Cooking for one can be fun!
Eggs on toast. Beans on toast. A frozen pie. Too often, cooking for one means boring, repetitive, and not-so-nutritious meals. If you live alone, it can be hard to find the motivation to make complicated or fancy meals just for yourself – and it can be difficult to cook well without wasting food or overspending.
But Ryman Healthcare Food Service Specialist Scott McGregor says it doesn’t have to be like that. With a wee bit of planning, stocking up on tasty ingredients, or being creative with ingredients you already have on hand, you can make meals for one much more interesting – without the waste or effort.
Here are five simple ways to cook for one without the fuss – or the boredom:
1: Don’t forget frozen foods
Frozen food doesn’t have the best reputation – but it can be a fantastic choice for people who live alone. Frozen fruit and veggies are picked at peak ripeness and usually frozen within hours, locking in vital nutrients and delicious flavour. In some cases, frozen foods actually have better nutritional value than fresh, because fresh produce loses vitamins and minerals while it’s sitting on the shelf or wilting in your fridge. For people living alone, frozen fruit and veggies have another advantage: they reduce waste. Use a few frozen peas for a meal or a handful of frozen berries for your morning porridge and leave the rest in the freezer for next time. Simple and affordable.
The much-maligned frozen dinner can also be a handy choice for solo diners. As long as you read labels carefully and choose meals with lower saturated fat, sugar, and salt content, you can find nutritious and tasty choices in the frozen section. Look for meals without added sauces, choose those with higher protein, fibre, vitamin and mineral content, and check to make sure a single meal isn’t counted as more than one serving – or you could be eating more calories than you think. Ryman have a delicious menu of ready-to-eat, individually frozen meals available for their residents to purchase. Made from fresh, natural ingredients then blast frozen, they’re packed with flavour and goodness.
2: Freezing made easy
DIY freezer meals are another cheap, time-saving option when you’re cooking for one. Soups, stews, pasta sauces, curries, beans, and cooked grains all freeze and reheat well. Just make a large batch, then freeze in single-serve portions. When you’re ready to eat, you can either defrost an entire ready-made meal or speed up the cooking process by reheating a serving of rice or cooked beans. Voila.
Make freezing easier by investing in the right storage gear – single-serve freezer-safe containers are cheap and easy to find. Or splash out on a set of flash, reusable silicon bags – these take up less room in the freezer and make for extremely convenient defrosting.
3: Creative ways with leftovers
It can be hard to justify spending money on a nice cut of meat or some seasonal veggies for a single meal – but if they stretch out over a few days, they’re far more affordable. Make a plan for how you’ll use up leftovers after a bigger meal. Whizz cooked veggies into a soup or toss them with spinach in a salad, and use leftover meat in sandwiches, wraps, on pizzas – or in frittatas.
As Scott explains, the frittata is one of the best ways to use up leftovers when you’re cooking for one. His recipe is as simple as sautéed onions, whisked eggs and cream or milk, and whatever leftovers you have to hand. Cook the onions, add the other ingredients to the hot pan, top with cheese, and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. “It’s a great user-upper and makes a tasty, nutritious lunch heated up the next day,” he says.
It’s about finding simple, interesting ways to use your leftovers, so you don’t feel like you’re eating the same thing over and over again!
4: Get rid of boring with a burst of flavour
Simple meals like eggs and grilled chicken salad can get pretty dull night after night – but they’re easy to spice up if you have tasty dressings, rubs, spice mixes and sauces on hand. Most supermarkets stock a wide range of sauces and spices, and you don’t need much to make a real difference. Drizzle a spicy chipotle sauce over scrambled eggs, marinate chicken in a Cajun mix, or try out different dressings to punch up plain salads.
5: Easy meals with a good blender
A blender or magic bullet can be a lifesaver for solo cooks. Make a quick, healthy soup by cooking garlic and onions, adding stock and any veggies you have lying around, simmering for a few minutes, then whizzing in the blender. If you have leftovers that are cooked already, it’s even quicker. Some small food processors also have chopping functions, which can help if you find it difficult to chop onions or other veggies during meal prep.
For a healthy breakfast option, blend frozen berries with a ripe banana and a spoonful of Greek yoghurt – or go green with frozen spinach instead.
Less cost, less waste, more fun
If you’re living alone, it’s important to take care of yourself – and eating well is a big part of that. If you have a plan, some frozen veggies on hand, and some spicy additions, you can eat well without spending too much money – or too many hours in the kitchen.
Ryman’s Delicious menu takes away the cooking stress entirely for some of their residents. View the latest seasonal meals on the Delicious menu here! For more great meal ideas and easy recipes for one, click here.