Living on my own for the first time this summer, I am finally experiencing the “joy” of cooking. At home, I love to cook and bake and experiment with all kinds of different recipes. But it’s a completely different story when you’re cooking for yourself! First of all, coming home from work at 5pm and being faced with the question of what to make for dinner is rarely met with much enthusiasm – especially when it entails venturing down to the questionably clean community kitchen. Then there is the issue of cleaning everything up (not that I don’t clean my messes up at home!). Finally, there is the all-important question: “how long do I want to be eating this vat of vegetable soup?!”
Oh, the trials and tribulations of a chef cooking for one! In an effort to make my cooking experience more enjoyable, I’ve tried various techniques and come up with a few that seem to put more joy into my cooking:
- Shop Sparingly: Grocery shopping wears me out! To reduce the unpleasant factor, make a larger shopping trip once a month or so to stock up on nonperishable items and staples like sugar, flour, crackers, cereal, rice, peanut butter, etc., and smaller trips once a week to get items like dairy, vegetables, fruit, and eggs.
- Plan Ahead: I’ve found that if I know what and when I’m going to cook for the week, it makes the process smoother. Also, if I know that I’m going to be making a larger dish, I can plan on leftovers for the week and possibly avoid cooking (if what I make is appealing to me for the rest of the week!).
- Minimize: It’s wonderful when I only have two or three dishes to wash at night. The other day, I made porcupines, which turned out wonderfully by the way, but they were even more delicious because I was able to make the meatballs in the same pot that I then cooked the dish in! By coming up with a game plan for my cooking, I avoid facing a stack of dishes up to my head later in the night by reusing bowls and pots where I can.
- Leftovers: When I make a meal that seems to serve a dozen, I usually end up eating it for a couple days until I get sick of it, at which point I toss it into the freezer until I can face it again (or if it’s really unappealing I keep it frozen until my next trip home and then offer it to someone there!). Dealing with leftovers is my biggest frustration. In an effort to cut back on leftovers, I’ve cut recipes in half, but then sometimes I’m left with odd portions of ingredients that I don’t know what to do with – for example, right now I have 3 oz of tomato paste sitting in my freezer that’s been there for a good month.
Does anyone have other helpful hints or great recipes for one? I’d love to hear! Hopefully with these tips you’ll be able to bring some joy back into your kitchens!