When I was single, I cooked every four days or so. I’d make enough of something to last four days, and eat the leftovers for three. It’s easy to cook for four. There was never clutter inn the fridge, I’d eat what I cooked before I cooked again. Also cheaper, never need to buy individual serving packages.
This is exactly what my Wife and I do (for two). Make a batch of something on the weekend, and have it for dinner during the week. Sometimes take some in for lunch at work. It’s not for folks that need a different meal every night, but frankly, I love it.
Let’s see, the last batch was I made 24 pierogis onions and bratwurst on a Sunday, and then my Wife made a batch of ham, bean and vegi soup on Wednesday. A GREAT combo together by the way.
Your timing is uncanny. I just made a pot of chili this evening. When it cools a little more I’ll portion it out into containers and freeze it. Found the recipe online; damn, it’s tasty.
I can sympathize with the OP. Cooking for one is a lot of trouble, I don’t usually want to eat the same thing for days in a row, and it can be hard to use up some things before they go bad. Sometimes I get ambitious and try different recipes, but lots of times it’s just easier to go out.
My wife & I rarely cook elaborate meals since the kids moved out. It’s not worth the hassle and we don’t want the same leftovers 4 days in a row.
Find a few favorite recipes that you can divide in half. I’ve become expert in dividing a lb of ground Chuck into two freezer bags.
A lot of simple meals start with browned meat. Use a 1/2 lb and divide the spices by two.
Couple favorites, homemade hamburger helper (no mix) and creamed Beef on toast. Each takes about 15 mins to prepare. A half recipe serves four. That’s two days of meals for us.
Heat Canned soup and bake cornbread once a week. Delicious.
Look in the frozen meat section. I recently bought raw chicken breasts stuffed with broccoli & cheese. Stick in oven and bake a sweet potato to go with it. Bonus, heat a couple Kings Hawaiian Dinner rolls.
Don’t overlook Cafeterias. We buy a take home plate of sliced roast beef or ham with two vegetables.
That’s three days of meals. Day 1 a normal dinner, day 2 & 3 delicious sandwiches using the extra sliced meat.
Over the years, I’ve found a dozen or so things that cook up quickly, in a small portion: broiled salmon, frozen chicken cordons bleu, frozen Chinese food from Aldi, open-face barbecue sandwiches, chicken taquitos, quesadillas using whatever’s on hand, canned chili, oven pizza, steak & ale pies from Trader Joe’s, a couple of chicken sausages, Hormel beef tips. The supermarkets are full of quick-prep foods. Only about once a month do I cook more than I’ll eat that evening, usually chicken breasts in some sort of savory treatment. Perhaps twice a month I’ll get an a la carte portion of something from Panda Express or a local Thai or Indian place.
I do a lot of stir fries. It’s quick, easy, and easily scales down. I’m vegetarian, so I’m using egg, marinated tofu or fake chicken bits from frozen to add a bit of protein, it’s a little trickier with meat portion wise. I actually used to use the fake chicken bits even before I went vegetarian, because they’re so easy to just stick a handful in something.
Other than that, making a few days’ worth at a time is the cheapest and easiest way. At the moment, I’ve just moved house and I don’t have a freezer aside from the little compartment in the fridge, but I used to try and always have a few portions of frozen homemade soup or something that I could just heat up when I came home late.
Regarding shopping, if you can, buying little and often for a bit, at least until you get a better idea of what you will and won’t use is a good plan. I buy loose fruit and vegetables aside from stuff that keeps for months like onions and potatoes, because I’m just not going to use a full bag of carrots or apples before they start going off. Sure, it’s cheaper to buy in bulk, but not if half of it’ll rot.
I’m having a little trouble with it myself right now; like I said, I just moved, and my old place was a share house, so this is the first time I’ve had a kitchen all to myself, plus I have a lot of free time right now (though not a lot of money), so I’m trying to take the opportunity to improve my cooking. I’ve been asking a friend who’s a chef for cooking ideas, and he keeps telling me stuff that sounds amazing, but it’s all stuff he does in catering quantities, and totally impractical to scale down for one.
First thing to learn is how to roast a whole chicken. (Use a Pyrex brownie pan for easy cleanup!) Don’t worry it’s a snap! Pull off any fat chunks, or strings, sprinkle with anything you fancy. (salt, pepper, paprika, parsley flakes) Peel two potatoes and two big carrots, microwave for a couple of minutes, then throw in the pan with the chicken. Pop the whole thing into the oven at 275 degrees for 90mins.
Now you have a lovely roast chicken dinner! If you have left over veg consider plating another dinner and either freezing or refrigerating it, to microwave later in the week (or even later if frozen!) That still leaves a lot of leftovers for stuff like chicken on a bun with lettuce and mayo, or a big salad with chicken and a nice roll. And after you’ve gone through all that you’ll still be able to strip the carcass and use the pickings for something like fried rice, ramen or a big bowl of chicken soup! (Instead of the same meal several days in a row this route offers different meals each day for four days!)
But the best part of going this route is it will force you to think differently. It will be an object lesson in making one meal that can lead to several other meals that are simple to put together. It will get you thinking the way you need to, to resolve your issue. It will get your mind spinning and suddenly you’ll see a world of possibilities. At the same time, you will unavoidably see for yourself exactly how easy it can actually be to really manage this aspect of your life. It’s a great place to start.
When I got my first apartment, I followed many of the tips offered in this thread. Made stir fries, microwaved brown rice, portioned it out, carried it to work for lunch, had it for next days dinner. Followed the instructions in *Cooks Illustrated *and froze many small portions of side dishes for variety. Shopped at Whole Foods (portions are smaller because the organic food is more expensive.) And I’ve been reminded of/picked up some new tips in this thread.
Then I got a little bit down over some circumstances. Began eating out more and more, because …
So very much this.
Now this I don’t do. And if I’m gonna fall in the eat out mode, I should work on this.
Yeah. About that. No. Not really. Although, diner owners and other proprietors do know me well.
At any rate, reading the O.P.:
This is an unfortunate circumstance to find yourself in. Uh … ourselves in … except I never married so…
Anyway. You may want to strike the balance between eating out and cooking in. You may simply not be ready, without lots of time and effort, to fall completely into the home cooking mode.
Also, I have a book on microwave cookery. There are several. It had not just recipes and techniques, but it helps put the mindset of small, personal cooking. Probably many other “cooking for singles” cookbooks will also help. Its the idea of cooking alone that you’ll have to read until it clicks. You’ll have to learn meal planning as an end – “once I slog through this, then I can get on with my week.” And you’ll have to learn to admire the situation of sparkling clean plates and cookware and a freezer full of easy meals.