When I separated a couple of years ago and was living on my own for the very first time in my adult life, I found out that it’s actually harder to cook for one, than it is for a family. Fast food was not the answer. At first, it may seem cheaper than buying groceries, but in the long run, that is not true. Also, it’s not exactly healthy. You can discover all about that here https://www.foodieandtours.com/best-carbon-steel-pans/.
So, what is a single girl (or guy) to do? I would like to share a few pointers that I have learned when it comes to cooking and buying groceries. Forget about buying by “value”. Indeed, a larger package is the better value, but it does not make much sense if you end up throwing away what you don’t use.
One of the problems I did not want to bother with cooking at first was that I was taught to “follow the recipe and the instructions or it won’t work out”. That would create a problem when shopping for ingredients. A simple meal, when all was said and done, could run up a $15.00 grocery trip to the store, just to get those two elusive items that the recipe called for. It was much easier to just get two things from the dollar menu at the place around the corner.
However, I have since figured out that all you have to do is to keep the ratios intact in a recipe. What does this mean? Usually, recipes are geared for a family of four. If you simply use half of everything, you end up with the perfect meal for yourself, plus leftovers for the next day’s lunch.
In addition, there are many ingredients that you can substitute for, and keep on hand. Spices, herbs, and seasonings are the perfect example. The possibilities are endless when it comes to those ingredients, and don’t be afraid to experiment. There is no reason to rush out and buy a $ 10.00 jar of something you will only use once, just because the recipe calls for it.
If you are not sure how to use spices and are hesitant to experiment, just go and look for pre-mixed jars of seasonings. Read the back of what the suggestions are. They now make many mixes that can be used for pork, fish, chicken, and red meat alike. You really can’t go wrong with these.
Here are some other ideas, that will save money: Unless you are someone that actually consumes milk by the glasses, you only need to keep a small container of 2 % milk on hand. Why 2 %? If you prefer to skim, just water the milk down. Voila, you just doubled your milk, while the cost stayed the same.
I also keep stuffing mix on hands, as you can keep that for a long time. I never buy breadcrumbs. If a recipe calls for breadcrumbs, I simply put some of the stuffing mixes in the blender. You can also use old rolls or bread of course to make your own. There really is no reason at all to ever buy breadcrumbs.
Condensed soups can be used in many recipes as well. If a recipe calls for condensed chicken soup and you don’t have any, don’t rush out to the store for that one ingredient. All the condensed soups, like a mushroom, celery, potato, etc can be freely interchanged. This also adds variety to a recipe.
I never buy white bread. Sure, it’s cheap, but it’s just empty calories and won’t fill you up. Any type of grain bread makes a recipe more substantial, and you will eat less of it.
Making meatloaf is great to eat for several days, so you don’t have to cook every day. Again, you don’t have to be limited to what goes into a meatloaf. It can be made with ground turkey, ground beef, ground lamb, or whatever. Also, there is no need for side dishes when it comes to meatloaf and just cooking for yourself. Just chop all the raw veggies that would normally be the side dish in a food processor, and add to the meat mixture. Veggies for a meatloaf can be anything, from Asparagus to Zucchini. Use up whatever you have. If you really want to make the meatloaf cost-effective, add a higher content of breadcrumbs. Just make sure you add enough liquid (egg/milk) to keep it together.
Some other items that can be interchanged are types of dry cheese. You can also use ricotta in place of cottage cheese, and vice versa.
Hopefully, some of these tips can be helpful. You never know, you might find yourself falling in love with cooking as I did.