Sautéing Solo

Looking for a bit of quality ‘me time?’ We’ve got your dinner covered with expert tips for making meals for one.
Published April 18, 2017

Weekly meal planning isn’t just for the mom of three, who balances ballet, dance and soccer. Believe it or not, meal planning for the single guy or gal can be the most liberating way to cook for yourself. For those who cool solo, the common worry is that there is too much prep involved and the cost too high to justify a chef-worthy meal at home. On the opposite end of the grocery spectrum is the fact that the singleton can often be left with too many leftovers to eat before they go bad. Fear not brave solo-chefs! With these super simple changes will have your supper faster than it takes to microwave a sad frozen dinner. Getting smart about meal planning will involve only a smidgen more time up-front, but will result in a week’s worth of preps that take only minutes to combine into a gourmet meal.

Get yourself set up

The key to meal planning for one is to think about the versatility of your favourite ingredients that can be prepared in double or triple amounts ahead of time. For example, baked potatoes can be used as is, in potato salad, cooked as hash browns, in soup and chopped up and added to curries. Plan for a few days’ worth of these ingredient-based meals and make sure you have the basics already prepped at the beginning of the week. Healthy protein such as chicken breasts or fish can be grilled or poached and used in salads, pasta dishes, soup, and sandwiches.

Bulk ingredients aren’t always better

Bulk buying ingredients always seems like a good idea and it can be, for foods that you eat every day and that are non-perishable. It might seem like a great idea to get that big bag of chia seeds or shredded coconut but if they’re not being used they’ll just sit in your cupboard taking up space. Rice (keep brown rice in the freezer), oatmeal, flour, frozen berries and vegetables, butter (again, store butter in the freezer), canned soup and canned tomatoes are all good items to buy in bulk if they’re a regular part of what you eat already.

Freeze like a pro

Your freezer is your best friend when cooking for one. Take a cue from restaurant kitchens and label everything that goes in, making sure to rotate when added to your freezer stockpile. Label everything by name and the date frozen, masking tape and a black permanent marker make excellent single-use options. Try to portion-out frozen meals and ingredients for fast meals in the future using plastic or glass containers, resalable bags can be used to freeze foods so that they’re flat and stackable. A single chicken breast can be frozen in a small amount of marinade, precooked pasta can be portioned out into small bags that can be reheated in boiling water and one cup containers can be filled with cooked quinoa, beans, and lentils.

Two is always better than one

Cooking for yourself can be annoying when you’ve got a hankering for lasagna, meatloaf or any other recipe that only seem to make super sized amounts. However, the best part about being your own personal chef is that you can spilt one large recipe in smaller portions that can be refrigerated for a night when you can’t be bothered to cook anything. Glass storage containers make any fridge look sophisticated, but aluminum baking trays found at the grocery store come in the perfect shape for miniature versions of your favourite casseroles. Baked potatoes and yams can be done two or three at a time to save you an hour’s worth of oven time before dinner. Roasted vegetables can be doubled or tripled, just spread them out over two baking sheets to avoid overcrowding and use them during the week in salads, pasta and grain dishes.