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Cooking for single people

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  • Cooking for single people

    After finding the thread on a single person's dinner, I searched the forum for "cooking for single people" and didn't find much, so I decided to start a new thread to 1) discuss my cooking woes and 2) hopefully stimulate interesting discussion without threadjacking.

    So, I just got back from Outback. The 10-inch chargrilled ribeye was delicious but I'm afraid to know for sure how the cow was raised. Semi-ironically, I was finishing reading The Vegetarian Myth while waiting on my steak and veggies (sans stupid bread platter). Awesome book, by the way. If you haven't read it, please do yourself a favor.

    I still eat out a lot, trying to be as primal as possible, but I know there's a lot of non-primal stuff in what I get, like canola oil and CAFO meats. Cooking for one sucks royally and I've been trying to learn how to cook but that hasn't been going too well.

    I took a cooking class at a highly reputable local culinary school, but I only ended up going to about 2.5 of the 5 days of class (5 hours per day) since it covered so much stuff I wouldn't eat and I didn't get to do much there anyway (cooking for 18 people, so only got to work on one thing really each day).

    I also signed up for the Surf & Turf class at but I've only watched like the first two weeks of videos and they're on week 9 now. I really need to focus, and I came up with an idea to really force the issue.

    Earlier today (don't ask, just go with it) I happened to read an article that discussed the plot of the movie "Julie & Julia" about the girl who decided to cook all 500+ recipes in The Joy of Cooking in one year. So a thought I had was to do something similar with Mark's Primal Blueprint Cookbook. I just suck at kitchen/cooking mechanics, being very inefficient, messy, not having the right tools, etc.

    Also, I usually am out the door pretty quick in the mornings and I have a cubicle job as a Unix admin at a tech company, so to really be as primal as I'd like, I would need to prep meals in advance. What I don't really like, though I'm not criticizing it, is eating ad hoc. I'd really prefer something like a stew, salad, or meat/fish with a complementary side....that is, a meal with a plan, so to speak, rather than just random primal things.

    So rather than asking a specific question, I'd like to open the floor to discussion about this topic, and hopefully gain some insight and ideas on how to resolve my issue(s).

  • #2
    Crock pot. Enjoy!


    • #3
      Crockpot is a must! So many meals can be prepped and ready for you when you get home. Another must is a George Foreman grill. Super easy to "grill" up a steak, chicken, burger, fish....anything, really quick with little cleanup. I think making your way through Mark's cookbook is an awesome idea. I loved the Julie & Julia movie, totally inspired me. Your best bet is to keep it simple: grilled meat, with steamed veggies with lots of butter.


      • #4
        I am single, too, and I tend to cook things that are super-fast and on the stovetop. I like to just cook some meat in a pan and then throw it in the oven for a couple of minutes and while that's happening, I either chop raw veggies to eat or quickly cook the veggies. I am a big fan of a pan on a burner and my toaster oven. I find I can accomplish a lot with these tools. I use cast iron skillets so they get really hot and stay hot...

        One class I'd recommend EVERY person who wants to cook more for themselves to take would be a knife skills class. Being able to cut things properly and quickly helps a TON. From there, just having random ingredients on hand that can easily be used together is always helpful.

        I don't tend to make too many crock pot recipes as I get SO tired of eating things that I make that way. I used to make a lot of chili when I ate beans back in the day, so maybe I'll try to make a paleo/primal chili again soon and store some of that.

        One of my favorite go-to, easy meals that can be combined in SO many ways are romaine lettuce boats. I cook whatever meat I have (or eggs!) then top with some avocado, tomato or any other veggies. This week I did one with sausage, figs and some fresh sauerkraut- random, I know but it was good!

        That's my .02 for now on cooking for my single self!
        Enjoy & be well!

        Diane Sanfilippo, BS, NC, HLC
        Certified Nutrition Consultant & Holistic Nutritionist specializing in Paleo nutrition

        Author of the book "Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle" available on


        • #5
          I do have a crock pot and I've used it a couple of times, though not in a couple of years, to make a bison and sweet potato soup (supposed to be stew, didn't know how to thicken it). Part of the reason I've barely used it, though, is that even though it's meant to be used that way, I don't like leaving things on when I leave the apartment. Probably due to an unrelated fire-based incident when I was a child.

          Plus I really want to have some diversity. Crock pots are fine for prepping work meals for the week, but when I get home after work (on rare nights when I'm actually hungry), or on weekends, I also want to be able to cook something up, not just throw something together.

          I will add a couple more reasons I'd like to learn to cook:

          1) For guests (family, friends, etc.), if I ever have anyone over (a rarity)

          2) Need healthy things to do to replace the time I'll have back once I fully give up World of Warcraft (Tahl is my main character's name)


          • #6

            Funny you should mention that, because the one thing I did get out of the half-class I took was knife skills. I'm not an expert now by any stretch of the imagination, but it helped immensely having someone show me how and then watch and critique my technique.


            • #7
              I agree, a crock pot is a must!

              I understand where you coming from. Many times I am in hurry to head out the door in the morning. I found a way to work around it. I usually cook my "breakfast" meat (pork chops, chicken drumsticks, etc) the day before (when I cook dinner), then refrigerate it. Then in the morning, I just fried my eggs (sunny side up) in coconut oil, heat up my meat in the oven (yea I know...many hate the and toss some organic mixed greens, and I am good! This only takes 15 minutes for me.


              • #8
                IMO it's hard to be motivated to cook much just for oneself. When my wife is traveling and I'm alone, my version of cooking for one is usually just to go down to Whole Foods and get some prepared stuff. But if I'm really cooking, I'll try to cook enough food to have a lot of leftovers, so I won't be cooking everyday.


                • #9
                  In terms of motivation, I tend to cook properly on days where I've IFed - I have a proper appetite, and if I'm only gonna have one meal then I want to enjoy it! It also means I don't worry so much about cooking too much, as I normally end up going back for seconds (saves having a neverending pot of stew!).

                  Otherwise, quickly frying up a lump of meat with a few veggies always seems to work. I tend to go simple - can't be bothered faffing with marinades, fancy prep, just for me.

                  I have batch cooked chicken legs to have them ready to grab and go - they're okay for the full working week if I do them late Sunday night.


                  • #10
                    I'm not single, but I think it would actually make things easier. I wouldn't have to worry about what DH wants LOL Though, he's pretty much been out of town the last three weeks, so I've been doing a lot of "single cooking."

                    Mark's book is invaluable for novice "chefs" - the recipes are basic and approachable. They'll help introduce you to possibly some new ingredients and cooking methods. I'd never made a curry before or cooked with coconut milk! Now they are staples in our weekly menus. Curries are freaking awesome for quick, healthy meals with a lot of variety.

                    Personally, I love roasts. I make a beef roast or pork roast of some kind every week and often one of each. You spend a couple hours cooking the meat in the oven and you get quite a few meals out of it. I think we have the primal pot roast recipe every week and we never get tired of it. It is to die for if you make it with a chuck roast. Another fave is the garlic pulled pork from the blog (though it takes much longer to cook, in my experience, than the recipe says). The garlic pulled pork makes an excellent "second day" meal if you crisp up the pork in a hot pan and add some texas pete or other hot sauce. I usually get roasts big enough to feed us for dinner, lunch for me the next day and then I freeze up left over portions for future lunches.

                    I also like the site. Peruse Richards 'Food Porn' for inspiration. I just stumbled on a chicken mole recipe there that looks really interesting!

                    Personally, I don't like crock pots. I'm almost always disappointed in crock pot recipes. However, I have the luxury of working from home, so I can put a roast in the oven at 4 to have it ready at 7. I could not live without my set of enameled cast iron cookware. I have to large pots - one that's covered for cooking in the oven and one that's not, for cooking stuff on top of the stove.

                    I really didn't start cooking until I got into paleo/primal eating. The biggest hurdle is not being afraid to make something crappy LOL It's a learning experience and often you get happy accidents from mistakes. The worst thing that can happen is you make something that doesn't taste's usually at least edible and the rare occasion that it's not, make an omelet LOL For most recipes, it doesn't really matter if your "dice" is exactly the right size or your other knife skills are up to par. Just do your best to approximate the recipe. Over time, you get better and more efficient. Even though my hubby isn't on 100% on board with whole paleo/primal diet, he's overjoyed that it's inspired me to get in the kitchen and learn to cook...and actually enjoy it! (previously he pretty much cooked everything or we ate out).

                    You can make really tasty, interesting meals with basic ingredients...spices are the key. I tend to keep recipes pretty simple. I don't like a lot of weirdo ingredients or labor intensive things and we always have delicious, satisfying meals. A meat and a side veggie or two.
                    Heather and the hounds - Make a Fast Friend, Adopt a Greyhound!


                    • #11
                      Just cooked up 1.8kg of reduced price beef mince, and frozen down into individual portions. That's next weeks working lunches sorted, for the same price as shop-bought sandwich, can of coke, crisps, and chocolate bar. Think I'll stick with the chilli, thanks...


                      • #12
                        I'm with kennelmom - I don't do crock pots. I DO have a "slow cooker" however. It's like a deep-dish electric skillet. So you can turn it up to brown, saute, etc, then turn it down to simmer & stew. So I can cook fast or slow in one item. I got it as a hand-me-down 15 yrs ago & it is my favourite thing in the kitchen. I make stocks in it & freeze them for later.
                        Also, I am a big fan of the toaster oven. I tossed the toaster at work & replaced it with one. I work a cpl miles from a big grocery store, so I cruise the meat dept looking for mgr specials & freeze them at work. They have these chicken breasts wrapped in bacon & stuffed with various things such as pineapple & canadian bacon. I have a pyrex dish for use in the oven & bake one for lunch (with a side of veg or salad). The toaster oven is the single cooker/eater's best friend. You can roast a game hen in one. Bake a sweet potato. ANYTHING! toast coconut, nuts, etc. or even go a step up & get one of those counter-top convection ovens (that I covet)...


                        • #13
                          I never get home from work before 8pm, and I rarely have the opportunity to take two small breaks at work, to facilitate eating twice while I am there. So, if I am hungry, whatever I eat has to be quick and delicious. It's either eggs or leftovers.

                          I have leftovers because I cook on the weekend. Yesterday, I put a Santa Maria carne asada from Trader Joe's in the crockpot with its own juice and some butter. When it had cooked on high for about two hours, I added a sliced onion, some organic baby carrots and celery and let it cook a long time -- hours. That was it. Last week, I put a whole organic chicken in the crock pot with about 15 - 20 cloves of garlic, the juice of four limes, olive oil, fresh cracked pepper and some filtered water. The broth was amazing! I made soup (with asparagus, fresh spinach and carrots) but I also used the chicken meat in other ways. My point is: crock pot cooking does not have to mean that everything that comes out of it is vaguely the same. Also, I don't think it uses anymore power than a clock radio so I am not worried about leaving it. I am sorry about your fire incident; I've never endured that and cannot pretend that it should not affect your attitude towards leaving something cooking while you are gone.

                          Be willing to try one new thing this week. When that becomes a habit, jack it up and do two new things. I apologise if I sound like I'm making it sound easier than it is. Cooking comes very easy to me because I've been doing it forever. But I've struggled with learning new things and I am not dismissing you in any way.


                          • #14
                            Cooking is a wonderful skill and hobby. I learned a lot about cooking from my parents. Dad taught mom to cook after they got married. Fortunately for me my folks were foodies always trying new dishes or trying to emulate a dish they had at a restaurant. When I was young they were on a very tight budget so good food doesn't have to be expensive food.

                            My brother and I grew up to be great cooks. It was common when I first went out on my own to have at least one good basic cookbook that explained the different cuts of meat and different veggies and fruits and what to do with them all. A trip to the bookstore and looking at the different books available would help. There is probably a lot more out there now than my Betty Crocker cookbook from years ago. LOL

                            Cooking shows are also very helpful and I've learned a lot from them. PBS Create channel has a ton of them as well as the Food network. Even shows like Emeril, Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart and Gordon Ramsay's The F Word often have tips and ideas you can use. I don't watch the dessert ones much anymore but I have to say that having learned baking skills has helped tremendously in making primal baked goods.

                            While baking is chemistry and you need to follow a recipe, cooking meals is where you can have fun and play around with ingredients. Trust your tastes and using recipes to give you ideas, with ingredients you like and in the amounts you like. Think of what the final dish will be and it makes it easier to get there with a bit of this and a pinch of that.

                            I think cooking for one is difficult if one doesn't really like to cook or isn't that passionate about what they eat. Most recipes are usually for 4 or 6 which means some can often be frozen for other meals. Having been dubbed "Leftover Queen" by family and friends, I've learned that you can change up leftovers by adding a bit of something different each day to make it a "new" meal. Many recipes can also be cut down easily to only make 2 servings too.

                            My biggest inspiration is looking at recipes so I would suggest doing that and then have fun with ingredients...and eating.

                            ETA: I taught Mr. Ski to cook. He LOVES this site:
                            Last edited by mizski; 10-17-2010, 10:50 AM.


                            • #15
                              Ah, I topic after my own heart. I am single and also just learning how to cook, because of Primal. I have had some epic fails, but am slowly but surely learning.

                              Through trial and error, and a lot of food wasted, here's what I've gleaned, thus far:

                              - A Dutch oven is your best friend, and is the next step up from (and vastly superior to) a crockpot. I make a lot of curries (which I had to learn how to even do that). It is pretty hard to mess up a curry, even for me. This week, I'll be making a pumpkin curry. I freeze a couple of meals so they'll be ready to go for when I'm in a hurry or lazy (oh, I also learned the hard way here, too -- be sure and label what's in the container!) then leave one (maayybe two, ONLY) servings out in the fridge for leftovers.

                              - ** I shop for groceries, which is mostly all produce, twice a week, not once. As a single person, I just can't get to everything before it all spoils and has to be tossed.

                              - I plan the recipes I'll be making (usually just 2 or 3 in advance--any more than that, and I get overwhelmed) and write up my grocery list accordingly.

                              - I really only end up full-blown "cooking" about 3, 4 at the very most, times a week. The rest of the meals are leftovers, Big Ass Salads, miscellaneous foraging, or IF.
                              "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." -- Hippocrates