Eating Healthy for One
Whether choosing to live single, or adjusting to a change in life such as divorce or death of a spouse, shopping, cooking, and eating for one poses a unique set of challenges. There are many who have successfully navigated these issues and some who are still on that journey. Talking with some of these folks gave some real insights into “tips and tricks” that many could find helpful. I spoke with Claudia Daves, a widow since 1997; Dr. Ozzie Reynolds, a widower since 2019 and Kristen Trexler, a young single. They all had great strategies!
Meal Planning and Shopping:
To make sure you are eating healthy it is helpful to know what you are going to eat over the next couple of days. This will help with grocery shopping as well.
If you can keep one meal a day routine, planning meals will be less complicated. Many people find breakfast an easy meal to standardize. In some cases, planning a nutritious breakfast also allows for cooking ahead. Eating oatmeal with bananas or blueberries or walnuts is a healthy start to the day. Another strategy is to find a healthy muffin recipe and make a pan of muffins. Claudia makes 12 muffins at a time and suggests refrigerating or freezing them and take out one each day for a nutritious meal. If you get bored eating the same thing every day, you can create a rotation of two to three items that work for you.
Be sure to eat at least one nutritious meal a day, whether you cook or eat out or with friends. It is easy to get distracted and forget to eat or avoid eating when you are alone, so safeguard for that.
Grocery shopping can be the biggest challenge. Where you shop can be as important as what you buy. Some stores such as Wal-Mart or shopping clubs cater to big families, and often don’t have items in smaller quantities that singles need. Some items simply cannot be bought in smaller quantities, so you have to be crafty about how to shop and store. Claudia had the following tips:
- When you buy a pack of hot dogs, open them and wrap each individually in plastic wrap and freeze in a zip lock bag what you aren’t going to eat immediately. Singly wrapping them makes it easy to take them out one at a time when you need them.
- Chicken breasts – these normally come in packs of three large breasts. If the breasts are too large for one serving you can cut them in two parts and wrap each individually and freeze.
- Beef, pork, and turkey tenderloins are great options, and often on sale. Most are packaged with two pieces in a pack, which is perfect. Cook one and freeze the other for another time.
- Milk – buy-in quarts since a half-gallon or gallon often spoils before you finish it
- Bananas – look for “loose” bananas or where you can pull 2-3 off a bunch instead of having to buy a whole bunch and having them spoil before you can eat them
- Bulk sausage – in our area, Corriher sausage is a tradition. Cut the sausage into slices, place on a pan, and “flash freeze” them for about an hour. Place the pieces in a zip lock bag and place them in your freezer. You can then take out one to two pieces at a time for cooking.
The freezer is a must for singles, so you may want to brush up on how long you can store items. Be sure to label and date what you put in the freezer. Toi Degree’s recent Salisbury Post article on how long freezer items can be kept is quite helpful,
Kristen has a busy lifestyle so efficient shopping is important. Some of her shopping tips include
“try to always shop the perimeter of the grocery store. This assures you are getting fresh foods. Also, remember you are only one person, so buying in bulk is not always helpful.” Veggies in single pouches are often the best buy in the long run. Even though a little more expensive, there is nothing saved if you buy large quantities and throw half of it out because it spoiled before you could eat it.
Many singles enjoy entertaining, and having folks over to grill is a great option (or use a grill pan on your stove top if you don’t have access to a grill). Since you are firing up the grill, cook enough to have later! Ozzie says he enjoys inviting people over to grill in order to have some company as well as the food. He shares, “Pork Tenderloin on the grill will keep for several meals and romaine and spinach cut will keep in a zip loc for a couple days.” Claudia likes to make a meat loaf and cut into slices, wrap individually, and freeze for later. If you enjoy casseroles, but are overwhelmed with having too many leftovers, experiment with halving the recipe or with which recipes can be frozen in individual containers. Spaghetti sauce and turkey chili are healthy and freeze really well. Also, Kristen advises, “Give yourself grace when it comes to leftovers. Eat them if you want to, but know it’s okay if you just don’t feel like eating them again.”
Ozzie touts the use of the toaster oven and microwave. He says. “roasting veggies in the toaster oven is easy and potatoes or corn on the cobb in microwave is quick and no trouble.” The toaster oven also prevents heating an entire oven, and is a cost effective option. Todays market has many choices for toaster ovens and air fryers that work well and are sized for smaller meals.
Now that we have covered shopping, cooking and freezing, let’s discuss snacks. It is important to keep healthy snacks on hand. Ozzie likes to prepare cut apples, peppers, and carrots so they are handy to grab quickly. These will also keep a few days in the refrigerator. Another great thing about snacks is you can enjoy them as a meal. Take your favorite healthy snacks (turkey pepperoni, cheese cubes or string cheese, crackers, olives, etc.) and make a charcuterie board for a meal. If you have a sweet tooth, keeping individual dark chocolates on hand and having one for a dessert may be a nice treat.
Finally, give yourself a break and get take out! Although this has nothing to do with cooking for yourself it is important to care for yourself when you feel overwhelmed and to be sure you eat well, even if you don’t want to cook. Leaving the cooking to someone else can be liberating, and usually provides more than one meal since most restaurants give large portions. Supporting our local restaurants now is critical, and they have gotten really good at providing delicious takeout meals. For the young singles, you can take Kristen’s advice, “Parents or grandparents live close by and love to cook? Go to their house for dinner!” And bring home leftovers!!!!
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