Cooking for one has become a hot topic. A rising number of Americans live alone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2013, 27 percent of Americans lived solo, up from 5 percent in the 1920s, That number is even higher in urban areas, such as New York City and Washington, D.C., where about half of all residents go it solo.

Cooking for One Can Be Daunting

One downside to living alone is that it can be more challenging to cook healthy meals for one, in terms of cost and motivation. Before you resort to eating out at restaurants (which likely would load you up with more calories, fat, sugar, and sodium than is good for you), here are some strategies to help inspire you to eat in (and we don’t just mean pouring a bowl of cereal). Most of these tips work for multi-person-households, too.

Cooking for One Advice

  • Stock up on staples, including frozen vegetables and fruits, dried beans, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, packaged tofu, reduced-sodium stock, canned fish, salsa, and other condiments.
  • Since cooking for one often results in leftovers of both ingredients and the cooked food, stock up on containers and freezer bags that you can use to store them. Glass mason jars allow you to easily see what you have on hand.
  • A barrier to solo cooking is that fresh produce may spoil before you have a chance to use it. So if you can’t shop often, buy fresh fruits and vegetables that keep longer, such as artichokes, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, celery, parsnips, sweet potatoes, winter squash, apples, and oranges. Don’t wash produce until you’re ready to use it. Some fresh produce, including berries, can also be frozen for later use.
  • Buy smaller packages of vegetable oils, pasta sauce, eggs, spices, and more perishable condiments. You may not get the up-front savings you would from buying larger packages, but you save in the long run if that means having fewer leftovers that go to waste.
  • Cook once to eat twice or thrice. Make a few recipes at a time and prepare larger amounts of each to refrigerate or freeze in single-serving portions for later meals. One-pot meals such as soups and stews can be a good way to go.
  • If you prefer to cook for just a single meal, have a few favorite healthy recipes in your arsenal that are either portioned for one or can easily be downsized. Here are some good recipes for one that you may want to try.
  • Take advantage, on occasion, of packaged single-serve meals, but check the nutrition labels to make sure they don’t break the bank in calories, fat, and sodium, as many do. Single-serve snacks and desserts can also be good options if you have low self-control for such treats.
  • Make cooking a relaxing and enjoyable experience. Listen to music, books on tape, or podcasts; catch up on phone calls with friends; or use the time for quiet. And eat in a pleasant environment. Set the table ahead of time, as you would if you were having company over.

For more information on convenient strategies when cooking for one, check out this blogpost.  

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