The Foundations of Cooking for One

Before I get into recipes, it’s important to think about what makes for successfully cooking for one person. Below are a few ideas of ways to prep yourself and your kitchen for cooking for yourself, brought to you by me and my dad.

Only Buy What You Need

This one kinda sucks. I hate being at the grocery store seeing the price difference between a gallon and a half gallon of milk because as far as the biggest bang for my buck, the gallon makes more sense every time. But can I really drink a gallon of milk before it goes bad? No I can’t, so I have to suck it up and buy the half gallon. It makes more sense to buy the half gallon and drink it all than to get the big one and dumb out half of it. Milk is just one example here. I really like Trader Joe’s and other stores where I can buy things that are priced per piece for this kind of stuff. Instead of buying a 5lb bag of potatoes (which I could definitely eat before they go bad, but ya know…Weight Watchers), I can get one potato for $0.39.

While this can be kind of a challenge, you can also buy things that you can use in more than one way. If broccoli is on sale, buy it for your veggie for Tuesday, a fritter on Thursday, and omelettes on Saturday morning. Buying a whole bag of shrimp is great, but it’s hard to eat a whole bag at one time. However, with one one-pound bag of shrimp, you can stuff them one night, have scampi the next night, and two days later, make a stir fry. A good rule to keep–per my dad—is to have at least three uses for any one item.

The Freezer is Your Friend

Though this blog will be focusing on cooking for one, leftovers aren’t a bad thing and sometimes you just cannot pass up a sale on bulk food. One of my favorite foods, lasagna, is damn near impossible to make in a single serving, but it’s great to make, store, and freeze! I don’t recommend buying things already individually packaged (think Tyson chicken breasts) because it’s just as easy to do it yourself. I buy the big packages of meats, take what I need for the week, and immediately freeze the rest. Ziploc’s Perfect Portion bags allow you to separate meat so it doesn’t freeze together while storing it in the same bag so you’re not being too wasteful. I’m also in love with my Crock-Pot, and it’s super easy to make soups and stews, eat what I want, then freeze the rest in individual portions. In order to avoid freezer burn and allowing things to get too frozen, keep an inventory on the side of your fridge. While that sounds über geeky, you can know when you put things in, thus allowing you to know when to take things out.

Your Tools are Essential

I’m not saying you need to go out and buy Calphalon pots and pans and Wusthof knives but buying the cheapest of cheap at Wally World isn’t the best idea either. One of my favorite Food Network chefs, Jet Tila, tweeted the following the other day: Jet Tila

I think this is good advice as far as the pots and pans necessary to get started. Regarding the sharp stuff, I’d recommend a paring knife, a French or chef’s knife, and a serrated knife. A good cutting board is also very helpful. I have one from Wegmans with rubber corners, so it doesn’t move as I’m cutting. For knives, Chicago cutlery, Russel, or Dexter are good mid-level tools. Last year, the number 2 recommended pan from Consumer’s Digest was a $19.99 pan from Price Chopper. Buying expensive pans is great if you want a beautiful looking pot rack, but when they hit your stove, the mid-level stuff does the same job.

Be Confident!

When I first met people who were legitimately afraid of cooking, I was so confused. Because I quite literally grew up in kitchens and restaurants, it blew my mind that a kitchen could cause someone so much anxiety. It wasn’t until I went to college that I realized how much I took for granted having chef parents and family members on both sides who like to cook. Most of our family gatherings revolve around a meal, and some of the best memories I have are in a kitchen somewhere. I say all of this because I want other people to love their kitchen as much as I love mine. You don’t have to be the next Bobby Flay or Giada de Laurentiis, but you don’t need to let the kitchen be a place of great stress either. You can do this. As cliche as that sounds, you have to eat, and I don’t think you should only eat to survive. Cooking and eating can be beautiful and fun, and I look forward to writing a blog that can help you explore that with me!

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