Have you ever had a lonely meal (if you can call a bowl of cereal a meal, that is) in front of your laptop? Cooking for yourself can be a lonely task! Planning a nd cooking small meals might not seem worth your time when recipes are typically designed for at least 6-8 portions. Have you ever told yourself that yes, today is the day you’re going to cook a real dinner,  but lost that ambition when you got home from class? Well, my friends, you are not alone. As a student, it’s hard to balance class time, studying, hanging out with friends, and cooking – but with the right planning and motivation, you can make healthy meals because you’re worth it!  

What should I do before cooking? Get inspired!

A great way to get inspired is to look at different recipes. Doing so can give you  an idea of the skills, equipment and ingredients you need to get a dish made! We suggest looking for one that looks delicious and non-stressful to make. Great sites and apps to use are Yummly and Allrecipes,which allows you to tailor recipes to as many or as little servings as you need. They also have a great selection and variety of vegetarian and gluten-free recipes, so be sure to give them a visit!

Another great resource is “My Menu Planner”  from EatRight Ontario, where you can get a personalized menu that suits your goals and needs. The menu planner comes complete with a grocery list and recipes for all of the items that you have chosen for the week.

General tips when cooking for one:

  • Try using larger recipes, and once the pot is made, set aside what you will eat in the next 2-3 days and freeze the rest in individualized containers.
  • Make use of some grocery shopping tricks :
    • Foods such as dry beans, pasta, flour, and other dry goods that store well can be purchased in bulk. Transfer them into covered containers and use as much as you need whenever you’d like!
    • Stock up on canned goods, but make sure to buy single or double serving-sized cans. A large family-sized can of soup may appear to be a great bargain, but you may end up throwing much of it away!
  • Learn to embrace the leftovers.
    • Some of your favorite recipes may be hard to scale down, so learn to repurpose leftover turkey from thanksgiving. Use the carcass for broth, and the meat for sandwiches and stews.
    • Be sure to practice proper food safety with leftovers. Store the meals in a sealed container within one hour after serving – they may last months in the freezer, but commonly only a few days in the fridge.
    • When you’re ready to eat the leftovers, make sure to reheat them all the way through.Thaw frozen items in the fridge, and not the counter, prior to eating.

Meal Ideas

As a student, you likely eat a quick breakfast before heading out the door, but cooking lunch and dinner will take a little bit more effort. Here are some meal ideas that are relatively easy and will last beyond one meal! How’s that for convenience?

  • Salad: Disclaimer: this might not even require any cooking! Salads can be a hearty meal if you add a protein, (such as beans, tofu, and meat) and a grain (like quinoa or couscous). You can prep and store each ingredient separately and put it together whenever you want.
  • Soups: There are so many varieties of soup that there’s sure to be one you love! It’s also super versatile. You can have it as a side (with a salad or a sandwich), or you can have it as your meal with some crackers and fruit if you just want a light lunch.  Best part? Portion and freeze it and you can have homemade soup for many meals to come.
  • Stews: On that same note, stews are hearty dish that will fill you up. Add lots of veggies and you’ll stay full from the added fibre. This can also be frozen! Store it in individual containers and a meal can be as easy as pulling out a container – like a frozen dinner but way better.

Try making these meals on a day where you don’t have class, or on Sundays so that you are prepared for the week. Cooking for one can seem daunting or just not worth it – but it is! You will save money, save time, and eat healthier.

Here is an easy recipe from our very own chefs that you can try at the Caf  and recreate at home:

Grilled Chicken Salad with Spicy Sesame Vinaigrette

(Yield= 4 portions)

Ingredients Direction
  • 1tsp sesame seed oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 60g broccoli florets
  • ½ teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 600g romaine lettuce
  • 60g carrots, julienne
  • 60g peppers, julienne
  • 10g water chestnuts, sliced, drained, rinsed
  • 2g green onion, sliced
  • For the Asian Salad Dressing
    • 20mL white vinegar
    • 10mL ketchup
    • 10mL soy sauce
    • 1tsp white sugar
    • ½ tsp Tabasco  sauce
    • 10mL canola oil
  1. Prepare dressing: combine all ingredients and blend together. Refrigerate and set aside (this recipe is scaled to make 4 tablespoons/60mL of dressing)
  2. Prepare chicken breast (preferred cooking method is grilling or baking)
  3. In a stockpot over high heat, bring water to a boil. Add broccoli to boiling water and blanch for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, drain in colander and rinse in cold water. Drain again and set aside.
  4. Toast sesame seeds in a large frying pan without any oil on low heat until golden brown (light colour)
  5. For each salad, layer the following: romaine lettuce, broccoli florets, carrots, water chestnuts, red pepper, and chicken.  Sprinkle some green onion and toasted sesame seeds on top of the chicken.
  6. Add tablespoon of salad dressing and toss the salad
  7. Enjoy! (the most important step)

Jane Skapinker

Registered Dietitian

Monday, October 2, 2017 in ,
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