Dinner for One?

Teriyaki chicken drummies with white rice and asparagus

Teriyaki chicken drummies with white rice and asparagus

Grocery shopping and preparing meals for one person can be a very difficult task. When I first started dating my fiancé, he had the classic bachelor kitchen. His fridge/freezer was stocked with frozen Lean Cuisine Meals, fruit bars, leftover pizza and brats. He struggled to find healthy meals that he could prepare and eat on his crazy work and school schedule, so he stuck with what he knew best and supplemented with take out. My fiancé is an excellent cook, but who really wants to prepare a gourmet dinner for one?

While it can be difficult to grocery shop and prepare healthy meals for one person, especially if you have a hectic schedule, it is possible. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Grocery Shopping and Storing Food:

  • Plan Ahead: Before you shop, take stock of what you have and what is on sale. Most single people struggle with wasting food, be sure to use items before they expire. Plan your menu around the sale items for the week, many grocery stores have their ads online so you don’t have to wait for the circular. Use coupons.
  • Fresh Farm Produce: The summer is a great time to get farm fresh produce. Farmer’s markets allow you to get smaller quantities of fresher produce at an even better price. You may also decide to share a CSA share with a friend so that you have fresh produce all summer/fall.
  • Buy in Bulk: While buying in bulk is not always the best idea, it can be very helpful when buying some products, like meat, that freeze well. When chicken breasts go on sale, stock up. When you get home put the chicken breasts in individual serving Ziploc bags so you can pull them out one at a time.
  • Use the Deli and Salad Bar: Buy your meat in the deli. It is often more fresh and you can get the exact amount that you want. If you are looking for a small quantity of produce, the salad bar may be your best bet.
  • Store Your Fruits and Veggies Properly: So often fruits and veggies spoil because they aren’t stored properly. Check out this guide for more information on how to store your produce properly.
  • Your Freezer is Your Best Friend: Did you know that you can use your freezer to store items like bread? You can also freeze prepared sauces, veggies, fruit and leftovers.

Meals:

  • The Meal that Lasts All Week: I survived graduate school using this method. Take some time on the weekends to prepare 2-3 meals that you can eat for lunch and dinner during the rest of the week. After you prepare the meals, portion them out into individual size serving. Not so fond of eating the same thing over and over? Freeze the individual servings so you can have it in a few weeks.
  • Go-To Items: Keep some great go-to items on hand. Grab some rice, quinoa, pasta, canned beans, eggs and canned soup. Each of these forms a great base for a quick meal, just add some veggies, toppings and maybe some sauce. Keep yogurt and frozen fruit on hand for a smoothie. Fresh fruits or veggies are a great side dish for any meal. Stock up your pantry and fridge with cheap toppings that pack flavor such as nuts, dried fruits, frozen/refrigerated sauces, salad dressings, parmesan cheese and/or hot sauce.
  • Get Creative: Don’t limit yourself to traditional American cuisine. Branch out to soups, stir fries, curries, pastas, and more. You can often find recipes for Asian, African, Indian and Italian dishes that are just as fast and often more healthy. Eat traditional breakfast foods like eggs, hash browns or bagels for lunch or dinner.
  • Simple Meals: Don’t underestimate quick, simple meals and snacks like salads, stir fries, cottage cheese, eggs, sandwiches and even a spoonful of peanut butter.
  • Recipes: Check out these 14 simple dinners for one from delish, little dinners for one from cheap, healthy, good, youtube video with 21 meals for $40, or these tips and recipes from the Food Network and NY Times.

Want to flex your culinary muscles a little more? Invite some friends over to enjoy a gourmet dinner with you, have each person bring a dish, side or beverage.

Join the Conversation: How do you do dinner for one?

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One thought on “Dinner for One?

  1. Ugh. I hate dinner for one. Thankfully, I only really had to do it in undergrad on occasion. One of my favorite things to do was buy the frozen vegetables that come with a sauce, all of which I could just pour in a bowl (or steam in the bag) and heat in the microwave. Chips and salsa and/or nachos can actually be fairly healthy, too.

    I often have to plan in my husband’s lunches as he is home when I am not, during the day. If he remembers to eat it, usually I’ve got about one lunch’s worth of food after dinner; I also just keep lettuces on hand and he can have a salad with what ever toppings he wants.

    I definitely do the stocking up thing. If I have shrimp and pasta hanging around in my kitchen but haven’t gone grocery shopping, I just make a pasta fresca with whatever veggies I have on hand. Another thing I found works is making a whole lot of individual meal items: for example, I made Korean steam buns which, I kid you not, we had for like 10 meals (1 pound of pork!). The best thing is to pre-make a bunch of filling for these and freeze it, and then make the dough for it the days you need it. 🙂

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