"It's too much work to just cook for one person." Yeah right.
It's not too much work to cook for one person. There can be unimaginable variety, and it's cheaper than going out to eat every night.
My Cooking-for-One-or-Two Ideology:
- Use only one or two pots (no more). I don't have a dishwasher so I whole heartedly believe in the one-pot meal.
- Reheat everything on the stovetop or in the oven. I don't have a microwave, which I assume would actually make cooking-for-one-or-two even easier. I do believe that food reheated on the stovetop tastes better, but there's no scientific evidence to prove that.
- Embrace soups and sauces. It's January now, but this holds true in the warmer months as well. My meals definitely change per season because I try to buy local veggies and low-priced proteins as much as possible, but there are plenty of summer soups and sauces to try that aren't as heavy as chili.
- Invest in single-serving-sized tupperware. I know, I know, I worry what plastic is doing to the environment, too. However, I drop things too often to freeze my meals in Pyrex.
- Cook one exciting meal per week. I've actually found that I have to limit myself to this plan, but if you get excited about making one dish per week, you'll add variety to what's in your freezer and enjoy it. If you don't have time at home to let a soup simmer, check out crock pot recipes. See the "Meal Variety and Planning" section below.
No Freezer Burn:
When I first started cooking big meals and freezing leftovers, I was very conscious of what is or isn't freezable. I frequently referenced Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, and worried about whether my cream soups would defrost correctly. What I figured out is that it doesn't matter. There are very few soups and sauces that don't freeze and reheat well.
- Freeze in the portions you're going to eat.
- If you're making anything with noodles or pasta, freeze what you don't plan on eating before adding the noodles or pasta. They just don't reheat as well as other foods.
- Dairy is fine, but remember to reheat cream soups and sauces slowly.
- I've never had anything "go bad" so you've got to use your best judgement about that.
- Label everything! Once we had turkey chili when we wanted gumbo. Oops.
Meal Variety and Planning:
So it takes a few large pot meals to build up enough in your freezer for variety, but here's how my typical week looks. I have between 5 and 6 different meals in my freezer at all times so that I don't get bored.
Monday- Freezer meal. (This week: Beef Stew.)
Tuesday- Freezer meal. (This week: Cajun Ham and Barely Soup.)
Wednesday- Something new! (This week: Chili! with Butternut Squash.)
Thursday- Burger night. (That's right. We go out to a local burger night everything Thursday; who can pass up a burger, a beer, and fries for $8?)
Friday & Saturday- Something new, freezer meal, or dinner out. (This week: I'll be out of town so two dinners out!)
Sunday- Freezer meal. (This week: 15 Bean Soup.)
***I always skip something really delicious and save it for the following week. For next week, I saved gumbo and spaghetti sauce.
- Use inexpensive proteins. Beans, lentils, barley can all be used in really diverse ways, and they freeze/reheat well.
- Buy seasonal vegetables and meats. I know meats aren't seasonal like fruits and vegetables, but our stores have decided they are. Turkey is cheap in November and December. Ham is really inexpensive in between Christmas and Easter. Whole chickens seem to go on sale in the summer.
- Stock up on fun toppings. Homemade leftovers always sound boring, but adding some fancy cheese or homemade garlic bread makes any meal more exciting.