First appeared on Food Riot, by Jesse Doogan
I often hear people describe cooking for one as depressing, and, while I usually nod sympathetically, I have almost never found that to be the case. (I do admit to finding it to be sometimes exhausting. Did you know that I expect to eat dinner every single day? I can be very high maintenance.) Usually, though, I consider cooking for myself to be a creative outlet at the end of a long day of staring at a computer screen, and unlike crocheting or writing, when I'm finished cooking, I get to eat the fruits of my labor. After a few years of cooking for one, I've figured out a few strategies to make it a little less arduous.
Cook in Batches
Try cooking in big batches. Most recipes are made for 4-6 people anyway, so go forth and eat your leftovers. I like to make a vat of soup on the weekends and bring it to work for lunch for the rest of the week. The afternoons seem to go a lot more smoothly after I've had an interesting and filling lunch. I also save a lot of money this way, and am less tempted to run out for fast food on impulse. Win/win.
I'm not talking about using that curry powder more than once (but, that, too). Reuse ingredients that take extra work. These are the often the ingredients that give foods complex flavors and textures, so don't waste them. If you're going to spend half an hour caramelizing onions for a pizza, set some aside for a sandwich the next day. Roasting corn for a salad? Throw some in your soup. My favorite way to do this is to make Naturally Ella's vegetarian masala, and then use the leftover masala paste for her sweet potato masala skillet.
Have a Plan
There is nothing worse than coming home from a long day of work to see what your live-in chef has prepared for you, only to realize that not only has she not made dinner for you, but she didn't even do the grocery shopping, and worst of all, she is imaginary. Meal planning sounds like something that people who use "coupon" as a verb do, but having an idea of what you're going to eat for the week is a great way to eliminate a lot of stress and way-later-than-you-meant-them-to-be meals. Twenty minutes of googling recipes and making a list can save a lot of stress during the week.
One of my favorite things about cooking for myself is that I can make whatever I want. I'm not held back by anyone else's voluntary or involuntary dietary restrictions. I don't even have to worry if the food tastes good, because the only one affected by the potential food disaster is me. I got the creative experience out of it, which is part of the reason I made dinner in the first place. Try something new! Recreate something you ate in a restaurant! Grab to random ingredients from your fridge and make them into dinner!
You live by yourself. One of the benefits of that is the flexibility. If you don't feel like cooking, you don't always have to. I usually plan for at least one frozen dinner night, because it's likely that I'm going to be too busy or too tired at some point. And, hey, Trader Joe's makes delicious frozen dinners.
Okay, your turn. Got any cooking for one tips for me?
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