Learn how to cook for one to make feeding yourself easier, more enjoyable, and waste less food. Cooking for 1 really is different than cooking for 4-6 people, so these tips and suggestions will help make cooking for yourself better.
Table of contents
I've been cooking for myself for the most part for the last 15 or so years. It took a couple years of planning and cooking like my mom did before realizing I needed to treat cooking for myself differently than cooking for a family.
I finally figured out how to cook for myself.
Now this isn't a 'here's what I did, so it'll work for you' situation. While I'll be sharing things that have been very helpful for me, I'm also bringing in my experience and expertise working with people who cook for 1 and as a registered dietitian.
One thing I want you to consider as you read through this, is to ask 'will this work for me?' or 'could this make life/cooking/eating easier?' if not, no problem at all, we all lead different lives and have different priorities.
The point here is to find a few things-to make it easier, more enjoyable and less stressful. If you still feel overwhelmed or want additional help, here are a couple resources:
- 10 single serving recipes cookbook (sign up for my mailing list here & get weekly emails to help you cook for one & change how you think about cooking)
- Custom Dinner Kit
- Solo Cook’s Program
- Work with me one on one.
You can make/eat whatever you want, whenever you want. Of course it's nowhere that simple, but you don't have to combine your preferences/needs with others for every meal. Enjoy a bowl of cereal or smoothie for dinner and no one will complain.
The cooking process can be less stressful, just because you more likely won't have littles or someone else trying to rush you, so enjoy the process, have a snack before if you need it.
You can be more flexible. This can go both ways, but I love cooking for 1 the most because I can get creative and not worry about anyone else being annoyed or grossed out by my kitchen experiments. This has been so helpful learning how to cook for one.
Eating by yourself. You spend time cooking and might want to enjoy that food with someone else. Plan in dinner groups or calls during dinner, or enjoy a favorite show, podcast or book. It's totally fine to multitask while eating, since it's you only.
Doesn't feel worth it to cook 'just' for yourself. This is something I hear a lot, and totally get. When you're cooking for others, it's a gift of sorts (or can be occasionally!) and easier to feel obligated. Tips and more info down below!
But when it's 'just' you, it might not seem like you're worth it or less obligation. Now's teh time to ask yourself if you like cooking and/or eating (most of the time), if you do, you deserve to cook for 1, if you don't, it's time to think of other options to eat.
Another downside of cooking for yourself is wasting food. I think a big part of learning how to cook for one is to get more frozen and canned fruits/vegetables if needed, or get fewer fresh fruit/vegetable options to waste less.
It can always change, but start somewhere.
How to feed yourself
Even though this is all about how to cook for one, I really mean how to feed yourself when you're single. Cooking doesn't need to be the goal. Eating needs to be the goal. This is something I learned from dietitian Nina Mills.
She shared her thoughts on eating out on this podcast interview.
Sure cooking for yourself is a great option, especially if you enjoy cooking or want to cook more. But it doesn't have to be the only way to feed yourself. Pre-made frozen meals, take out, deli foods all work.
To decide how to feed yourself, I recommend taking a look at how much time and energy you can/want to put into planning and preparing food. Then decide what to do after that. If you'd like help with this, I can help you, check out my services here.
It is worth it
I mentioned how people don't think it's worth it to cook for 1. Why is that? What isn't worth it? There are a few (or lots of steps) to cook, do you not like planning, shopping, preparing, cooking, or eating solo? Is it a combo?
Think about it, and give yourself some space to have thoughts that might not align with what you want. That's ok. Learning how to cook for 1 is learning how to cook now and how to adapt as things change. I'm happy to help, if you want extra support.
Meal planning and prepping-of some sort is a big part of learning how to cook for yourself. It doesn't have to be super intense, but having some sort of plan helps you get food you'll eat, make the food you bought, and actually eat.
You don't have to take a few hours to prep food, you can make extra servings of foods to save time and effort while you're already cooking. You also don't have to just make single serving recipes. Find a balance to make it work for you, your schedule.
Here are a couple resources to help planning and prepping for meals:
One simple thing that's super helpful when you're learning how to cook for one is finding new ways to preserve food. One of my favorite ways to keep food from going bad is to freeze it for later.
A few foods that freeze well:
- Cooked beans
- Uncooked or unseasoned cooked meat, tofu
- Cooked grains like rice, barley, etc
- Many recipes freeze well for leftovers, just probably not fresh produce as it's texture would change if frozen.
- Blanched vegetables. Or even just fresh, I'd cook them after though as the texture will change.
- Shredded cheese. Cheddar cheese and other cheeses of similar texture can be shredded, spread out on a baking sheet, frozen for an hour+ and then stored in a freezer bag. I buy a big block of cheddar cheese to save money and to always have.
- Sliced/chopped fruits. They won't be the same fresh, but if you want to use them in smoothies or baked goods, they're great.
- Bread. Slice and freeze it. It's easy to toast and enjoy.
- Citrus. I like to juice it then freeze in an ice tray, but you can freeze a whole lime or lemon for extra ease. Beth of Budget Bytes suggested that in this podcast episode.
'kitchen sink' recipes
Lastly, a helpful topic is recipes that you can add random ingredients to, to use up so they don't go bad.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Vegetarian Burrito Bowl for One
- Chicken Fried Rice in the Instant Pot
- Refried Bean Tacos
- Microwave Egg Cup
I find a balance of batch cooked ingredients, recipes with leftovers, single serving recipes, and pre-made meals helpful to cook for 1. Learn how to Meal Plan and Build a Stocked Pantry, and have Easy Cooking for One Recipes are all helpful.
Instead of asking if it's worth it, how about asking if you like cooking. If you do, you can find a way to make cooking easy and simple, if not, there are lots of options based on your budget, time, and preferences.
Food waste is a big concern for folks who cook for themselves. I like to get really honest when planning meals, and plan based on time, energy levels, etc. Also, just get 1-2 different vegetables and use them in different recipes.
How'd you learn how to cook for one? Leave me a comment to share what your experiences of cooking for one have been like! And share any tips!
Recipes are great, but you’ll need a simple 3 step process to create a meal plan that make cooking easy & helps you stop wasting food. Check out this expertly developed meal planning guide to get started.