When I was a graduate student, I rarely cooked for myself. I lived alone, and while I don’t mind leftovers, if I cooked a meal, I would have 4 to 6 servings for leftovers, and I would bore of them before I finished them. Likewise, my mom currently lives alone, and she almost never cooks. She always says, “What is the point of cooking for just one person?” Instead, she goes out to eat frequently and splits a meal with her dining companion to save money.
If you live alone, you might also dislike cooking for one. However, there are strategies you can implement to still be able to eat delicious, cost-effective meals at home, avoiding the need to rely on frozen dinners from the supermarket or restaurant food.
Pay a Friend to Cook for You. You may have a friend who cooks for his/her family on a daily basis. Why not ask if they would be willing to let you “buy” a serving of the meal? I cook for my family nearly every night to keep our food costs down, and if I had a single friend, I would be more than willing to make an extra portion for her. She could pay me $2 a meal, costing her $10 a week for 5 meals. She would benefit because she would avoid the hassle of shopping and cooking, but she would still get a tasty home cooked meal, and I would benefit because I would just make a bit more of the meal than I was already planning to make and I would earn $40 a month for my effort (less the small cost of additional food for her portion).
Swap with Friends. Arrange to swap meals with friends, either at work, at the gym, at your apartment complex, etc. Get together a group of 5 friends; each night one of the five friends cooks the meal and each person gets a serving. The only cost to you would be one evening of cooking and the groceries needed to make that meal.
Freezer Cook. Once a month, take a day to make freezer friendly meals such as lasagna, soups, etc. Make four meals from recipes that produce 4 to 6 servings. You now have 16 to 24 dinners at your disposal. Just pull them from the freezer and reheat. If you want to increase the variety, the first month, don’t eat all of the freezer meals. The next month, try 4 new recipes. If you saved at least one serving from each meal you made the previous month, you now have 8 meals in your freezer rotation to choose from. Most freezer meals are good for 3 to 6 months, so you could have quite a bit of variety by the third month.
Cook for Two. Invest in a magazine like Cooking for Two and make meals from there. Now, you have one serving for your meal, and one serving waiting for another meal. Obviously, this method is a bit more time intensive than the other methods mentioned, but if you like to cook but don’t like all of the leftovers, this may be the way to go.
Even if you live alone and don’t like to cook because you get bored with the leftovers, you don’t have to rely on take out and restaurant food. You can save a bundle by relying on one of these methods.
What are your favorite strategies when cooking for one? Have you ever implemented any of the strategies mentioned above?
(B.B. note: Those are some terrific ideas, Melissa! As a guy, most of those ideas probably wouldn’t have ever occurred to me when I was in college. Mostly because, as a guy, I hardly ever cooked. I know, blame me for the stereotype. The group of guys that I hung out with, however, did do quite a bit of grilling at each others houses when we could. When I grill now, it counts as cooking. What we did back then? Not nearly as much. More of a “throw it on until it looks ready” sort of deal.)
Melissa is a writer and virtual assistant. She earned her Master’s from Southern Illinois University, and her Bachelor’s in English from the University of Michigan. When she’s not working, you can find her homeschooling her kids, reading a good book, or cooking. She resides in New York, where she loves the natural beauty of the area.
These are great tips! I struggle with cooking for just myself and keeping things healthy! I’ve been trying to make stuff that freezes well so I can eat it for a day or two and pull the other portions out later when I’m not bored of them. Through winter, I did this with soup. Now that it’s summer I’m going to have to come up with new ideas.
I used the friend swap while in college but now I tend to make the freezer dinners. I don’t like to eat leftovers more than one day old but I can live off lasagne or pizza for a whole week….so I will make one of those and then have something else so I only cook once a week but still get a variety (get different one topping pizzas).
Frugal Living says
I always thaw something out because that will make sure that I do in fact cook it
AmyTurner@Credit Donkey says
I do the third tip you posted most of the time. Since I am alone for the greater part of the month with my husband away on business trips and the youngest son off to his dorm school, it usually makes me feel tired and lazy (mostly) to do meals for myself. I do bulk cooking then stock the 3-4 kinds of meals (meat and vegetables), then reheat what I fancy eating for a meal. I rotate the different dishes in the microwave until they are all gone and presto! It’s time to cook for the entire family since they are coming home for the weekend.
Saves me a great deal of effort so I can concentrate on better things to do during weekdays. This really allows me to put in more time for stuff I love doing.
Ash @ Sterling Effort says
Is Dominos a strategy? 🙂 I seriously need to take this advice but I know I’m just too lazy. The saddest part is I’m not even single, but due to different dietary requirements, my girlfriend and I often cook separately.
101 Centavos says
The time I was single and in college I cooked for two or three, and had leftovers in the fridge for later.
After college, I worked overseas and lived in a housing compound, where evening social events were frequent enough, and just as often, I ended up being one of the cooks at these BBQs and dinners. In a way, it mirrors your first tip.
We are just 2, but one of our faves is to make a quick stir fry with frozen shrimp (or leftover cooked chicken/beef/pork from the freezer) and frozen stir-fry veggies (we stock various combinations). Just throw it all in a pan with a little olive oil, salt & pepper & heat it through. We keep a pot of cooked rice in the fridge & can quickly buzz up a serving of it in the microwave. Top with stir-fry & you’re good to go! Tasty, healthy, & PDQ!
When cooking just for myself – which is the case the majority of the time – I either make a smaller portion (such as cutting a recipe in half) or make food items that don’t require you to make a whole recipe.
Also, I definitely make use of my freezer to store extras or leftovers.