Before arriving in Bristol couple weeks ago, I had never been with a truly empty refrigerator. Sure, there were times when it dipped to dangerously low levels. Perhaps all that would be left in there would be a couple leaves of wilted kale, a bit of yogurt and a half-eaten jar of almond butter, but there would be something. When I arrived in Bristol, however, the first thing I did after picking up my keys was go grocery shopping. There was nothing, nothing in my fridge and I wasn’t going to let myself have dinner out again and again. I’m a student, I just can’t handle that.
It’s not easy to cook for one. There have been many nights, after lugging a suitcase home or working at Fresher’s Fair, that I was tempted to simply pop a jar of soup in the microwave and eat. I did that more times that I would care to share. But no more. No, now I am determined to cook well for one. I may not be creating brilliant meals like I made back home (or attempt to make ), but I will eat healthy food that doesn’t take forever to prepare. Let’s be honest, there will probably be a lot of leftovers.
I’ve looked for tips. I’ve thought about everything I do at home that helps me enjoy the process of cooking. Below are the tricks that I’ve discovered to help us solo diners enjoy cooking for ourselves. What would you add?
–Always buy your favorites. I actually read this in an article discussing how to be healthy when you’re broke, but I think it applies to cooking for one person as well. If I have mushrooms, peanut butter and sweet potatoes, dinner can happen. Add in broccoli and it’s a feast. Know what you love and be sure to buy that. After all, you don’t have to worry about any one else’s tastes getting in the way!
–Keep a cookbook on hand (but be prepared to stray from the recipe). Last weekend, I bought the Ottolenghi cookbook. While many of the recipes are complicated and create way more servings than could fit in my fridge, a few changes to any recipe yield a perfect single serving. Finding a cookbook that gets you exciting about being in the kitchen will increase the odds that you enjoy the process of making and eating food sans company.
–Embrace leftovers. Some recipes work really well with leftovers (soup and indian food come to mind), while others really don’t. Choose recipes that you can stash the extras of in the fridge for a grab-and-go lunch that you actually look forward to eating!
–Have a couple of go-to recipes. Whether it’s baked eggs, steamed broccoli or roasted mushrooms, make sure that you have a good knowledge of basic recipes. That way, when all else fails, you have the confidence to cook yourself up a gourmet meal in no time. Be sure to embrace the oven if you’re super busy! You can just shove your meal in there, wait for a bit and eat.
–Make it a nice routine. For me, and I’m sure many others, the hardest part of eating alone is not having the people to talk to and unwind together. Eating alone can feel disappointingly scientific. I battle this by making sure I don’t do work during dinner, no matter how much I need to read that article. Sometimes I listen to a podcast. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I just sit at a table with a nice napkin in my lap. Whatever a nice dinner means for you, do it. You’ll begin to look forward to your solo-dinners.
What do you do to make dinner for one less of a drag?