How to Cook for One (Without the Waste)

More than 27% of households in America are made up of single people. Shocker, right? But seriously, being single at one point or another is normal, and it can be a good thing, too – singlehood is a time of comfort and growth, where you figure out who you are and what you want from life.

However, when it comes to cooking as a single person, things can get tricky. Personally, I think cooking is the most fulfilling (and fun) when I’m doing it with or for other people. When I’m just cooking for me, it becomes a chore. On top of that, I’ve found it’s a lot easier to mix up portions and waste food when I’m cooking for one person. However, while cooking for one is never completely a breeze, there are things you can do to make it easier and less wasteful. Here are a few of the tips and tricks I’ve discovered over my time of living alone.

Meal Prep

Plan out your meals in advance, and write down what you need before you go to the grocery store, so you don’t end up grabbing random groceries that you won’t use. When you’re cooking for one, a lot of family-size recipes can be used as dinner one night and then lunch for the rest of the week. Even if you don’t feel like eating the same meal every day, you can compromise by choosing recipes with similar ingredients. If you don’t know exactly what you want to eat for the whole week, stock the kitchen with quality essentials like eggs, potatoes, yogurts etc. that can be easily made into different types of dishes.

Reinvent Leftovers

For this, it’s good to start with a base: like a big salad, pasta, or rice dish that you can portion out and add different ingredients to throughout the week. This is an excellent use for meal scraps, and helps to cut down on waste without making you eat the same thing every day. You can also utilize spices to avoid boredom and create different flavor profiles for your meals. If you choose to make a big salad, cover your salad bowl with a damp paper towel to keep lettuce fresh and crisp for longer!

Buy Yourself a Toaster Oven

If you’re cooking for one, toaster ovens are a godsend. They use less energy and take up less space than an oven. They are also better for you than a microwave. Toaster ovens are basically tri-purpose: they bake, heat, and toast different foods. Additionally, they are easier when you are cooking for one because they enforce portion control – you can’t stuff an entire chicken in a toaster oven like you can with a real oven.

Share with Friends

Sharing is caring! Share groceries, leftovers, and meals with friends to cut down on your waste and get the most out of your purchases. If you make too many baked goods and you are worried about not eating them all (or eating them all at once), you can take them into your office to share! Sharing helps to cut down on waste, it is usually the healthier option for you, plus it is always appreciated by others.

Shop Smart

Never shop hungry. Even if you make a list beforehand, you are bound to buy things you do not need. Instead of doing all your shopping at stores, choose to shop at farmer’s markets – your more likely to get smaller, fresher amounts of produce there. If you can’t go to a farmer’s market, choose to buy grains and beans from bulk bins so you can choose how much you get. The same goes for meat: shop at the deli counter to get exactly what you want (a lot of deli counters offer weekly specials, too). Pick ingredients that last longer, and make sure you do not throw something away just because it says it’s expired – a lot of things don’t actually expire until way after the printed expiration date (but always be sure to check for mold, foul odors, and other signs that a food has expired before using)!

Use Your Freezer and Pantry

Instead of fresh fruit, buy frozen fruit and make smoothies to get your servings of fruit (and veggies) for the day. Almost anything you buy fresh can be bought frozen or canned: meat, veggies, fruit, beans, grains, etc. Canned and frozen food lasts longer, so you won’t end up throwing away spoiled fruits, meats, and veggies. The freezer shouldn’t just be used for ingredients, you can use it to store leftovers too!

Invest In Good Containers

Good containers keep food better for longer. While a lot of people primarily use their containers for leftovers, containers can be used to keep fresh food like vegetables better for longer too. Containers help to cut down on freezer burn for meat and other ingredients. Microwave safe containers make it easy to reheat food (but remember, glass is the best for this). Additionally, containers can be good for cutting down on waste if you use them to transport your food home from the restaurant or store.


Cooking for one is often seen as necessary but onerous. But, it can actually be quite fun! When you cook for just yourself, you don’t have to take other people’s tastes or preferences into account, and can cook what you want when you want it. Cooking for one should be fun, and if you follow our seven tips it can even be easy!

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by Insider Envy Staff

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