Menu planning has long been held as one way to be frugal with your dollars and eat healthy. Just a quick search on the internet will bring you dozens of ideas and tips to utilize this tool. However, most of the menu planners are geared toward families. What happens when you are a family of one or you suddenly have an empty nest with only you and your spouse? Many women experience this when their children have all left the house and now, instead of cooking for x number of people, they are cooking for two. Does this mean we, the few, cannot use this tool to frugality? No. It does mean we will have to adapt the practice though.
Tips to Menu Planning for One or Two People
Used to making a meal for a large family? One way to utilize this habit is to make meals in bulk and freeze them for later. Many meals can be frozen and then heated later for a meal. A little research on the internet can net you thousands of recipes that can be made ahead then frozen. My favorite is lasagna. I can make a large pan of lasagna, cut it up into pieces and freeze the pieces separately. Later when I need a meal, I take it out pop it in the microwave and a few minutes later I have a hot meal.
Many people do not like to eat the same foods two days in a row. This is why menu planning for a single person is so complicated when most recipes make at least 4 servings of food. What can a single person do to mitigate the waste? Again freezing is an option. Making two such meals and alternating days in which they are eaten is another option. Sharing cooking duties with a single friend is another option (with this option you cut expenses and the cooking time).
If I am like most single people, the one thing that bugs me the most about menu planning is fresh fruits and veggies. I find myself many times throwing out rotten fruit and vegetables because I could not consume them before they went bad. This is where a freezer can also come into play. If you live in a country where frozen vegetables are available, use them. If you do not, this idea may take a bit more work, but will be so worth it in the end. Freeze your own vegetables and fruit. A little research in cookbooks or on the internet can provide you with ways in which you can preserve your own frozen fruits and vegetables. (They end up being healthier in the long run because you know what is being put into your freezer.) The only exception to this is lettuce. I have yet to find a practical way in which I can preserve lettuce for salads. When I do I will be sure to post about it.
Menu planning for singles requires thinking outside the box. With a little imagination and planning, a single person or a couple can use this handy tip.
Tools that are Handy for Making Meal Planning for One or Two a Success
The first tool I have already mentioned, a freezer. This does not have to be a large freezer, but a freezer is a very helpful tool to have when planning meals for one or two people. While many people know that a freezer is useful for a large family, many do not realize its usefulness for single people. As I mentioned earlier, a large meal can be prepared then frozen into smaller portions for later consumption. I use this tool all the time for my own meal planning. Lasagna, soup, muffins, pancakes, waffles, baked goods, fruit, some veggies, meat in individual portions, and much more can be stored in the freezer. Just be aware that some items only last a few months in the freezer while others last almost a year.
The second tool that has made menu planning easier for me, has been my microwave. I can make meals ahead and pop them in the microwave when I need them. This useful tool is used mostly in conjunction with my freezer. (One thing I do not put in the microwave though is bread. It will dry out and be hard as a rock if you do. Just a friendly warning.) What if I do not have a microwave or they are not available where I live? Most things can be heated on the stove or in the oven. How do you think your ancestors heated food? A microwave just makes it easier.
The third tool I find useful is a small crock pot. When I first came to the field, I had a crock pot that my mother had left me. It was huge. Way too large for a single person. I was able to obtain a small crock pot from England and I have used that tool almost every week since I received it. It cuts my cooking time by cooking while I am busy doing other things. I can make a meal for just myself or for more with just that one tool. In fact, it makes the chicken pot pie filling much easier to make.
I hope these tips have been helpful to you as you plan your meals. Please, let me know if you have any other tips that have proven useful over the years. Maybe you have found a way to keep lettuce longer!