I found myself in this situation recently and realized it was for the first time. When I’ve cooked, I have never cooked just for myself. Sure my lunch – sandwich, salad, a pasta here and there. But for dinners I lived with family and although there might have been a portion I had to make just for myself, the main part of the meal was shared with people.
In April and May my husband decided to do a “science experiment” to see if what he was lacking was nutrition to help him gain muscle. He kept with his same routine and realized he wasn’t eating enough. Now, before I continue, James has obsessive compulsive disorder. So when he get’s enthusiastic about a project, it has to be perfect down to the 0.01 gram. LITERALLY! Just grocery shopping for the 6 weeks drove me crazy. It had to be the specific brand of bread because that’s what he calculated. He had to have more of everything. I had to go to the store on certain days so that he had fresh chicken… So instead of me going completely crazy, he took over prepping and cooking his meals for 6 weeks and I was on my own.
I was excited at first, but then realized quickly how much me cooking and enjoying food involves the people I love and having people enjoy the food I make. It has NOTHING to do with me. I was getting frozen Amy’s burritos, frozen veggies and already prepared rice. I was getting canned soups and half way prepared sauces that I would throw whatever veggie I might of had on hand. Lunch became peanut butter and jellies with a few carrot sticks and almonds… All the things I was buying was not necessarily bad. But I wasn’t enjoying it. I wasn’t enjoying cooking. I wasn’t enjoying eating since it was 1/2 way prepared things and I knew I could make it the way I like it, but didn’t have the motivation to do it because I was the only one eating it!
Then I just wanted to buy frozen pizzas or just go out and pick up food so I wouldn’t have to cook it. But then comes the factor of my allergies and it’s hard to just pick up soy/corn/dairy free food that doesn’t get expensive after a while or isn’t too processed.
I have gotten myself back out of prepared foods and back in the kitchen and meal prepping. I wanted to share with you some things that I did to (1) help with an easy meal prep, (2) keep it as fresh as possible, and (3) keep variety which I very much need. Some of your might already know this, but this was an experience I never realized I never experienced before so bare with me.
My Grocery Shopping Cart
My weeks usually consist of something Italian, something with curry, something Mexican, and something to just snack on.
Grains & Starches
I always made sure to have brown rice and whole wheat pasta on hand.
For me being vegetarian and soy-free, beans are a staple! I’d wish I could tell you I make them from scratch, but I buy canned no salt added beans. I stocked up on garbanzo beans – because I can put them with anything, black beans because any Mexican dish, I use black beans, and I also added canned diced tomatoes and tomato sauce because I can always use them and make a sauce with them.
If I didn’t use them that week, no harm, I had it for next week.
I never have a problem with frozen veggies – however, when you get into the frozen meal, the frozen broccoli with “sauce”, etc. that’s when you get into trouble. Keep it pure with your frozen veggies other than things like cauliflower rice. Unless it’s mixed veggies, I like to keep my frozen vegetables to 1 ingredient.
This is where I will buy chopped red potatoes, sweet potatoes, frozen broccoli, mixed veggies, green beans, etc. Something to throw in a sauce when I’m cooking or have on the side.
My “just in case” “save my life” snacks are the ones that are usually in the produce department of most stores now that have a small packet of fruits/veggie/almonds/cheese stick, etc. in them. It would be less expensive if I did them myself, and at some point I’m sure I’ll do it, but I barely wanted to cook for myself, let alone prep.
Also, keeping a green on hand, veggies you like raw, and then some fruit to snack on or have for breakfast is always something I keep in the house for a quick salad or something to throw in a sandwich or wrap.
Easy Meal Prep
I never really have a plan, but I made sure I had my flavors and things that would take the longest already prepared.
Make Your Grains Ahead of Time
- I made a box of whole wheat pasta and kept it in a gallon size bag to keep in the fridge and used it when I was ready to make a sauce.
- I made my brown rice and kept it for my curry (which I’d buy already made), or whenever I was ready to make a veggie bowl.
You can also go ahead and make any medley or sauce ahead of time to, but for instance with my box of pasta I made one week, I had 3 sauces. Each made the same night I ate it, all in one pan, and all easy and didn’t have any leftovers. I just had to make sure I had the basics to make a sauce: tomato sauce, veggies, cream or coconut cream, vegetable broth, etc. All things you can keep in your pantry.
Keep it simple and have fresh ready to use ingredients that you usually use at your disposal so when you are ready it doesn’t take long, and you can have a fresh nutritious meal ready! Also – find people to cook for. Invite them over, take something to someone, or start a blog : ). It makes a huge difference. Food is for our energy and to keep us going, but it’s so much more. It’s social, it’s emotional, and it’s something to be shared.
For whatever reason you might just be cooking for yourself, make sure to keep variety and keep it as fresh as you can for yourself to enjoy and to keep it nutritious.