We often see articles and books giving advice on how to meal prep and plan ahead when cooking for families. Having a solid meal prep plan is a great way of maintaining a budget and resources, while also saving time and making sure everyone in your household has healthy and hearty meals ready to grab and go no matter how much running around you’re all expected to do each weekday. But when cooking for one, we don’t talk about batch cooking as often. However, as a single person living and working in the food media in New York City, I can tell you that making a good meal prep plan can be a lifesaver.
There are a lot of reasons that cooking for one person is easier than cooking for a family. First of all, I don’t have to worry about anyone else’s dietary restrictions or food preferences; I can just make what I want to eat. However, that doesn’t mean I want to cook every day. I go to work events a few nights a week, and even when I’m home all day, I don’t always feel like cooking—which is when I run the risk of blowing my budget on delivery or resorting to quick but unhealthy convenience foods.
I have some good friends that insist that the cost of ingredients plus the time that goes into preparing them makes no sense as a single person, and they live off delivery. I completely disagree. One day during the holiday break, I had a 40% off $25 coupon from one of the major third-party delivery apps. I decided to splurge and order dinner. The resulting meal somehow cost me more than what I could spend on groceries for one meal I could batch cook—and eat for a week.
My Meal Prep Game Plan
I always begin by looking at my calendar. What does my week look like? Do I have dinner plans? Am I traveling? You want to prep all the food you will eat, but not more than you will eat. Remember, the goal here is eliminating food and money waste, not adding to it.
From there, I create and keep maintaining a pretty intricate shopping list. I just do this in the notes app on my phone, but I plan ahead for what I will be making each week and what I need to make it. You don’t want to start out making meatballs and then discover you have no eggs or breadcrumbs and derail that whole plan.
Also, I look for foods that could be prepped easily, but also enjoyed and repurposed in various ways so that each meal felt fresh and interesting. Over the weekend, I started out with the intent to make three dishes:
Additionally, I bought a giant family-sized container of mixed greens and broke those into various containers.
What Happened During the Week
While this may have all translated to quite a large grocery haul and a lot of cooking on one weekend day, it also meant that just about all my cooking for the next week was about to be handled. Also, I was avoiding food waste because I was making exactly what I would be eating as the week progressed.
I used that turkey breast for dinner that night—it felt like a mini-Thanksgiving, all roasted and juicy and crispy. But the leftovers made for a delicious veggie and turkey stir fry the next day.
The brisket was a delicious dinner, as well. (Don’t ever sleep on leftover brisket—it always tastes even better the next day!) I paired these leftovers with some of the beans I had prepped for salad, and turned that into brisket taco bowls another night for dinner.
Always a crowd-favorite, those meatballs also store and freeze so well. They are excellent for a quick dinner on their own or added to sandwiches as a special lunch treat.
Here is how my three squares for the week generally played out:
My average morning is a yogurt cup and banana, or a bowl or cereal and some fresh fruit. Also, having delicious dried fruit options like blueberries or cranberries are excellent to throw in yogurt, cereal, or even salads at lunch when you don’t have time to run to the grocery store for the fresh variety.