Cooking for One: A Widow's Challenge
- toodie jane Oct 20, 2011 11:02 AM
note: in the widowhood circles these days, the term 'widow' is non-gender specific. It's come to mean anyone who's lost their life partner.
In the two years of my journey down this new road, a huge challenge has been to feed myself properly, and with efficency. That means cutting down on food waste. I am always looking for strategies to that end. But please, no advice to "just freeze the leftovers". Already doing that.
There are days when all I can work up the energy for is popcorn and fruit. Other days I find joy in cooking "like I used to"--full blown meals with a sink full of dishes at the conclusion.
I'd love to start a conversation among those who newly cook for one here. What do you do and WHY? It may mean some repitition from old threads, but perhaps we can all glean some new insight into healthy and efficient meal prep for one, singles and widows alike. What do you say?
In one of the old Peg Barken "I Hate to Cook" books she has a wonderful chapter on cooking for one. She says people tend to gravitate toward a particular type of food--her list included soups, baked potatoes, eggs, open faced sandwiches and her own mother who survived on a martini, a vitamin and Metracal (the earliest Ensure.) Even though her book is of a different time and place, that chapter will make you smile. (She quotes Truman Capote as saying one of the best meals of his life was baked potatoes covered in sour cream and caviar--prepared on a hot plate in a motel.
I'm not a widow but I'm single and like to cook. I find a kitchen scale helps with cooking volumes so you don't make too much of something and have wasteful leftovers either because they don't keep or I won't be home for a while to eat what won't freeze before it goes bad.
Things I find easy to make for one:
-Carbonara (it is about ratios) 1 slice of bacon cooked in pan, 1 serving of cooked pasta added to pan, 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of grated cheese added in the end, s&p
-Sole meuniere, just buy one filet at the market.
-Burgers, make a head and freeze and defrost when you need to, can make an infinite amount of flavored patties.
-Potatoes: baked, oven fries, smashed pioneer woman style
-Omlettes – infinite combinations
-Cornish hens – small and cook faster than a chicken
-Polenta – can be eaten traditionally the first night and then spread out and cut into squares to be crisped up the next day with various toppings
-What I call eggs in purgatory- I make a simple tomato sauce or jarred, simmer in a pan, slide a raw egg or two in on top, cover, cook until desired doneness. Serve with bread or polenta.
I find shrimp or scallops make an easy meal for one.
Or I buy just enough fish to eat tonight, roast some potatoes and carrots and herbs in the oven, and when they've got about 10 minutes left to go, stick the piece of fish in your baking pan.
I make a pound of ground turkey thighs worth of chili, and that can feed me for a couple of nights.
Here you go! I got this from
There is something very indulgent about eating a souffle for one!
2 1/2 tsp unsalted butter (plus more to grease ramekin)
3/4 oz grated cheese (gruyere is good, but I’ve made it with supermarket cheddar and it was fine)
2 1/2 tsp all-purpose flour
1/4 c hot milk
can add a pinch of cayenne if desired
2 eggs, at room temperature and separated
pinch cream of tartar
1-2 Tbsp grated parmesan or romano
Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a ramekin (10-oz or so; two smaller 7-oz ones if you plan to make this in a toaster oven, so it doesn’t hit the heating element when it puffs up). Sprinkle about half of the parmesan in the ramekin(s) and coat the bottom and sides. Wipe the rim if it has butter or cheese on it.
Melt butter in small saucepan over medium low heat and then add the flour, stirring it. Cook this mixture and do not let it brown. This will take 1-2 minutes. Take off the heat, add the hot milk and whisk everything together. Then a little salt, pepper, and nutmeg (plus cayenne if using). Place saucepan back on heat and turn up heat to medium-high. Stir and cook for about a minute; mixture should become thick. Then remove from heat. Add one egg yolk to mixture and whisk everything together.
Add a pinch of salt to egg whites and beat with mixer or whisk. After they get a little foamy add cream of tartar. Beat until egg whites are stiff. Add ¼ of the egg whites and stir in. Add cheese, reserving a little bit for the top. Gently fold the rest of the egg whites into the sauce mixture.
Put into ramekin(s). Tap on counter and smooth tops if necessary. Clean rim of ramekin. Sprinkle the top with the rest of the parmesan and other cheese. Place in oven. Turn down heat to 375°F. Cook for 20 minutes, until top is golden brown and soufflé has puffed up. Bake for 5 more minutes if necessary. Eat.
I am terribly sorry for your loss, toodie jane. I have been cooking for one for a long time. One of the benefits is that if all you have the energy for is popcorn and fruit, you aren't disappointing anyone else. Or if you want pasta 5 days in a row, no one complains about it. I don't mean in any way to minimize your grief, just pointing out one aspect of cooking for one.
Chiming in on the I Hate to Cook Book references, a good lesson I took from that book is not to try to balance all my nutritional needs in each meal but do it over a period of a day or two. So if one day is pretty protein heavy, I go much lighter on it the next day, and so on. I rely a lot on things that naturally occur in single serving sizes (sausages, chops, etc) or fish, as Jay F suggests, or cornish hens. I rely heavily on my freezer so that when I am too tired to cook I don't have to, I can just reheat. I try to do some salad and veg prep on the weekend or before work when I have more energy than at the end of the work day so that I don't skip them altogether which I otherwise might be tempted to do -- I love salad and veg but sometimes it's just that one thing I can't summon up the energy for. I am happy to eat breakfast for dinner or (to some extent) dinner for breakfast. I have recently learned to try things again that I have "not liked" for years because taste buds change. Lo and behold, I like some things that I hadn't eaten in decades, thinking I didn't like them. By the same token, there are tried and true recipes I have made for years that I just don't care for anymore. I write "don't bother" and the date right across them so I won't make them again. Don't know if any of this is what you are looking for, but that is what this long-time cooking for one woman does. Oh, and I have a dog who makes me walk a lot so that I can get away with the occasional fully loaded baked potato (very easy, very luxurious, to my tastes anyway) for dinner....
exactly (*wink*) what I was looking for, and thank you.
One of the things I miss most is variety. Sure we ate leftovers or I morphed them into something else. But the drive to create a meal for the pleasure of another, well, it's gone, and I miss the resultant variety. I suppose it's a glass half full, and will try to explore that side of the equation.
Other times it's the nutrition angle that eludes me. Like you, I then to try to even the balance over the next few days. I now find myself fixing dishes that Keith didn't particularly care for, like quiche. Now however, it feels awfully decadent, so I do small fritata instead.
Still learning to cook for one, hopefully sometime I will learn to shop for one!
At the market I go to regularly they package many items--rolls, cookies, sausage, chicken--in quantities that are too big for me. I discovered that as long as it was packaged in-house they were happy to give me how ever many/much I wanted. So on burger night, I just get two rolls for my husband and me. Same for Sunday bagels and some of their cheeses. It's worth it to ask because otherwise you can have a freezer full of things you'd rather not.
What a great idea!
Seafood is a challenge, but my grocery store will give you whatever quantity you want of their shelled crab, normally sold by the pound. (A revelation when I first found this out!) I particularly like being able to buy carrots, mushrooms, and other produce individually. I have seen others dividing bunches of asparagus, but haven't yet worked up the courage to do that myself ;)
My entire practice of cooking revolves around leftovers. I make/buy enough for 4-6 meals of a dish, and then pop things in the freezer if I get tired of it--but normally I don't. I just wait awhile before I make it again.
Right now I have spaghetti sauce in the freezer (now that I have my bigger Le Creuset I'm making bigger batches), and leftover ham that I'm about to make a batch of biscuits to go with and eat with eggs. The first round was ham with baked sweet potatoes, served with maple syrup and toasted pecans on top.
At this point I can't imagine having to think of something different to eat every single day! It's kind of like a mini 'season' of ham, and then I probably won't have it again for months.
"just freeze the leftovers"
Reheated leftovers can be utterly depressing. So reverse that.
When you chop veggies and have extras, package and freeze the extras. Make a batch of meatballs and freeze them. Chop onions, garlic, keep it in the fridge ready to go. Bake chicken breasts, chop and freeze in small portions, you can make chicken salad or any number of things in a snap. Anything you can do to make throwing a yummy meal together faster and easier helps a lot. You don't have to do this regularly, just doing it sometimes when you feel like it will make a big difference.
It's all too easy to let your nutrition go, I know. And it's hard to be motivated to cook for one. Even keeping some canned items can be fabulous. One of my favorite go-to is anything on toast. Throw a few things on a piece of bread and pop it in the toaster oven. One of my faves is mayo, sardines, drizzle of olive oil, sprinkled with chives, parsley, chopped capers. Endless possibilities, the first being as simple as beans on toast. Veggie salads with a zingy dressing will keep in the fridge for days, they're a great addition to a scoop of tuna or salmon salad when you don't want to cook at all for a few days.
I cook for two, sometimes one, and don't think there's much of a difference. There was a (now defunct) magazine called Cooking For Two that helped me a lot. Okay, so the recipes were generally a little funky--but not all of them, and it was chock full of fantastic tips on managing such small quantities of food, and great for inspiration. They do seem to have all the recipes from the magazine online: http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Pu...
"Anything you can do to make throwing a yummy meal together faster and easier helps a lot."
Love this sentence -- as well as the thoughtful suggestions from all who have replied so far. Toodie Jane, I have been cooking for one for 5 years now, and find 2 major problems: quantity and motivation.
The first I deal with by shopping with a list and trying to be realistic about how much I will actually eat. I like to buy fruit & veg at the local open-air market, where people tend to purchase huge quantities -- I limit myself to a maximum of 3 of each item (tomatoes, zucchini, etc); because the fruit usually comes in largish containers, I choose 1 or 2 types that really, really appeal to me, rather than buying everything that looks good.
I sometimes freeze cooked food, in convenient sizes. Pulling out a portion of frozen homemade split pea soup for supper has more than once saved my evening. However, I also like to portion and freeze food before cooking, especially fresh meat, forming patties of ground beef or breaking down and rewrapping a package of chicken.
In terms of motivation, as others have shared, advance planning and not being too rigid about balancing each meal can help. Trying to inspire myself to eat more veggies by simply buying more usually ends up with wilted cabbage languishing in my vegetable drawer, but making a salad (with dressing to be added at mealtime) before I go to work ensures that fresh greens will be part of my supper. Freezing recipe components (such as sauteed onion-garlic mixture to add zing to a quick pasta sauce -- freeze it flat so it's easy to break off a chunk as needed) is helpful. I lift my spirits by buying food items I truly enjoy, instead of just going with what I'm used to. A bunch of fresh asparagus is pricey, but can be stretched by adding some to a stir-fry, and steaming some to add to a tossed salad, for example.
Last but not least, I find that reading this board helps inspire me to experiment with flavors and textures and posting my own ideas reminds me that I love cooking, whether for a crowd or just for myself.
i agree with a lot of these suggestions! it is definitely depressing to reheat leftovers, and sometimes i will eat more than i should when i actually make things to avoid having leftovers i feel like i need to reheat later.
i also agree that while full on leftovers can be depressing, pre-prepped ingredients that can be repurposed into new dishes are a must. roasted chicken breasts can be a meal by themselves one night, shredded into tacos the next, and part of a chicken and pasta bake the next.
also, im not a widower, but much of this is true for the bachelor as well. hard to bring myself to cook a good meal just for me sometimes. but i am sorry for your loss
I am going through the opposite - my cooking style evolved for one. Making three times the fresh pasta is such a pain in the butt. Am I supposed to have two pans going for crepes, or is one of us supposed to eat a cold one? And how can anyone dislike dark meat chicken?!
But on cooking for one:
Whole Foods helps me. Do you have one nearby? They have a good salad bar, so you can pick up a little of this and that for a stir fry or whatever. It's also convenient to buy meat from behind the counter rather than prepackaged, so you don't have to eat chicken four times in a week or freeze and thaw the extra. They have bulk grains (couscous, etc), fruit, and nuts at mine, which is helpful if you're working under limited storage space. And I've just discovered the cheese section; little pieces are often available for $2 or $3!
I find that I don't eat frozen leftovers, but freezing ingredients works for me. I'll freeze sauteed onions and garlic and cut the block up into pieces to throw into something. Also stock and tomato sauce in greased mini muffin tins, chicken or duck fat, and herb-infused oil. Often, I can just throw a few frozen chunks into a pot and come out with a fairly respectable meal.
I second the suggestion of frozen shrimp.
I love Artisan Bread in 5, and the basic recipe is available free online. It's awesome to be able to tear off a little hunk and bake yourself some fresh bread in no time flat.
Hi jvanderh. My wife died 6 mo. ago. Been thinking about baking and that technique for a while. Could this be used to bake a fresh baugette bun each morning? If yes, would someone please point me to the right reference? The ultimate extension would be to make a croissant dough that worked this way. Could that be possible anyone?
I have. It doesn't rise as much as AP flour, but it rises. And it makes a great pizza dough. By the time I tried WW, I was no longer measuring. So, I can't really help with a recipe. It takes more water than AP flour, and the dough should be wet and sticky when it goes in the fridge. You can also add gluten and/or use part WW and part AP. For bread, I recommend having it in the fridge for several days before using it, and letting it visibly rise before you bake it.
When I buy carrots, onions, and celery to make soffrito for Bolognese, I always buy the correct proportion of extra onions and carrots so I don't end up having to throw out the leftover celery. Then I freeze the soffrito I don't use in useable amounts.
I'm sorry for your loss. Family members of mine are going through the same thing, and I'm watching them lose motivation for treating themselves well. A few thoughts:
1) I would leverage purchasing smaller portions so that you can cook smaller quantities (use the salad bar, purchase one serving's worth of salmon, etc.) and group things by meal (ie, salmon with potatotes and green beans, etc.), that you always make as a group. It takes the stress and questioning (and thus the effort) out of the decision. One list, one set of steps, one meal. Sit down one day and draw up twenty of those meals, and then rotate as your "base", working stuff in as needed.
2) Have lots of non-perishables in the house that you can use for the "I didn't make it to the store, what should I make?" nights.
3) Have some good quality standbys for "I don't really want to cook". Just want to make pasta? Great, but instead of bottled sauce, have some cans of crushed tomatoes, frozen vegetables, and spices/herbs. In the time that it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta, you can have a real sauce on your hands. It's a better quality pasta & sauce that's better for you, for example.
4) Instead of "just freeze leftovers", how about cooking with freezing in mind? This book: http://www.amazon.com/Fix-Freeze-Feas..., which I've never really worked with personally, designed recipes that you cook and then freeze in portions, and then just reheat each portion as you want them. Having a few of those in the freezer after one day's worth of cooking might be very helpful. . .
I know your pain, but there are ways of dealing with it.
I agree that you should avoid the "make a full recipe and then have leftovers" strategy. That's just depressing, especially for someone who likes cooking.
I think an egg is a miracle food for someone cooking for one - a perfect portion of protein that is delicious on top of so many things. I find that frozen seafoods portion better for one, since they are easy to separate and you can defrost just what you need. Sometimes I'll make a full batch of chicken meatballs that I keep simply flavored and then can defrost just a bit and serve with any sauce I want, from Asian to Italian.
One more note: post-divorce, I found that it was appealing on hard days to be able to make things that I couldn't have made before, because of his tastes. It helped to make cooking more of a treat for me. Ginger? I can have ginger! Then I'm going to have all the ginger I want! It really put a bounce in my step.
You also might want to check out what vegetables are available at the salad bar. For some recipes where you need just a little bit of something, it can save you having to buy a whole package--and if you would end up throwing that out the expense of the salad bar might be worth it.
I'm terribly sorry for your loss. It must be a tremendous adjustment to make.
I cook for just myself often as my husband travels for work quite a bit. I'm not a big fan of leftovers, and rarely freeze anything. My best stategy has been finding a store where you can bag up your own produce and pay by weight. A lot of folks mentioned salad bars, and that's a great idea! I like to buy meats from the butcher counter, you can have exactly the portion that you want. One of my favorite meals is a stir fry. I always keep rice around, and cook up just what I need. You can choose the veggies and protein you want, keep some different sauces on hand, and always have a very healthy, fast and appealing meal. Another option is to see if your grocer's deli has pre-made containers of soups or stews. Some of these, like baked potato soup, are wonderful with some crusty bread and a small salad. I get 2 portions out of one container--one nice dinner and lunch a few days later.
A couple of years ago I read a good book on the subject of cooking/eating alone. I think it was called "Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant," which is a reference to one of Laurie Colwin's essays. It was a collection of essays by various writers--sorry I can't remember the editor's name.
I'm very sorry for your loss. I'm married, but I do have a couple of ideas. The first is a single portioned salmon with a pistachio crust. It is super easy and delicious. Slather the salmon with dijon mustard. Make the crust by combing panko, garlic, fresh taragon, and olive oil. Press that into the the salmon and bake at 375.
Another thing that is easy and so great is making a panini. If you have a George Foreman grill take bread, tuna, sundried tomatoes and aged provolone. It sort of amazes me how easy and delicious it is.
I'm a big fan of soup. To me cooking up a pot of chicken soup and serving it with matzoh balls (manishevitz mix!) is great. The house smells great and you freeze the soup for the next time you have a cold.
I began reading this thread because several friends of mine have been widowed. And I remember how poorly my own mother ate when she lost my dad. It would be so easy to just not cook too much, I think, if you only cook for yourself.
I respectfully suggest that someone who is cooking for her or himself, start a thread: Recipes for Cooking for One. The thread could include tips for easy meals, as well as recipes. A collection of recipes for one would be a good resource for singles who want to feed themselves well.
I am truly sorry for your loss, tj.
I'm not widowed, but newly single after 10 years or so for the last 5 months, and have been having the same issues. The ex-bf had an appetite for 3 people and devoured leftovers. I've also developed many dietary restrictions in the last couple of years, so that doesn't help.
I keep hard-boiled eggs on hand for breakfast when I'm too lazy to do anything else. The Trader Joe's microwaveable rice in 3/box are great for rice bowls with whatever's on hand. I do make up big batches of pasta stuff - ricotta gnocchi, stuffed shells, butternut squash ravioli - and freeze in individual servings to sauce as desired.
I'm still working things out, and I still end up tossing things that I haven't gotten around to finishing up. I'll be watching this thread for more ideas.
My biggest issue was fresh produce. My fridge turned into a biology experiment gone very bad.
I have finally switched to bags of frozen veggies. This gives me variety without the waste.
I also found that I did best simplifying my menu. One dish could be complicate/time consuming but the rest had to be pretty simple.
One trick that I love is using crushed cookies (shortbread) as the topping for a simple cobbler for one. If I don't have fresh fruit an individual size can of peaches, etc. will work. Quick, smells and tastes wonderful and I don't have the rest of a big batch calling to me in the wee hours!
Fortunately I don't mind eating the same protein for several days. This helps when preparing a roast anything. I've always been good at using leftovers. A roasted chicken can feed me lunch and dinner for a week!
I had a difficult time with solo cooking after I divorced 15 years ago. It took a good 3 -4 years to really get down the tricks which worked for me.
Now I'm about to live alone again after 4 years of cooking for two. My SO has been away with work so much the last year that I feel I have transitioned back into solo cooking already.
But it is still very different - we are still solid in the relationship - just have many reasons why separate quarters will be best. Solo by choice or without sorrow makes the adjustment much, much easier.
Re Widowfood: When I was widowed last year after 58 years with my husband I lived for months on Shredded Wheat and a woman in my widows' support group survives mostly on smoothies of fruit and yogurt. Eventually you get tired of that life---and of Stouffer's---and remember that you do actually know how to cook. Start easy---a chicken breast in a foil-lined pan with an Idaho potato or a sweet potato or half an acorn squash---make a salad and there's dinner. Fix it all on a nice tray and watch TV while you eat---sitting alone at the table is sad. I have done well with making a big crock pot of barbecued beef and freezing it in 8-oz margarine tubs. I enjoy homemade chili but not homemade soup which I could not eat after making it as it reminded me so much of my husband---I used to keep him in soup. I freeze individual portions of pot roast, mashed potatoes, etc because it's depressing to cook a big meal like that and there you are alone---I do better thawing what I've already cooked. I guess my best advice would be to make something you really like and will eat. Some days a person might regress to popcorn and fruit (or Shredded Wheat)---so what, it's not illegal.
I am not a widow, but definitely have no chance Ever of marrying--this what I do:
-frozen shrimp/fish filets
-tofu--slice off a hunk and add it to all things
-oatmeal(!) with cocoa powder and cinnamon (and pb if you need protein)
-BREAKFAST FOODS-french toast, pancakes (from mix), eggs with salsa, cereal (with marshmallows sometimes...) and/or toast with cinnamon-sugar
-frozen peas, frozen veg
-'tiny' potatoes from TJ or those really small potatoes from the store
-brown rice and pasta--although I hardly ever execute making them
-Fruit in the freezer.
I don't eat salads anymore because they always went bad before I used the spinach or greens. But worse comes to worse, I go for a meal centered around the frozen fish filet (also green giant, I think, makes a frozen veg bag with green beans and garlic potatoes--very easy) OR a breakfast option.
for green salads-- buy a whole head of romaine or a romaine heart. then for each meal, break off some leaves from the core-- as many as you feel like eating. squeeze grapefruit or other citrus over, use regular salad dressing/vinaigrette, or even put a dollop of mayo or dip on the plate and simply dip the leaf, eating it as finger food. rewrap the rest of the head of romaine and continue to use until the head is gone. way, way better than a single person trying to get through one of those bagged salad horror shows. buy bulk spinach and add handfuls to pasta and other one-dish meals when serving.
a piece of fish, a handful of shrimp, a dozen mussels are delicious, quick to cook and feel like actually feeding oneself. cheap too--while feeling luxurious. i will bake off a ramekin of buttered cod for myself at the drop of a hat. i am also a baked potato junkie.
eggs: omelets are fast and endlessly variable. you can make a stuffed omelet to eat and while you have the pan going make a plain omelet to chill and slice into rice, noodles, or soup. i also like to fry an egg and use it to top toast which i spread thickly with fruit preserves, and to eat this as an open faced sandwich, or to make a five-minute egg and dip toast points, with fresh fruit or crudites on the side.
i like to make a "lasagna" for one, with leftover cooked vegetables, sauce, and pasta sheets, cut up and just layered in a bowl with whatever cheese, then run under the broiler. i am partnered but wind up cooking for just myself a lot.
Good subject, and I will definitely be looking for tips that will work for me. I was married for 15 years, now divorced. Not only was my ex a very big eater, but so was I at the time. I no longer eat as much as I used to, or like I used to, due to major side effects from a serious illness I had. So, it was really an adjustment to learn to cook a whole different way, and to make small portions. A lot of leftovers just will not work for me, so I am learning to make very small portions and get a handle on what I should by a lot of and not waste, and what I should not buy or only buy a couple of.
One of the things that really helped me, is to buy smaller pans. Sounds kinda stupid, but it really worked for me. Cannot cook too much, if you use single serving or two serving pans. I also bought a little crockpot. Like it only makes two servings, maybe three if you really fill it up. I also use a measuring cup when I cook pasta or orzo. Like with orzo, or even rice, I measure only about 1/4 to 1/3 cup dry, depending on how much veg I have, and that will be enough for one serving. I find when I just pour stuff in, I cook too much.
The only vegetables I found that I can buy in 5-10 lbs bags, are potatoes, onions and carrots. They are cheaper that way for me, and I do go through them so quickly, that there is virtually no waste. Other fruits and veg, I only buy a couple at a time, or buy small prepacked versions, because they'd go to waste. If you do salad bars, I know people that get a mix of veg that way. I also like Green Giant packs of frozen vegetables. I can eat just about the whole package. I like the healthy vision, healthy heart mixes, the spinach, green beans. These can be mixed in with orzo, or rice, or put over some kind of pasta. Just add a piece of meat or fish.
I find it's easy when I come home from shopping to prep a couple days worth of vegetables. Like if I get some bell peppers, say a red and a green, I will chop them, and I will chop an onion. I have a Tupperware container with a divider. I will use it one day to make sausage and peppers, next day in a stir fry, and if any left the next day, maybe something like a gumbo.
When I do have a little bit of leftovers, I usually eat that with an egg over it or in an omelette the next day. Or sometimes, with the leftover veggies or curry, I make a savory oatmeal for brunch the next day.
I used to cook only dried beans when I was married, but that's a lot of beans, one bag. These days, I find it easier to keep canned beans on hand. Might be sacrilege for some here, but once drained and rinsed, they work well for me. They are neutral in flavor and lend themselves to many dishes, so when I open a can and use half, or a third, I put the rest in a container and use it in different preparations the rest of the week.
I apologize if this is a repeat, but a farmer's market makes my life easier where it comes to produce. Sometimes I'll go to the grocery store and only find 1lb+ onions or potatoes. I can find small quantities of almost anything, and if not, a lot of times they'll sell me half of two baskets that cost the same, or they have loose extra produce on the truck and will sell a small quantity. Sometimes when something is a good enough deal, I'll buy a big quantity. I bought 3 lbs of sweet potatoes for $1.19 the other week. If I end up tossing some, it was still cheaper than buying one or two by the pound.
I love this discussion. Food for thought!
(I framed it with the widowhood parameters primarily because of the emotional issues. On one hand, you try to practice good nutrition to keep up physical and emotional health; on the other, emotional triggers can sucker-punch you, and put you off track. Motivation comes and goes. Not that I don't like to cook or don't like food in general, quite the contrary.)
Cooking for one in today's world of volume packaging and marketing is swimming against the consumer flow, and singles of all stripes have developed strategies. I find these personal success and failure stories illuminating and affirming. Thank you for your replies, and for your words of comfort.
A bag of the shredded cabbage they sell for coleslaw makes a good base for quick stir-fry. Add a glop of soy sauce and sherry and a sprinkle of sugar. Then toss in whatever you have---maybe a few cooked shelled shrimp from the freezer. The portion-size rice that you zap in the microwave works well for one. An alternate easy stir-fry is that same frozen shrimp and the frozen pineapple bits from Trader Joe's. Also at TJ there is an individual portion of frozen flounder filet stuffed with crab that sells for $2.99, amazing bargain, that's good.
I too like to buy the shredded cabbage packs for Cole slaw. I use it in sandwiches instead of lettuce, in stir fry and in fried rice, vegetable soup, I cook it down adding a bit of lower sodium soy and five spice and left over pork or chicken to make egg rolls, and oh ya, I do make cole slaw with it.
For ongoing inspiration, perhaps check out the monthly column "Cooking for One" in the Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/linkset...
They've been doing the column since 2008, I think. Unfortunately, their website is a bit cumbersome, but it's worth poking around.
Here are their general tips for scaling down: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...
I guess the author of that column recently published a cookbook, too. I also recommend the Judith Jones book.
Eric Ripert did a mini-series "Get Toasted" on toaster oven cooking, which are by necessity, servings for one or two. http://www.aveceric.com/category/epis... He used to just have the recipes on his website, but all I can find right now are the videos.
Since you're a fan, you might also be interested in the book he has out now, based on this column I think. I don't know anything about it, alas. http://www.joeyonan.com/p/serve-yours...
I wish it were easier to access the WaPO archives for this column from previous years. If you find a way, please let us know.
I'm not widowed but the bf has been working away for nearly a year now so I understand to a miniscule degree your motivation for this thread. I've found it useful to have a standby meal, decided in advance, that I force myself to cook and eat if I'm out of sorts and can't summon up the mental energy to think of and shop for something more imaginative. This also works well for those times that I get so hungry and grouchy that my brain shuts down and the capacity for rational thought deserts me.
For me, my emergency meal is beans on toast with a fried egg, as I always have those three ingredients on hand, and even if for some reason one or more is lacking, it's easy enough to get it in the corner shop or petrol station without having to brave the supermarket. Even if I don't really fancy it, I've found it's better to make myself eat it than get stuck in the vicious circle of hunger, indecision and emotion! And it saves the mental tussle of "Shall I just get a takeaway?"
Gembellina, I believe you are English---you mentioned Beans on Toast, not well known in the States but excellent widowfood so, if I may, I will elaborate. Beans on Toast is a can of pork & beans heated very hot and poured over a slice of hot buttered whole wheat toast. Pickle on the side. If you have it with a mug of hot tea the entire outfit is called A Bean Tea. Delicious.
I got this book last year after my youngest left for college. It is really well done, particularly the suggestions for leftovers. For instance, buy enough mussels to have them one night steamed in a tradional French manner, then use the rest the next night in a curry. Or buy two lamb chops, eat one and chop up the meat in the second to use in a pasta sauce. Or make a tiny meatloaf and place it on a baking sheet surrounded by a couple of small potatoes, carrot pieces, whatever, and bake it all at the same time. Eat cold leftover meatloaf with some cheese and crackers and a glass of wine and pretend it's pate. An egg steamed on a bed of wilted greens is another good one. I really love this book.
I also do alot of small stir fries with a handful of shrimp (keep a bag in the freezer as others have said) and whatever vegetable I have - beans, brocollini, eggplant. Serve over rice. Make fried rice with the leftover rice, serve with a fried egg.
Cooking is not my problem - it's overbuying. I can get single meat portions at the butcher, but since I live where there are year-round farmers markets, I have a hard time knowing when to stop. I can't do the salad bar thing. Mental block. I'm still working it out.
Good luck to you and stay healthy.
very sorry for your loss.
i am single and live alone so i am experienced at cooking for 1.
here is what i do most weeks.
i make a huge meal sun/mon and then reuse leftovers through the week in different ways.
protein i tend to buy in small quantities and make fresh each night as i do not like it reheated for the most part.
for example - sun night i bake chicken with veggies and make mashed potatoes or stuffing (which i love).
i norm eat lunch out but if i take it in i make some pasta (the night before) and toss with veggies and sauce or just olive oil and cheese.
mon night i would bake more chicken or a piece of fish in a foil packet with any leftover veggies i may have) and eat with some of the sides from the night before or just cook some brown rice if i feel the need for a carb.
tues i can make some fried rice with the shrimp i keep in the freezer.
wednesday whatever sides are left, just eat with a piece chicken/fish and a salad.
thurs start a new or use up freezer veggies with chicken/tofu - make a stir fry.
i use my wok a lot as its easy and tasty.
another transformation idea is start with a rotisserie chicken and make out of that all week, tacos, quesadillas, pasta, stir fry, fried rice, bbq style, soup, risotto, list goes on.
you can really do this for any meat.
heck some nights a little white rice, fried egg and some stir fried vinegared veggies with hot sauce or teriyaki really hits the spot.
my basic stir fry sauce - rice wine vinegar, splash soy sauce, touch of sugar and some chili-garlic paste with a bit of stock or broth (heck even water works).
When chicken thighs are cheap, I buy a big pack and throw pairs into zipper freezer bags and add marinade. One will get soy sauce/terriaki, one set Frank's Hot Sauce (my preferred sauce for buffalo wings), one Italian dressing, one lemon or lime. Throw them in the freezer. Thaw in the fridge when ready.
Plenty of good suggestions for someone cooking alone.
I'm perpetually single and find my inspiration in cooking for others... maybe you have some friends in similar situations that you can cook and share food with? It will help with the loneliness too, a little bit.
MFK Fisher said that you don't have to worry about having each meal being nutritionally sound.... you can go for the day or even for the week.
Also look for small shelf-stable juices or non-dairy milks. You open up a maximum of a pint at a time, so loss will be minimal when it happens.
Find a basic food that you can make in a pinch that tricks you into making a meal. I do it with ramen, bought a box at a time from a local asian market. Sometimes it's a soup, or I stir-fry the noodles or make a salad and top it with crunchy noodles. I always add whatever vegetables I have, sometimes tofu or an egg.
Keep your bread in the fridge or freezer.
Split pea soup freezes well.
My favorite recipe is super easy to adjust. Penne with roasted pear tomatoes and capers.
Get a pint of tomatoes and slice in half as many as you want (minimum 1/2 cup per serving). Toss with olive oil, salt and rosemary (sliced leek is good too) and roast for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, boil some penne until al dente and drain. Mince some garlic and olives if you want them. Toss your garlic in the still hot pain and pour the pasta back in, then your roasted tomatoes. Add a couple spoonfuls of capers and olives & top with cheese and fresh ground black pepper.
Lots of advice here on cooking for one ...but I think the crux of the matter was stated somewhere down the line....it's not really the "cooking for one" as much as the "eating alone" that is the toughest adjustment. So invite a good friend or friends to dinner often......having two couples at a time is easier because you get "help" in the kitchen and can leave the rest to converse without it feeling awkward. If you BBQ you can let the guys do the cooking outside with a drink in hand while you do the rest. Other times just invite someone you know who will love your bacon and eggs for dinner, just for the company and time together. Once motivated to cook for others you may find that you will begin to enjoy preparing healthy meals for yourself once again.
ah...one of the wierdest things about widowhood is that your old social system mostly no longer works. I think if I were to try the dinner party thing, it'd have to be with a whole new set of food friends. Sad but true. I may just end up taking some cooking classes to meet new cooking enthusiasts, not a bad way to spend an evening, after all.
toodie, i haven't been around the homecooking board lately and i just saw this thread. i am so sorry for your loss; i remember you as being a knowledgeable CH and very helpful . What saves me, in times when i am not cooking- inspired, is to make batches of entrees and starches, portioning them and freezing them. I do this w/ soups,stews, meatloafs, pork and apple sausage patties,grits/polenta, risotto, taco fillings, moussaka, canneloni,etc. I also make small batches of marinades that i keep refrigerated. I don't know if you have Whole Foods and Trader Joe's stores near you, but they have many tasty frozen or packaged starches to accompany your entree. and packaged baby spinach/mesclun/lettuce etc. makes a quick salad component.
i may not have understood your questions, but i hope something i said was helpful.
re: toodie jane
toodie, it just occurred to me that you might find some appealing things in my thread on
making TrJoe's products even better. I can't find it yet but here's another. One of the things i recommend about this general idea is that, as a cook, i still feel like a cook when i mess with their products.It's as if TrJ saved me a lot of time, doing the basic prep, and then my talents as a chef were able to turn it into something good(imo of course!):
toodie, here is link to my thread but i actually cannot access it (tried all day) so i don't know what recipes i included in it:
here, toodie, i finally found and updated them. Hope some of these might appeal to you.Think of these ideas as TrJ's doing the basic prep and you using your cooking skills to build a delicious dish for yourself in a fairly short time.
RECIPES :TWEAKING TRADER JOE'S FOR THE BETTER
Trader Joe's sells many products that, w/ a little tweaking, can be vastly improved and made quite delicious (and still, primarily time-saving). While some may consider these too elaborate, for me they are like being given the basic prep of a dish that I can pretty quickly make into something delicious. When I don't feel like cooking, they still let me feel like a cook. While most of them are starch based, they are excellent vehicles for leftover proteins.
Vegetarian Pad Thai- frozen:
Julienne on the diagonal 3-4 ou snow peas(don't bother to remove strings).In microwave dish, sprinkle water on snow peas, cover and nuke 30 seconds .
With a fork, mix 2-3T. crunchy peanut butter (Arrowhead is much better than TrJ.) w/ 2 T. hot water; add 1T. tamari . Nuke frozen pad Thai for 2 min. Flip out and remove layer of bean sprouts w/ scallions so they won't get soggy. Reserve. Stir up and separate pad Thai we/ a fork; add snow peas, 1/2 chicken breast, shredded, bean sprouts w/ scallions; and opt. slivered red pepper , julienned carrot,cubed tofu, roasted peanuts. Toss all w/ peanut dressing. Nuke 2 min. on near-high. Top w/1-2 T. lime juice.
frozen Pasta Italiano:
These cavatelli w/ zucchini and eggplant and tomatoes- are very good. I still like to do this treatment of them which adds a lot more protein and vegetables:
Sprinkle w/ water 2 c. of frozen TrJ artichoke hearts; cover and nuke for 2 min. Nuke homemade or TrJ Turkey Bolognese Sauce.
Over low heat, sautee 1/2 T. minced garlic in 2 T of TrJ California extra virgin olive oil. Turn heat to med high, add bag of frozen pasta and stir fry a few minutes, then cover and occasionally stir til almost al dente. Meanwhile cook down 1 c. of white wine or vermouth to 1/2 c. To the pasta, add sauce, artichoke hearts, reduced white wine, 1/2 - 1 tsp. cayenne, and 2 links of cooked Italian Sweet Sausage,chopped. You could also add cooked kale or chard , TrJ cooked white beans ., and TrJ Eggplant Caponata in place of the Turkey Bolognese Sauce.
Tarte d’Alsace- frozen
Over the Tarte surface, spread about 1/4-1/3 c. sour cream. Sprinkle all over w/ cayenne, then
2 ou. slivered Jones Canadian Bacon (from slices) and 1/2 c. grated TrJ cave-aged, paper-wrapped gruyere, making sure that both cover the outer Tarte edges. Bake at 475 degrees about 12-14 min. til browned/bubbly.
MULTIGRAIN GRUYERE GRATIN s. 6-8
This gratin is very versatile. It can be a main dinner course or a side dish, and makes a hearty lunch when paired with soup. For brunch, it is a hearty and more nutritious take on quiche. It can be made vegetarian or with ham. The grains and seeds give it a dense chewy texture, and the top and edges are crunchy.
1 10 ou.package of Trader Joes frozen ‘Rice Medley’(brown and red rice, black barley);
nuked 3 minutes and cooled (or 2 c. cooked grains)
2-3 ou.unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
4 large or xlg. eggs
1 c. whole milk
1 c. heavy cream ( or milk)
2 1/2 c. Grated gruyere (Trader Joe’s cave- aged is excellent)
1/4 c. Toasted sesame seeds
1/3 c. Raw wheat germ
1/3 c. Raw sunflower seeds
Kosher Salt- lots
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. grated gruyere for topping
1/4 c. grated or ground Parmesan
9 x 13" metal or ceramic or glass baking dish, Pam’d
Preheat oven to 350 degrees .
Over medium high heat, melt butter in skillet, add onion and cook approximately 5 minutes, til translucent and not brown. Cool. Beat eggs; add milk and cream til well combined. Add to rice mixture along with onion through pepper. Grains soak up alot of salt, so taste to make sure you have enough.
Pour mixture into greased pan. Top with 1/2 c. gruyere and bake 25 min. til browned . Sprinkle w/ Parm and bake 5-10 min. til well browned and knife tip comes out clean. Can be served hot or at room temperature. serves 6-8. Reheats well, getting even crunchier.Freezes well.
Variation: After pouring mixture into pan, add
1/3- 1/2 c. sliced sauteed mushrooms to one half of the pan and
1/3- 1/2 c. diced Canadian bacon or ham to the other half of the pan, stirring with a fork to combine well. OR add 1 c. of ham or mushrooms to whole bowl of mixture and then pour into pan and bake.
Ham and Cheese Croissants- frozen
Bake according to instructions, but remove from oven a few minutes before finished baking. Remove flavorless interior Swiss cheese gook, replace w/ 2 slices canadian bacon and 1/3 c. grated gruyere. Bake 5-7 min. at 350 degrees til gruyere melts.
Steak Burritos- frozen
Cover loosely and nuke full power 1.5 min on each side.Cut in half and, with a fork, stuff into each half some leftover home cooked beef or pork . Bake in 350 degrees toaster oven for 5-10 minutes for crunchy exterior.
Serve with Chipotle Sour Cream:
8 ou. Sour Cream
2-3T. Hellman’s Mayo – optional
1-3 T.pureed canned Chipotles in Adobo**
1-2T. Frozen OJ concentrate
2 tsp.Fresh Lemon Juice
1 tsp. minced garlic
Kosher Salt to taste
Mix together thoroughly , starting with the smaller
amounts of chipotle and O.J.
Adjust to taste.
** frozen pureed chipotles keep well. Scrape out amount w/ fork tines
as needed. this is also delicious w/ the tasty TrJ tamales and Beef Taquitos.
Chicken Chilaquiles - frozen
Nuke or bake until a few minutes before done. Place some leftover roasted pork or chicken as a center layer and finish by baking 5-10 minutes at 400-450 degrees to heat the added meat and brown/crunch the top.
Grilled SW Chicken Patties- frozen
Grill them over charcoal or roast and serve on TJ toasted curry naan with TJ cilantro yoghurt sauce
and quartered grape tomatoes.
Lentil Ancient Grain Soup- refrig.
Add 2-4T. tamari, 1/4- 1/2 c. tomato juices or sauce, or some tomato paste mixed w/ water,and some kosher salt. For other variation, add more tomato paste and 1-2T.Madras style curry powder.
Chicken Tika Masala- frozen
Not tweaked, really, just supplemented for a more interesting meal:
Serve the chicken and rice dish with TrJ frozen masala dal or some steamed broccoli. Supplement with these excellent frozen products from an Indian foods market: Deep brand mini potato samosas, Woodland brand Medu Wada, Deep brand Onion Kulcha, and frozen-in-cups cilantro mixture added to your own plain yoghurt.
Fondue- refrigerated in tub, Made in France
Heat in fondue pot, continually stirring. Cook down 1/2 c.- 1 c. white wine (buy little 6-pack bottles for cooking) to about 1/3 c., add to fondue with 1/2 c. grated gruyere tossed w/ 1 T. flour, 3 good pinches of cayenne and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir w/ wooden spoon til smooth. Add 1/4 c. kirsch, stir and serve w/ lightly toasted sourdough cubes.
Frozen Mushroom Fettuccini :
Sautee a little minced garlic in some evoo.Add the bag of the fettuccini, pour in 1/2 c. - 1 c. marsala(Pastene is fine) or dry sherry and 2 strips of cooked and chopped bacon, 1/2 bag defrosted frozen TrJ artichoke hearts, turn down to simmer, cover, cook a few minutes. Turn over the pasta nests,stir well, cover and cook a few more minutes. Taste; add 1-2 T. tamari . Add and cook down more marsala if needed. Add cooked chicken, shredded gruyere and/or Parm.cheese as desired. Season. Serve as an entree or alongside a chicken or veal dish.
Norwegian Pancakes: - frozen
Bake, split, fill w/ TrJ pumpkin cream cheese. Toss w/ confectioners sugar mixed w/ cinnamon or cardamom,or drizzle w/ TJ caramel sauce, or serve w/ chocolate fondue.
I'm at year 6 in the same boat. I still try out new recipes,cutting them down in size and still collect recipes (I think it's an addiction!). The best thing has been finding a couple of friends in the same situation and inviting them (or them inviting me) for dinner. Both are wonderful cooks and we try many different recipes. I really hate leftovers and try to avoid them. Having spent years cooking for 6 it has been a hard transition to single cook. I'm afraid I must confess to having a very full freezer and always buying too much at the farmers market where everything looks so wonderful. Good luck, maybe you have more disipline than I do.
I assume you love to cook... And, if so, wonder if you have a connection with a young family who might appreciate a home-cooked meal on those occasions where you overbuy and overcook. As a new mom, I would be I absolutely thrilled if someone told me they overbought at the farmers market and had some to share... Just a thought. Even though you are in different stages of life, it might be gratifying to form a bond with a family like this. And it might be fun for you.
Found a perfectly simple German dumping recipe last night. One potato, one egg, and as much flour as it takes to make a rollable dough. I nuked a sweet potato, scooped it out into a bowl, let it cool a little and mixed in the egg and then the flour. Roll into a fat log and slice it. Boil in saltwater 5 or 10 min. The nice thing is that you can open a package of keilbasa or turkey ham (or get a fat slice of smoked turkey at the deli) and a can of sauerkraut and call it a homemade meal. Or you can scoop the dumplings out with a slotted spoon and do a vegetable in the water- the dumplings are dense enough not to get cold before the veggie is done. The sweet potato was especially good- I liked the little hint of sweetness with the sourness of the kraut. I think you could also use ww flour if you wanted, and could also roll it thinner and call it gnocci.
Toodie Jane, I know what you mean. Cooking for one is a whole different world. When you don't have an audience, you want something easy, but you still want it to be tasty.
I was single for a very long time, and for many of those years I ate pasta and canned sauce every night. But I eventually evolved.
Some favorites from my single days:
I love spinach. So I used to get baby spinach, and I'd put it in the bottom of the colander before I drained my pasta. Presto! A healthy addition to pasta, which you can then add the sauce of your choice to.
You can also make any number of quick, tasty pan sauces for pasta. For instance, saute some shallots in a little olive oil, deglaze with the alcohol of your choice, and add maybe some ham or mushrooms and a little cream... toss with a little pasta and you have a great meal!
I also loved experimenting with omlettes. Different cheeses, a little of any kind of cooked meat, (more spinach, if you're me); pretty much anything can make a tasty and healthy omlette.
Rotisserie chicken is great for one person meals too.
Or, when you don't feel like anything else, a big salad with good olives and tomatoes...
Finally, even though I know it will make chowhounders cringe, an egg added at the end of boiling ramen (and if you're me, spinach too, or even mushrooms) makes for one heck of a tasty dish.
In her widowed years, my grandmother (an excellent cook, but the kind who --like me-- needed an audience) used to live on peanuts, vodka, and cream cheese and green olive sandwiches. Those cream cheese and olive sandwiches were amazing!
just to make things more interesting/difficult (lol) I took myself off coffee, sugar, refined fours, fats and dairy (except for feremented) a couple of months ago. My inflammatory issues are greatly reduced and I've lost about 16 pounds. It was not by design, but by serendipity.
So now those dietetic variables need consideration. Still struggling with feeding myself properly and as beautifully as I'd like. Then there are the pitfalls of making "our" favorite meals. sometimes it's just a ;-( outcome. But I perservere. I thank everyone for contributing to this subject, some really great tips and proceedures here--THANKS! Today I'm volunteering to help prep meals for an olive harvesting crew for some friends. So volunteer cooking could be a good outlet for those creative juices.
re: toodie jane
Toodie, do you like apple crisp? I've been making a microwave version by chopping up an apple (take the skin off if you want), and topping it with oats mixed with butter and spices. Microwave for about 4 minutes and you've got a nice toasty dessert. I don't add sugar, as the apple is sweet enough. I imagine you could add nuts too. Also, how do you feel about almond milk? I love almond milk smoothies, with peanut butter and fruit and protein powder if you want it. I also second everything said about frozen veggies. They're just too easy not to use.
by coincidence, I made one not too long ago. It was good! I also did a mini/quickie version of layered enchilada/chile verde in teh microwave, Using leftover savory veg mix, some toasted corn tortillas, roasted green pepper salsa, leftover chicken and a tiny bit of cheese. I just layered it in a 2 cup corningware dish and covered it with a plate. It was delicious. So I may try more of these individual type casseroles using leftovers to create something new.
For some reason, I had missed this original post; am glad that you have updated recently. When I was suddenly widowed, after 20+ years, my children were young; while they were fed well, I sometimes had neither energy, nor inclination, to make meals for myself. Our personal (work/school) schedules dictated that we often ate meals at different times.
Many of the suggestions in this thread are familiar tactics, and they were helpful for me.
May I suggest that you purchase, or otherwise acquire, a few new dishes? In particular, a few single portion size baking dishes/ramekins, and one or two new plates, glasses and bowls. I had a couple of "special" items which made my late-night, solo, meals much more special. I think that a counter-top oven was also a big help.
While not a "freeze the leftovers" this does have parallels. My mother died when I was a teenager and my younger brother and I took over cooking when she passed away. We had older siblings who had already left the house so when my brother and I moved on, our dad started getting adventurous in the kitchen (sometimes with dismal results). But one thing that he did a lot was make a big batch of something (stew, soup etc) and put it in sandwich bags as individual portions and freeze them. He'd have 3-4 different meals he loved in the freezer with a few portions of each and rotate them, reheating in the microwave as needed. That way he only needed to cook one or 2 days a week. I remember visiting him on weekend and he would cook 2-3 meals in one day and portion them carefully in freezer bags or tupperware containers and label them. That system seemed to work well for him. Cooking for one is always a pain if you try to make things using fresh ingredients but he took the "personal chef" approach.
I don't agree that cooking fresh food for one is always a pain. It takes less time to make a meal for one than two or four. Most produce can easily be bought small. I can get teeny butternuts or cabbages at the farmer's market, and if I'm shopping at the grocery store, I'll get a sweet potato or some Brussels sprouts instead- or I'll buy something versatile and prepare it dIfferent ways. I don't mind eating three different kinds of potatoes in a week, or broccoli in three different dishes, but I don't want chili three times a week or even three times a month. I don't think it's logistically difficult to cook for one, but emotionally difficult.
I don't mean to say that cooking for yourself is a pain - but it can have a drawback which is easily fixed, my father discovered. When you buy fresh ingredients, its hard to buy in quantities for a single serving. Meaning no matter what you cook, there's going to be leftovers of SOMETHING. If it's not the meal itself, you'll have a bunch of fresh herbs left over or something like that (who uses a whole parsley or cilatro bunch when making a single serving of something). Yes you can get produce in small quantities, but not all produce is sold that way is all I am saying. And he didn't always have the energy to cook a scratch meal for himself every night of the week. I didn't mean to say that cooking for one isn't pleasurable. For most of us in here, cooking is a passion. But one complaint my father always seemed to have early on was the same as the OP - that he'd make something and have leftovers and be eating the same meal for the next 2-3 nights. By cooking a bunch of his favorites in one day (and having some lean cuisines in there to break up the monotony) he was happy at mealtimes. It was his way of avoiding the common side effect of cooking for one - eating the same thing until leftovers were gone, or needing to make a new meal every night.
There's definitely a learning curve, but I really don't think it's fundamentally harder or more prone to waste. I grow sage, thyme, and mint. Mostly I make due with those. If I buy basil, I make pesto, which I like to slather on everything and can be frozen. I also sweat extra herbs in oil and freeze the oil. Something like rosemary dries beautifully. I'm not saying I never waste food, but I don't think I do it any more than anybody else- I hear people with all sizes of families complaining about wasting herbs. I probably think twice before buying a huge vegetable or fruit unless it's something I really love, but then there are tons of foods that are easier to make for one (pancakes, eggs, anything fried, and about a million others)
I've been nursing my fresh herbs that were growing on my balcony and now they are in my living room. Since I'm halfway through February I hope I can keep them going for another 6 weeks or so. Buying packets of herbs at the supermarket can be extremely expensive, but when cooking for one you don't need too many fresh herbs so my planters of fresh herbs have paid for themselves probably 100 times over!
To the OP, I try to buy the smallest quantity of anything, and then I also try new recipes and cut them down to one or two servings. For example, if I find a big, beautiful bunch of asparagus on sale, I'll buy it but then probably try it in four totally different recipes.
My biggest problem is that I have to drive at least 30 minutes if not over an hour to really get a good selection of fresh fish & produce, so then I overload since it costs so much in gas to just go shopping.
Lately I've been really cutting back on quantities, even when I'm not just cooking for myself. Last week I made a lovely meal for two with just one boneless, skinless chicken thigh. Did a "chicken piccata" deal over capellini and it was a hit! Salad, soup & main course all turned out well and no leftovers.
I stick to the no-fuss herbs. Mint, sage, and thyme are extremely hardy. They will grow back from even a piece of dry root that's been outside all winter. Basil seeds are really easy to sprout, and a packet will last for years just with the germination rate dropping some each year (and you probably wouldn't want a plant that was a year old anyway- they bolt).
re: The Dairy Queen
HI DQ, doing better in the veg dept but still not eating at home much. My job has me oot & aboot several days a week, so I've taken to hitting a local health foods market and cruising their ginormous salad bar, soup bar, hot buffet, etc. I do eat bananas regularly, and have always been a breakfast person. I did cut out sugar, refined grains, dairy and coffee last fall and have lost 30 pounds, so feel better, and the doc is happy with my labs. Cholesterol is down from 210 to 161. So doing OK, but I still hate sitting alone at the dinner table, *sniff* so I just got a new round table, need to refinish the top, then it might be 'different' enough to feel comfortable.
I HAVE found tips in this discussion, and have been grateful for all sharing of ideas for solo shoppers and diners. I've discovered how marginalized a single person can feel in this world of communal eating, dining, "food as entertainment" era. So I'm making my own rules and am happy to continue to enjoy food and cooking.
thanks for checking in!
xxoo to all
re: toodie jane
I am perfectly happy to eat by myself, and read a magazine when I do so, but I'm also a member of a couple dining groups. That might be a good option for you ... for me, conversation is an important part of fine dining, and I also prefer to eat really great food with other people who really appreciate it. For me, this has been a great way to find those people.
One of the problems with cooking for one is that there is so much waste. You are only going to need 1/3 of that bell pepper, onion or stalk of celery. What usually happens is the rest goes in a tupperware container and is placed in the "rotting appliance" (refrigerator) until it rots sufficiently that you can justify throwing it out. Whenever you chop veggies like that, put the extra in a sandwich bag(s) in single serving sizes. Get as much air out as possible and roll it up. Put it in a quart size ziplock bag and put it all in the freezer. If you are feeling energetic, chop an extra pepper or onion so you accumulate some baggies.
Keep food supplements and "Ensure" around the house. That way you get what your body needs even if you don't eat correctly all the time.
Always eat breakfast. Breakfast is important, easy, cheap and quick. Start most of your mornings with 1 or 2 bananas. They are cheap, easy, quick and everybody needs potassium. You can have a n egg and a piece of toast or oatmeal or yogurt. Breakfast will always make you feel better and more energetic.
Eat small things 4 or 5 times a day. My mother loved baked potatoes. She had to have had one 4 or 5 times a week. Marie Callendars pot pies are fairly expensive but they are good, quick and nutritious. I love eating soup and french bread. A baguette will last you a few days. Just wrap it tightly in plastic. If you are energetic enough to make your own soup, great. If not the higher quality canned stuff will have to do. Making your own is cheaper and better. You can freeze it in individual serving containers.
One other thing, you should consider. Get a room mate. Find another widow and rent a room out to her. You will have company and lower your expenses. Take your time and find a compatible person.
re: Hank Hanover
Hank, I just got a new rotting appliance for my science projects! woo hoo! but MC pot pies are far too rich for my tummy :-) I do make scads of soups and bean stews, have rediscovered curried veg stews and am getting more adventurous in my flavorings. Sometimes a change makes you feel just as happy as stickly with old comfort foods.
Toodie Jane, I regret your loss. Divorce isn't an easy adjustment, but it must have a lot less heart ache than widowhood. May good things dog you all the rest of your life! I'm divorced. Twice. And I'm not particularly new to cooking for just me. <sigh> However... For me, cooking for one brings much greater freedom than cooking for me and someone else. Don't get me wong. It is always nice to share what you cook with someone and get some sort of feed back on what you've cooked. My joy in cooking just for me comes with the menu planning. There is no one reminding me that they don't like green beans or tomatoes. No one saying they aren't very interested in Italian tonight. No one to tell me that hot dogs for breakfast or oatmeal for dinner is wrong. Cooking for one is FREEDOM...!
Some of the things I have cooked for one: A whole roast turkey with stuffing and all of the trimmings, roast duck with black olives, beef Wellington, a four pound roast beef (I LOVE roast beef with butter and black pepper sandwiches!), New England boiled dinner. Oh, and don't forget the huge pots of stew and Boston baked beans! I have packs of sip-it style foam coffee cups with the lids in the 12 oz size. I fill them with soup, then put a sandwich bag over them and push the bag down until it has full surface contact with the soup, then put the sip-it lid on and freeze. I remove the plastic bag before nuking, but it keeps ice from building up on the soup while it's in the freezer. I use this method for more than just soup. Makes great single servings.
And yes, I LOVE having a freezer full of vacuum sealed left overs for those times when I just don't want to bother to cook. Now, if I could just remember to ALWAYS write the contets down on all those little bags... <sigh>
Hey Caroline1! Good seeing posts from you again. A turkey for one - yum! The first thing that comes to mind for me is all those turkey sandwiches that will be there the rest of the week for lunch with salt and lots of black pepper on them. I'd make the turkey just knowing I had those sandwiches to look forward to ;-)
Thank you! Nice to be back. MY turkey sandwiches MUST be on gummy white bread with lots of mayonnaise, salt, freshly gound black pepper and a slice or two of canned jellied cranberry sauce. Maybe a nice leaf of lettuce. MUST! And maybe some cold dressing if there's any left. Stop it. You're making me hungry! '-)
Hi Ms C: I still love to eat, it's the alone part I don't like. The lurking sadness and sense of loss just chips away at your energy.
I do make seasonal treats like turkey, ham, lamb leg and I agree 100% on the mayo and white or egg bread sandwiches! Lamb too, with some mango chutney....ummmmmmmmm.
many thanks for sharing! (I use your tip of plastic on top of my ice cream= no frost crystals anymore, now I'll try it on other things too.
re: toodie jane
toodie jane, I was just thinking about you while I was cooking last night, so serendipitous that you checked in today!! Glad to hear that you are having good results in the health department. Keep up the great work, I admire you for undertaking all those changes while also adjusting to your new circumstances.
I have two suggestions, one is to check out "Manjula's Kitchen" on the internet and look at some of her very simple vegetarian recipes which can be scaled easily for one person. (I don't know if you like spicy/ethnic food--and of course you could add meat!) When I am cooking for myself I often let her "join" me in the kitchen as I watch her instructions, corny but it cheers me up. I love red lentils in particular, because they cook very quickly and you can use Indian spices or just salt, pepper, and celery seed. If Manjula isn't your cup of tea, maybe Alton Brown.....??
The other suggestion I have is to set a nice table for yourself when you cook, as a reminder that just because you are alone does not mean you are not loved. You could buy one or two outrageously priced table settings, according to your own taste and enjoy the heck out of using them every day! Food is important and a beautiful mealtime ritual is a great way to take care of yourself during the tough times. I wish you all the best, and perhaps you should post in a year's time with your favourite "for one" discoveries!
When I don't feel up to making breakfast and I think I'm getting too pudgy anyway, I'll have a can of Costco's Weight Loss Shake. Very tasty as well as virtuous.
I recently bought a delightful ittle book - The Pleasures of Cooking for One by Judith Jones - and love its small size, pleasant layout, nice recipes and great suggestions on how to repurpose the leftovers. I have not made anything yet but will try her Rattatouille recipe tomorrow and follow the suggested "second rounds" ideas during the week. Toodie Jane, maybe you could take the book out of the library to see if it suites your style. I have another book that I like - Solo Suppers by Joyce Goldstein. It is a collection of recipes for one, some are very good. It has very useful pantry and condiment suggestion/recipes. Very different from Jones book. Jones' is more of a feeding yourself plan with recipes than a compilation of recipes that feed one.
Checking in on this thread after being away for 4 months. After spending all that time in a hospital bed in a Skilled Nursing Facility, I started writing down things to make for myself, and the ingredients I'd need to do so. At least I had Food Network to watch, and if I loved a particular dish, I'd get the basic ingredients from the cook.
Until my hip heals completely, I have to rely on friends or family to get me to the store. My folks and recently met neighbors will be my guinea pigs if I make too much of something, since my fridge and freezer are so small.
I have been a widow for 30+ years-
My husband died when he was 37 yrs old leaving me with a 21/2 year old.
My son is now 36 yrs old.
After my son went off to Washington Univ. in St. Louis-I had to start cooking for myself.
To this day I still enjoy cooking-etc. for one.
I buy 1/2 of turkey-duck cut in quarters-cornish hens etc.
I still find it rewarding and fulfilling-
I've been cooking for one for a decade or two, and I don't bother with half chickens or ducks, or anything else for that matter. I cook the whole thing, then vacuum seal and freeze the leftovers. I do have exceptional freezer space for a "family of one," but hey, I'm old, I have a fair sized house, and room for a side by side in the kitchen and a large upright freezer in the pantry, so why not? I truly ENJOY cooking, AND I truly ENJOY living alone. If I want a snack at three in the morning, there's no one saying, "Make some for me too," then never ever returning the favor. Which is NOT to say I don't enjoy cooking and sharing a meal with others, but this way I get to do it on my terms! Do you realize that "families of one" are a very large percent of American families today? Enjoy!
The best comfort food I know of is tapioca pudding; I judge my progress through widowhood by how often I need to make it. Break three eggs, putting the yolks in a large saucepan and the whites in a large mixing bowl, and set the bowl on the counter next to the stove. Beat up the yolks and add 6 tablespoons of Minute Tapioca, 1/4 tsp salt, and 4 quarts milk. While this is coming to a boil over a medium heat burner you have to stir it very often and while you are standing there take your mixer and beat the egg whites stiff with 1/2 cup of sugar. You can easily do both at the same time, stir the milk/yolks mixture and whip the egg whites. When the custard comes to a rolling boil, dump all of it into the meringue and quickly whisk them together. The heat of the mixture cooks the egg whites, and the result is a fluffy creamy pudding. Let this cool a bit then add 2 tsp vanilla. You will have a week's supply. Good plain or with any fruit. Very therapeutic for sadness, especially when eaten in the middle of the night; even beats Haagen-Daz.
The post linked below regarding lasagna rolls for one from the Stuffed Pasta thread, reminded me of this older, but favorite thread which seems to have gone dormant.
Lasagna rolls for one:
I recently bought a gently used Oster countertop convection toaster oven, which I'm experimenting with to see what works well in it, and thought I'd raise the profile of this thread to see if others had any new ideas about cooking for one since it was last active.
The first thing I baked in the oven was a 5 lb. package of drumsticks done in a turmeric marinade. Even though I had to roast them in two batches, they came out roasted as beautifully as if they'd been done in a regular oven. Next up, I'm going to try the Sweet Soy-Glazed Chicken Wings on the chow.com front page, but using drumsticks again, since I happen to have a fresh pineapple I can use for the recipe.
Drumsticks are a favorite of mine to have around—three meaty bites of quality protein with its own built-in handle.
I also picked up some 56 oz. plastic food storage pitchers at Dollar Tree for a buck a piece, which handle 4 scoops of rice, flour, sugar, etc. from the bulk bins at my local megamart. I might get a few more—storage stuff often seems to be for family-sized quantities.
So, what are other Cooking-For-Ones whipping up in the kitchen these days?
I live alone and love to cook. I agree with many of the suggestions. The farmers market is your friend. Fresh produce, supporting local farmers and whatever size portion you need. After the farmers market, I usually head to the seafood store. I live to grill fish....and you can buy whatever you need. I once asked someone behind the counter how small a portion I could buy, and she said "as long as it registers something on the scale, we're good!" That said, I'll usually by enough salmon or swordfish or whatever to have it a second day. It doesn't seem like leftovers to me if I repurpose it. So, I might have grilled salmon for dinner. And then, the next time, do salmon tacos. Same thing with flank steak, which almost makes terrific tacos.
While I agree with all your principles about supporting local farmers, I’ve also found some supermarket meat depts. to be incredibly friendly to the cooking for one set. They have to be stores which have actual ‘meat cutters’ though, rather than just having folks who open boxes of pre-packaged meat to set out in the coolers.
At my local Safeway, if I see the perfect piece or two of top sirloin I want that’s in a styrofoam 'value pak' (I'm partial to the top sirloin ‘cap’, ‘crown' or 'culotte steak' most stores slice up for stirfrying), I've never been met with any resistance from the meat cutters to open up the package to sell me just the piece(s) I wanted in a smaller package.
(I’ve also secretly harbored the desire to see if the produce guy would slice a ‘personal-sized’ watermelon in half for me, but I realize the other half would probably go to waste, which I wouldn't want to have happen.)
LOL, I kind of meant it in a joking way, to see if the store would sell me just half of a personal-sized melon. But what would they do with the other half? Wrap it and place it back in the bin for sale?
The produce guy at my local Albertsons once offered to slice off any portion of whatever it was I wanted to buy, but I was thinking he was referring to something more traditional, like a head of cabbage.
The toughest part for me when cooking for one is the many pans and/or pots for one lousy plate! As a result, I would often just make up a mixed platter of cheese, fruit, tomato,maybe some cold sliced sausage,a cup full of micro-d frozen veg (although they have single portions, but they are not cheap). A greater reliance on jarred sauces that will keep for a bit in the fridge.
A small torpedo roll from the bakery counter might end up being my baguette or sourdough or garlic bread
A nice pot I got at the supermarket works well for making some rice from 1/3c rice and 2/3c water or broth. Perfect alongside a stir-fry
Baking bread or pies waits until I have others around - or I eat out.
Frozen Shrimp are ideal as they only need a short while under cold running water to defrost. Most meats, chicken fish is sliced by me into usable portions and the rest frozen for another time
Pizza is nice for making a small amount of leftovers ... I usually eat 3 meals from one pizza. I buy a frozen par-baked (is that a word??) Italian crust ... the one I made last night has pizza sauce, mozzarella, Canadian bacon, onion, and orange bell pepper.
For breakfast I've been making a batch of granola that lasts me about a week, and eating with yogurt and fresh fruit.
Been thinking about you,tj, and glad to see this thread again. I can imagine that everyone offering suggestions can get pretty annoying, but then, hopefully, occasionally helpful. In that latter light, i have one thought.
A woman friend of mine at the local Unitarian church-
tried out having dinner w/ a few diff single women she knew. She felt very comfortable with 2 local women who she knew from different venues, and now the three of them (or two, if the third can't join) gather just for dinner a number of times a week, taking turns in diff homes. They keep the timing to dinner, and then each go on their own ways. I thought, and think, that's neat.
(Absolutely no need to respond, tj; i just wanted to mention it.) Wishing you the best, as Spring begins to flush forth at last.
Toodie, I too am 2 years into this journey. I enjoyed cooking when I had someone who enjoyed it with me.
Now, I'm the deli queen for the most part. My usual week consists of salmon, shrimp, green salad, ham/cheese sandwich, baked potato and take-out Thai...that kind of thing. Salmon is grilled at my market, shrimp is coconut (Royal Thai) from Costco, super market chickens, etc.
Super market chickens are extremely versatile and easy.
I seldom make an actual dinner. Every other Sun., my SIL comes over and I really try to cook something special then.
I actually have found that finding something to eat is the least of my concerns.
I'm sure you're not looking for advice, but I'll stick my neck out anyway...keep busy!