Meal planning can be tough. And meal planning for one can be even more difficult. My husband is gone and I am now left to cook for one for the next month. This can be a challenging task because you either live off sandwiches or fast food, or you end up cooking enough for a family of 4 and get burned out on meals before the leftovers are gone. This week I am going to share with you my meal planning hacks for cooking for one without getting tired of eating the same foods all week.
First things first, plan a balanced meal with a protein, starch, and vegetable. When you start with the basics of what your meal should include the rest falls together. I have included the meal planning sheet I created to help me stay organized with prepping my meals each week in the link below.
I like to plan meals around the protein, whether it is vegetarian or meat, because it makes it easier to plan what sides to make. I start by shopping the sale ads at the local grocery store to see what meats are on sale and then plan the rest of the menu around that. Tofu and most animal meats freeze very well for 3-6 months. Portion out the protein options into single servings before freezing. This makes it easier to grab one or two servings of protein to prepare. Doing this allows more flexibility in your protein options throughout the week so you’re not stuck with just chicken or just beef all week.
I find that when cooking for one, frozen vegetables work best. I will open a bag of frozen veggies and cook only the amount of vegetables I think I can eat in a day or two so I am not eating the same vegetable all week. The remaining veggies get put back in the freezer. I usually keep 3-4 different types of frozen veggies on hand. Canned vegetables are another great option because you can get 2-3 servings out of one 15 oz can, and they have a long shelf life before they are opened. Lettuce salads are another easy option because there are so many ways you can fix up a salad that doesn’t make it feel like you’re eating the same side salad every day for a week.
This can be anything from mashed potatoes to lasagna noodles. Noodles and dried grains such as rice, quinoa, and barley are easy to keep on hand. Canned beans, or even dried beans, are easy starches to keep around also. Grains and beans have a long shelf life and are easy to portion out into one or two servings before cooking. If you choose to go the potato route, you don’t have to buy the 5-pound bag of potatoes. You can easily buy 1-2 potatoes so you don’t have produce going bad. If dinner rolls or breadsticks are your thing these are items that can be frozen and one or two can be taken out at any time to heat up in the microwave or oven a few minutes before dinner is ready.
If you don’t have a lot of space in the freezer to store a variety of proteins, veggies, etc., or if you want to make a meal that you can’t make into smaller portions, then repurpose your leftovers! If you cook up a pound of ground meat use a portion for spaghetti and the other portion for tacos. Bake 4-6 chicken breasts and use one sliced up in a salad, one can be chopped up into a chicken salad sandwich, one can be eaten as is, and the last one can be shredded and turned into a chicken burrito bowl. When you prepare a meal, and are stuck with leftovers you aren’t limited to the same thing over and over. Get creative in the kitchen and enjoy eating again!
It takes some planning and prepping in the beginning stages of cooking for one, but once you get it started it saves a lot of time and energy later. You will soon learn that the freezer will become your best friend and that cooking for one isn’t as difficult as everyone likes to say it is. Your body will thank you later for having nice, balanced, home-cooked meals.
Also, these tips can be applied for cooking for 2 or more!