Meal planning can be an excellent way to reduce food waste, but cooking for one is much different from meal prepping for four.
Meal plans help people reduce the stress and confusion over food selection by saving time throughout the week and encouraging healthy lifestyle habits.
Plan Your Meals
Meal prepping requires first having an established weekly meal plan in place. Doing this is much simpler than you might imagine – with free apps like Mealime or even just using calendar and pen, your meals for the month can be planned out quickly and efficiently.
Cooking for one can be quite different from cooking for a family, and there are various strategies that can help a solo chef meet their nutritional goals and minimize waste. Instead of beginning with large-batch recipes that serve four, and end up as leftovers over several meals, opt for recipes designed specifically to serve one person at once; online cookbooks or meal prep websites may come in handy here with easy-to-make, nutritious dishes perfect for one.
Once you have several promising recipe ideas in mind, assess their fit with your schedule and plans for the week. Are any dinner dates on the schedule this week, or is meeting friends at restaurants a part of your plans? All these factors will impact which types of foods need to be consumed as well as how much food must be made.
Make a Shopping List
Without a list, grocery shopping can become costly and wasteful very quickly. By creating an organized, straightforward list before going, your trip will become faster and more efficient as well as aid outsourcers (e.g. a spouse or friend who might be doing your shopping for you).
Start by taking inventory of what you already have to create your list. Check your fridge, freezer and pantry to identify empty or near expiration items as this will give an idea of the items to purchase as well as help plan meals to use up these products before they spoil.
Once you’ve taken an inventory, sort it into categories like essentials, necessary snacks and nonessentials. Decide how low you feel comfortable letting inventory drop before replenishing certain things such as toilet paper or snack-food like salty potato chips until an urge strikes again.
Finally, create your shopping list, considering the servings necessary and whether or not it requires refrigeration. Consider creating an “open category” as well for any extra items that might come in handy.
Decide whether or not you prefer keeping your list digital or on paper. Digital may make it easier to access on mobile devices and less likely to get misplaced; physical copies can easily fit in purses or wallets. No matter which method you select, be sure to follow through and ensure you can easily reread it before heading out – otherwise it could become easy to be distracted by eye-catching offers in store and end up buying more than necessary!
Buy the Right Ingredients
Meal plans often start by selecting recipes and then compiling a shopping list. But when cooking solo, it may be beneficial to start with ingredients and build meals around them; doing this ensures you only purchase what will actually be used, thus cutting back on food waste.
Stock up on staples like proteins (chicken, steak or pork), produce and grains that can be used in multiple recipes throughout the week – cooked chicken breasts make great lunchbox items as well as pasta or salad additions; large batches of roasted chickpeas will last the whole week; they’re even great in soups and stews!
On top of that, it is wise to purchase seasonal produce; it will be cheaper and less likely to have come from faraway places, which is good both for your wallet and environment. Finally, it can be helpful to stock up on quick-serve foods like eggs (one dozen can last several days in various forms like omelets or over-easy), berries and bananas to enjoy on-the-go snacking options.
Make a Meal Prep Plan
Meal prep can be an invaluable way to stay on track with meeting your nutrition goals. To be successful with meal prepping, the key lies in planning ahead — not only with recipes and ingredients but also cooking times and meal durations. Planning allows you to avoid wasteful spending as well as hasty meal times when cooking for one.
Meal planning for yourself involves first taking a look at your week’s schedule to identify any events or meetings that could alter what meals to prepare during that week. Next, check your fridge and pantry to assess what items are on hand – if anything is missing then that would be an opportune moment to create a shopping list!
As you prepare your meal plan for the week, choose recipes with many similar ingredients. This can be especially helpful when meal prepping for one person since there will be less cooking needed and leftovers can be used in subsequent meals. For instance, if a recipe calls for half a red pepper and one whole chicken breast but leaves half uneaten, use that other half elsewhere so it won’t go to waste!
Make life simpler by trying a meal planner app that curates recipes and grocery lists automatically for you. Simply snap a photo of what ingredients are on hand and receive suggestions based on dietary restrictions or preferences, browse your favorite food sites or add all ingredients at once for an automatically organized grocery list – AnyList offers this for iOS and Android!
Once you’ve identified which meals and groceries you wish to cook, set aside a day for meal prep. Preferably it should happen early in the week but any day that works with your schedule should do; choose a time when you will have plenty of energy left at the end of work so your motivation for later evening cooking won’t suffer as a result.