Cooking can be a fun and enjoyable activity, but if you live alone, it can be hard to muster up the willpower to spend two hours cooking and cleaning—and then inevitably eating your leftovers for the next week straight. It may seem a lot easier to simply pop in a frozen pizza, pick up take-out, or just snack through the evening until it’s time for bed.
While these habits are harmless every now and then, if done multiple times a week, they can have a serious impact on your health and finances. Don’t let the thought of complex recipes or family-sized portions intimidate you; with a bit of preparation and experimentation, cooking for one at home can be easy and enjoyable!
At HarborChase, our independent living, assisted living, and memory care communities are committed to providing nutritious and delicious meals for our residents. Check out our practical tips for cooking for one!
1. Plan Your Meals (No, Really)
Meal planning can sometimes have a frightening reputation—people might imagine spreadsheets and calculators and spending hours at the grocery store. However, the truth is that meal planning can save you money, reduce waste, and encourage healthy habits. It doesn’t have to be complicated, either.
To get started, simply browse cookbooks and recipe websites for meals that you would want to make and eat. Then, make a list of what you plan to make for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with the ingredients needed for each meal. Try to go to the grocery store only once a week and get everything you need. Knowing what you’re going to have for each meal can make it less tempting to order take-out when dinner time rolls around.
HarborChase Tips for Meal Planning
- Most recipes online have a feature that allows you to adjust the serving size of the meal, and it automatically edits the ingredient list accordingly. This is useful in ensuring you don’t buy more than you need.
- If a recipe requires an ingredient that doesn’t come in a single package or only uses a small amount, try to use that ingredient in other recipes for the week. For example, if you use half a container of heavy cream for an alfredo sauce, use the rest of the container for a homemade quiche.
- Keep track of recipes you like by printing them and putting them in a folder or saving them on your computer. (Yes, in spreadsheets!)
2. Keep Staples On Hand
Keep a few staple items in your pantry at all times. Some good ingredients to always have are rice, quinoa, pasta, beans, and nuts. Many stores sell items like this in bulk, so you can buy as much or as little as you need. When you run low, simply add it to your next grocery list so you can restock.
HarborChase Tips for Storing Food
- If buying your grain staples in bulk, store them in clear, airtight containers. This way, you can see when they are running low, they are kept fresh, and as a bonus—your pantry will look neat and organized!
- Don’t forget about keeping staples in the freezer, too! Frozen fruits and vegetables are a perfect solution for those cooking for one who want the nutrients of vegetables without the worry of waste. Bread can also be kept in the freezer for up to three months.
3. Become a Regular at the Deli Counter
Instead of buying a huge pack of chicken or Swiss cheese, visiting the deli counter will allow you to buy meats, cheeses, and seafood in the exact amount that you want or need. Plus, this is typically a fresher (and less expensive option) too!
4. Use Leftovers Creatively
Arguably the worst part about cooking for one is the inevitable leftovers. Even if you scaled back the recipe, there is still a chance that you will have some food left over. While you may be able to enjoy the same meal one or two more times, after that, it simply gets boring.
To counter this, switch up your leftovers by turning them into entirely different dishes! For example, wrap stir-fry in a tortilla, and it becomes a burrito; blend leftover vegetables with some tomatoes for a nutrient-packed pasta sauce; throw any leftovers onto a crust to create a one-of-a-kind pizza! You may even discover your new favorite meal through this experimentation.
5. Have Friends Over
Cooking for one is practical and necessary, but sometimes you might want to create a feast! You can either invite one friend over for an intimate meal or let your inner host shine and arrange a four-course dinner party. This can be an excellent opportunity to pull out all the stops in the kitchen and try new recipes.
Plus, you won’t have to worry about wasted food because you can send your guests home with any leftovers!
6. Enjoy Yourself
Most importantly, remember to enjoy yourself! Yes, it’s true that sometimes you may not feel like spending time in the kitchen to cook a meal, but cooking for yourself doesn’t have to be a pain. It can be a fun time to get creative in the kitchen—without having to worry about what anyone else wants.
Mealtimes Made Easy with HarborChase
At HarborChase Senior Living, we take our dining services very seriously. Our independent living, assisted living, and memory care communities offer a variety of dining options—from grab-and-go to upscale, restaurant-style meals. Our professional chefs carefully curate each meal to deliver the optimum balance of taste and nutrition. The best part? Our residents never have to do any cooking unless they choose to!
We invite you to discover the ultimate dining and living experience at HarborChase Senior Living!