Cooking for one should be simple and easy, but most things are packaged for multiple servings. The problem is, I like variety. I hate cooking something and then having to eat it throughout the week just so that it doesn’t go to waste. But, with a little preparation and planning, (and even if your cooking skills are less then perfect) you can make healthy, tasty meals for yourself.
As a young girl, I loved to watch The A-Team. My mother let me watch because no matter how many bullets were fired, no one got shot. My favorite character was Hannibal. He was the planner, the one who saw the big picture and made it happen. Who can forget his famous line, “I love it when a plan comes together”? This is how I feel in the kitchen. Life is crazy busy and, many times, we resort to the easiest choice instead of the healthiest. Driving home form work, it seems so much easier to just pull into some fast food joint and not worry about cooking when you get home. I have been there; I was there just this week. Fast food has it’s place, but, when relied on too often, it negatively impacts both your health and your wallet. With a little prep and planning, you can have fast, fresh meals for yourself that are health and easy.
Planning your Menu
As a personal chef, I would sit down with a family and work out what they were going to eat for the next two weeks. Sometimes the menu would be very specific, but a lot of times there was wiggle-room to allow for seasonal foods,
sales and other unforeseen events. The thing that almost all the families experienced was an amazing lack of food waste with even a skeleton of a menu. This is your guide when you go the grocery store, the thing that keeps you from buying too much fish just because it is on sale. Twice a month, take the time to sketch out what you are going to eat for the next two weeks. Be sure to schedule nights out, what to do with leftovers and feel free to leave open days where you have a bag of popcorn and some sorbet.
There are apps that help you make menus that you can download to your smartphones, or software for your computer, but I usually just write it down on a scrap piece of paper. Very high tech of me, I know. (A full week’s sample menu can be found at the end of this post.)
If you like grocery shopping, then we are kindred spirits. There is something about the ambiance of a good grocery store that just makes me happy; the florescent lighting, the cheesy Muzak and the people. I love it. If you are not a fan of this glorious place, try some home delivery.
Amazon Fresh is a great service that allows you to purchase regular and gourmet groceries online and have them delivered to your home. Many things need to be bought in bulk, but that is ok. It is important to always have a stocked pantry.
Farm-fresh deliveries are becoming very popular. Many metropolitan areas have programs where you can arrange to have a box of fresh produced delivered to your house every other week or once a month. Check online for programs in your area. And if you’re in the Seattle area, check out http://www.pugetsoundfresh.org/pdf/PSF-CSA-Directory.pdffor information.
Don’t forget to shop at your local Farmers Market. You can get some amazing fresh produce and value-added products to add to your menu and pantry. As you get to know your famer, they will help you learn more about your food.
Using your menu as a guide, going to the grocery store will be a breeze. You have your list right there. Also, keep in mind the “basics” that you will need to prepare various meals, and be sure to keep your pantry, and your fridge stocked. I created a list of what I keep in mine as a reference.
1. Canned Tomatoes
2. Dried pasta
3. White or brown rice
4. Free Range Chicken broth
5. Peanut butter
8. Extra-virgin olive oil
9. Dried herbs and spices
11. Garlic (powder and fresh)
12. Vinegar (Apple Cider or Rice)
1. Fresh herbs
4. Plain greek yogurt
6. Cheeses (such as cheddar, Parmesan, and mozzarella)
8. Condiments (such as Dijon mustard, ketchup, BBQ sauce, mayonnaise, and soy sauce)
9. Chili Sauce
10. Salad greens
This is the day you set aside to prepare your menu. You do your grocery shopping, then bring it all home. To make your life easier, take a couple hours and prep your menu. Chop and store vegetables, clean and freeze shrimp, prepare tomato sauce, chop and freeze the cilantro so that it keeps for whenever you need some cilantro. We will go into this prep work even more in the next post, “Kitchen Diva”. Also, in the next couple of posts, I will include some recipes to help with your menu planning.
So, are you still with me? I know this may seem like a little bit of crazy, or that it is so much more work then just cooking a frozen pizza, but it won’t be, I promise. When you first start planning and shopping and prepping, you may curse me. I know it isn’t easy to learn something new, but I also know that you are smart enough to figure it out. Give yourself some time and you might even learn to love cooking as much as the crazies like me do.