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Dec 13, 2013 10:59 AM

Dinner for one

Does anyone find that feeding just oneself - especially if you are not much into cooking - really does not pay financially? "Heat and eat" is more expensive, I agree, but every time I try buying ingredients, sauces, spices, the trimmings to do a special dish, the leftovers end up sitting in the fridge until they have spoiled and have to be tossed. Today it was half a bottle of barbecue sauce.

Does anyone find it really pays to cook from scratch for only one person? If so, I'd surely like to hear some ideas because I have decided it does not.

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  1. When I was single it was worth it. Satisfying my pallet and my desire for good food as opposed to "heat and eat" or fast food crap was well worth it, but then again, I love to cook.

    1. If you cook so seldom that you have to purchase spices for each dish then it probably isn't cheaper to eat at home.

      Part of the savings in home cooking is utilizing your pantry and fresh items efficiently. The carcass from the roast chicken becomes stock. The stock is used to flavor rice. The left over rice becomes a filling for a stuffed vegetable...

      It takes some thought at first but eventually you gain the experience to do this almost instinctively. If takes a while to build up a useful spice cabinet. When I began cooking there were many dishes I had to pass on because I couldn't afford to purchase three new spices in a week (I wish there had been bulk options back then).

      There are many things which can be made with minimal ingredients. S/P, butter, olive oil, vinegar, lemon, onion, garlic, a tube of tomato paste & stock will allow you to do quite a lot!

      Even a simple steak, baked potato and salad can be a starting point for other meals:
      Left over steak? Use it for a cheese steak sandwich, enchiladas, stuffed poblanos, main dish salad, steak and eggs.

      Chives with your baked potato?
      Finely mince, add some lemon zest and mash it into butter. Now you have saved the chives from the trash and have a freezable compound butter to use with fish, shellfish, vegetables, etc,

      If you don't want to face the same salad greens twice then use spinach. Salad one day, sauteed with bacon fat and pepper flakes the next, add to an omelet, stir into a broth, steam as a side...

      This is how I cook and I can eat for much, much less at home than going out.

      5 Replies
      1. re: meatn3

        I absolutely think it pays to cook for one, both from a $$ standpoint, and in terms of what I want to eat. Two months without home cooking and I'm climbing the walls.

        You make a very key point about bulk spices. I just paid .18 for Italian herbs that will last me awhile. Your change in the couch will pay for bulk spices.

        I cook only what I really want to eat, and a minimum of three servings, often many more. If I want to try something I've never had before, I typically do that at a restaurant. I don't conduct grand experiments in my kitchen.

        When things spoil in the refrigerator, that represents poor planning. I have also never had BBQ sauce go bad??

        1. re: foiegras

          BBQ sauce going bad is quite the puzzler.

        2. re: meatn3

          Are you Tammy Adler? You sound very much like the author of a fabulous book entitled "An Everlasting Meal - Cooking with Economy and Grace ". Tammy Adler has written this wonderful classic about repurposing foods that others would throw away. If you are not Tammy (you sound an awful lot like her), you would love this book!!! Are you T.A.?

          1. re: josephnl

            No, I'm not. From what I've heard about her and the book it sounds as though we have a similar philosophy though.

            I've arrived at this point over a number of years and many levels of learning as a cook and as a person in general. My nature is to see things as interconnected and understand systems. In being aware of the seasons, aware of the resources I use, trying to use all of a food rather than just cherry pick, I create a kitchen that has cycles and ebbs and flows bringing it in harmony with how I try to live in general.

            Well, that's on the good days! :-)) Like anything, it is continually evolving and some days it's one step forward, two steps back.

            It also helps that I (usually) enjoy the process and the creativity that cooking and keeping entails for me. And a love for flavor is a great motivator to keep learning!

            Thank you - in thinking about this I realize my thoughts on the topic are more than I can really put to words in this forum. Makes me really realize how the ideas have become integrated in my life over the years - which makes me look back and appreciate the journey that got me to today.

            1. re: meatn3

              If you haven't. You should read An Everlasting's you!

        3. I'm recently cooking for one. I am now the deli queen. Sometimes I buy one of their huge meatballs, a jar of Elena's spaghetti sauce & mushrooms. All I do is cut up the meatball, boil the spaghetti, mix together and I have 2-3 dinners.
          Other times I buy the whole meal; salmon grilled and one of their salads. I *never* eat fast food...only once when I was trapped at an airport.
          I do like to get Thai take-out. I'm on a first name basis at two restaurants.

          1. Don't make so much food. I make for myself 95% of the time these day. Half a bottle of barbecue sauce will last months in the fridge.

            1. A crock pot could make four to six single-serving soups, stews or casseroles, the remainder of which could be deep-frozen for future consumption. The processed "heat and eat" cannot compete with fresh ingredients. And there are countless recipes on line that you could throw into the pot in the morning and have several meals awaiting you a few hours later.
              Also, a FoodSaver vacuum system is an essential in my house for keeping frozen foods for up to two years.