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Jan 10, 2014 03:21 PM

Single people-- how do you shop for a variety foods for your dishes, and keep them tasty?

What the title says! I'm cooking for just myself and find it hard to get variety and not get tired of things. I've been cooking soup, burritos or a casserole-- something that can be freezes easily. But then after I go shopping for the rest of my recipes, it's the same breakfast, same sandwich, same snacks... well, different fruit. But everything else is just the same for 4-5 days and then I have to do it all over.

How can I meal plan to make sure this doesn't happen all the time?

I have bought a variety of vegetables before and just eaten them with the same meat / fish for lunch and dinner, that helped. Did I just answer my own question?

Or is there some secret to effective, transportable, healthy meals for the singleton?

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  1. That wasn't short... Shoot.

    1. Expand your repertoire. Have a well-supplied pantry so you have lots of options that don't require a special shopping trip for ingredients. Watch TV cooking shows on PBS. Read cookbooks, magazines. Check the What's for Dinner threads on the Home Cooking board for inspiration.

      I see this is your first CH post. Welcome! I flagged it so it gets moved to the correct board.

      3 Replies
      1. re: greygarious

        I am definitely going to keep more in my pantry. realizing what i always crave/ never get tired of should help. Things like pizza, veggie dips, smoothies, nut butter/ jelly / chocolate chips... having that type of stuff on deck should help. I'll definitely look at more cookbooks-- salads, soups/ one dish meals, and international cuisine is where i could definitely use help. thanks again!

        1. re: chocoremedy

          I love my 1-quart slow-cooker. When I saw sirloin tip roast for $2.99 lb I bought a nice one, hacked it into quarters, and froze them. One piece of this, further hacked, plus vegetables, has made just a nice quantity of beef stew for tonight-plus-one. Also, I cook a whole pound of bacon at once, baking it at 350* in a bun pan until it's almost done, then I drain it really well and freeze it in a plastic bag.When I want to make a BLT or whatever I wrap the slices I want in paper towel and zap them---they get crisp very fast.

          1. re: Querencia

            In a bun pan? Is that something flat, or like a muffin pan?

      2. I haven't been single for a while but when I was I used a Foodsaver-type device. I shrank and saved meals so I could wait a couple of weeks before I ate it again. A chicken made roast chicken, gumbo and maybe enchiladas. Spread over a week or so that was a lot of variety for me. I tried to have someone over once a week or so, and that helped. Another big help was making food from different cuisines so some Cajun, some and some traditional American during the week felt like a good variety.

        9 Replies
        1. re: travelerjjm

          I have definitely considered getting such a device. The only thing is, I don't have that much freezer space to begin with! I suppose I could shell out for a deep freeze and a foodsaver... Heard it makes life much easier! Thank you!

          1. re: chocoremedy

            Caution - Having a larger freezer when there's only you (or you plus one guest) eating just means you get more freezer-burned waste, even with the best of packaging. You need to find "Recipes for 1 or 2" and also cut most other recipes in half or quarters when preparing them.

            1. re: MidwesternerTT

              Oh wow... Is that due to the extra space in the freezer?

              1. re: chocoremedy

                I wish! Too much space encourages too-large quantity purchases or cooking ("i'll just freeze the extra") So 10 extra servings get frozen, but seldom eaten (because it's often more fun to cook a new recipe, or even because you've lost track of what's stored in the freezer.)

            2. re: chocoremedy

              I'm a singleton with a small freezer and fridge. I shop frequently (every 2-3 days), and buy very small amounts. I often end up seeing things on special that might not be in my usual repertoire of recipes so I get inspired to try new things. I also don't end up with a large amount of one thing that I end up getting bored with and throwing away. It's a brilliant way of shopping because I buy things that I immediately feel like cooking. I used to buy a week's vegetables at a time and had great plans for them but as the week progressed I wouldn't be in the mood for the dishes I'd planned and cooking would become a chore. Now the veges I buy are much fresher and much more appealing to cook as they haven't been in my fridge for weeks on end!
              If I notice a special at the butcher or greengrocer it means I can quickly take advantage of it because I haven't planned my entire week of meals. I find that meal planning just doesn't work for me.
              The freezer is reserved for 1 or 2 meat basics, and frozen veges so that I have some healthy stuff on hand.
              I bulk-cook some things when I feel like it but usually I'll just cook enough for dinner and maybe to take for lunch the next day or day after.

              1. re: Billy33

                I know this is an older post, but I wanted to concur that as a singleton (love that term, by the way) I also shop every few days. It's not a hassle and it allows me to buy smaller amounts of things that I really want to eat. It's made for much less waste at the end of the week.

                I keep thinking I should get a small CSA share, but I think I'll stick with visiting farmer's markets and hitting the shop when I need things. I just hate wasting food so much.

              2. re: chocoremedy

                You could by a small chest freezer like I have - is more of a townhouse sized appliance and fits in my storage room off my deck. They're inexpensive and are great when you can get meats on sale.

                1. re: chocoremedy

                  I bought the smallest freezer Home Depot sells, about $250. I use a Food Saver and I don't get freezer burn. C. Oliver's advice to put frozen stuff in plastic shoe boxes is good, easier to sort around in there.

                  1. re: chocoremedy

                    I don't use a foodsaver or a deep freeze. Instead, I put individual meats in sandwich size baggies (so like 1 chicken thigh per baggie). I then weigh each one and write the weight on the baggie, and then keep all the baggies of each kind inside a freezer ziploc. I don't have an issue with freezer burn when I do this (along with keeping an inventory so things don't get lost in there). They also stack up nicely this way which saves room.

                2. Plan for sharing a meal with friends or neighbors. We alternate hosting, and usually make enough so that everyone has one additional meal for another day.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: KarenDW

                    Sounds fun! But all my friends are so lazy except one hahahaha.. Guess we could host it together!

                    1. re: chocoremedy

                      Yeah making friends with other foodie types is the way to go. Quite a few of the guys that I went to grad school with liked to cook as well. Back then, usually on Saturdays, we would all gather our week-old groceries, maybe pick up some more stuff we didn't have on hand (but more often than not, we went to the store just for booze) and cook up a feast at a friend's house, sometimes with a theme, sometimes we'd just wing it, those were good times, the cooking thing got us pretty popular among the ladies too, LOL.

                  2. Do you shop seasonally? It is almost impossible not to have variety in your food if you restrict yourself to shop for what's in season and locally grown. Certainly it is healthier all around.

                    Is it possible that what is wearying you is not the lack of variety but the lack of flavor in what's available at your market? You might want to find a new market with foods so flavorful you love eating them repeatedly while they are in season, without burying them in sauces and spices. Instead of starting with recipes, start with food that is abundantly in season and think of drastically different ways to cook it. (Don't cook a whole cauliflower all one way.)

                    You also might want to make friends with food vendors who will happily sell you small portions of foods, like a small bit of cheese or other items instead of picking up pre-packaged sizes that pretty much force you to eat them up before they spoil. When you buy vegetables, don't be embarassed to buy one zucchini or 2 tomatoes.

                    Also, instead of making pasta "sauces", toss hot pasta with seasonal vegetables or nuts or even just fresh herbs and a new-to-you cheese. Experiment with different kinds of pasta, shapes and grain variations. Instead of making soup, make broths. One night you can add white beans, rosemary, maybe garlic croutons. The next night you can stir in an egg and spinach and broken pasta. Another night use the broth to mash potatoes and make a stompf or bubble & squeak or whatever else might be fun that is in season.

                    Think of making nutritious desserts. It can be fun to eat some sweet potatoes for a whole week if they are in a pie, and then you can make an interesting variety of salads to go with them using different combinations seasonal vegetables and grains.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: barberinibee

                      Wow, what a bunch of awesome tips! I wonder, is it still "local" if I buy the local vegetables at a supermarket, or do I have to still find farmers and other local vendors to be sure? That dessert idea is great. I will take everything you have said and apply it towards my planning! Thank you!

                      1. re: chocoremedy

                        I don't worry much where I'm buying my veggies. I'm happy to buy them, cook them, and eat them. I do like going to farmers markets when I have the opportunity and its interesting to buy different items.

                        Certain things in the supermarket seem like they're "pre packed" but they're not. Where I shop, the grapes and cherries are always put into bags, but they're sold buy the pound. I usually put a handful of what I want into another bag and only take and pay for that