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Cooking for One

I'm trying to find simple, easy and affordable recipes geared for cooking for one. I was told that I could simply make a big batch of something and then eat it throughout the entire week. I guess that is an option for me, for things like soup, chilis or using leftover chicken and meats. But sometimes, eating the same thing over the entire week can be boring.

Are there any simple dishes that you know of geared for eating for one? Is it just simply reducing the cooking serving to a smaller portion? (I have no idea about cooking)

As well, what are some staples that keep long in the fridge? I've noticed apples keep for at least a month in the fridge, so I can stock up on those by buying in bulk to save money. What else does?

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  1. Some things I keep refrdgerated after opening are miso, anchovies, most cheese, cured meat and fish, nut butters, and concentrated stocks. Once in awhile I have some sort of confit, but that is rare.

    With a pressure cooker or a crock pot, you can quickly learn to put together meat, vegs, and stock, for a rich stew, good for several days.

    Miso soup or ramen, with sliced leftovers, makes a quick meal.Packaged kits are helpful.

    I always have frozen shrimp or scallops available; they cook quickly, and are often better than frozen fish.

    5 Replies
    1. re: jayt90

      I struggled with this for a while. For me, it was not necessarily finding “recipes for one” that was the issue. The recipe was the recipe, except for the quantity of the ingredients, nothing changed at all. I just had to get into the habit of carefully reducing the recipes so that, at most, I’d only have leftovers for one meal (which I like) rather than a whole week. This was not easy for me and took some thought. Once I did it a while, I became very good at it, and my meals tasted just as great as the full recipe.

      The other thing I tried was “buying for one” but that didn’t work either. I figured if I bought less, I’d cook and waste less. It just was not economical to buy for one. It was always less expensive to buy in bulk, so I just learned how to prepackage and freeze. Even a pound of hamburger needs to be sectioned for one. If I buy six pork chops, they are frozen in groups of two. Whole chicken, I cut up and again freeze in groups of two. So your still getting the benefit of buying more but not cooking it all at the same time so your not wasting it or eating it for the rest of the week.

      For produce I stop at a little farmers market at least two times a week and buy whatever he’s got that’s fresh, in season, and cheap. Example: the last of the corn was in last week 5/$1, head cabbage $1, and zucchini 3 nice one for $1. That’s enough for a week rotating them with whatever additions I might have left from last week.
      After I got real diligent about doing the above I found I could take ANY recipe I found in a cookbook or the web and I could modify it so that it would produce great results for one, one-in-a-half, or two people. So as I see it there is no recipe that is off-limits for me cooking for one. I find I love researching and cooking like this and I’ve made a lot of things I never thought I would ever try.

      That’s just my experience struggling with cooking for one. Good luck!

      1. re: Rocky Road

        Sorry Jay, looks like I posted this response to you in error. I meant to post to shdiep. New here so just feeling my way around.

        1. re: Rocky Road

          Thanks Rocky Road.
          Freezing seems like a definite option for me. I have a tendency to freeze my own vegetables, but do I need to do any prep work prior to freezing them to ensure that they last longer in the freezer? Blanching them?

          1. re: shdiep

            I am single and do the same as Rocky. I also have a chest freezer in the basement, allowing for more storage. If I buy pork chops or ground beef or chicken, they get proportioned into individual packages (a single hamburger or b/s chicken breast or chicken thigh, a single pork chop). If I want to make enough for 2+ meals, and they aren't Frankenchicken pieces <g> I'll take two out to defrost.

            For fresh vegetables, blanching is advised if you're going to buy in bulk. But I usually buy what I need for about a week. Green beans, broccoli, carrots, etc. all last awhile in the crisper drawer. If you see condensation inside the bag, tuck in a paper towel to soak up the water.

            As for using recipes, most are for 4, 6 or 8 people. If you want to make beef stew, make the whole recipe and freeze 3/4's of it. If you want to make Chicken Whatever and it usually serves 6, cut it by 2/3rds and you should be OK.

            1. re: shdiep

              I don't freeze to many veggies. Like Linda below, I don't mind stopping off for a quick produce run a couple of times a week just to eat fresh stuff. I do freeze green onions because it's either 3 for $.099, or 1 for $0.50. I chop them up and freeze for later use in Kalbi marinade, soba, stir-fry, and really anything. Chopped green onions freeze great. I have four bags of strawberries I froze for the winter. They are so inexpensive in the summer, but I can never eat the three pints so I freeze two for winter smoothies or yogurt.

              Again, like Linda below, I found proportioning the meats and seafood, frequent trips for fresh produce (for me it's close so it's easy), and having a nice white rice, or some other sort of starch on hand and I've got it made.

              The key again for me was getting used to sitting down and reducing those recipes. When you get used that it also helps the proportioning because you know exactly how much to section off. Good luck.

        2. " Is it just simply reducing the cooking serving to a smaller portion?"

          Yes :) Fish, chicken, chop, steak, whatever. Just do one if you don't want leftovers. Easy to steam a green veggie for just one. And I'd do a starch that will serve for several meals, i.e., rice, pasta. And, if you cook a large portion of something, you can freeze leftovers in individual portions and not have to eat the same thing every night. I LOVE leftovers - a free meal.

          1. I ussually cook for a couple of people, but do know I'd hate eating the same meal all week. Plus in the interest of dietary concens and rotating foods to prevent food issues from developing its not the best idea.
            When cooking for myself I do eat a lot of stir fry type meals, pad thai, yaki soba.Poke, fresh rolls. Rice the first night as plain side, makes nice fried rice or coquettes, or soup addition. I keep some frozen ravioli, easy and I can cook just a few. Another meal I like when its just me is to make a salad and then put my protein on top. My current fav is chicken piccata with lots of lemon and capers - sauce makes a kind of dressing.Taco salad. I would make meatloaf and make them small and freeze a couple, I would make lasagna and freeze the rest.
            staples - potatoes, cheese, cryovaced meats, bacon, onions, carrots( most of your root vegetables) pickled item, eggs. Items that are less shelf stable can processed for later, like a red pepper - roasted and drizzled wih oil it wil last longer than whole

            5 Replies
            1. re: coastie

              Speaking of eggs, I like to buy egg whites/eggs in the carton. Is it bad if you use it after 7 days of refrigeration? I tend to consume them quite slowly, because I can't really eat that many eggs or I get a stomach ache.

                1. re: shdiep

                  eggs have a long shelf life - buy them as fresh as you can - You can you them to bake and cook for a very long time..month...maybe 45 days.( I think it may even be 60 days) To eat as an egg itself I would guess that you are easily good for 2 weeks especially if you are buying them very fresh. My eggs are 2 weeks old by the time I even get them from store due to my remote location. Yolks breaking very easily is a sign eggs are old as is a lot of space in the shell. I would still bake with these. Eggs make no mistake about telling you they are bad. Bacteria like salmonella is either there or not age isn't a factor.
                  Also - most places sell cute little half dozen

                  1. re: coastie

                    I think Shdiep was referring to the "milk carton" style eggs, like Egg Beaters. Those can be frozen. As for regular egg cartons, the 3-digit number on the end of the carton is the day of the year they were packed, e.g. 001 is January 1, 095 is April 5.... Don't know the interval between laying and packing, but I assume it's not more than a fewe days. With a very fresh egg, the whites don't spread much when cracked into the pan for frying, and the yolk is a high mound. Most of us don't often get to see that. For hard-boiled eggs, you want them older - the fresher they are, the harder to peel. Easier if you've had them a week or two before boiling them.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      Thanks for the information greygarious! Very helpful.

                      How would I go about using these frozen egg beaters though? Hit defrost in the microwave?

              1. If you have a freezer, you don't have to eat the same thing all week. Invest in some plastic containers, foil and butcher paper.

                You can make lasagna, chili, quiche, soups, veggie kugel, casseroles, etc. If you freeze them all in single portions, you can easily take one out at a time--so you might have lasagna once a week for 6-8 weeks instead of for 6-8 days in a row. I live in a Manhattan rental so my freezer is not huge and I can't keep many large containers in it anyways. I save money by getting big batches of veggies from the farmers market, blanching them and then freezing small amounts in individual ziploc bags. That way, I can throw a few things over rice or pasta or into an omelet for a quick cheap dinner. This method also works with things like beans or chick peas. If you eat meat, you can buy a chicken or even a pack of breasts/thighs/whatever and portion those the same way (uncooked), so you can throw them into stir fry or over rice or into pasta. It's much cheaper and more time efficient to buy a larger amount and freeze it in small portions. You feel like you're eating different things, but it's also nice because a couple hours of prep work on the weekend keep you from reaching for the takeout menu after work. A good meal formula is protein item + whole grain item + at least one vegetable item.

                As for things that keep in the fridge, here's a few I have: soy milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese (not sliced), carrots, chipotles in adobo (in a glass jar, they will last a year), grapefruits. There are these tablets on amazon some people have mentioned on chow somewhere that you can throw in your veggie bin and they are supposed to slow the aging process of produce. I've never used them, so you might have to search around.

                Pantry items: quinoa, rice, pasta, beans (canned or dried), lentils, flour, olive oil, soy sauce, sriracha, vinegar, sherry. You can make the base for a lot of meals with these items.

                4 Replies
                1. re: bookmonger

                  Great suggestions! I will be sure to do freezing!

                  Does sliced cheese not last as long as a blocked cheese?

                  1. re: bookmonger

                    What's the preferred way to freeze raw meat, poultry and fish for a long time? Original packaging? Ziplock bags? Wrapped in foil? Wax paper?

                    1. re: taos

                      Ziplock freezer bags are made specifically to freeze foods such as raw meats and keep them from getting freezer burnt

                      1. re: taos

                        I've been using the Ziploc vacuum seal bags and they work pretty well. Otherwise, I wrap in foil as it adheres well to the meat.

                        NEVER the original packaging (unless it's a cryovac'd package)...too much air in there to cause freezer burn.

                    2. I cook for myself all the time. Things I do:

                      1. cut meat into single serving portions before freezing
                      2. it's easy to cook veggies for one and veggies are the most important part of the meal
                      3. if I cook a large recipe, I freeze the surplus because it is boring to eat the same thing every day
                      4. I make my own salad dressings and that gives me a feeling of decadence. They keep longer than you would think.
                      5. I freeze carbs - risotto, pasta, rice, etc. in single portion sizes.

                      I have a hard time thinking this through because I have been cooking for one for so many years. Just think - small portions, freezability, quality.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: sarah galvin

                        When you freeze the carbohydrates in single portion sizes, do you put them in ziploc bags or do they have to go in containers? I don't have that many containers. -lol-

                        1. re: shdiep

                          Ziplocks are fine - if your freezer tends to lead to freezer burn, you may want to wrap in foil/wax paper as well.

                          1. re: sarah galvin

                            Do you mean that you freeze cooked pasta? I tried with a pasta bake once and never got around to eating it. What happens to the texture once you heat it up again? Reheat slowly in oven?

                            1. re: foxy fairy

                              Its not as good as the first time around - but fine. Ever had frozen lasagna.....if its not commercial, its a great "I don't want to cook" meal. Oven, micro work for reheat, always better in oven. You will lose some quality - sometimes you need "fast" food. I don't like the commercial (for the most part) options.

                              1. re: coastie

                                I have frozen cooked spaghetti and noodles plain - then microwaved in the ziploc bag or a covered container to reheat before adding sauce. It's fine. Usually if you freeze something with spaghetti sauce, like lasagna, it exudes water upon reheating

                              2. re: foxy fairy

                                I froze cooked pasta and the texture was just fine. I would include a sauce. I did a kitchen reno and had no kitchen for 3 months so this was how I survived.