Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Cooking for One

I usually do breakfast and lunch for myself, and have dinner with Jack. But my follower who posted the comment on my last posting made me think about cooking for one. Mostly, the challenge is in getting the motivation to just do it. It's easy to fall into the it's-not-worth-cooking-if-it's-just-me syndrome. This can be followed with the it's-not-worth-cleaning-if-it's-just-me syndrome and the the it's-not-worth-doing-laundry-if-it's-just-me syndrome. You catch my drift. You are worth caring for. You are the one who will be caring for you.

So we have to first acknowledge that, while we are not a couple, we are a whole person, and we're worth feeding. And, if we're going to eat, why not eat stuff we enjoy? There are some meals that I just won't cook if it's just me; those are things I have when I'm having company or when I go out to eat. But anything can be cooked for one person.

When my children left home, this left just Michael and me, and I had to adapt my cooking to "just two." Adjusting for one is not very different from this.

Planning can be freer and easier than it was when cooking for two. You have only yourself to answer, and so you can have things that are pleasing to you, no matter if anyone else approves. I actually do most of my planning for breakfast and lunch in the grocery store by just buying things that I'll be eating within the coming few days. (I like fresh food, so I eat it all up within a few days.)

TIP: If you're going to be living alone and cooking mostly for one, you will not need to keep a huge refrigerator full of food. If you do, none of it will be as fresh and delicious as you deserve. Also, if you keep your fridge too empty, it will not run efficiently. So I clean out milk jugs (or water or juice jugs) and then fill these with water and put them at the back of my fridge. I probably have 10 of these. My fridge runs efficiently, my food stays at the front of the fridge, where I can see it, and, should there be a water shut-off, I'll have water on hand to flush my toilets.

So what should you keep on hand? It depends upon what you like, and the style of meal you prefer. For breakfast, I like cereal, fruit, and milk. I have some combination of these most days. So I always keep fresh milk, fresh fruit, and cereals I like. If you're a bacon-eggs-toast person, then you'll keep these things on hand.

Lunch? I like to have a protein and a vegetable and milk. Protein can be as diverse as canned soup, lunch meat, a boiled egg, peanut butter, tuna or egg salad, or a chunk of smoked salmon. For a vegetable, I like a carrot, cucumber, pepper, .... you get the idea. Crackers are sometimes good with this. So these items I keep on hand, and then, when it's lunchtime, I put together my meal. Easy peasy, nutritious, and not huge in the calorie department.

Dinners involve a little more planning, if you're going to actually cook something. Plan out a few meals for the week (maybe 3). Go on and shop and cook as if you're cooking for 2 and then save half for day 2 or 3. Lunch foods will do fine for dinner too; just eat more, or add bread or potato salad.

One thing that single people should do is to look closely at frozen meals and at deli offerings in your grocery. Many of these are delicious, nutritious, and just right for one person. Be sure to check calorie counts (and number of servings per container) as well as fat and sodium amounts. Canned meals, including soups, stews, and the like, can be quite good too, but beware of the sodium.

You can always buy smaller quantities from your meat counter or your deli. If you're a chip, cracker, or cookie person, you can buy any of these in single-serving bags, which could forestall eating a whole large package of one of these.

A way to get around cooking for one is to invite someone over, even if it's a couple. You can also make, say, a batch of cookies, or a couple of pies, and give one to your neighbor. Parties and potlucks are a good excuse to make things that you love but maybe would not make for yourself.

How your serve yourself is important, too. Yes, I have sat in front of the TV with a jar of peanut butter and a spoon. LOL. The important thing to me is to remember that while I may be cooking for "just me," it is ME. I'm worth the care. Do sit at your dining table. Do use a plate and silverware. Do eat slowly and savor your food.