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Why I buy bagged onions | Cooking for 1

Cooking for 1: Buy bagged onions

One-derful Kitchen is a series of kitchen and grocery tips for those of you who find yourself making Single Lady Suppers (or other meals for one). It can be tough to shop for one when food is packaged for families. This is a series where I share tips and tricks to help you learn how to save money and reduce food waste from expiring or extra food.

I can’t be the only person that buys an onion for a recipe, uses half of it, puts the other half in the fridge and forget it is there for 2 weeks. (Maybe I sliced or diced a whole onion and only needed part…or I left half intact but every other time I cooked I needed a whole onion).

Or the only person who lives alone and doesn’t make a big batch of something to eat all week.

When cooking for one, the onions that come in bags are typically smaller, so they work better than large onions for small batch cooking

The stupid easy solution? Buy bagged onions. They’re often half the size (or less) of the onions you buy individually, making them just right for cooking 1-2 servings. Making a big batch of something? Just use 2 small onions in place of one large one.

Onions are one of the few things I don’t mind buying by the bag because they are used in my kitchen pretty regularly. Plus, they do have a relatively long shelf life, so for someone who cooks a few times a week will easily go through a bag before they go bad.

Kitchen Strategies for Cooking for One

Eating and cooking for one is hard work. (I mean, this whole adulting thing is hard – I had broccoli and a protein bar for dinner last night because I just couldn’t bring myself to cook when I got home after dance class).

Food at comes in package sizes designed for people cooking for families – a can of beans is way too much for a one-lady bean salad. Packages of chicken sausage come with 6 sausages. I don’t know about you, but I am never in the mood to eat 6 of the same sausage in a week. Recipes are designed often times to create 4 or more servings. And again, I hate eating the same meal over and over until I run out. Maybe it’s the curse of loving to cook.

1. Reinvent your leftovers

This is one of my favorite things to do. Roast a chicken on Sunday, turn the meat into tacos on Tuesday and curry on Wednesday. Save the carcas and make some bone broth. Make a little extra rice for your curry and make fried rice on Thursday and maybe even a little rice pudding.

I used leftover rotisserie chicken to make a butternut squash and chicken curry.
I used leftover rotisserie chicken to make a butternut squash and chicken curry.

2. Go to the meat counter

Buy one steak or 1-2 sausages. It’s ok to get just 1/4 of ground meat to make yourself a perfect burger rather than burgers for a crowd. They will even do things like break down a chicken for you or split a pork chop so the cooking time is less.

3. Frozen produce is your friend

It costs less than fresh and lasts much longer. It makes popping together a dinner easy (no prep! always better when you are cooking for one.) Now, I still buy fresh when I can buy 1 pepper or 1 mango, but that 2 pound bag of fresh cherries is probably not a good (economical) purchase, but the bag of frozen ones still make a perfect cherry pie. This is also how I buy the fruit for most of my breakfast smoothies (although, I do make smoothies nearly every day with the help of The Blender Girl’s Smoothie book & app).

Rotisserie chicken, leftover sorghum, frozen peppers, chili garlic marinade/sauce
Rotisserie chicken, leftover sorghum, frozen peppers, chili garlic marinade/sauce

You can even use frozen produce to help you reinvent your leftovers into buddah bowls. Toss the leftover grains and proteins in a container, add some frozen veggies and some sauce. By lunch, the vegetables will have thawed and released enough moisture to rehydrate the grains and leave your sauce saucy when you give it a minute or two in the microwave.

 

4. Pick recipes that use the same ingredients in different ways (and don’t be afraid to halve a recipe)

This is one way that you can make sure that you don’t end up with half a can of chickpeas hanging out in your fridge. This is a reason I love cookbooks so much – they have ways to use ingredients that I might not have thought of before. (It also keeps my phone/iPad out of the kitchen and a safe distance from a hot stove). I’m also not afraid to halve a recipe. Why make 4 serverings when you can make 2? It just requires a little math. Or, you need cannelini beans for a salad but have half a can of chickpeas? Use those instead. Recipes are just guidelines. Feel free to be adventurous!

5. Make and freeze batches of food in single-serve portions

Not going to lie, there is very often a backlog of pancakes in my freezer. I love popping them in the toaster on days I want more than just a smoothie for breakfast or when breakfast for dinner cravings hit.

This strategy can be used for things like meatloaf or quiche- you can bake it in muffin tins rather than loaf pans for easy portioning and freezing (or you can make a full-size version, slice and wrap each slice individually). You’ll have some fast, grab & go meals ready at hand. If you’re less confident with swapping ingredients or shrinking a recipe, this is a great way to make use of your cookbook library or even just use a full can of beans and not wonder how to halve an egg.