Monday, March 12, 2012

Cooking for One

My friend's wife died very suddenly last weekend and, among other things, now he has to learn how to cook for only one person. Since I was single for so very long, I became a bit of an expert in that subject. I figured since I was going to do a brain dump for his benefit anyway, I might as well post it here so you guys can pick up my helpful hints and possibly leave some of your own in the comments.

I am not being compensated to mention any of the products that I'm about to mention.

The Freezer is Your Friend

You can still cook a big batch of whatever if you're cooking for one. But that doesn't mean you have to spend the rest of the week eating the same thing. Put your soup, stew, casserole, whatever into individual plastic containers (freezer safe), let them cool for a while on the counter and then put them in the fridge overnight. It's OK if they're still a little warm when you put them in the fridge as long as you don't put them next to the dairy.

The next day, put some of the containers in the freezer for the coming weeks. (Cooling the food in the fridge first prevent ice crystals from forming in the food once it's in the freezer, which leads to mushy food.) Keep doing this and you'll have a variety of meals to reheat. It's healthier to put the food on a plate before putting it in the microwave--besides, you deserve nicely presented meal. I prefer to reheat soups and stews on the stovetop, over low heat. This ensures that the solids get heated thoroughly. 

HA and I do this so we have weekday lunches. Also, whenever we make rice, we make as much as the rice cooker can hold and freeze the leftovers in 1c portions so we can just pull it out whenever we need it.

Label the containers before you put them in the freezer. If you wash the containers by hand, you can just cross out what's written on the label and keep writing on it until you run out of room. If you put the containers in the dishwasher, the labels will disintegrate and you'll need a new one every time.

Buy Smaller Cuts of Meat
Those family-sized packages of 10 pork chops? Not for single people. A big roast? See those freezing instructions above. If you have the time to cook something fresh after work, get the smallest package available. If this means 2 pork chops, either make them both and have leftovers, or wrap the second in Press and Seal and freeze it for another time. Press and Seal is the best in my experience for keeping out freezer burn, etc.

Jen's Super Genius Ways of Making Produce Last Longer
When there's only one person in the house, fruits and vegetables tend to go bad faster than you can keep up. Your first line of defense is what I call the Magic Tupperware. Tupperware calls them FridgeSmart. Things last way longer when stored in these things. There are ridges on the bottom so the condensation collects away from the food and there are vents to release some of the condensation as well. They're not cheap, but I've had mine for maybe 10 years now. Possibly longer. They've paid for themselves several times over in reduced food waste.

One person vs. a bunch of bananas usually ends up with half a bunch of black bananas. Once the bananas start to turn, peel them, wrap them in Press and Seal and throw them in the freezer. Then eat as a delicious frozen treat. I just hold the bottom in a cloth napkin while I unwrap and eat. You remove the peel because it will turn black in the fridge or freezer, which looks repulsive, even though the banana itself is fine.

If an apple gets a little too old, peel it, and cut it up. Melt a little butter in a saucepan that has a lid. Add the apple and some sugar. Cover and let cook over low heat, stirring occasionally. It's done when it resembles apple pie filling/compote. This is actually adapted from a recipe for french apple tarts. 

OK, your turn. What are your single person cooking/food storage tips?

1 comment:

  1. This is an old tip but I use it all the time because my freezer isn't that big. I put ground meats, soups, etc into freezer bags and lay them flat to freeze. (I smoosh the meat flat in the bag pressing out all the air and mark on the outside how much is in there). It's amazing how much less space flat food takes up. (Leaves more room for the gallon sized ice-cream).


All the cool kids are commenting. Give it a try, it's fun!