Does any of this sound familiar? After a long day at work, you stand on your feet in the kitchen for 40 minutes or more making some unsavory food that takes just five minutes to choke down.
Now you're left with a sink full of dirty dishes, and you feel less healthy than ever. Cooking for one doesn't have to be this way. Throw away the take-out menus, TV dinners and junk food and get busy in the kitchen with these seven mouth-watering tips guaranteed to make you enjoy cooking for one.
Take The Day
Who says you have to slave over the stove every night to enjoy homemade goodness cooked up in your own kitchen? When you cook in large batches, you'll save time and money.
Choose one day each week to spend time cooking meals you can enjoy all week long. This allows you to buy ingredients in bulk since you'll be using them all up in your recipes adjusted for several portions. You'll want to have some options available for storing your meals, which brings us to the next tip…
Pack Them Up
You don't need to be a canning expert to enjoy pre-made homemade meals all week long. Invest in some quality glass Mason jars, freezer-safe bags and freezer paper.
Soups and stews that have been allowed to come to room temperature can be frozen inside Mason jars. Just be sure to leave an inch of headroom to allow for expansion during the freezing process. Freezer bags can hold everything from cooked fish and veggies to slices of homemade garlic bread. Freezer paper is useful for long-term freezer storage of pot roast, pork ribs or Buffalo wings. Follow the wrapping instructions on the outside of the freezer paper box.
The days of eating standing up in front of the sink or refrigerator are over for you. Make home dining an event that you look forward to each night when you arrive home from a hard day at the office. Take the time to prepare the table ahead of time with a candle or flower centerpiece, cloth napkins and silver (not plastic!) cutlery. Heck, if you're feeling special, drop a lemon wedge in your water glass. You deserve it.
Eat Better on the Go
Think outside the fast food lane when it comes to eating on the go. The same meals you enjoy at home can be made into fantastically healthy lunches on the go. Why not tuck meatloaf and kale into some pita bread for a hearty sandwich? Zesty Garlic Green Beans or Kale Quinoa Salad can be enjoyed as a cold nibbler snack any time of day when you tuck them into a sandwich bag.
Pass on the foods that make you feel unhealthy and concentrate on ones that energize you. Some French toast recipes you can eat on the run will start your day with the protein you need to power through.
Reheat With Relish
You have a few different options to reheat your menu concoctions. Use the microwave to reheat meats, the stovetop to reheat soups and stews and the toaster oven (or regular oven) to reheat bread.
The reasoning is, the microwave can reheat your meat quickly without drying them out, but it requires adjustment and repeated stirring for liquids, so soups and stews are best reheated in a pot on the top of the range set on low. Bread changes to an unsavory consistency in the microwave, so you're better off wrapping it in a little bit of tin foil and reheating it in the toaster oven.
Eat it Cold
There are tons of great, healthy cold food options for those who don't necessarily want to reheat meals. For instance, a Feta Beet Salad can give you all the nutrients you would want for a hearty lunch at work or on a weekend day.
Beets are deceptively easy to cook (just boil in a pot of water and the skins literally fall off when they cool), but if you're feeling stuck for time, the canned or jarred variety is always an option.
If you feel like making your coworkers jealous (and let's face it—who doesn't?), sit at your desk with this protein packed Quinoa Bowl. Once you have cooked the quinoa, you can refrigerate it and add all kinds of ingredients to it. The whole dish is best served cold or at room temperature.
Stock Up For Serving
Of course, to make all this delicious food for one, you'll need to fill your pantry with some staples. Just a few items will take you a long way when you're going solo in the kitchen. Here are the basics of what you'll need:
- bag of rice or pasta
- box of quinoa
- bag of potatoes
- sleeve of garlic
- bag of lemons or limes
- bag of onions
- various vegetables
Cooking for one doesn't have to be daunting, and it doesn't have to be a big affair that consumes hours of your time each night. Use these tips to get your cooking on, one flavorful meal at a time.
Sharon Chen is the author of DelishPlan.com, where she helps busy professionals plan easy and delicious home-made meals in less time than they ever thought possible. Sign up for her free Top 7 One-Dish Meals Mini Cookbook so that you can put scrumptious and healthy dinners on the table as quickly as possible.