Meals for One: Tips for the Solo Renter

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lasagna

As the winter draws closer, the Internet is flooding with hearty family recipes–chilis, soups and casseroles galore. While those are all welcome dishes as the weather gets colder, the larger than life portions aren’t always ideal for those who live alone. A whole dish–and its leftovers–are great for a couple days, but you’re likely to be tired of it by day three, not to mention it loses its freshness by then, too.

So what’s a solo renter to do when you want to eat great but all by your lonesome?

Buy in bulk bins
Shopping at large wholesale clubs that requirement memberships can seem like an unnecessary expense if you’re not feeding a whole family. But over time, it’s definitely worth it if you plan to cook a lot. Buying items in bulk–rice, beans, sugar–allows you to measure out what you need for small meals. Take beans for example. They come in cans, which is super convenient. But for one person, a can is sometimes more than what’s needed for a single meal or dish. If you buy beans in bulk, you can ration out how much you need without cooking excess that may end up in the trash. If a club membership just isn’t in the cards, check out your local farmer’s market for more affordable bulk items.

Stick to ingredients you know
Popular TV chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Rachael Ray are known for making deliciously elaborate meals that anyone can mimic at home. The problem? A lot of times, those recipes call for rare and sometimes expensive ingredients that the average person never uses. Seriously, how often are you going to use rhubarb? Gruyere cheese? Safflower oil? Don’t go overboard on ingredients just for a single meal. Stick to staple items that you love that’ll also work in a number of different dishes.

Learn how to hack recipes
If you can do simple math, this should be no problem. If a recipe makes four servings, cut the ingredient measurements in half so that you only end up with a meal that makes two servings. For example if the recipe calls for a cup of flour, you know to only use a half cup. This can get a little tricky when a recipes ask for odd amounts like ⅓ teaspoon–what the heck is half of that? But if you can divide–with or without a calculator–then you should be able to prepare a meal that’s just enough for you.

The freezer is your friend
Let’s say you’re not comfortable with hacking those recipe measurements. If your math skills aren’t up to par or you’re just lazy, don’t fret. Feel free to go ahead and cook those family size servings. A good way to avoid wasting the excess is to freeze it for later. Let’s say you make a casserole. Scoop out half into a plastic storage container or large ziplock bag and stick it in the freezer. Place a sticky note on it so you know exactly what it is, along with the date. In a few weeks when you’re not in the mood to cook a hearty meal from scratch, you’ll have a freezer meal ready to heat up in the oven.

Master the art of leftovers
Traditional meals consist of a meat paired with a couple of side vegetables, and perhaps a bread of some sort. Does your meat ever last longer than the sides? Get creative. Chicken, beef or pork can be transformed into a myriad of things–a tasty salad, soup, fajita, sandwich, stir fry, pot pie–the list goes on. If you need some inspiration, Pinterest is always a helpful source.

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