Never eat the same meal twice with these 7 tips for cooking for one

August 7 | Guest post by Nikki
Let's get cooking for one! Apron by MrStyleDesign
My wife took a job out of town. She's going to be gone for several months. As she left me behind, and I faced my first meal of cooking for one, I realized that I don't know how to cook for just me. Complicated by the fact that I hate eating the same thing over and over again.

Who has tips for cooking for one that isn't just "make a lot of the same thing and eat it for several meals." -Jon

I've lived alone most of my adult life, and I absolutely detest eating the same meal more than twice in a row! So I have a few pointers for cooking for one:

1. Cook for two!

Okay, I know you said that you don't like to eat the same thing twice, and neither do I! But every time you cook, make enough for two servings anyway, and refrigerate or freeze that one extra serving. That way you have dinner one day, and then eat that portion whenever you decide to want to eat that meal again.

2. Bulk cook a few starchy side items

For example, I make brown rice by the pound. And once it cools I freeze it into single-serving batches. It reheats well in the microwave. I've done the same with couscous. Then you can throw your ready-made starches into other recipes and not have to make entire batches each time.

3. If you eat meat or fish

Buy packages of pre-cut chops or fish fillets, then freeze them in single-serving packets. I'll often take a salmon fillet, a pack of rice, and a pack of some sauce I made weeks ago and froze, pan-grill the salmon, reheat the sauce and the rice, and steam or stir-fry a veggie. Healthy dinner done in 15 minutes tops!

4. Find some sauces that you can make ahead and freeze

Pesto is great for this, as well as tomato sauce. One of my favorites is this coconut curry sauce — SO good! Or Offbeat Home has this recipe for tomato AND pesto sauce…

5. "Brinner!"

Breakfast for dinner is perfect for cooking for one! Eggs already come in "cooking for one" sizes. And omelets are delicious, duh. And, if you're vegan, scrambled tofu is wonderful too!

6. Go out to dinner

Don't feel guilty about going out to dinner on your own! It's easy to go out every day (believe me, I've done it, not easy on the wallet or waistline). But it's also easy to become a hermit.

7. Make friends with people who also live alone

Or find other people that you love having over for dinner. I regularly have dinner with my good friend from childhood and her son, and I get together with a married couple pretty often. That way, if there's something I feel like making (or eating) a lot of, I have people to share it with. (Also, see point six about how easy it is to become a hermit.)

What are your tips for cooking for two when you hate eating the same thing twice in a row?

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  1. My husband worked out of town for about 4 months a few years ago so I went through a similar experience. I would sometimes do a few grilled chicken breasts one night with some grilled vegetables. With the leftovers I would do a chicken quesadilla one night, a couscous salad with grilled vegetables and goat cheese another, some chicken salad one night, and an omelette the next.

  2. Can I get a shout-out for people who love to eat the same meal more than once?
    Or am I the only one?
    Thumbs up if you love leftovers!

    19 agree
    • It definitely depends on what the leftovers are but yes! I'm a big fan of things like baked spaghetti, french onion soup, shepherd's pie, and a lemony dill chickpea casserole that I could pretty much eat for 5 days straight. Also, I am lazy and like the results of cooking without the standing around doing it everyday.

      4 agree
    • You have NO IDEA… despite what my Treats and Geeks account might make you think, I can and do eat the same thing over and over and over again. And not even leftovers!

      Right now I'm on a kick where all I eat for lunch AND breakfast is yogurt, granola and blueberries. And it's my favorite. It's been maybe 5 months of the same and I'm still not sick of it.

      1 agrees
  3. I liked meal kits while my husband was deployed. I got to try new recipes, I didn't have to grocery shop, it wasn't repetitive, and it covered me for the entire work week. The 7th night was pizza night.

  4. Seconding the egg love- when I lived by myself, oeufs en cocotte were a frequent dinner (as were liver and other things that might weird out a dining companion). I'd say that things like steak are ideal for-one fare too as you can have them just how you like them (and I happen to love leftover steak in a sandwich or salad)

    Leftovers can often be the basis of your lunch for the next day (disguised in a sandwich, frittata, travelling noodle pot or salad if you want it to be different to the previous night's dinner).

    Also, think about what you really like to eat and try out different things (maybe try making the things that you like to eat out)- it might be less of a chore to eat the same thing twice if you really like it, and if it goes wrong you're the only one who has to eat it.

    1 agrees
  5. I really like cooking just a few nights a week then getting creative and/or freezing leftovers for the next week. That way, there are always new meals being added into the rotation and the leftovers don't get tedious. There are entire recipe books and cooking shows about cooking a larger portion of meat in a very basic way, then using it different ways on different nights. I tried freezing small amounts in ice cube trays but found it too messy. Empty yogurt containers (with lids) work great for freezing sauces and single servings of rice or veggies. Cottage cheese or butter tubs work for freezing left overs too. Or, you can get freezer containers in various sizes in the canning isle of a discount store. I like the square ones because they save room in the freezer. I bought one package a week until I had some in each size without blowing the budget. Just be sure to remember that when things freeze, they often expand, so don't overfill.

  6. My husband and my schedules are so different that I end up eating alone pretty much every day. I get home at 4:15 and he doesn't get home until 8:45 or later. If I try to wait for him to eat dinner I'd starve and get hangry. Sometimes I'll try to do a snack around 6-6:30 so that I can eat dinner with him BUT I also know that eating a full meal only 2 hours before bedtime tends to pack extra pounds on me. So most often I eat dinner by myself.
    What I do is usually get a large lunch and save half of it for dinner. Mostly it's a salad, a meat, and a starch and I just cut the portion in half and eat half for dinner. If I order our for lunch I'll usually get a 12" hoagie and save 6" for dinner.

  7. Never underestimate the power of side dishes as meals! It's totally okay to have 2-4 small helpings of different, easy-to-prepare things for dinner. Lately I've been obsessed with this Greek-style dip that's basically hummus with stuff on top. Chop some tomatoes, cucumber, artichokes, olives, feta, eat with pita chips. Delicious and covers all the food groups!

    1 agrees
  8. I guess as someone who has been single for more of my 37 years than not, I don't understand why people find cooking for one so difficult. Just use smaller amounts of everything?
    I make a single serving of soup in a 2-quart saucepan with like one potato, 2 carrots, a few slices of onion, etc. I buy that "Better than Bouillon" stuff that comes in a jar so I can just use a small spoonful of it when needed.
    I have a small rice cooker that I can just make 1 cup of rice in, and while that's going I'll stir-fry half of a brick of tofu with 1 chopped up crown of broccoli, and toss it with some seasonings and a little teriyaki sauce.
    I also always keep some frozen veggies around, so if I want something quick and easy I can make a little couscous and toss it with the veggies, some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and a bit of parmesan cheese.
    You may have guessed that I'm a big fan of one-bowl meals. When I am cooking just for me, most of the time I like making things that don't require tons of labor and dirty dishes, but then again I'm kind of lazy. And simplifying the number of components always helps too – I always find meals with relatively few ingredients to be a lot easier to do on a small scale, though I keep a liberal amount of seasonings and condiments around and have a lot of fun experimenting with a dash of this and a dash of that.
    Ok so I've always been a vegetarian too, so I don't know anything about portioning meats and stuff. But I've just gotten used to buying small amounts of produce at a time. I buy my rice and pasta in bulk and then just cook a couple handfuls at a time as I see fit. I don't even own a big stock pot, but my 2 quart saucepan gets used almost every day – I discovered a long time ago that if you start with a small pot/pan, you can't make more than you can eat.
    And of course sometimes I make larger portions so I can have leftovers, or to prepare lunches for the week ahead of time to take in to work. But for just an average single meal, thinking small and simplifying ingredients is what does it for me.

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