Cooking for One: How To

Cooking for One: How To

Cooking for One

Cooking for one can seem like a pain in the ass, but that doesn’t mean you have to swing by the drive-thru on your way home or heat up a frozen meal. Depending on take-out, drive-thru, or packaged foods on a regular basis can wreak havoc on your health and your waist-line in no time. Cooking for one has many benefits that can help you take charge of your health regardless of your age or culinary skills. You can learn to cook delicious, quick, healthy, and inexpensive meals with a few simple shopping and cooking tips.

Nowadays more and more people live alone either by choice or circumstance, including myself and it can be very difficult to motivate myself to want to cook a meal after a long day of work. However, choosing to be lazy leaves me with limited options that aren’t very healthy.  The simple solution is to order take-out, hit the drive-thru, or throw a frozen meal in the microwave but over time these choices add inches to your waistline and increase your risk for chronic disease because these meals are low in nutritional quality and high in unhealthy fats, sugar,  sodium, and calories. Keep in mind you are what you eat, so don’t be fast, cheap, easy or fake!

Alright, it’s time to get off your ass and get in the kitchen to start cooking so you can save money, increase your energy, improve your mood and your overall health. What? Stop bitching about how you don’t know what to do or you don’t have the right tools to prepare a meal. Cooking for yourself doesn’t mean you have to be a gourmet chef or have all the fancy kitchen gadgets to satisfy your taste buds, you just need a few simple things to make a meal. Don’t let fear hold you back from taking control over your diet and health. Too often I hear my clients say, ” I don’t know how to cook, my family didn’t cook, so how am I supposed to do it?” Well, the answer is you try! Yes, you will fail but with each fail you will learn what not to do the next time, stop being such a biotch.  The best part about cooking for one is that you can be selfish and you don’t have to please anyone but yourself.

Oh, and one more thing, cooking healthy does not mean you have to spend your whole paycheck to make dinner. When you first start cooking, your initial expenses will be a higher because you will be investing in some staple items that you will need on hand to cook a badass meal at any time. The tips in this article will help you save money by doing a little planning. Yes, I said it: you are going to have to spend a little time thinking ahead, oh how that sucks! Just remember this when you fail to plan, you plan to fail!

Getting Back to the Basics

When it comes to changing your eating habits, the transition to healthier eating can be overwhelming especially if you rely on your meals from fast food, take out, or prepackaged foods.  I don’t recommend eliminating everything at one time, you have to be realistic with changes by simplifying the process, and taking it one day at a time, this will ensure you achieve sustainable results in the long run.  When you decide to start adding whole foods to your diet you have to consider what you’re willing to commit to each day. Most people think this should be an easy shift; however there is a reason you aren’t doing it in the first place. You must make the transition achievable by establishing behavior change goals that are realistic. If you currently aren’t eating any vegetables, does adding one serving of vegetables seem doable? Maybe you aren’t willing to start making your own meals yet but you can swap out the French fries for a side salad. Allowing yourself to set small goals that you can achieve will help build momentum to keep you going and desire to change more behaviors.

Learning the Basics

Alright, if this is your first rodeo then we have to approach it with a little caution. I recommend you learn one new culinary skill each week, or if you are ambitious and want to dominate that bull, aim for one a day.  If you aren’t sure how to cut, chop, or dice things you can start there. There are an abundance of resources available to assist you in acquiring the necessary skills to cook a badass meal.  You can search the internet for how to videos, search cookbooks and blogs, or take a beginner cooking class, or purchase a tool that does it for you…I’m guilty, I must admit I have several tools that I love and use often while cooking to make the job a little easier. Learning some basic skills will increase your confidence when you walk into the ring. The easier and more efficient you become at cooking tasks the more likely you will be to commit to them daily.

Creating the List

Creating healthy eating habits starts with a list. Taking the time to write a list of items you need can help you organize your meals which will save you time and money.  Think about what you will want to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks throughout the week. If this is your first attempt at planning out your meals aim for 2-3 days instead of trying to tackle the whole week as that can be a little overwhelming.  Try to use recipes that have few ingredients and use the same spices and seasonings to help reduce grocery expenses.

Here are a few money saving tips:

  • Incorporate seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables in your meal planning to reduce expenses, and in addition shop for produce every 3-4 days to reduce waste and save money.
  • Purchase frozen vegetables and fruits with no added sugars or sauces. These are convenient and allow for you to use what you need and save the rest for later.
  • Purchase block cheese and shred it at home instead of buying shredded chesse. Blocks will last longer and save you money.
  • Purchase frozen bags of wild caught fish like salmon and/or antibiotic and hormone free chicken breast that you can package and freeze individually. This will allow you to defrost what you need and save the rest for another time.
  • Purchase grains, dried beans, flour, and nuts from the bulk section. This will allow you to try new things without committing to a 5 lb. bag. Bulk foods cost less than packaged foods.

Prep Time Basics

One of the reasons it’s so hard to give up the processed foods is the convenience factor.  Whenever I go grocery shopping I have the greatest intentions of eating healthy by loading up on fresh produce. However, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to the fridge opened it up and decided that it contained options that were inconvenient and instead I reached for the pita chips and hummus.  To overcome this habit I had to retrain myself and create new habits.  Whenever I go grocery shopping I automatically schedule prep time when I get home. I refuse to place any produce in the refrigerator without prepping it first.  I mimic the appeal of processed foods by having healthy options that I can just grab and go.  Prepping your food will take a little extra time but opening the fridge and seeing berries that are already washed or celery and peppers already cut into strips when you’re hungry and reaching for a snack will make all the world of difference in selecting a healthy choice.  If you are too lazy and can’t bring yourself to take the time to wash and cut up produce to be prepared, then you can always purchase produce that is already prepped, however you will pay more for the convenience.

Creating the Healthy Plate

Whenever it comes to planning your actual meal most people overthink it and make it more complicated than it needs to be. You can use the same concept as when you are eating out or ordering off the drive thru menu by choosing your protein, vegetable and a healthy fat. Creating a template can help you guide your choices effortlessly. When building your plate you want to fill half of the plate with non-starchy vegetables (starchy vegetables include: corn, peas, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, and lentils) First, consider what your vegetable content is going to be broccoli, asparagus, spinach, beets, etc.?  Next, choose your protein making it the size of your palm and flavor it with your favorite seasonings. Finally, decide what your healthy fat will be examples include; avocado, olive oil, clarified butter, coconut oil, nuts or nut butters. If you keep this template in mind whether you are following a recipe or keeping it simple by choosing a few items, it will help you make healthier choices and keep the starchy foods like breads and pasta off your plate. To save time throughout the week, batch cooking can be helpful at keeping you committed to your healthy eating efforts.  Cooking a recipe that makes a few servings can be used later in the week as lunch or dinner. You can also freeze leftovers in individual serving sizes and pull them out when you are short on time or just don’t feel like cooking.

Set the Scene

Food prep and cooking aren’t always the most exciting things on my list of to do’s, however I always approach the task by changing my mindset and making it enjoyable. When I grocery shop I purchase fresh flowers weekly to brighten my mood and my kitchen. Treating yourself to flowers each week is a beautiful thing because you deserve them. I light a candle that smells good to elicit my sense of smell which encourages me to take deep breaths and relax. Finally, I turn on music that fits my mood. Listening to music while I slice and dice helps to make the tasks at hand a little more enjoyable. Just remember we have the choice to make any task worth while and it will be rewarding on many levels. Getting in the kitchen can help strengthen your mind, body, and spirit if you approach it with the right mindset.

I hope these tips have inspired you to get off your ass and into the kitchen! The task of cooking never gets any easier, especially cooking for one, however the more you do it, the better you get at it and your confidence will grow and so will your recipe collection. Before you know it you will be hosting your own dinner parties! Don’t forget to visit my recipes page for some salivating ideas! If you’re interested in learning more about cooking or would like personalized information to make your transition to whole food successful, please contact me to get started.