Let’s be honest: cooking when you live by yourself is kind of lame. You make all this food and have no one to share it with, meaning sometimes you eat too much, or are faced with eating the same thing, forever. There’s no one around to help you clean up the mess in your kitchen, after you put all this effort into preparing the meal and are exhausted. And when you make something really delicious, no one really cares.
I speak from experience: as a budget-savvy lady who lives by herself, I have no choice but to whip up meals at home and eat them for days. But luckily, I’ve learned how to make the best of being a solo chef. Here are some of my favorite ways to honor my love of cooking while living alone:
Make old leftovers new again
Don’t just meal prep for the week — meal prep for the next few months. The best way to do that? Use your freezer. When you make a big batch of something like tomato sauce, set aside some servings in your freezer and enjoy them a few months later. I like to freeze soups, meat from roasted chicken, even ingredients I can never use up on my own before they go bad, like chipotle peppers in adobe sauce and chunks of sliced ginger. It’s the best feeling a few months later when I’m prowling around my kitchen, trying to resist ordering takeout, and I find homemade tomato bisque I made in in August, during the peak of tomato season. Or when I want to whip up a carrot-turmeric smoothie and remember I have a chunk of frozen, fresh ginger from when I made homemade stir-fry a few weeks ago.
Create regular social occasions to share your meals
Organize an ongoing way to invite people into your home and cook for them, whether it is hosting your book club or a friend’s birthday. I love throwing dinner parties, having one-on-one brunches with close friends I haven’t seen in a while and making dinner for whomever I’m dating. The way to a man’s heart might be his stomach, but the way to mine is to be an adventurous eater, to have great taste in wine you bring to share with me, to show appreciation for my cooking and to offer to help with the dishes.
Invest in good food storage supplies
The only thing that sucks more than eating leftovers is not owning the right storage containers to enjoy them later. I did Whole30 last year, and to ensure it was successful, I bought these amazing BPA-free food storage containers that are designed just like takeout ones and easy to use when I want to divide up my meals and enjoy them throughout the week. I also love Mason Jars, especially for chia seed puddings I make for breakfast and Pinterest-y salads I like to take to work.
Buy multi-purpose ingredients that can be used for several meals
Although I’m a big fan of meal prep, I’m also a huge advocate of being able to make something on the fly, whenever I feel like it. I love being spontaneous, creative and resourceful with what I have in the kitchen. The best way to master that is to discover your own easy set of stand-by ingredients you love that can be used a bunch of different ways. Some of my favorites include sweet potatoes (roast them for veggie bowls and to enjoy as healthy hash browns for lazy weekend breakfasts); spinach (throw it into smoothies, salads and soups); avocadoes (salads, smoothies, on sandwiches … the list goes on and on); and buying a whole chicken and roasting it (the meat can be whatever protein you need for upcoming main dishes and you can make a delicious homemade broth from the carcass and freeze it for later). I also love fruits that can be incorporated into sweet or savory meals or enjoyed on their own as snacks, like apples.
Make eating alone a special occasion
I’m all for watching a movie while eating dinner, but I also increasingly love sitting down at my tiny, two-person table and mindfully enjoying my meal that I’ve made just for me. I tend to eat less and feel more relaxed. To make this more fun, sometimes I play classical music or use special glasses I love, like these gorgeous Mexican glasses I just bought from a vintage shop, or my beautiful sea green and blue pottery mugs I purchased from D.C. artists. And don’t forget to blast some really good 90s hip hop or 80s music while doing the dishes!