Cooking for One Advice

Looking for cooking for one advice? You’re in the right place! You might be a college student cooking for yourself for the first time. Or you might be single and living alone. You could also be a widow finding your new groove. Or you might be an empty nester adjusting to a quieter kitchen. No matter your situation, we’ve got you covered. This guide has advice for singles who are cooking for one. It covers the most common questions and concerns people have about it.

At the Solo Spoon we offer single serving, small batch, and meal prep meal ideas. We also offer resources and tips to keep meals fun and fresh. We’re here to make your solo dining experience exciting and delicious. 

A person chopping purple cabbage on a wooden cutting board in a kitchen. Cooking pots are on the stove, and a bowl of fresh vegetables is in the background. Perfect for those exploring single serving recipes or looking for cooking tips while cooking for one.

College Student Cooking for One Advice

1. How can I cook healthy meals on a tight budget?

Cooking healthy on a budget is all about smart shopping and simple recipes. 

Focus on cheap staples like rice, pasta, beans, and seasonal veggies. They’re cheap and versatile. Use the freezer for items like frozen vegetables, meats, and bread to avoid waste. Meat and frozen veggies are often on sale. That’s a great time to make a mini freezer stash to stay on budget.

Try easy, nutritious recipes like stir-fries, pasta with veggies, or rice bowls.

2. What are some quick and easy recipes I can make between classes?

When you’re pressed for time, simplicity is key. Here are a few ideas:

  • Microwave Omelet: Mix eggs with veggies in a mug and microwave for 2-3 minutes.
  • Quesadillas: Tortilla, cheese, and any veggies or leftover meat you have. Cook in a pan until crispy.
  • Instant Noodles Upgrade: Add frozen veggies, an egg, or tofu to make them more nutritious. This is quick and easy.
  • Salad Jars: Layer ingredients in a jar for a grab-and-go option. Keep the dressing at the bottom to avoid soggy veggies.
An omelette folded in half on a plain white plate with a decorative edge, perfect for those who enjoy Cooking for One.

3. What basic kitchen equipment do I need for dorm cooking?

Setting up a mini kitchen in your dorm room doesn’t need much space or money. Here are some essential items and product recommendations to get you started:

Microwave:

college equipment

Compact Microwave


TOSHIBA EM925A5A-BS Countertop Microwave Oven, 0.9 Cu Ft With 10.6 Inch Removable Turntable, 900W, 6 Auto Menus, Mute Function & ECO Mode, Child Lock, LED Lighting, Black Stainless Steel

Mini Fridge:

  • Keep your perishables fresh with a mini fridge. Look for one with a small freezer compartment for extra versatility.
  • Product Recommendation: Mini Fridge with Freezer
college equipment

Mini Fridge with Freezer


EUHOMY Mini Fridge with Freezer, 3.2 Cu.Ft Mini Refrigerator, Dorm Fridge with 2 Door For Bedroom/Apartment/Office-Food Storage Cooling Drink (Black).

Basic Utensils:

college equipment

Knife and Cutting Board Set


Chef Craft Select Wheat Straw Cutting Board and Knife Set, 10 inch x 7.5 inch, Blue

Microwave-Safe Cookware:

  • Bowls, plates, and a mug that are safe for microwave use are essential for cooking and reheating food.
  • Product Recommendation: Microwave-Safe Dinnerware Set
college equipment

Microwave-Safe Dinnerware Set


Wheat Straw Dinnerware Sets For 4 36pc - Unbreakable Dinnerware is Microwave Safe Dinnerware - Elders Kids Plates And Bowls Sets Replace Plastic Dishes Set - RV Camping Dishes - Kids dishes

Non-Stick Pan:

  • If you have access to a shared kitchen or a portable burner, a small non-stick pan is great. You can use it for frying eggs, sautéing veggies, and more. Be sure to check with your school to confirm if you can bring these items!
  • Product Recommendation: Non-Stick Frying Pan
  • Product Recommendation: Portable Stove
college equipment

Non-Stick Frying Pan


M MELENTA 8 Inch Nonstick Frying Pan Skillet, Non Stick Ceramic Frying Pan with Bamboo Spatula, Egg Pan Omelette pan, Stay Cool Handle, Induction Compatible, 100% PFOA Free, Turquoise

college equipment

Portable Stove


Elite Gourmet ESB-301F Countertop Single Cast Iron Burner, 1000 Watts Electric Hot Plate, Temperature Controls, Power Indicator Lights, Easy to Clean, White

Extra Useful Items:

  • This steamer is perfect for steaming veggies, fish, and even chicken in your microwave.
  • An electric kettle is ideal for making tea, coffee, and instant noodles. It is also great for boiling water for pasta.
  • A compact blender is perfect for smoothies, shakes, and even soups.
  • A small rice cooker can also steam veggies and cook other grains like quinoa.
  • Cooking pasta in the microwave is great for a fast easy dorm meal. We like using a microwavable pasta cooker.

Other Useful Items


4. How can I meal prep for one without getting bored of the same food?

Variety is the spice of life! When meal prepping, make versatile components:

  • Grains: Cook a big batch of rice or quinoa.
  • Proteins: Grill chicken, tofu, or beans.
  • Veggies: Roast a variety of vegetables.

Mix and match these throughout the week with different sauces and spices. One day, turn them into a burrito bowl, and the next, a stir-fry.

5. What are some tips for cooking in a small space with limited appliances?

Cooking in a small space is hard. But, with the right tools and techniques, you can make the most of your dorm kitchen or tiny apartment. Here are some tips:

One-Pot Meals:

  • One Pot: Invest in a good sturdy pot for your meals. This can do double duty for several recipes.
  • Slow Cooker: Great for making soups, stews, and even casseroles. Just throw in your ingredients in the morning and come back to a hot meal.
  • Electric Pressure Cooker: Cooks food quickly and can double as a slow cooker and rice cooker. Perfect for making everything from pasta to pulled pork.
  • Note: You likely don’t need a slow cooker, pressure cooker and rice cooker. Pick the one that is the most multi-use for your cooking needs.

Rockurwok Ceramic Nonstick Sauce Pan, 2.5 Qt Pot With Steamer, Non Toxic Pfas-Free Saucepan, Small Pot Pouring Spout & Wooden Handle For Cool Touch, Universal Base(Gas, Electric & Induction), Green

Crock-Pot Small 2 Quart Round Manual Slow Cooker, Black (SCR200-B)
Instant Pot RIO, 7-in-1 Electric Multi-Cooker, Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Sauté, Yogurt Maker, & Warmer, Includes App With Over 800 Recipes, 6 Quart

Multi-Use Tools:

  • Rice Cooker: Not just for rice! You can steam veggies and eggs, cook quinoa, or even make oatmeal. This compact appliance is a dorm room hero.
  • Immersion Blender: An immersion blender takes up less space than a regular blender. It’s perfect for smoothies, soups, and sauces.
  • Microwave Steamer: Cook veggies, fish, and even chicken in the microwave with a steamer. It’s quick, healthy, and space-efficient.

TOSHIBA Rice Cooker Small 3 Cup Uncooked – LCD Display with 8 Cooking Functions, Fuzzy Logic Technology, 24-Hr Delay Timer and Auto Keep Warm, Non-Stick Inner Pot, White

Immersion Hand Blender, UTALENT 3-in-1 8-Speed Stick Blender with Milk Frother, Egg Whisk for Coffee Milk Foam, Puree Baby Food, Smoothies, Sauces and Soups - Green

Progressive International Mini Microwave Steamer, Gray

Smart Organization:

  • Magnetic Spice Rack: This magnetic spice rack keeps your spices organized. It keeps them off the counter. This frees up valuable workspace.
  • Stackable Storage Containers save space in your mini-fridge and pantry. Look for ones that are microwave and dishwasher safe.
  • Over-the-Sink Cutting Board: Provides extra workspace without taking up counter space. Some even come with built-in strainers.

Spice Rack Magnetic Spice Rack for Refrigerator, 2 Pack Magnetic Shelf for Spice Jars, Strong Magnetic Fridge Organizer, Spice Rack Organizer, Heavy Duty Seasoning Rack For Kitchen Organization

YORY 5 cup Plastic Food Storage Containers with Lids Nestable Freezer Dishwasher Safe Rectangle Meal Prep Container Set,5-Pack

NiHome Over the Sink Cutting Board with Collapsible Colander, 2-In-1 Sink Drainer Board 11"x17.7" Anti-Slip Cutting Board and Detachable Draining Basket with Ergonomic Handle PP Plastic and TPR Rubber

Batch Cook:

  • Use BPA-free containers. They are safe for the microwave. Use them to store meal portions. This makes it easy to grab and go.
  • Freezer Bags: Perfect for storing pre-cut veggies, marinated meats, or even full meals. Label them with dates to keep track of freshness. Check out the disposal variety and reusable that are more eco-friendly.

Specific Item Recommendations:

Single Living Alone Cooking for One Advice

1. How can I avoid getting bored with my meals when cooking for myself every day?

Variety is the spice of life, especially in the kitchen! 

Try rotating your go-to recipes with new ones from different cuisines. Keep your pantry stocked with versatile ingredients. These include spices, sauces, and grains. They can transform a dish with little effort. 

Theme nights, like Taco Tuesday or Stir-Fry Friday, can keep things exciting. They give you something to look forward to.

Pick 1-3 proteins and vegetables to focus on each week. Use different recipes to keep your ingredients rotating through unique meals.

2. What are some easy ways to cook healthy meals without spending hours in the kitchen?

Healthy meals don’t have to be time-consuming. 

Think fast and simple. Make sheet pan dinners, stir-fries, and salads with lots of colorful veggies. 

Pre-chop your veggies and cook grains like rice or quinoa in a small batch at the start of the week. Consider how many servings you’ll need for the week. 

Use your air fryer, microwave, and slow cooker or pressure cooker for hands-off cooking. Both are lifesavers for quick, healthy meals. Air fryers, slow cookers, and pressure cookers are great for making complete meals for one. You can use them without having to know much about cooking.

3. How can I manage portion sizes to avoid overeating or wasting food?

Portion control is all about planning. 

Invest in some good quality storage containers and portion out your meals as soon as they’re cooked. 

Use smaller plates and bowls to help control serving sizes. And remember, it’s okay to cook smaller portions—no need to stick to recipes designed for big families! There are a bunch of single serving and small batch recipes you can follow. 

If you do have leftovers, get creative. Use them in new ways. For example, turn last night’s taco meat into a lunch time burrito bowl.

4. What are some tips for meal planning and grocery shopping for one?

Meal planning for one can much easier than cooking for a big family. 

First, plan your meals around versatile ingredients. You can use them in multiple dishes. 

Make a grocery list before you shop to avoid impulse buys and food waste. 

Choose fresh produce in small amounts. Also, go for frozen fruits and veggies. They last as long and are just as nutritious. Check out your local bulk bins for grains, nuts, and spices so you can buy exactly what you need.

5. How can I make cooking for one more enjoyable and less like a chore?

Turn cooking into a fun, rewarding activity! Play your favorite music or podcast while you cook. Treat yourself to a glass of wine or a mocktail. Try new recipes and experiment with ingredients you’ve never used before.

Cooking just for yourself means you get to eat exactly what you want—no compromises. And hey, no judgment if you decide to have breakfast for dinner!

A person, perhaps seeking cooking for one advice, slices carrots on a wooden cutting board surrounded by various vegetables and herbs, including peppers, cherry tomatoes, garlic, onions, and corn, on a kitchen counter.

Empty Nester Cooking for One Advice

1. How can I adjust my family-sized recipes to suit just one or two people?

Scaling down recipes is easier than it seems. Halve or quarter the ingredients, and if baking, be precise with measurements. Invest in smaller cookware to avoid oversized portions. And don’t be afraid to repurpose leftovers—today’s roast chicken can become tomorrow’s chicken salad.

We like using Souper Cubes to use your regular family sized recipes and pre-portion them out into freezable servings so that they don’t go bad.

Souper Cubes Gift Set - Kitchen Set With 2 Tbsp, 1/2 Cup, 1 Cup, and 2 Cup Silicone Freezer Trays With Lids - Meal Prep and Kitchen Storage Solutions - Aqua

Souper Cubes 2 Cup Silicone Freezer Tray With Lid - Easy Meal Prep Container and Kitchen Storage Solution - Silicone Mold for Soup and Food Storage - Cranberry - 2-Pack

Souper Cubes 1 Cup Silicone Freezer Tray With Lid - Easy Meal Prep Container and Kitchen Storage Solution - Silicone Molds for Soup and Food Storage - Aqua - 2-Pack

2. What are some ways to make smaller portions feel as satisfying as larger meals?

Focus on quality, not quantity. Use fresh, flavorful ingredients and add variety with different textures and flavors. Add hearty ingredients like beans, lentils, and whole grains. They make meals more filling. Presentation matters too—plate your meals beautifully to make them feel special.

3. How can I keep grocery shopping manageable and avoid food waste?

Plan your meals for the week and make a shopping list to stay on track. Buy fresh produce in small amounts. Choose frozen fruits and veggies instead. They last longer and are just as nutritious. Use bulk bins for grains, nuts, and spices so you can buy just what you need.

4. What are some quick and easy meal ideas for one or two that don’t require a lot of preparation?

Think simple and delicious:

  • Stir-fries: Quick, customizable, and perfect for using up veggies.
  • Sheet pan dinners: Toss your protein and veggies on a pan and roast.
  • Salads: Mix greens with a protein like chicken, fish, or beans and a tasty dressing.
  • Pasta dishes: Easy to scale and ready in under 30 minutes.
  • Convenience Foods: It’s perfectly fine to rely on convenience foods from time to time! You won’t always feel like cooking so look to things like a grab and go rotisserie chicken, sides from the deli section, frozen vegetables, microwavable potatoes and rice etc. Add a little sauce and seasoning and you have a really easy meal!

5. How can I stay motivated to cook at home instead of opting for takeout or dining out?

Keep things exciting by trying new recipes and cuisines. Make cooking a fun activity—play your favorite music, or cook with a friend or partner. Set small goals, like mastering a new dish each week. Remember, cooking at home is healthier and more budget-friendly. Cooking at home also allows you to control the ingredients and portions.

Cooking For One After Loss: Comfort and Ease

1. How can I find the motivation to cook for just myself after losing my spouse?

Start small and be kind to yourself. Choose simple, comforting meals you enjoy. Remember that cooking can be a form of self-care. Try to view it as a way to nurture yourself and create new routines. This is also a great time to take your favorite family recipe and scale it down to more management servings.

2. What are some comforting meals? They should be easy to make and help me through this transition.

Opt for dishes that are simple yet comforting:

  • Small Batch Soup: Easy to make and you can portion for multiple meals. We like using Souper Cubes for this!
  • Pasta: Quick to prepare and versatile.
  • Stir-fry: Simple, customizable, and ready in minutes.
  • Casseroles: Make a small dish that can be reheated and frozen! This can easily build your freezer stash.

Souper Cubes Gift Set - Kitchen Set With 2 Tbsp, 1/2 Cup, 1 Cup, and 2 Cup Silicone Freezer Trays With Lids - Meal Prep and Kitchen Storage Solutions - Aqua

Souper Cubes 2 Cup Silicone Freezer Tray With Lid - Easy Meal Prep Container and Kitchen Storage Solution - Silicone Mold for Soup and Food Storage - Cranberry - 2-Pack

Souper Cubes 1 Cup Silicone Freezer Tray With Lid - Easy Meal Prep Container and Kitchen Storage Solution - Silicone Molds for Soup and Food Storage - Aqua - 2-Pack

3. How can I adjust recipes that I used to cook for my family to fit just one person?

Halve or quarter the ingredients in your favorite recipes. Use smaller cookware to avoid oversized portions. You can also cook full recipes and freeze individual portions for later use. We have a great guide on how to do this on our website here.

4. What are some tips for grocery shopping and meal planning now that I’m cooking for one?

Plan your meals for the week to avoid buying too much. Focus on fresh produce in small amounts. Use frozen fruits and vegetables to reduce waste. Buy versatile staples. These include grains, beans, and proteins. You can use them in many dishes.

5. How can I make mealtime feel less lonely and more enjoyable?

Create a pleasant dining experience for yourself. Set the table nicely and play your favorite music. Or, watch a show while you eat. Consider inviting friends or neighbors over. Or, join a cooking group to share meals and companionship.

A woman in a striped apron uses a tablet for cooking for one advice while chopping yellow bell pepper in a kitchen with various vegetables and a pot on the counter.

You Can Make Cooking For Yourself Enjoyable

Cooking for one might seem hard at first. But, it’s a journey filled with tasty possibilities. With the right tips and a bit of creativity, you can turn every meal into a satisfying experience. It will also be enjoyable. If you’re looking for more inspiration and resources on solo cooking, check out our blog, The Solo Spoon. We share single serving and small batch recipes for solo cooks like you. Let’s make solo dining fun together!

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