Healthy cooking for one – as simple as 1, 2, 3, 4

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Monday, 29 August 2011.
Tagged: cooking for one, healthy cooking, healthy eating, portion size

Healthy cooking for one – as simple as 1, 2, 3, 4
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Do you live on your own or cook solo? It can often seem like a lot of unnecessary effort. All that shopping, chopping and cooking … and then there’s the washing up! And then there are those times when you suddenly get asked out for dinner and the things you bought go off before you have a chance to cook them. Not to mention when you end up throwing some out because you only used half the pack. So here are four great ideas that I’ve found work for one-ers.

1.  Shop and cook small

For quick dinners cooked from scratch at night, small quantity cooking is the key. This is where a grill or a single portion of fish, tofu or chicken can shine. How about: 

  • grilled steak or 2-3 lamb cutlets plus a baked potato and side salad or
  • baked fish with lemon and a sprinkle of dried Italian herbs, accompanied by boiled mashed kumera or orange sweet potato, along with steamed beans and broccoli. 

Knowing your small local shops is a great help here. Forget the supermarket which is geared to families and packs meat in bulk packs of four+plus serves. At your local butcher, you can purchase one steak or one chicken breast on your way home and your local fish shop won’t mind if you ask for one fish fillet. Ditto for one banana or one orange at your local fruit shop or even a single bread roll from the local hot bread shop. Easy, but those shops have to be handy. 

2.  Cook in bulk and freeze

Cook once, eat twice or thrice! Cook a dish that would normally serve two or four people such as a lasagne, curry or hearty pot of soup. Divide it into two or four frozen food containers, label and freeze. Then as you eat your breakfast in the morning, pull out a serve from the freezer and leave it in your fridge to defrost. At dinner time, heat it in the microwave and serve with a salad or steamed vegies. Eat another the next week with grainy toast or boiled rice. 

3. Use your freezer

Freezing is the most nutritious way to store food. And the best method to retain freshness and flavour. For maximum quality, only freeze fresh foods that you’ve bought in top condition. Don’t freeze meat that’s a week old and you forgot about it. 

Foods I like to keep in my freezer: 

  • a couple of small steaks, well-wrapped and ready to defrost
  • a couple of chicken breast fillets
  • a bag of leftover cooked chicken meat, either in pieces or already diced, ready to chuck into a pasta dish or a soup
  • a bag of frozen peas
  • frozen corn cobs
  • 500g sliced chicken ready for a stir-fry (I always cook more for leftovers)
  • 500g lean mince for Spag Bol or Mexican mince or Italian meatballs
  • Frozen lemon juice in ice cube trays
  • One or two Indian curries to reheat if someone drops in 

As well as my five favourite ready-frozen products to help you rustle up quick healthy dinners when you’re on your own. (See below)

4. Redefine a meal

Dinner doesn’t have to be meat and three veg. If you’re tired or can’t be bothered cooking then simple meals like a soup or eggs are quick and nourishing. You could try:

  • baked beans on toast
  • quick-cook noodles with diced cold chicken, diced tomato and a scatter of fresh coriander or parsley
  • pea and ham soup with wholemeal toast
  • pumpkin soup with crusty sourdough toast
  • scrambled, poached or pan fried eggs on toast
  • omelette with capsicum or sautéed mushrooms or onions or green peas

 Easy product ideas for one 

Solo_Meal_ideas_Tassal_salmon_filletsTassal frozen Atlantic salmon fillets

Cook from frozen so you don’t have to plan ahead and take it out to thaw before cooking. Two to the pack, each individually shrink wrapped. Takes 7 minutes in the microwave. The salmon is grown via aqua-culture in Tasmania, Australia.

Once cooked, I like to add a bit of zing by squeezing over half a lemon then sprinkling with chopped fresh dill or parsley.

Or smear with mixed Italian herb paste from a tube or throw over dried dill or tarragon or mixed herbs. Add a potato or toast and a large side salad. Easy to get ready when you get home tired and hungry.

Solo_Meal_ideas_Lean_Cuisine_Butter_ChickenFrozen diet or health dinners

Yes they’re not the most “home-made” taste but a frozen Lean Cuisine, McCain Healthy Choice or Weight Watchers frozen single-serve meal is a handy stand-by if you arrive home at 5pm and dash out at 6pm and need dinner beforehand. It pays to sample a few of these until you find a couple of favourites where the flavour and the texture are at their best.

We also like the frozen dinners from DietLicious. They have that home-cooked taste and a sensible portion size. Read our review here.

 [Solo_Meal_ideas_brown_rice-longlife] Ready-to-heat cooked brown rice

Brown is so much healthier than white rice but it takes a good 45 minutes to cook from scratch.

So I’m right into these pouches of ready-to-heat cooked brown rice from Sunrice.

Packs of two serves or four serves. Microwave or boil in the bag packaging. 

 [Solo_Meal_ideas_berries_pack-shot] Frozen mixed berries

Frozen mixed berries from Creative Gourmet or McCains.

Pull out half a cup when you want to whirl up a berry smoothie for breakfast.  Or thaw and serve over yoghurt or vanilla ice cream for a quick dessert.


Long-life milk

Yes it does have a “heat processed” taste. But I like to keep a one-litre tetrapak of the UHT stuff in the cupboard for when I run out and don’t want to drive to the shops. 

 Foodwatch recipes for one 

Catherine Saxelby About the author

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