Cooking for One

Cooking for one can seem daunting, especially when you’re in college. It may be tempting to buy Trader Joe’s gnocchi, even if you love to cook. Cooking, however, has many benefits. It’s cheaper, usually healthier. And I’ve come a long way, so here are some things I’ve learned:

Tip 1: Use your freezer!

Your freezer is essential if you want to eat any food with a short shelf life while cooking for one. Personally, I always have frozen berries, vegetables, a loaf of bread, and bananas. These ingredients ensure that I’m not wasting copious amounts of fresh produce or baked goods. Frozen fruit can be used in smoothies or overnight oats. Vegetables can be stir-fried or roasted. Frozen bread can be used normally after a few minutes in the toaster on the “frozen” setting.  

Tip 2: Cook different things on different days.

My dinners usually consist of a grain, protein, and vegetable,I’ve found that the easiest way to ensure that I have a varied, nutritious meal is to cook each component on different days, keeping the leftovers for a few days and freezing any extra. For example, I’ll make tofu on Sunday, brown rice on Monday, and carrots on Tuesday. This reduces the time I spend cooking on any single day while allowing me to have meals with variety for the week.

Tip 3: Make it easy.

Stretch the definition of “cook.” My homemade breakfasts are overnight oats, which take me approximately two minutes to make. Many of my go-to lunches are similarly easy. For example, one of my go-to lunches is a salad wrap; a bit of hummus, greens, tomatoes, carrots, and tofu in a whole-wheat tortilla. It’s delicious and nutritious, and it is easy to throw together as I run out the door in the morning. Preparing food doesn’t need to be elaborate.

Tip 4: Incorporate your leftovers.

Whenever I eat out, I think about how to use my leftovers. One of my favorite ways to use excess sauces from food trucks, for example, is by marinating tofu in them. If you love the taste of hard-to-prepare cuisines like Indian food, you can use leftovers to make the flavor stretch over multiple meals.

Tip 5: Cook things you like.

On the motivation side, it can be really hard to want to cook, even if you love it. The idea of dishes and taking a chunk out of your day can be exhausting. One way that I’ve found to mitigate this lack of motivation is simple: cook good food. For me, this means cooking food that I can’t find at a food truck or a nearby restaurant. Cook something you’re excited about, even if it is not necessarily the healthiest option.

Tip 6: Use a single ingredient multiple ways.

Even if you’re eating the same ingredient, you can eat it in different ways. For example, I like buying a bag of carrots, which I then use in lunch salads as well as roast for dinner. Similarly, almonds can be used in a bowl of oatmeal but also serve as a healthy snack. By preparing the same ingredient multiple ways, you are less likely to get bored.