5 Genius Tricks for Cooking for One
Dining solo just got easier—and way more fun.
When it comes to most dinner recipes, families of four come out on top. So how does a single person navigate weeknight dinner without eating leftover lasagna for six days straight? Below, we're sharing our best tips for cooking for one.
1. Instead of viewing cooking for one as lonely or too difficult, consider the benefits: you get to cook exactly what you’re craving (no compromising with a picky roommate), at whatever time is most convenient for you (9 p.m. is A-OK), to the soundtrack of your choosing, in your pajamas. Proud of your creation and wish you had someone to share it with? That's what Instagram is for.
2. If you enjoy planning your meals in advance, great—choose recipes with overlapping ingredients, make a list of exactly what you need, and head to the store over the weekend. If possible, buy from the bulk bins so you can purchase smaller quantities of nuts, grains, dried fruit, etc. Purchase meat and cheese from the deli counter, where they can give you a single salmon fillet or 4 oz. of cheese, and don't skip the olive bar, where you can get exactly eight Castelvetrano olives if you so desire. If you can, buy produce at the farmer’s market, where you’re often able to buy smaller quantities of produce (four loose carrots instead of a full bag).
3. If you prefer a more spontaneous approach to dinner, set yourself up for success by stocking your pantry, fridge, and freezer with long-lasting essentials. Keep a bag of potatoes on hand, or better yet, a batch of boiled potatoes in your fridge, ready to be tossed, crushed, or smashed and topped with an egg for dinner. Speaking of eggs, have a carton of those at the ready, as well as plain Greek yogurt, a jar of tahini, a tub of miso, a few lemons and limes, and your favorite hot sauce. These last awhile, and are easy ways to boost flavor in simple dishes. Grab a bag of corn tortillas, too—there are very few leftovers that can’t be turned into a taco.
Maintain a steady supply of shallots and garlic, and keep the freezer stocked with fruit for smoothies, sausage for soup or meatballs, peas or green beans for stir-fries, puff pastry for quick savory tarts, and sliced bread for toast, sandwiches, croutons, and breadcrumbs. Keep your favorite grains in the pantry (quinoa, farro, millet, brown rice, etc.), then cook a big batch on Sunday to eat throughout the week. A can of whole peeled tomatoes can be the base for a number of easy recipes: personal pizzas one night, shakshuka another, pasta the next.
4. When you’re deciding what to cook, consider recipes that serve two to four (a big-batch recipe will be harder to scale down). If you want leftovers, go forth. If you don’t, consider the easiest way to cut the recipe in half. Opt for shallots instead of full onions, or a sweet potato instead of a large butternut squash. Also consider your baking dish: if you cut a frittata recipe in half, be sure to cook it in a smaller skillet, too.
5. Finally, remember that a grilled cheese is a perfectly acceptable dinner—especially when you try our brilliant technique.