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Old 12-30-2008, 08:06 PM   #1
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Cooking for one... As hard as it seems?

Hey all,

Ok so basically I'm useless when it comes to creativity in the kitchen.

Whilst many of my friends seem able to whip up delicious dishes from a handful of ingredients, I find myself unable to get past the humble toasted cheese sandwhich or packet-mix mac & cheese.

My dilemma is this - I need to cook for one, I live in a shared house with limited fridge/kitchen space, and I need to eat on a budget. What I find is that any time I endeavour to go a little bit creative or out there, I look up a recipe and find that I need half a tea-spoon of this, a handful of that, half a can of this etc- ingredients which I simply don't have lying around. By the time I invest in these ingredients I've doubled the cost of purchasing take-away and generally the left-over ingredients go to waste as I have nothing else to use them for!

Is there such thing as a "weekly meal plan for one" that I can buy, download, look-up in the library or anything? Such a plan would give me a shopping list and 6 recipes, and ensure that over the course of the week I ate 6 different meals and used up nearly all of the ingredients that I purchased... Does this exist?

Perhaps I'm dreaming, or perhaps just lacking inspiration... but honestly the idea of cooking my own meals seems expensive, tedious and wasteful at this point in time. Can somebody point me in the right direction?

EDIT: "Assistant Cook" is my title? I hardly deserve that :)

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Old 12-30-2008, 08:43 PM   #2
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After cooking for 5 everyday, I am down to the two of us and still adjusting. It has a lot to do with reusing foods in different ways or at least for me. I don't want to eat the same thing all week. Chicken or beef can be reinvented nightly for different meals or freeze portions for another time.
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Old 12-30-2008, 10:04 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Want2Cook View Post
Hey all,

Ok so basically I'm useless when it comes to creativity in the kitchen.

Whilst many of my friends seem able to whip up delicious dishes from a handful of ingredients, I find myself unable to get past the humble toasted cheese sandwhich or packet-mix mac & cheese.

My dilemma is this - I need to cook for one, I live in a shared house with limited fridge/kitchen space, and I need to eat on a budget. What I find is that any time I endeavour to go a little bit creative or out there, I look up a recipe and find that I need half a tea-spoon of this, a handful of that, half a can of this etc- ingredients which I simply don't have lying around. By the time I invest in these ingredients I've doubled the cost of purchasing take-away and generally the left-over ingredients go to waste as I have nothing else to use them for!

Is there such thing as a "weekly meal plan for one" that I can buy, download, look-up in the library or anything? Such a plan would give me a shopping list and 6 recipes, and ensure that over the course of the week I ate 6 different meals and used up nearly all of the ingredients that I purchased... Does this exist?

Perhaps I'm dreaming, or perhaps just lacking inspiration... but honestly the idea of cooking my own meals seems expensive, tedious and wasteful at this point in time. Can somebody point me in the right direction?

EDIT: "Assistant Cook" is my title? I hardly deserve that :)
You might want to purchase some of the basics when it comes to herbs/spices because they will be used in countless recipes. And buy in the smaller containers to keep them from getting stale.

As you gain experience, and you will, begin with things you like. Buy some chicken on sale and divide into smaller portions to be used in different dishes. Save the bones to make a soup with leftover vegetables or frozen vegetables.

Purchase ground beef to be used in small meatloaves, patties as burgers, browned in casseroles, which can be eaten as leftovers for lunch.

Other possibilities are sausages you could cook with sauces or cabbage. Pork chops can be browned and cooked in minimal sauces or cut into strips/cubes for stir-fry dishes.

Again, as you become familiar with the possibilities different foods have, you will expand your repertoire.

Be patient with yourself and take baby steps. None of us started out as professional chefs. And...we all make mistakes.
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Old 12-30-2008, 10:09 PM   #4
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it is hard to cook for one. katie is right , it takes time. the freezer is your friend. save money by buying for more than one meal, ie chicken, etc. and freeze in one people serving size. there are many cook books for cooking for one or two. good luck
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Old 12-30-2008, 11:10 PM   #5
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What Katie E and Babe said

Believe me you can make it work. I dont think it is so much about a formal plan as it is about just being creative and thinking about your meals.

I am once again cooking for one.... here is what I like about it

I cam make what I want to eat how I want and dont have to worry about what other people like/dont like. After living with 2 subsequent vegetarians and my picky brother I sort enjoy this.

I can indulge on certain expensive things that may be costly to feed a crowd... like some beautiful scallops or a really nice piece of steak

I am free to screw up... experimenting in the kitchen is fun but sometimes it goes bad... I dont have to worry about serving my disasters.

A few tips.

Think about how what you want to make will serve as leftovers.... make things that will work well as lunches go in sandwiches etc. This way you actually save money. A Whole chicken may seem silly to cook for one but it goes along way. You can get alot out of it.

Pasta is easy and fast to make for one... There are many quick pasta sauces that require few ingredients and taste great. Fresh tomato and basil, olive oil herbs and lemon and other fresh quick pasta dressings.

Some sauces like Ragu or Bolognese or are easier to make a large batch. Do this when you have time and then freeze portions for when you dont.

Meats are easy to make for one too. If you have to buy a larger quantity and dont want to make it all freeze some portions individually.

If you really want to make a recipe that requires you buy too much of something then research others that will use this item up this is a fun way to expand your cooking.

Some things freeze better than others. Stews, Chilis & braised meats tend to freeze really well.

Ultimatley by cooking rather than eating take out or frozen dinners you will eat better, healthier and save $$

good luck and enjoy
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Old 12-30-2008, 11:45 PM   #6
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I cook for one and do just fine, but it takes some definitely adjustments to make it work for your own style.

The first thing I did was toss out my collection (and my late parents') of cook books and magazines of fancy recipes for 6-8 people. Therapeutic when I accepted that I would never make them and they were only depressing me. I now use MasterCook on my computer to keep track of "my" recipes for smaller quantities and I print them out on half sheets and put them in small 3-ring binders, along with one just for notes and hints.

I use a FoodSaver and have a small chest freezer in the garage. These are almost mandatory. Foods purchased and leftovers are placed in vacuum seal bags in serving size portions. Those too-big bags of frozen veggies also get moved down to portion size bags so its easy to grab one for a dinner. Same for meats. EVERYTHING gets stored in single portion sizes. Life becomes very easy then. Casseroles, like from Hamburger Helper, can be pre-cooked and portioned out. All it takes then is reheating in the microwave.

Speaking of Hamburger Helper, pre-cook much of your ground meat and put in vacuum seal bag. Nobody is in the mood to cook greasy ground beef when they come home. Here you have it precooked and just defrost and toss in to your meal. The same works for Chicken. Precook the pieces and freeze.

Keep powdered milk and cans of evaporated milk in your pantry. I never have fresh on hand for a recipe. Evaporated milk can be used straight in most recipes without diluting and will often improve the richness of the meal.

I also now do canning and take advantage of many of the sales for beef, chicken, and produce. Saves me from using up all my freezer space too. This had also led me to make my own condiments and in smaller quantities. That's a whole 'nother topic.

I also dehydrate produce when it gets too ripe for my palate or too much to hold on to. Tomatoes, onions, celery (especially leaves), mushrooms, bread (croutons), etc. all get dried. Many are ground to a powder and become spices. Others are used for soups and stews. Nothing is wasted.

yes, cooking for one is a challenge, but a fun challenge and it is totally workable and you will eat better than most.
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Old 12-31-2008, 01:20 AM   #7
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I used to cook for 1 (me) a lot. Basic ideas: lamb chop (rosemary and garlic) either broiled or pan seared. Couscous (easy to make for 1) with broth and cinnamon, peas. Total cook time 15 min max. Switch out chop for pork cutlet, chicken breast, Italian sausage, piece of fish, small beef filet, whatever. Zucchini is a quick cook, as are small green beans or broccoli etc. Fresh spinach cooks in no time. Many items can be bought in small quantities at the salad bar of your grocery store. If you bake a few potatoes and fridge a couple, you can do pan fried or quick mashed the next day. Rice is only 20 min and reheats well so make a cup and have a few servings. These are basic meat/greenveg/grain or starch meals. Jazz up with a little white wine and herb, or garlic and olive oil, or Worcestershire sauce or balsamic vinegar. So you are eating fresh, well balanced quick easy meals. Add in salads with the meat or fish on top. Don't do meats?, add more fish...shrimp, talapia, catfish...all can be quick sauteed. Basic herbs include taragon, thyme, basil, parsley. All can be bought in small quantities or fresh. All of this can be done with a few small pans and a couple lids, all available at most grocery stores...or go to a real housewares store and buy good quality but small sizes for your needs. Don't give in to the prepackaged microwave foods as your norm. Make those do for "emergencies" but get into the habit of real cooking and real food fast.

Make a pot of soup or spaghetti sauce on a day off and have it for several meals. Recipes are available on line, in libraries, and right here at DC. Also get a good basic cookbook for yourself. The Joy of Cooking is a classic and a good starting point.

To this day I enjoy making the meal whether for me or the "family". It is quality time with a quality result.
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Old 12-31-2008, 08:09 AM   #8
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I found slow cooking really useful for cooking for one. Just keep a collection of raw veg (potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onions, etc) and a couple of pots of fresh herbs (rosemary, sage, basil) and use them as a hunters stew (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetual_stew)* with whatever meat is cheap at the time. Cheap cuts of chicken, beef and lamb tend to work best for me.

Of course you also have the cheaty student dishes like varsity pie (half tin tuna, half tin sweetcorn, half tin condensed soup, mix, cover with bread, bake) and students pasta (cook pasta, pour on cup-soup made with 1/2 the amount of water specified and a little milk, fry half onion with 2 bacon rashers, mix) but you may be best looking around for a good students cookbook. The good ones are always conscious of waste and how much cleaning is involved.

*"You are only allowed to post URLs once you have at least 20 posts and are an established member in good standing."
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Old 12-31-2008, 08:26 AM   #9
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If you're looking for a way to plan and manage your meals to minimize waste, etc., check out Living Cookbook by Radium Technologies. I've been using it for a few months and I've found it helpful.

I frequently find myself cooking for one, as my husband travels frequently on business. Sometimes I make a normal sized recipe and freeze it for leftovers. Sometimes I take the opportunity to do something "weird" that my husband would be a little... uncomfortable with - he's generally a great eater but can be fussy about some things. Anyway, I find planning around a central core of ingredients can be really helpful.
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Old 12-31-2008, 08:27 AM   #10
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If you're looking for a way to plan and manage your meals to minimize waste, etc., check out Living Cookbook by Radium Technologies. I've been using it for a few months and I've found it helpful.

I frequently find myself cooking for one, as my husband travels frequently on business. Sometimes I make a normal
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