I recently saw this article in my Facebook newsfeed. It’s not the first of its kind, but I’m not sure what’s driving this kind of rhetoric right now. Are people trying to cook more because of New Year’s Resolutions? Are there articles like this all the time and Facebook has only recently noticed I post about cooking for myself a lot and decided I want to see them?
I mean, yes, it can be hard to cook for one person, but I don’t like the tone of this article. It suggests that cooking for herself only serves to remind a woman just how single she is. As if cooking for two (or three? or four?) every night instead would be easier.
I know that when I first started cooking for myself in college, it was usually something like boxed rice a roni or mac n cheese + frozen vegetable + canned beans or tuna or salmon most of the time. Needless to say, I’ve come a long way.
And yes, it’s true that there isn’t much in the way of compelling recipes for one. It’s also true that making a recipe which feeds 6-8 feed only feed one instead is not worth the effort. But that doesn’t have to mean you’re relegated to take out, delivery, and wasted food.
I’ve been cooking for myself for almost ten years now, and I promise, it gets better. Like any other skill – practice makes perfect.
Now, I will admit that I really enjoy cooking. It’s self-care for me. If it isn’t for you, YMMV here. I know other single people who hate to cook and it’s much more of a struggle to eat for them than it is for me. Maybe these kinds of articles are for them, not me at all. But in any case, I’d like to take this opportunity to share the method which has worked and continues to work for me.
Full disclosure: I rarely use recipes anymore. Or, if I do, I am either baking or reading 5-6 recipes and then making up something by extrapolating with what I have on hand.
There was a phase after the box mix + veg + protein stage where I only used recipes. Every week I would scour foodnetwork.com to find recipes which appealed to me, buy the ingredients, and get down to it.
The thing about cooking is that it doesn’t really take much longer to make 5-6 servings of something than it does to make 1-2. Sure, you have to factor in prep time. But the actual cook time is the same no matter the amount.
So I’ve always designated my time for cooking for the week, made up a big batch of something, and then portioned it out in containers to reheat for lunch or dinner for the res of the week. If I cook three times, I can eat for about a week. (This is lunch and dinner only – I’m still really bad a breakfast, especially because I am not a morning person).
The downside of the just go ahead and cook 5-6 servings method is that until you learn what you like, sometimes you end up eating a few unhappy meals. Some food gets better the more you eat it, and some food gets worse. Some food sounds better in theory than it tastes in execution. And some things, no matter how delicious they are on day one, are not something I can ever eat 6 days in a row (read: French onion soup). The freezer can be your Godsend here. Or get together with two single friends, and you can all cook something different and swap tupperwares.
So yes, I struggled through a few years where there were weeks that I didn’t always look forward to dinner. But if you’re too poor to throw food out (like I was), you also learn how to make food that you aren’t too keen on taste better, and that is a valuable skill in itself. (Hot sauce and/or lemon juice can save a lot of meals which would otherwise be sub-par).
My cooking repertoire is somewhat more limited than it might be because whatever I make has to be something I will want to eat 3-4 more times, and half of what I cook has to be easily transported to work to reheat in a microwave. At least 90% of the time, I make pretty delicious food I can be excited about. But even now, sometimes I have a disappointing meal or two.
For me, cooking a meal isn’t something I have time for every day. I choose to spend my days off cooking for the week, and my time home after work relaxing. There’s nothing worse to me than coming home from work and being hungry but having to cook. That’s also a good reason to have something from the frozen section or a box mix on hand. There will be days you run out of food but are too tired or hungry to really cook.
If you’re single and cooking for one, try not to see cooking as some miserable, hated chore. Food is fuel. The more love and healthy ingredients you can put into your meal preparation, the more energy you will have for getting things done.
If you’re willing to experiment to learn the flavors you like and the kinds of food which appeal to you, cooking can be fun. Because if you cook for yourself, you can always know you’re getting the kind of meal you like best.