I’m sort of an expert at cooking for one, and find cooking for myself an extremely enjoyable, stress relieving activity and a favorite form of self care. As a single lady, it’s also somewhat of a necessity if I want to eat home-cooked meals. A lot of people I work with fall into the same boat, whether it’s because they’re single, divorced, widowed, empty nesters or have busy families on different meal schedules. But one thing I’ve been told pretty often in sessions is something along the lines of, “well it’s only me so why bother” when I ask about cooking. This makes me so crazy, because oh my gosh, we are all worth a home-cooked meal. If you wouldn’t question cooking a nice meal for others, then why not be at least that nice to yourself?
lentil stew for one (plus puppy sniffs)
Before you start thinking of how much more work it is to cook for yourself than it is to pull up Seamless on your phone, know that there are quick and easy ways to make this happen for one person. It doesn’t have to be as complicated as a gourmet, many hours long situation with a thousand dishes to do afterwards. But it’s also a bit more effort than eating a sandwich on a paper towel over the kitchen sink. Remember, you’re worth it. Here are a few of my favorite strategies for making nourishing one-person meals that are fairly quick, easy and always delicious.
This one might be a no-brainer, but I’m telling you it can make all the difference. One thing I do on most weekends is to roast a ton of veggies – usually brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and sweet potatoes – and store them in the fridge to use all week for quick dinner bowls with the addition of some sort of protein, quinoa, pasta or more sweet potato. This usually takes an hour or an hour and a half, and if you do it before a meal you can also kill two birds with one stone and use some of what you make for that meal. Try not to be deterred by the time commitment, which is probably not that long compared to how many hours most people spend on social media these days (right??). I love listening to podcasts while I’m cooking – it makes the time fly.
To make a bowl like this one here, I sautéed some kale and fried the eggs while throwing leftover roasted veggies and pasta in a bowl with some crunchy chickpeas and sauerkraut that I had on-hand from my last grocery shop. Once the eggs and kale were done, I tossed everything together. Super quick and so good. Eggs are hands down my favorite and easiest go to for dinner when I want something easy and fast. Omelets with veggies and a side of toast, for example, takes 10 minutes, hits a big variety of nutrients and is super satisfying. Avocado toast topped with eggs or smoked salmon, same deal. Obviously a quick meal like this doesn’t have to be pretty and “Instagram worthy” but to be honest, I like the whole plating process and sitting down to something that looks good. It’s all about the experience!
Stews and chilis
This sort of falls along the lines of batch cooking too, but takes it to another level because these options freeze so well. If I’m home on a weekend evening and want a nice cozy dinner, I’ll make a hearty stew that will have plenty of leftovers. After pre-portioning into individual Tupperware containers and cooking, I store the leftover stew in the freezer for easy meal options when I have no time or don’t want to think about what to make. These also work well to bring into work for lunch.
this is Run Fast Eat Slow hearty minestrone stew with spicy chicken sausage and it’s so good. Peanut once again can’t help herself
There is nothing like a homemade version of a favorite comfort food, and maybe this idea can help make cooking for yourself at home a bit more exciting. One of my favorite things to do is homemade pizza with whatever toppings I feel like. It’s super easy to separate dough, either homemade or store-bought, into single serve portions. I usually aim for about a fist size for each portion, and the rest goes into the freezer portioned in sandwich bags. If you buy your dough, which I usually do, this meal takes slightly more than 30 minutes from start finish and is so satisfying. Also more budget-friendly than most takeout pizza options (especially those in NYC!).
whole grain dough with pesto, ricotta cheese, kale, tomato and shiitake mushrooms
One sheet pan meals
This is another favorite of mine and highlights the efficiency and deliciousness of roasting. Take one sheet pan (or two, if your oven is tiny like mine) and spread out various veggies and your protein. Drizzle with olive oil, sea salt, pepper and/or whatever seasonings you like, and roast in a 425 degree oven for 20-30 minutes. Voila, dinner is served. I love using this method for the combination below – Japanese sweet potato wedges, broccoli and wild salmon – because it’s just so good and tastes like it took a lot more work than it did.
It would be totally remiss for me to not mention frozen options, but I’m not talking about frozen meals. There’s nothing wrong with them once in a while, but I find they’re just so loaded with sodium and can just taste off. Rather, stocking the freezer with frozen veggies that can be prepared quickly and won’t go bad in the fridge like the fresh versions if you don’t use them in a timely fashion. I love frozen veggies for stir fries and sautéing, because you can add lots of different flavors and sauces to spice them up. A quick sauce with tahini, garlic and lemon juice is one of my current favorites – it’s so good! Picking up frozen fish is also super useful and more budget friendly than the fresh stuff.
Hopefully these ideas help making cooking for one a bit less intimidating, and at the risk of sounding like a L’oreal commercial, I’m going to reiterate again that you’re worth it (really!).