Shop smart when you're cooking for one.
- Shop with a friend; split perishables into individual amounts.
- Divide large cuts of meats and freeze into single-size portions.
- Buy fresh and frozen produce. It's easier to use in smaller portions than canned fruits and veggies.
- Stock up on staples like dried pasta, beans, and rice.
Cook More, Not Less
Healthy cooking for one doesn't have to mean paring down great recipes. If you like buying in bulk and the convenience of having meals on hand, cooking more makes sense. Make a crock of chili, a pan of lasagna, or a pot of soup. Eat one portion and freeze the rest.
Cut Prep and Cleanup Time
One-pan meals like lasagna or a casserole make cleanup easy. But you can slash prep time, too. Chopping veggies or meat for tonight's dinner? Chop twice the amount and then use the rest tomorrow. Buy precut produce for hectic days. Or try cooking with a friend. Swap half your chili for half her meatloaf.
Plan Balanced Meals
When you're planning to make balanced, healthy meals:
- Make at least half of your grains whole (brown rice, oatmeal).
- Eat lean meats and other proteins (beans and peas, fish).
- Get lots of fruits and vegetables.
Use More Spice, Less Salt
Most of us get more sodium than we need. Instead of salt, punch up the flavor of your kitchen creations with fresh lemon and lime juice, a pinch of herbs and spices -- like dill, chives, rosemary, sage, ginger, and dry mustard -- or splashes of flavored vinegars and oils.
Reduce the Recipe
Not in the mood for leftovers? Cut the recipe in half. Read a recipe before you pare it down because some ingredients -- like one egg -- are hard to divide. When you reduce a recipe, you may have to change the size of the pan and alter the cooking time. Or skip the hassle by inviting friends for dinner and sending them home with leftovers.
Store Food Safely
Keep leftovers safe and nutritious by dividing them into shallow containers while still hot, then putting them in the fridge to cool. Leave room because cold air needs to circulate to keep food safe. Avoid storing leftovers in old containers. Traces of foods like margarine, yogurt, or cheese can still linger, leading to cross-contamination.
When reheating leftovers, stay safe by warming food to 165° Fahrenheit. Check the food in several places with a meat thermometer. A microwave can leave cold spots where bacteria can survive. So stir and rotate food a few times during reheating.
Experiment and Have Fun
Don't get stuck in a rut. Try something new to spice up your menu.
- Buy new cookbooks and clip recipes from magazines.
- Buy new-to-you produce, sauces, or condiments.
- Try breakfast for dinner, an ethnic cuisine, or grow your own fresh herbs or veggies.
Dine With Friends
You don't have to cook and eat alone all the time. Have family, friends, or neighbors over once a week. Attend brown-bag seminars, throw potluck suppers, or head to the cafeteria at work. Join a supper club, attend church luncheons, eat out occasionally, or volunteer at Meals On Wheels or the local soup kitchen.
Relish Your Meal
When you are home alone for dinner, make it a treat. Set your table in a cozy nook, or out in the garden. Put on music you love. Bring out the good dishes and fresh flowers. Relax, savor your food -- and admire your ability to cook a good, healthy meal for one.