Cooking for one can be hard, the supermarkets don’t seem to cater for this section of the market much – everything comes in multiples, and whilst buy one get one free offers etc are tempting , they can often result in wasted food.
I’ve developed a few tips for cooking for one quickly, simply, cheaply and cost effective – no waste!
1) Freeze meat – I often buy packs of chicken breast, Sainburys do a £6 pack. Look for the packs with 6 breasts in which works out at £1 a breast. With this you can probably make a nice evening meal for under £2. Chicken thighs are even better value – I would usually use 2 thighs per portion. Buy some small freezer bags and as soon as you get home from the supermarket bag up your meat in portions and get it in the freezer. Just remember each night to get one portion out ready for your meal the next evening. Buy other meat when its on offer and get it in the freezer. You can buy large packs of mince meat for £4 to make large batches of Bolognase…
2) Batch cook– Buying big quantities of food is generally cheaper but can result in wastage if you don’t get round to using it. To combat this, buy everything large and make large batches of freezable recipes. Bolognese is a very versatile recipe that can be simple or fancy depending on your budget and its easy to make (one pan). I buy a 700g pack of mince for £4 and bulk it out with carrots, onion, mushrooms, bacon – enough to make 7 portions. Buy some takeaway tubs (£8 for £1 from poundland!) and freeze. Make a simple batch of bolognase and you can then easily turn it into a chill con carne, serve it on a jacket potato, or make a classic spaghetti bolognase. It’s a great feeling when you find a forgotton-about tub of homemade bolognase in the freezer when you’re raiding the fridge-freezer for food.
3) Consider ingredients carefully – There have been many times where I’ve brought an onion, used half in a recipe, then by the time I’ve got round to using the other half its gone off. Cooking for myself I’m not worried about doing things properly – consider replacing onions with shallots. One shallot is usually a good size for any recipe and you can buy pretty big bags of shallots that last quite a while and you can use them one by one as needed. Spinach and frozen peas are fantastic ingredients to add to recipes – minimal fuss, adds valuable nutrition and goes with all sorts of combinations. Peas can be thrown into boiling rice/pasta with 2 minutes to go and spinach can be thrown into boiling rice/pasta at the very last minute – or even just wash the spinach in a colander and drain the hot pasta/rice over the top enough to just wilt the spinach.
4) Cheat – I buy pre-grated cheese and add it to all sorts of dishes. Again its no fuss, just throw it in and it can really liven up a boring dish. I still remember many years ago when a good friend showed me her way of making cheesy pasta and that’s inspired me ever since! It’s so simple. Pasta, tuna, melted cheese, spinach, you could spice it up with some fresh red chilli. I can make this dish in under 10 minutes – I really don’t understand why people buy micowave meals when dishes like this are so tasty and can be made in under 10 minutes.
5) Pasta, Pasta, Pasta! – Pasta is so versatile, I love it – aside from the millions of different flavour combinations, think about adding cream to a pasta dish to liven it up. A pot of long life single cream in your fridge can be a life saver when you’re looking to create a tasty meal out of your leftovers.
6) Cheats stir fry – Put some rice on the go, usually takes around 12 minutes, chop up some vegetables (mushrooms, onion, pepper, sugar snaps) and throw them in the frying pan (preferably a wok if you have one), once the veg are suitabley cooked add a pre-packet stir fry sauce (my favourite is black bean) and you have a cheap, tasty meal in the time it takes to cook your rice – 12 minutes!
7) Make your own sauce – I never buy pasta sauce any more since I discovered tomato passata. Pasta sauce is often expensive, very oily and heavy. Using passata as a base for your own sauce, its cheaper, lighter and you can customise it how you want. I often buy a huge jar of passata and pour tn into some fried chopped garlic. Add some fresh basil and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Leave to cool and put in the fridge. It will last ages and you’ll get many portions out it for around £2. More portions than a regular jar of pasta sauce, a much fresher and nicer taste, lighter, and cheaper! This sauce is so tasty I could quite happily eat it on its own with pasta – although adding a chicken breast makes for a quick easy meal – fry your chicken breast in pieces for a super quick meal or put a whole piece of chicken breast in the oven for around 20 minutes if you want to be lazy and watch tv whilst its cooking!
Cooking for one is something I’ll be blogging much more about in the future. Don’t worry I’ll be including recipes for one (including ones mentioned above) in the ‘Cooking for one’ section (see Categories on the right hand sidebar). I’ll also be offering more tips like this in future posts so look out for more.
If you’ve got any other tips related to cooking for one, please comment below.