Cooking For One Person — Hacks, Tips and Tricks

Cooking for one can be tricky. I’ve put together a list of hacks, tips and tricks to help with the question of what to do with leftover ingredients!

Cooking For One Person -- Hacks, Tips and Tricks
Cooking For One Person — Hacks, Tips and Tricks

When I post recipes, I’ll often post hacks at the end of it to give some helpful information in regard to storing leftover ingredients. I hope this has been beneficial but I also thought it might be great to have all those ideas in one place. Yep, right here.

Print ‘em out and stick ‘em right on your fridge for the next time you need to buy that whole knob of ginger for a recipe that calls for 1 teaspoon…

Ready? Let’s GO!

Let's GO
Let’s GO

 

 

Anchovies can be covered in oil and sealed in a sealable sandwich bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Alternately, they can be spread out in a single layer and frozen (still in the sandwich bag, if desired). I suggest you double bag the fillets before storing them.

Bacon: Separate uncooked bacon slices and roll into individual pinwheels. Place on cookie sheet in the freezer to freeze bacon slices. Place in a sealable freezer bag or container. The frozen slices can then be used in the portions desired.

Bananas: If your bananas have reached maximum ripeness, remove peels and place them on a cookie sheet in the freezer. Once solid, place in sealable freezer bag and store in the freezer for use in recipes that call for mashed or pureed banana. Try them in this delicious smoothie!

Berries: If you purchase fresh berries, the leftovers can be stored in the freezer. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer until solid. Place in a sealable freezer bag and store in the freezer for use in recipes that call for mashed or pureed berries.

Broccoli: Check the produce department of your local grocery store for pre-cut broccoli florets to avoid having to buy an entire head. Frozen broccoli florets would also work in a cooked recipe.

Butternut Squash: Fresh peeled and cubed butternut squash can be purchased in the produce department of the grocery store, making your life just a little bit easier. Frozen butternut squash can also be used in most recipes.

Burgers: Shape ground meat into 4 oz patties. Place burgers on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer until frozen. Put individually into sealable sandwich bags and then into a sealable freezer bag or freezer container. The rolls can also be frozen in the same manner.

Eggs, Cooked: Make more than one egg and store them for later use. For the best quality, I suggest cooking scrambled eggs in an egg ring as this provides for uniform cooking and reheating. Cook just until set. These eggs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

To freeze eggs, place on cookie sheet and place in freezer until firm. Seal in freezer bag or container and store in freezer.

To reheat, thaw in refrigerator overnight and microwave at 20 second intervals, just until heated through.

Eggs, Hard Boiled: Hard-boiled eggs keep in the refrigerator for one week so consider making a few extra while you’ve got the water boiling! They make a great snack alone, pickled, deviled or in egg salad.

English Muffin: Slice English muffins in half horizontally and return to original packing. Place in sealed freezer bag and place in freezer for up to 3 months.

Fruit/Berry: Take advantage of the wide variety of fruits and berries that can be found in the frozen foods section of the grocery store. If the pieces are too large for your purpose, simply let a few thaw so you can mash them or puree the desired amount in a blender.

Ginger: Do you know that you can freeze fresh ginger root? Grating it in its frozen state is easier than grating it fresh and, if you choose organic ginger, you don’t have to peel it! Simply place in a sealed freezer bag or container and pop it in the freezer.

Guacamole: Place any leftover guacamole in a sealable bag. Roll to press out as much air as possible and seal tightly. Store in refrigerator for up to two days.

Herbs: Fresh herbs can easily be frozen. Lay flat in a single layer and freeze. Transfer to a freezer-safe container and seal tightly. Store in the freezer for up to 12 months.

Alternately, herbs can be chopped and placed in ice cubes trays. Cover with oil and freeze for future use.

Pine Nuts: Pine nuts can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 months or in the freezer for 6 months.

Rice: Place leftover rice while still warm (to retain moisture) in serving-size containers and freeze for future use.

Romaine Lettuce: To keep romaine lettuce fresh longer, separate leaves and wash. Dry in a salad spinner or with paper towels. Place lettuce leaves in a sealable plastic bag or container with paper towels between each layer to absorb moisture. Store in refrigerator and replace paper towels if they become soggy.

Salad Bar: Shop the salad bar if you just need a small amount of an item that you don’t think you’ll use again before it “goes over”.

Seafood: Although seafood purchased from the seafood counter is often priced by weight, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for only what you need, such as 6 shrimp or half a fillet of haddock.

Alternately, many of these items can be purchased frozen in larger portions if you wish to keep some on hand. Thaw desired amounts before cooking.

Seafood can be thawed overnight in refrigerator. It can be thawed more quickly by placing it in a sealable bag and submerging in a bath of cold water for about an hour.

I do not recommend freezing seafood that is purchased from the seafood counter. Many seafood items are flash frozen after being caught to retain their freshness. Refreezing will compromise the quality.

Sesame Oil: Once opened, sesame oil can be stored in a cool, dark place (kitchen cupboard away from the stove) for up to six months. It can be stored in the fridge for a year or more.

Yogurt: Use any leftover Greek yogurt to make this versatile Dill Greek Yogurt Dip!

Just one more tip: Click here to check out my favorite bags and containers to freeze all the above-mentioned goodies!

That’s All For Now!

So, I think that’s enough for one day, don’t you? That’s a whole lot of information and I hope it comes in handy!

Did I miss anything? Do you have any handy-dandy hacks, tips and tricks to share with the class? Please leave a comment below to let us know what it is!

All my best

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

 

Healthy Eating For One – What’s Your Plan?

So you’ve embarked on your healthy eating for one journey but what’s the plan, Stan? Do you actually have an actual strategy in place? How are going to achieve that goal?

 I promised you hacks and tips on healthy eating for one and I’m here to deliver! These are just a few observations I’ve come across on my journey down this delicious road to the dinner table.

Do with them what you will. Here goes!

What’s In Your Basket? – The Store(y) Starts Here

One of the most difficult parts of eating as a single person is the waste that often comes with it.

Many perishables (especially produce) are sold in larger packages and it’s hard to use them up before their time is up. Here are a few suggestions:

Healthy Eating For One
What’s In Your Basket?

Shop the salad bar. Although the salad bar is not the most economical way to buy groceries, there are times it may come in handy.

Take me, for example. Although I do like the occasional salad, I’m not a salad eater for the most part. After I’ve eaten the one salad I’m going to have for the next month or so, I struggle to find a use for the rest of that lettuce and all those stinkin’ cucumber slices.

This is where the salad bar comes in handy. It’s not just for salad building, either. Browse the salad bar to acquire small amounts of fresh ingredients in any meal you’re planning. There’s no waste and no prep. Win-win.

Pasta. Yes, pasta. You can take out whatever amount you want and just pop that box right back on the shelf where it will wait patiently for next time.

My two favorite ways to serve it are with sauce or as a pasta salad but it’s incredibly versatile.

There are so many shapes and flavors, made from a variety of ingredients (including gluten-free), that the possibilities are endless!

Shelf-stable and frozen items. In the same theme as pasta, there are many healthy items in the store that can be portioned out in varying amounts.

Many things you buy on the shelf have a very long life ahead of them such as nuts, peanut butter and dried fruits.

In the freezer section, you can find vegetables, fruits and loose, unbaked rolls.

Single serving. This is a category that also might appear to be less than economical because single-serve items typically have a higher unit price (cost per ounce, pound, etc.).

But consider that if you buy a bigger unit that you’re not going to finish before it expires, then you’re not saving money at all. Think yogurt, milk, and cereal.

Weekly Meal Prep Ideas – Not So Lazy Sundays

Healthy Eating For One
Weekly Meal Prep Ideas

Portion out meat/poultry. As soon as you get home from the store, open up all those packages of meat and separate them into serving-sized portions.

Seal each portion individually in sandwich bags. Then place those bags in a larger freezer bag, label it, date it and pop it in the freezer.

The same goes for ground meats, sausages and hot dogs.

Do some advance prep. Take a look at your meal plan for the week. (You DID make one, right? Good.)  Is there anything you can do in advance to make your weekday cooking less stressful?

For example, hardy vegetables (potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, etc.) can be prepped and stored in water for up to a week, while softer vegetables can be done 3-4 days in advance.

Salad dressings and marinades can be also prepared in advance.

Cook ahead. Make a big batch of something (like this classic meatloaf) and freeze it in single-portion sizes.

Things like hearty soups or lasagna freeze well and are easy grab-and-go, one-dish lunches.

Trust me, it will make your exit out the door much smoother on Monday morning.

Think breakfast. French toast, pancakes and waffles can all be made ahead and stored in your freezer, making breakfast a piece of…um…toast! Just pop ‘em in the microwave or toaster for a sweet treat.

This Basic Overnight Oats recipe can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Good Morning, Sunshine! – Tips For Planning Your Day

Healthy Eating For One
Tips For Planning Your Day

Don’t overdo it. Take the time to think about how much time you have (or are willing to take) to prepare/cook your meals during the week.

One of the biggest defeats in this game is planning to make a healthy, hearty, home-cooked meal on Tuesday evening (in quadruple to ensure you have extra to freeze up for later), only to realize that you’re too pooped to make it happen once you get home.

Make it easy. Choose easy dinner recipes for one so you don’t have to worry about packaging the leftovers for the freezer. This Spinach Feta Pizza comes together in just a few minutes with very little mess or cleanup!

Do as much advance prep as possible on your free days.

Simple recipes like this Strawberry Banana Yogurt Smoothie make breakfast a snap. Put it in a travel mug to sip on your way to work.

Double up. Choose recipes that specifically serve two or three like this simple Szechuan Style Shrimp. By making a meal you can eat a number of times during the week, you free up some spare time to get the laundry done, call a friend or just chill.

It’s Not Over (‘Till It’s Over)

Healthy Eating For One
It’s Not Over (‘Till It’s Over)

This is not an exhaustive list, just a few tricks I’ve picked up along the way.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these ideas and what you’ve learned on your journey as well! I look forward to reading your comments below!

 

All my best,

Cynthia

Cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

 

Shopping For One Person

Shopping For One Person
Shopping For One Person

Shopping for one person seems like it should be easy. After all, it’s just you, right? You know what foods you like to eat. You know how to make them. You know your schedule for the week so you know how many lunches you’ll be packing, how many nights you’ll be eating at home and whether you’ll be entertaining. Why, then, do you always end up throwing away all that limp produce and a-few-too-many-days-old chicken? And, yup. The bread is stale. Again.

There are a number of factors at play here, but typically the problem starts at the grocery store. Because it seems so easy. You know what you’re out of and you may even have a vague idea of what you’d like to prepare for dinner. So you get to the store and begin to shop but soon enough things go awry.

You see that tomatoes are on sale so you decide to get a few extra. There wasn’t a plan to get bananas but they’re perfectly ripe and certainly look tasty. And what’s that over there on the day-old bakery rack? By the time you get to the checkout, you’ve purchased waaaaayyyyyyyyy more than you had intended. And guess what? Some of that surplus is not going to make it anywhere but the trash can.

Now, don’t beat yourself up too badly because it’s not entirely your fault. Grocery stores are in the business of selling you groceries. They pay people to devise a plan to entice you to buy as much as they can possibly entice you to buy. What you need is a plan of your very own.

Make a Healthy Meal Plan

Make a Healthy Meal Plan
Make a Healthy Meal Plan

The first step in conquering the grocery store is to make a healthy meal plan. It may sound complicated but it’s really not.

Remember how you sort of knew what you wanted to eat the last time you went shopping? Well, write it down. BOOM! Meal plan. At least for one meal, anyway.

And you don’t need to make 21 separate meal plans for the week. What are you having for dinner? You could make double and nuke the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Or even triple if it’s something you really think you’d eat three times this week. Maybe you could make this Basic Overnight Oats Recipe for a few of your breakfasts. You get the idea.

Keep in mind that whole foods meal plans don’t need to be fancy. You don’t have to buy expensive food, have gourmet cooking skills or large blocks of time. Throw a piece of chicken and a potato in the oven while you microwave a bowl of frozen carrots. There you have it. Whole. Foods. Meal. That wasn’t so hard, was it?

Organize a Shopping List

Organize a Shopping List
Organize a Shopping List

Now that you have your meal plan created, it’s time to organize a shopping list. Yes, I do mean organize.

I’m sure you’re already familiar with the setup of your preferred grocery store so make the list in the order that you’ll be walking the store.

For example, list all your fresh produce items together, followed by seafood, meat and dairy. As you get to the “aisle items” part of your list, think about what items might be in the same aisle and list them accordingly. If you have to keep backtracking to get the items you forgot to get while you were there, you might decide it’s just easier to just get a can of spaghetti and a bag of chips for dinner.

Size Matters

If you take the time to read the shelf tags at the store (that list the items’ price per pound, ounce or piece) you know that size matters.

Generally, the larger the package, the lower the unit price. So, you might ask, does ever make sense for a single person to buy food in bulk in order to save money? The answer is a resounding…maybe.

The questions to ask yourself are these: How can this be stored and for how long? Do you have the space to store it? Will you use it all before its “time is up”?

One thing to consider is whether the items can be frozen. Things like meats/poultry and bread products can easily be broken down into serving-sized packages and frozen.

Many meats and poultry can be frozen for up to a year while bread products are best used within 3 months. Fish and Shellfish are trickier as items in the showcase are likely to have been previously frozen so refreezing might compromise the quality. The safer bet, in this case, would be to buy these items in the freezer section of the seafood department.

Many fresh fruits, vegetables and berries can be prepped (seeded/peeled and sliced/chopped) then spread in a single layer and placed in the freezer. When solid, they can be stored in airtight containers in the freezer for 12-18 months. While they will not retain the crisp texture they had when fresh, they will work perfectly well for cooking and pureeing.

This leaves the vast number of shelf-stable and refrigerated items that are available in larger “family size” portions but would not hold up to being frozen. This is where the expiration or sell-by date comes in. Look at the date and ask yourself if you will realistically use it all before then. If the answer is no, it’s better to opt for smaller or single-serve portions. You’re not saving money if you end up throwing the food away.

Frozen Foods Are Your Friend (or Buying Whole Foods Frozen)

Frozen Foods Are Your Friend (or Buying Whole Foods Frozen)
Frozen Foods Are Your Friend (or Buying Whole Foods Frozen)

What’s the first thing you think of when you think of the frozen food aisle? Pizza? Corn dogs? Ice cream?

A large portion of that part of the store is dedicated to processed foods. But if you look a little closer, you’ll find plenty of healthy choices there.

For a single person, buying whole foods frozen might be the answer to your prayers. Think vegetables, fruits, berries and bread. No prep. No waste. No muss. No fuss.

Be aware that there are pitfalls even in the healthy section of the deep freeze (who knew?). Avoid vegetables with added ingredients such as sauces or cheese. And don’t bother with the more expensive “steam in” bags as you probably won’t be cooking an entire 12-16 oz bag to eat in one sitting. Make sure fruits are packaged without added sugar or syrups. When in doubt, read the ingredient label. The only item listed there should match the picture on the front of the container.

On Your Mark…Get Set…Go!!!!!!

On Your Mark...Get Set...Go!!!!!!
On Your Mark…Get Set…Go!!!!!!

It’s time to take a deep breath, get out there and shop. You’ve got this.

Cynthia

Cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

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