How to cook for one person on a budget? In this post, we’ll teach you everything you need to prepare delicious and affordable meals for one!
Learning how to cook for one person can take time and effort. I’m guilty of cooking too much food, so when my husband is overseas, I completely change how I plan and prepare my meals. In this post, we cover everything you need to know when it comes to cooking and enjoying delicious and affordable meals for one.
With the right strategies and tips, you can create delicious meals tailored to your preferences without breaking the bank. So, let’s dive in and discover how to embrace the joy of cooking solo without breaking the bank!
The Benefits Of Knowing How To Cook For One Person
- It can be fun. Pour some wine, play some music, and enjoy the process!
- Eating in rather than ordering out saves money.
- You are in total control of the ingredients.
- Dietary restrictions can be tailored to your needs.
- You can enjoy experimenting with different flavors and cuisines without pleasing anyone else.
Meal Planning For One
Meal planning is an integral part of the process. It helps reduce food waste and saves money by making the most of your ingredients. Planning your meals ahead will also save time and stress throughout the week. Don’t overcomplicate it. Here are some tips!
Step One: Look at your weekly schedule to determine how many meals you need. Consider any events or commitments that might affect your meals, such as work lunches or dinner plans with friends.
Step Two: Create a simple meal plan template, including your favorite foods and snacks. If you love “Taco Tuesday,” include that to keep things from getting boring.
Step Three: Look for recipe inspiration online and jot down some ideas. Pinterest and Google are good places to start. Try to include recipes with similar ingredients to use up everything you buy. For example, if you need spinach for one recipe, look for another that uses spinach so you can use it up.
Step Four: Once you have chosen your recipes, make a detailed shopping list based on the ingredients needed for each meal. Before going to the store, check what you already have in your pantry and fridge to avoid buying things you don’t need.
How To Cook For One Person On A Budget
Now that you have a plan, it’s time to shop. Making smart choices at the grocery store will save money and minimize waste when cooking on a budget. We have many articles on ways to save money at the grocery store, so be sure to go back and check those out.
Shopping in the bulk bins or at the deli counter allows you to buy smaller portions of ingredients, which is perfect for single-serving meals. This way, you can get just the amount you need, saving money and preventing leftover ingredients from going to waste.
Protein is the most expensive part of a meal. Choose affordable protein sources like eggs, canned tuna or salmon, or chicken thighs instead of breasts, lentils, and chickpeas to save money. These ingredients are incredibly versatile and provide enough protein without costing too much.
Instead of meat, try plant-based alternatives like tofu, tempeh, or seitan. You can use them in stir-fries, curries, or burger patties to add variety to your meals.
To save on produce, buy frozen and seasonal. Frozen produce allows you to use the amount you need, leaving the rest for another meal. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are often more abundant and, therefore, cheaper.
Taking advantage of sales is one of the easiest ways to save money on food. I like to look at the sales flyer before making my meal plan to take advantage of lower prices on the ingredients I need.
Download the app for your favorite grocery store to view the current sales ads and discounts. Before you go shopping, quickly scroll through the coupons and clip any that are relevant. At most stores, you only need to enter your phone number or swipe your store loyalty card at the register to apply your discounts.
Learn to love store brands. Being a brand snob is a money suck. Opting for store-branded products can save you significant money without compromising quality.
Prep Your Ingredients
Now that you have a plan and you’ve done your shopping, it’s time to do some prep. Prepping ingredients in advance will take some of the stress out of mealtime and save time later on. Here are some tips!
Wash and cut produce. I love using fresh herbs and scallions, so I always have these ready to go in my fridge. In addition to those two things, I’ll prep any produce I purchased so it’s ready to go. I love these glass containers for keeping things neat and organized.
Cook grains in advance. My oven-baked rice is on regular rotation in our house. It can be used for quick meal bowls and even breakfast. Rice and eggs are a quick and easy breakfast high in protein and filling. Quinoa, farro, and pasta can all be cooked in advance.
Prep and marinate your proteins. Once you’ve done that, freeze it into meal-size portions so there’s no chopping required when you’re ready to eat.
Repurpose Your Leftovers
When you cook for one person, you’ll inevitably have leftovers, and many people only like eating the same meal once. Here are some ideas to turn those leftovers into something else.
Make an omelet: Most leftover veggies and protein can easily be turned into an omelet or egg scramble. You can make mini omelet cups using a muffin pan if you have enough leftover ingredients. They’re an easy, portable breakfast!
Turn leftovers into a stir-fry: Have some cooked rice or noodles hanging around? Use them as a base for a quick stir-fry. Add some protein, veggies, and a great sauce, and you’ll have a delicious meal completely different from what you had before.
Make a hearty soup: If you have roasted veggies, cooked protein, or grains left over, why not turn them into a hearty soup? Just combine them with broth, seasonings, and herbs/spices of your choice. Let everything simmer until it’s all heated through and dinner is served.
How To Make Cooking For One Easier
For those who don’t enjoy cooking, let’s talk about ways to make that process a little more enjoyable.
Keep it simple. Avoid complicated recipes with a long list of ingredients when making your meal plan. When looking for recipe inspiration, search “5 ingredient recipes” or “20 minutes meals”.
Use an air fryer or toasted oven, which can be used for various cooking tasks, such as baking, broiling, toasting, and reheating. They’re perfect for cooking single servings without turning on the oven or washing multiple things. I have this air fryer and love it!
If you don’t want to prep produce, buy it frozen! These days, you can find everything from onions to potatoes chopped and ready to go in the frozen section. Remember this tip when making your meal plan and shopping list to cut down on prep time.
Plan Ahead with Batch Cooking
Make larger meals that you can divide into smaller portions and save for later. This allows you to have a stockpile of meals that are ready to go. Here are some meals you can make in big batches and freeze for later.
Soups are perfect for batch cooking because they hold up well and are easy to thaw. Avoid adding pasta, which can become overcooked and mushy.
Mini casserole-style meals like a layered taco bake, shepherd’s pie, chicken and rice, and tater tot casseroles are affordable, filling, and freeze well.
Hearty beef and bean chili is one of my favorite meals to batch cook. It reheats beautifully and tastes even better!
Pro tip: Store batch-cooked meals in meal-sized silicone cups. They are freezer, microwave, and oven-safe, making them both functional and perfect for on-the-go.
Embrace The Joy of Cooking Solo
Cooking for oneself presents a unique opportunity to explore creativity, even with a limited budget. Experiment with flavors, ingredients, and cooking techniques without having to consider the preferences of others.
- Try out new spices or herbs that you’ve been curious about.
- Mix and match ingredients to create your own unique dishes.
- Explore cooking methods like baking, grilling, or stir-frying.
- Include more vegetables or protein sources that you love.
- Cater to any dietary restrictions or allergies that you may have.
Cooking For One Is Self-Care
Preparing comforting meals for yourself is an act of self-care that allows you to nourish your body and mind while being mindful of your budget.
- Take the time to appreciate ingredients, textures, and flavors.
- Focus on each step of the cooking process, and do your best to enjoy it. Don’t rush it.
- Enjoy the satisfaction of creating something delicious and nourishing for yourself.
“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” – Harriet Van Horne.
I hope these tips help in your journey to cook for one person. Please share your thoughts thoughts in the comments below. We love hearing from you!
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