This is the first post in a short series on cooking for one. If you're in a larger family, search in my right side bar, under my photo, and that will give you recipes and information about family food for two, four, or larger. But before we get into cooking, we need to have our systems in place so we don't waste food. Food prices are still rising and it's wise to look at how you store food so you don't throw food (money) out every week.
When my kids left home, I fell into shopping and cooking for two quite easily. The shopping trolleys full of groceries were gone, I was cooking smaller meals and it was convenient to cook for four, eat two of those meals, then freeze two for later. When I'd done that for a couple of months, I had a very healthy stockpile of frozen homemade meals ready to go for the days I didn't feel like cooking. That system worked for Hanno and I for many years and I never had a reason to change. But when you're solo, cooking for four isn't such an attractive option. It's better to cook for one. And you have to set up a system that will help you do that and not waste food.
The simple art of stockpiling - a previous post on stockpiling
How to grocery shop for one - a good article on grocery shopping
This is the stockpile we created in March 2020 when we realised that the Corona virus wasn't the short-term virus we all hoped it was. It seems that no one saw Covid coming - there were rumours coming out of China in December 2019, then within a couple of months we were all locked down. Back then, no one thought we'd still be dealing with it in 2023. You never know what's in the future but with a stockpile, at least you'll be able to safely stay in your home and feed yourself and your family. Take every opportunity to increase your skills because at some point, you'll need them.
Before we cook food, we have to buy and store it first. I no longer have a vegetable garden but I do grow all the herbs I eat and I have a fruit trees and passionfruit vines, so I have occasional fruit. I buy the rest of my food. If you're trying to work out a way of cooking for one, first work out how you'll store your food. When Hanno got sick my sister stayed with me for a couple of months so I continued shopping, storing and cooking the way I had for the previous 20 years but when Tricia went home, I started wasting food and that was what triggered most of my current changes. Almost every week I threw out a half-eaten lettuce, a collapsed cucumber, a mouldy wedge of pumpkin or something else that died before I had a chance to use it. One of the problems with buying fresh food is that you don't know how fresh it actually is. Most food at the supermarket looks fresh but you don't know if it really is fresh or if it's been sitting in a cold room for a month or two. If it's the latter, it will wilt when you put it in the crisper of your domestic fridge and probably won't last a week. If you're growing your own vegetables, they should last for weeks before you notice any problems.
Most of us have a fridge and freezer, most have a pantry where we store all the open packets or jars of food currently in use. If you can add a small stockpile it will help you a lot - by cutting down on the trips to the supermarket and money saved, as well as the knowledge that you can feed your family well into the future if you lose your job, someone in the family is sick or any weather-related catastrophe hits.
I had all those storage options - the fridge, freezer, pantry and stockpile cupboard, what I added last year was a Zwilling vacuum sealer unit. I saw a vacuum sealer on sale at Aldi but I wanted reusable bags, and that's what Zwilling gave me. I've worked with it for a few months now and I love it. Even though I tried hard, I was wasting food every week but now I've gone back to zero food waste. It's particularly good for storing fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, cold cuts, cheese, left over meals. The starter pack I got comes with bags for flat storage and two containers - one is glass, one plastic. I've had coleslaw in the glass container and it's lasted almost a month so far. You can store soup and other liquids as well as dried foods. I bought my starter set from amazon.com.au. I've just bought another set of bags, I use the bags more than the containers. The bags are strong and can be washed and dried after use and be reused many times.
I love cauliflower and now I can buy a larger one and know it will remain edible.
Here are the three Zwilling bag sizes, with a box of tissues so you can work out the size.
I bought this Iceberg lettuce for $1.90 on Thursday. Now it's in the bag, I know it will remain crisp and delicious until I finish the last leaf. And no, the vacuum pack doesn't crush it.
I had to put the lettuce in the larger bag because it didn't fit through the opening of the smaller bag. I made sure it was at the bottom of the bag before I packed it so I could neatly fold the bag in two for storage.
Corned beef cold cuts. I cooked this meat and enjoyed it during the week with cauliflower, cheese sauce and sweet potato. Now I have one pack in the fridge for sandwiches or a quick salad meal and one in the freezer for eating next month or the month after.
If you're a meat eater and you have a freezer, it's wise to buy small bulk packs of meat or chicken because they're a cheaper price for the same amount of meat on a flat tray. Repackage them at home and freeze them in meal-sized portions - for one or ten, depending on the size of your family. Zwilling makes this type of freezing, efficient and convenient. When you have your bags full and vacuum sealed, you can store then in a drawer or container like in a filing cabinet. Standing them on their sides so you can flip through them, allows you to see exactly what you have. When vacuum sealed in Zwilling bags and stored in the fridge, your food will last five times longer than in a plastic bag or container.
Watch this! A good demonstration of the Zwilling units
The food I eat now is mainly the food I grew up eating - it's the old fashioned casseroles, curries, stews, soups and salads that most people had in those days. It's nourishing, easy to cook and delicious. If that's the food you want to eat, I have plenty of recipes here on my blog. Just search for "beef casserole", "curry", "soup" etc in the right-side search bar and they should come up. Most of those recipes will be for four servings, so freeze or vacuum pack two serves, eat one serve straight away and store the other in the fridge to eat tomorrow or the next day. Or if you have a Zwilling unit, eat one serve and vacuum pack three serves to add to your fridge or freezer filing cabinet.
For those days when I want to try something different, there are plenty of websites for cooking for one. I've chosen this one because their recipes look nutritious and satisfying and there's a vegetarian section at the bottom of the page. I like this one as well because it shows how quick and easy it is to cook tasty food at home.
In my next post, I'll have some recipes for you - some are what I eat, some I've found on the internet and am happy to recommend. Of course, we'll also talk about storage again, specifically how to store any leftovers from the recipes I share. I'll also talk about prepping food - this is for carers, working folk and parents with kids who may benefit from new ways of getting through housework.
I hope you'll have time to change your food systems if they need changing and if you have any questions about your changes, ask questions in the comments and I'll see if I, or the other readers, can help you sort out any problems you have. So get stuck in because if we all stop wasting food and the money it costs, we can move onto tweaking other areas in the home that will make life better.