As a single mother you’re possibly more focused on baking for a brood, than cooking for one. Yet, if the kids are with dad, it could be just you that needs feeding.
Do you ever find yourself standing flummoxed in your kitchen thinking ‘what the hell shall I cook’?
Having mastered the skill of feeding many mouths, it requires a different, possibly daunting, dexterity to create a balanced meal for one. All too often, the effort outweighs the end result, and it’s easier not to bother. After all, it is so easy to pour cereal into a bowl and add milk.
Stop! Before you opt for toast or a bag of chips, think of the opportunity you’re missing?
Now is your chance to cook and eat foods which you love, instead of those based on the likes and dislikes of your children.
What do you love cooking and eating? Think about it, because now is the time to enjoy it.
In this article, I take you through some tips to make cooking for one easy and enjoyable.
1. Go with what you love
Ok mum's, now is the time to eat your favourite grub!
I love chilli but I never add it to our family meals, even a chilli con carne, because, you guessed it, the kids don't like it. For this reason, I like to cook feisty, hot dishes when I'm cooking for myself. I even sprinkle chilli flakes on top of my steak.
Alongside cooking your fav dishes, think about how you will cook.
When I have my kids, I cook in bulk and do lots of tray-bakes. Consequently, I now find this kind of cooking very boring. I think I could make a tray-bake with my eyes closed.
If it's only my mouth to feed, I like to try different cooking methods which are better suited for one person. For example, I will dig out my toaster oven, electric grill or mini slow cooker.
Once you are cooking what you love, how you love it, try and enjoy the process. Make it an act of self-love by blocking out the worries of the day while you focus on the food you are making which will give you pleasure and nourish your body.
2. Utilise the deli at your local supermarket
Delis are fantastic if you need just a few slices of cold cuts, a small block of cheese, or a single-serve salad. If you're lucky to have a small local deli in the neighbourhood, that's awesome. But don't snub the supermarket's deli section, especially if you're scrimped on time.
Supermarket delis offer a variety of ready-to-eat options. The better stocked, not only have cold choices, but a selection of hot grub like roast meats, potatoes, hot chips and more.
So if your meal for one calls for just 25 grams of ham or fetta, head to the deli and buy what you need to avoid waste.
3. Build a repertoire of recipes of one
As mums, we've been so used to cooking for the whole gang that cooking for one can be intimidating. Today, there's no need to experiment, since we can find the exact ingredients and directions of practically any single-serve dish with a few taps on our smartphones.
Unless you're okay with having smoothies and oatmeal for the rest of your alone time, it's nice to build an arsenal of your favourite dishes that's just enough for yourself.
Not to snark on meal preppers - I am one on ordinary days - but if you don't fancy the idea of cooking a big batch and eating the same thing over and over again, there are thousands of recipes for one you can find online. You'd find pasta, rice meals, and steak recipes for one.
There are even single-serve chocolate chip cookies! Yum.
I personally find the recipes on One Dish Kitchen simply scrumptious, but Taste also features heaps of meal ideas for one. I like saving the recipes on my phone, but I find it more convenient to print them out and add them to my separate for solo meals.
4. Cook, freeze and enjoy again and again
As I've mentioned, I am ordinarily a huge meal prepper. I'm the type who doesn't get tired eating my favourites day after day.
Even if I'm cooking for myself, having freezer meals ensures I don't starve when I'm too tired, sleepy, or engrossed in the drama I'm binge-watching.
So your recipe is for six people? No need to recalculate and cook less. Make the whole dish and freeze, so you can enjoy them another time.
Obviously, utilising your freezer is the first rule when cooking for one. I like making days' worth of a meal and freeze them in single-serve containers. This eliminates spoilage, since I only take a serving out to reheat and keep the rest frozen.
A reminder: Although you can make ahead and freeze tens of thousands of meals, some ingredients don't freeze well. These ingredients include mayo, lettuce, and cucumber, so it's wise if you don't make and freeze salad!
5. Discover the world of mug meals
Oh, the magical world of mug meals! They're lifesavers when you're cooking for one.
If you haven't Googled them yet, mug meals are, well, meals in a mug. You literally dump all of your ingredients in a mug and cook your meal in the oven, microwave, or steamer. Think ramekins, but mugs.
That means two things: 1) You get a single-serve meal, 2) Without so many pans and utensils to wash later.
You can make lots of desserts like cakes, cinnamon rolls, flans, puddings, oatmeal, crème brûlée, and more. But although mug desserts are very popular, you also can make eggs, pasta, rice meals (risotto, anyone?), soup, and even bread!
The best thing about mug meals, in my opinion? They're super easy to take everywhere. You can eat your meal in bed or even while standing, no problem.
6. Remember you are worth it
It's common for mums to put their kids' needs first before their own.
This is why indulging in this rare moment when the kids are away is important. Don't feel guilty for enjoying this time you have all to yourself. A little self-care doesn't diminish the love you have for your children.
Once in a while, it's also important to treat yourself the love and care that you're always giving to others.
Making a fancy meal for yourself is an incredible way to include self-care in your everyday life - or at least that night when the kids are with their dad. Turn down the lights, turn up your favourite lo-fi playlist, and light a few candles on the counter top.
You deserve it.
Summary: Cooking for one
We mums are so used to making big batches of meals for the whole family to share that cooking for one might sound intimidating, if not unworthy of all the dirty pans.
But it's possible to make cooking for yourself fun and hassle-free with the hacks I've listed in this article.
Prepping a big batch that you can freeze and eat for the rest of the week is just one trick. Channel your inner Masterchef by experimenting with a new ingredients to create different meals. Get small amounts of fixings from the deli. In times when you can't be bothered, check out what you can cook in a mug (you won't believe how easy it is). Try new recipes you found online.
This time is also a fantastic opportunity to find new recipes to include in your repertoire. I'm sure there are tens of thousands of recipes you haven't tried before. Whipping up a single batch ensures you won't waste your hard-earned resources on meals your kids won't like.
So, while you might think making a meal for yourself is futile, remember you're worth it. You've been making meals for everyone else, considering others' likes and dislikes. Cooking is love made visible, and you, too, deserve all of that love.
And I mean, it's not every day you're allowed to splash brandy into the pasta sauce, right?