Cooking for one is a topic that that I frequently discuss with clients, although I will admit for a long time I’ll admit I didn’t really understand why it was a struggle. For most of my adult life, I have cooked for just myself since my roommates always ate very differently from me, leading us to doing our own things in the kitchen. Recently, however; after moving in with my partner I became very used to cooking and eating with someone else. Last week, he was sent up north for work and I noticed how difficult it was to cook for just me now that I didn’t have company in the kitchen. I had to remind myself of what I discuss with clients and get some of those old habits of cooking for one back on track so I decided to share some of those tips with you guys today!
It is certainly not easy to motivate yourself to spend half an hour cooking for just yourself, let alone an hour for a fancier meal. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably noticed an *ahem* lack of photos recently and I will admit this has had a lot to do with it. Even though I’m a dietitian who is supposed to be taking pretty pictures of my food, this hasn’t even been enough to motivate me to cook beautiful meals just for me every night!
Here is the thing though; even though I haven’t been cooking as many Instagram-worthy meals lately, it doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating healthy, balanced meals. Below I have listed some tips that I have for cooking for one that makes a world of difference when it comes to eating healthy meals that only you are eating that can help you to eat healthier meal and save money by avoiding the drive-through:
1) The freezer is your friend!
Just because you’re cooking for yourself, it doesn’t mean cooking foods like chilis, stews, and casseroles are a waste or that you have to eat the same thing over and over again for weeks! Try making these foods in a big batch and freezing it in individual portion containers. That way when you haven’t prepared anything, you’ve got your own frozen meal ready to go that’s much healthier than the store-bought variety. No waste, you don’t have to eat that stew for a week straight, and you get a few nights off from cooking later.
Over time, you will build up a variety of frozen meals so you won’t get bored! This is also a tip I recommend in general, whether you’re cooking for one or not- on the days you don’t know what to have for dinner or lunch, those meals in the freezer can be a life saver. It may not be pretty enough for Instagram, but it's still tasty and nutritious!
2) Have breakfast for dinner!
Breakfast is a quick, easy meal that can pack a lot of nutrition! Try an omelette with veggies in it with some whole grain toast, these awesome high protein pancakes with fruit, a breakfast quesadilla, or even whole grain toast with natural peanut butter and a piece of fruit. I am also a big fan of having hot oatmeal for dinner like this Apple Pie Oatmeal! I like to cook mine with unsweetened soy milk to make sure there is enough protein and I love how creamy it is but you could also use cow's milk. Just be careful as if you make these guys with almond milk, you probably won't get enough protein for your meal unless you add something else. I also like to make sure I have some nuts like walnuts for a bit more protein and healthy fats!
3) Plan to repurpose leftovers
If you are cooking chicken to have with veggies and rice one night, try cooking extra chicken and throw it into a quesadilla, in a wrap, or on a salad the next day. That way you can cook once and eat 2-3 times without getting bored.
4) Remember that it doesn’t have to be fancy every night
I find that often people have an idea that cooking dinner implies spending hours and hours cooking a gourmet meal but there’s nothing wrong with making a salad, throwing some canned chickpeas (drain and rinse them first!) or canned salmon on a salad and having a whole grain bun on the side or even a quick sandwich with some raw veggies on the side.
5) Make a cooking group
If you have friends who are in the same boat in terms of cooking for one, why not get together and do some prep and cooking together? That way cooking is a social activity and you’re now cooking for two (or three or four) instead of one! This can also be a great way to buy in bulk and save some cash since you can split it between a few people.
6) Remember that you’re worth it!
When I speak with clients who are one their own, often they talk about feeling that there’s no point putting in effort to feed themselves versus other people. Keep in mind that it is important to make time for health and even if you’ve been used to only caring for others, self-care is key to good health. I’m not saying you need to make yourself a gourmet meal every night by any means (I certainly haven't been!) but if you would take the time to plan, grocery shop, and cook for others, why aren’t you worth that effort?
Also remember that eating alone doesn't mean that you should eat in front of the TV or while doing something else because eating alone can be uncomfortable. Try to set the table for yourself, put on some nice music, and really focus on and enjoy your food! One of the perks of cooking for just yourself is you don't have to cater to anyone else's likes and dislikes so try some new things and make some of your favourites!