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- Cooking for Smaller Numbers
How To Cook Healthy Meals for One
When I was living on my own, my meals left a lot to be desired. My husband, in contrast, cooked himself lovely dinners during his single years. His stories impressed me and got me wondering why our experiences were so different. The answer is In two words - attitude and skill.
Food for Thought
How much do you enjoy cooking for yourself?
Cooking for one can seem like too much trouble. But it's all in how you look at it.
Imagine if you were having someone you really like over for a meal. You would want to make your guest feel comfortable with a clean, attractive atmosphere. You'd want to have something nice to serve them, so that they would enjoy the food.
Now realize that you are worth that same effort.
It takes a plan and practice, maybe some new habits. But there's no time like the present to make a commitment to yourself. And the benefits will continue through the next stages of your life.
Prepared foods like rotisserie chicken can be a great option. But relying on them adds salt and fat to your diet. If you can devote a little time to meal planning and preparation, creating homemade meals is easier than you may think.
1. Meal Planning
Having a weekly menu is key. Knowing what you'll be preparing ahead of time takes away the stress of having to decide each day. Grocery trips will be more productive and focused, so your spending will stay on track. And you'll know what needs to be prepared ahead of time.
Start by making a list of dishes you already know how to make. Ask family members for old favorites you remember enjoying. Browse through cookbooks or recipe websites for more ideas.
Jot down the ingredients for recipes you like. This will become your shopping list.
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Any efficient kitchen needs staples - items that you'll use every day, in all kinds of ways.
Herbs and spices are essential as well. Get the basics first:
Pepper (red and black)
Then add in new ones as you discover them.
Have on hand:
Olive and Canola oil
Cans or packets of low-sodium broth(chicken, vegetable or beef)
Grains like rice and quinoa
Pasta, regular or whole wheat (even tomato or spinach!)
Low-sodium tomato sauce
Balsamic and white wine vinegar
Cans of beans (cannelliini, black, kidney)
Tip: If all this is too much to buy at once, just get a few things each shopping trip. Once you have your stock items ready, healthy and delicious meals will be that much easier and quicker to make.
Ideas for More Effective Shopping
Design your week of meals around an ingredient that's on sale. For example, use chicken breasts in both parmesan and lemon chicken one week. Or use pesto on it's own with pasta or as a topping for broiled fish.
Large packages of meat tend to be cheaper by the pound. When you get home, separate the meat into individual portions and wrap each one up in plastic, or place it in a container. They'll take up less room in your freezer that way, and you can pull out just the right amount when you need it.
Pasta, grains and even cereals can be put into resealable containers or bags. They will stay fresh longer than in an open box.
Take time to cut up veggies on the weekend . Carrots, celery, green peppers, or whatever you like. Keep them in small plastic bags. You can use them for dinners that week, as well as grab some for your lunch.
Homemade meals don't have to be fancy. Aim for getting a good balance of foods on your plate, and then get creative in how you put them together. Try this:
Focus especially on vegetables - two or more in a variety of colors. How about steaming some broccoli, carrots and yellow squash (about 1/2 cup of each)?
Cook 1 cup of rice in 2 cups of water. After taking your serving (a baseball size scoop), put the rest in a container and you have rice for later that week.
Decide on a meat or fish you'd like and bake some up. Chicken with a light sweet and sour sauce, steak rubbed with garlic, shrimp spritzed with lemon and black pepper - wherever your taste buds take you.
There - a simple, delicious dinner just for you. And you're a cook!