We know exactly how you feel - after coming home from a long day at work, school, or wherever, the last thing you feel like doing is going to the trouble of cooking something when you're the only one that's going to eat it! It can be hard to get up the motivation to cook when you know you don't have to feed a small army, but the alternatives to cooking are often wrought with unwise eating choices. What's a person to do? Some important tips that we'll explore below include finding shortcuts, eating meals that lend themselves to individual servings, and batch cooking.
Finding shortcuts is the key to making cooking for just you seem like less of a chore. Try buying pre-shredded cheese or pre-cut, washed or frozen veggies to eliminate some of the grunt work. Another great (and healthy) time saver is pre-cooked chicken. Perdue makes great Chicken Shortcuts or you can usually find rotisserie chicken in your grocery store. Experiment with other pre- or partially- made foods from your grocery store. You'll find that there are some that you'd rather make yourself and there are others that you can't taste the difference.
There are also some meals that naturally lend themselves to being cooked in individual portions. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are a great example of this. Each breast is a perfect portion size and there are endless possibilities of things you can do with it. Save money by buying these in bulk and freezing them individually. Check out our poultry section for a few ideas. Another great way to make a whole meal for one is by cooking in pouches. Alton Brown of Food Network's Good Eats has some great pouch recipes. We'd substitute out the butter in some of the recipes for a butter substitute, but these are pretty diet-friendly otherwise. For foods that are made with loaves of bread, use sliced light bread instead and put the toppings directly on that. We make Open Faced Garlic Bread this way and haven't looked back yet.
While it's great to cook meals that are custom made to be individualized, learning how to scale down ANY recipe is a great tool. First, figure out what the meat in the recipe really consists of. For example, a chicken parmigiana recipe probably calls for a certain number of ounces of chicken. Don't let this deter you! Each person should get a reasonably sized chicken breast (like a stack of playing cards). After you've converted ounces of meat into more meaningful amounts, size the remaining ingredients down. Here's how to do it:
Ingredient size x required number of servings / called for number of servings.
For example, if you're making a recipe that calls for 1 cup of sugar and yields 6 servings and you're cooking for 2:
1 cup x (2 / 6) = 1/3 cup sugar
And if you don't want to size down the recipe, just make the whole thing and freeze it! Things like baked ziti, stews, or casseroles, are great for this. Taking time out one day of the week to make these and freeze them in individual portion sizes will save you tons of time later on.
Remember‚- just because you aren't cooking for a huge crowd doesn't mean you shouldn't cook at all. Keep these tips in mind and you'll be cooking up a storm in no time!