙂
5. Shortcuts are your friend. This may seem to kind of contradict #4…but you can find shortcuts that work for you as you prepare that good food. You also need to figure out what works for you. Maybe you LOVE chopping onions. I love buying frozen onions when I don’t feel like sobbing over my cutting board. I actually buy lots of frozen vegetables (peas, corns, carrots, peppers, onions)–these are especially good for soups and stews since the texture is not as important. I also like to buy rotisserie chickens from Costco and chop/shred them and freeze them in 1-cup batches. This is great for casseroles and baked pastas in particular (I will even thaw the chicken overnight in the fridge or reheat it in a skillet with a little chicken broth).
Honestly, none of this is rocket science. Just a few things that have helped me not to stand in the middle of the kitchen, eyes glazed over, as I reach for the Cheerios.
But honestly, occasionally having Cheerios for dinner is not the end of the world 🙂