7 tips and hacks to make cooking for one easy
I feel I have been cooking for one for so long now that I have gathered a lot of tips - indeed it's why I started this blog!
So this is my first post sharing tips. I'm sure there will be more!
A note though about how to read the tips. These are what work for me - so take on board the ones that might work for you, and skip over the ones that cause you to frown, or think, 'why on earth would she do that'!!
For what I've been fascinated to find whilst speaking to friends about how they cook, is how much people vary in their attitude to cooking, e.g.:
- freezers vs non-freezers
- love leftovers vs hate them
- want to eat something different every night vs happy to eat the same thing several nights in a row
- love menu planning vs want to open the fridge each evening and 'create'
So these are the tips that work for me. I'd love you to use the comments section to share the tips that work for you that you think others might benefit from.
- 1. Don't be confined by the specifics of a recipe - look for opportunities to add extra greens or vegetables to your meals.
For what I call, 'functional week night cooking', e.g. the cooking we do because we basically need to eat to live my main focus is maximising the health benefits. So I find every opportunity to try and add extra leafy green vegetables or vegetables in general because Study after study says that a minimum of 5 serves a day of vegetables is good for our well being. So my week night dinners for one are all about creating opportunities to add extra vegetables.
The recipe for the chicken and corn soup below did not have broccoli in it - but the flavour or deliciousness of the soup wasn't altered by adding it. Peas, spinach and asparagus could also all have been added.
The picture below that takes this to an extreme, I am pouring broccoli soup over spinach! The image on the bottom far right is what most of my cooking looks like. Once I finish cooking a meal or following a recipe, I put a couple of large handfuls of spinach or kale on top, put the lid on the saucepan for a couple of minutes so the greens wilt into the dish.
- 2. Roasting a tray of vegetables takes little effort, but provides several days worth of opportunities for fantastic meals - particularly warm salads.
Delicious caramelised goodness!
- 3. Once a month meal prep and the freezer are my best friends
Pre-cooked protein & carbs from the freezer + something green + some grated parmesan takes less than 10 minutes and can be fuss-free, nutritious, delicious and economical meal.
The 3 points above were at play in the meal below. Totally uninspired about what to cook, I resorted to defrosting bits of rice and salsa in the freezer and a packet of lamb mince I had frozen in 120 gram lots. Halfway through cooking the mince I remembered the kale I had in the fridge and added that. Transformational! From beginning to end was less than 15 minutes - and the result was absolutely delicious. And best of all - there was only one pan to wash up! I had the salsa on hand, but this would have worked equally as well with half a can of tomatoes and dried herbs of your choice.
If you don't like freezing meals, think about freezing basics, like cooked pasta, rice and quinoa - this will save a lot of time and washing up on weeknights.
Essentially boiling water and cooking half a cup of rice take the same effort and washing up as cooking 2 cups of rice, that can then be put into freezer bags and frozen.
Cooked lentils, Barley and shredded chicken ready to be split into bundles and frozen into portion size packets.
- 4. Freeze smartly
Freeze in portion sizes - and in thin packets that will defrost quickly.
Sometimes I am lazy and will stick an entire tray of 2 chicken breasts in the freezer. I always regret this, as I have to defrost the whole thing, which means a.) it takes ages to defrost and b.) I'm going to have to be chicken for the next few meals.
I thought I was the first person to think of the freezing and flattening sandwich bags - but it seems to be the big tip offered by many bloggers! Nonetheless I think it's the basis of using your freezer well. (Scary how passionate one can be about particular, mundane, everyday tasks!) But it such an efficient space saver and huge time saver - things defrost so much more quickly.
- 5. Batch cook
This goes with using your freezer, but I think there is nothing better than opening the freezer to see a batch of home made, frozen meals in the freezer. On nights you can't be bothered, or don't have anything to cook with, it can be the difference between skipping a meal or having takeaway or eating something nutritious and economical.
It does involve effort up front and spending a couple of hours cooking a bunch of meals- but it is soooo worth it! Saying that, there is a big gulf between how much of a good idea I think this is, and how often I do it! Mainly because it involves a lot of shopping! But I once cooked 5 recipes x 9 meals for my sister (she did the shopping!) and she didn't have to cook for entire month of November.
- 6. Concentrate on having colours you like in your fridge - it makes the whole preparation process more appealing
I recently discovered (and fell in love with, as in 'how did I live life without you love' - red cabbage.)
Digging beyond the romantic infatuation ... - I realised the reason I have this head-over-heels feeling for a member of the Brassica family is - its colour! Red cabbage is purple and I love purple. And purple looks very pretty with green. (My second favourite colour!)
What that led me to realise is that I am attracted to food that looks 'pretty' and goes together. e.g. my big thing this year has been adding dried cranberries to meals. I have never used them before, but am using them weekly now.
Obviously purple and green and 'pretty' doesn't appeal to everyone. But use the principal - use your love of e.g. Autumn colours, or rustic, or browns and oranges to help motivate you to cook.
7. Organise your kitchen for quick and easy cooking
Review what is in your kitchen and make sure that the items you use the most are the easiest to get to.
Recently I did a big tidy up of my kitchen and it transformed how easy it was to cook each night! I moved all the big fry pans and bowls that I don't use very often to a different section of the kitchen and left what I use every night under my main bench. No more moving things to get to what I need. I can't recommend highly enough the benefits of spending an hour or two working out how to store things to make your kitchen more functional. You will reap the benefits in time saved every night.
Also - my final note - don't be put off or think you need a fabulous kitchen. As you can see from the photo below, my kitchen is VERY basic. But with thought and organisation (and hopefully tips from this blog!) it's possible to create great dinners for one each night.
More cooking for one tips
Read the post that I think is THE one post everyone should read before they leave this site! It includes:
- My 3 top tips to always be able to come up with a basic dinner for one
- The 5 principles that if followed will make cooking for one quick and easy, ensuring you can always pull together a tasty, healthy meal in minutes
- Example of showing how monthly meal prep helps make a one pan dinner by mixing and matching tinned salmon with pre-cooked carbs
See examples of how meal prep creating individual freezer portions of pulled pork allows you to create 5 very different meals
Look through my weekly round ups of meals I've cooked to get ideas and inspiration
Jump over to our Community page to join our community and get support for putting these ideas into action and keeping on track cooking and eating great meals for one