Learn. Share. Plan.
Five Ways to Enjoy Meals for One
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More Canadians than ever are living alone. The 2016 census discovered that one-person households now outnumber all other living arrangements. Experts say living alone can be a truly positive experience if we make choices to be independent. Planning quality meals for ourselves is a great way to achieve this.
Here are five ways to make your meals an easy opportunity for self-care and enjoyment.
1. Plan your week
- Mark down any commitments on your calendar to see your priorities and availability.
- Choose a food theme for the week to limit your grocery shopping. For example, chicken is a great base that can be used in a week’s worth of diverse dinners!
- Plan meals that will leave you with leftovers, then earmark the leftovers for times when you will be tired or rushed.
- Collect single serving recipes, or divide the measurements for beloved favourites in advance to avoid confusion.
- Note when you’d like to eat at a restaurant, or order delivery.
2. Shop smart
Once your meals are planned for the week, make a grocery list for the ingredients you’ll need. Shopping smart means buying items that will last the whole week so that you only need to shop once. Foods that maintain their quality when canned or frozen are a great way to stock your kitchen, such as greens, blueberries and fish.
Shopping smart also means only buying what you’ll eat before it spoils. Find out if you can purchase a half loaf of bread at your bakery, and get exactly the number of meat slices for your week’s sandwiches at the deli counter. You can even ask your butcher to cut meats according to portion size, so that you can freeze and defrost them according to need.
Fruit can seem like the biggest challenge, but consider buying a couple ripe fruits like yellow bananas, and a few that are still green which will ripen later in the week. If they aren’t ripening on time, remember that you can often speed the process, like putting bananas in a bowl of tomatoes.
3. Meal Prep
Choose one day (Sunday is a popular choice) to prepare key items for the entire week. Investing up front drastically cuts down on the overall time needed to whip up dishes when you’re hungry.
First, return to the food theme you picked when planning. Chicken is a great example. On meal prep day, you could choose to roast the chicken or – for even easier prep - buy one already roasted, which is often available at the same price. Simply cut or strip it into portions for the whole week, and freeze any that won’t be eaten in a day or two. These portions can be defrosted for use in a burrito, on top of a salad, in a sandwich, on a flat-bread pizza, or as the main. That’s five quick-assembly dinner ideas!
Other great theme options that you can cook on meal prep day include chili, lasagna, and empanadas. For side dishes, roast and freeze veggies in advance to cook a quick stir fry or soup.
If you’re a dessert-lover, make cookie dough in advance and freeze single cookie-sized portions to bake in the oven while you eat dinner on weeknights. This is a great, time-saving solution if you enjoy baking but can’t stand waste – or extra calories from eating whole batch!
4. Treat Yourself
This is your chance to make dishes you love. Could you happily eat Brussels sprouts four days in a row? Try it! Your dinner guest is you!
Also, treat yourself to a lovely place setting. Make your meal an event. Choose your favourite flowers, pick fresh herbs from your window box, and play your favourite songs.
If you want to try some cuisine that you wouldn’t typically prepare yourself, consider splurging on a restaurant or takeout. Exotic ingredients that you won’t use beyond one recipe can quickly go to waste, which can make eating out the budget-friendly option. If you feel a bit self-conscious eating alone, try bringing a book, sitting at the bar for company, and searching online for restaurants where other solo diners say they felt comfortable.
A great alternative, particularly if you have limited mobility, is ordering from a meal delivery service. Companies like Heart to Home Meals and charities like the Canadian Red Cross Meals on Wheels program have locations across Canada that will deliver fresh, made-to-order meals straight to your home. Often they’re cheaper and healthier than eating out, and you can specifically order meals for one and according to your dietary needs. You don’t even have to do the groceries!
5. Invite a Friend
A creative option – don’t always eat meals for one! Plan a get-together with friends and family over food. Meet for tapas at a market, reminisce at a favourite restaurant, or invite someone to cook a new recipe with you.
Much like eating a balanced meal is good for your body, finding a balance between the joys of eating solo and with friends is good for your emotional health. Look for opportunities to share the experience, even when you feel equally comfortable alone.