- (AVOID) PROCESSED FOOD
- PLEASE YOURSELF
- STOCK-UP YOUR STORE-CUPBOARD
- SHOP WELL
- DIVIDE & CONQUER
- DIET & HEALTH
There are almost three million single-occupier homes in Britain; more people are living alone than ever before. It is likely that up to six million British people regularly eat alone.
Although it is wonderful to cook for family and friends and to share meals., many people will have to cook for themselves as students, as singletons and when elderly or disabled.
If you are alone, try to make meals an enjoyable part of the day. It is also a chance to improve your health, to lose weight or to improve your nutrition and to eat what you really want.
If you’re living on a budget but you want to eat healthily and eat well, then these are some tips, gained from personal experience:
1. (AVOID) PROCESSED FOOD
If you are tempted to stock up on anything processed or made in a factory, just stop right there. You will not know what you are eating. Salt, sugar, chemicals and well, just rubbish. No problem with the occasional pack of crisps, but the bulk of what you eat needs to be made from single things you have identified and selected and then prepared or cooked yourself.
2. PLEASE YOURSELF
You don’t need to cook every meal. If you fancy lunch of carrots, apples and cheese, go ahead. If you see asparagus is in season and just want to eat asparagus all day, who’s to stop you ?
3. STOCK UP YOUR STORE-CUPBOARD
Think carefully about what you need. Go to a supermarket site on the internet and have the boring, heavy stuff delivered. Replace your usual salt for sea salt (for the iodine); stock up on tinned or cartoned tomatoes and passata; tinned sardines; pasta; oats; spices; dried herbs; tea; honey; maple syrup; garlic; lentils; chick peas; red kidney beans; rice; pasta; good stock granules. While you’re at it, clear out/sort your freezer and make room. Buy some roasting bags (very cheap and the singleton’s greatest cooking asset).
4. SHOP WELL
Use the internet (see 9.) Aim to have a monthly home delivery of all your bulky items: cabbages, potatoes, tinned goods, dried goods, kitchen and bathroom ‘requisites’. This leaves you free for your small daily/twice weekly market or small-shop shops for fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and meat. If you are at home most of the time, go back to having a daily milk delivery; most modern milkmen also deliver bread, cheese and eggs.
5. DIVIDE AND CONQUER
Cooker, fridge-freezer and microwave. The ‘Holy Trinity’ of the singleton. I would also add a fourth, which is the ‘slow cooker’ (for making stocks and soups).
You can make a dish for 4 or even 6. Then divide it in to portions, freeze it and select a ‘ready meal’ to have over the next week. Do discipline yourself to ‘divide’ or else you’ll soon become a 6-portion-sized person.
Have a supply of robust freezer bags ready. Things like chilli, meat sauce, soups, stews, chowders and even mashed potato freeze very well in small portions. It is very economical to buy fresh meat, chicken and fish and freeze singleton portions which can be easily thawed and cooked.
For example, buy a whole fresh chicken and then quarter it, freezing each quarter separately in a separate bag. Get in the habit of making stock with the bones (Rule: never throw out an un-boiled chicken bone)
You can buy a whole fillet of beef (for around £36) which I can slice in to 15 fillet steaks. I freeze these individually in small freezer bags and they can last for months. These are easily thawed and then grilled for steak sandwiches or salads.
6. DIET & HEALTH
Cooking for yourself is the time when you can really ‘take control’ of your own health. If you know what you’re eating, you can choose to eat healthily, feel better, sleep better, be happier, live longer. For example, as some people get older, they develop a sensitivity to gluten. You can now choose to avoid wheat and discover some new carbs (eg. quinoa).
Save time by having a routine. Keep a shopping list on the ‘fridge. Be aware of seasonal produce and shop locally; it will be fresher and cheaper. Note which days your local shop sells what and ask about seasonal produce. If you’re very busy during the week, take a few hours at the weekend to prepare some meals for the week. You can make a large batch of mash potatoes and a batch of chilli, (meat, chicken or vegetable) freeze six or so portions of each and eat these in the week with fresh salad.
If you have a big supermarket delivery once a month, have it on the same date and time each month
Keep interested in what you eat and excited about your food by following the seasons, looking at recipes and trying new things. I recently discovered cooking with coconut oil. It’s good for you, has a high smoking point, so its good for frying, it tastes good and it smells good. it's also good for dry skin.
Choose a supermarket website that gives you choice, quality and free delivery. I do the same for a chemist site. There are some good specialized sites which deliver meat, vegetables and fish. This can be a way to 'treat' yourself .
The better your food, the better you’ll feel and the more you’ll want to experiment. Something simple can make all the difference for you. For example, a recent re-discovery are ‘roasting bags’. All the supermarkets sell them and they are very cheap. There's no washing up to do and you can cook anything in them. But for meat or fish, the bag ‘captures’ all the juices. These then can be mixed with yoghurt or cream to make a wonderful ‘sauce’. Or, especially with roast chicken, sieve out the juices, let them cool, separate off the fat and then use the 'jellified' stock in soups and sauces. You can freeze these juices as your own frozen 'stock cubes'.
WHAT YOU CAN LEARN ?
Cooking for yourself teaches you how to budget; where to find the freshest produce; how to store and preserve; how to create your own recipes; how to save time and to reduce your ‘carbon foot-print’.
If you’ve been cooking most of your life, you don’t need to follow recipes; you’ll be creating your own.
But there are some useful recipes sites for cooking for one. Recommendations include:
Jay Rayner’s article on 'Cooking for One: It’s food with Someone You Really Love’:
Jamie Oliver’s, 'Meals for One':
Student Recipes sites, such as:
A recent Review in The Guardian:
A selection of books on cooking for one can be found via the Book Depository:
Dinah Parums has a PINTEREST Board of Recipes and articles on: