10 of Our Best Tips for Meal Planning for One

updated May 29, 2019
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(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

Despite the fact that I am married, I find myself eating a lot of dinners alone. (This sentence sounds super sad, but I assure you that we have a system that works for us!) I’m often tempted to eat popcorn and wine for dinner (while pretending I’m Olivia Pope), but I know I can do better — as long as I plan ahead.

Here are my best tips for eating like a real human when flying solo.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

1. Choose recipes that specifically serve one or two people.

They do exist. Make a smaller recipe and you won’t have a ton of leftover (read: wasted) food.

Recipe Inspiration

Alternately, almost every recipe can be cut in half. All it takes is some simple math (like, seriously simple) and you might have to adjust the cook time, depending on what you’re making. Just keep an eye on it and you’ll be golden — but not too golden.

2. Portion out your meat.

As soon as you get home from the supermarket, break your packs of, say, chicken breasts into individual servings and stash them in the freezer. (Tip: Your grocery store’s butcher should be willing to do this for you if you don’t want to.) In the mornings, you can just defrost the meat you’ll need that night.

3. Put leftovers straight into the freezer.

Making a lasagna or a casserole? Great! Serve yourself and then, when it’s time to clean up, save some in the fridge for later in the week and wrap up at least half to put straight into the freezer. This way you won’t get tired of eating the same thing five days in a row and you’ve got a few nights of food for another week sometime down the line.

4. Roast a bunch of veggies at once.

Basically the only way I’ll eat vegetables is if they’re roasted and, because I don’t always have an hour to prep and cook them, I like to make a big batch earlier in the week and keep them in the fridge. When I want them, I just have to heat them up. Of course, this same idea works for soups, chicken, and more. Make stuff in advance (this is what Sunday is for) and you’ll have it when you need it.

(Image credit: Megan Gordon)

5. Make breakfast for dinner.

Eggs stay good in the fridge for a while (ditto to cereal in the pantry), and you usually don’t have to put much thought into a breakfast-for-dinner situation. Bonus: If you’re up for it, this is your chance to practice poaching eggs. You only have to make one or two (versus a whole carton for a brunch crowd) and it doesn’t matter if they’re not super pretty.

Recipe Inspiration

6. Grocery shop at the salad bar.

A 15.5-ounce can of chickpeas might be a little more than you need. Don’t open a can only to waste half of it! Instead, shop for ingredients at your grocery store’s salad bar. You can measure out perfect portions of lettuce, cheese, onions, whatever you need.

7. Make things you don’t mind eating for lunch the next day.

I don’t always love eating the same dinner two nights in a row, but for some reason, I’m okay with eating last night’s leftovers for lunch while I’m working. Maybe it’s because something about dinner for lunch seems oddly indulgent and so much better than my usual $8 sandwich from the deli?

8. Make a base you can use all week.

In my opinion, chicken is basically the most versatile ingredient ever. Roast a whole chicken or even a few grilled chicken breasts and you have a base for a ton of meals (tacos, salads, sandwiches, the list goes on!).

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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

9. Have a pizza night.

Most meal planners keep pizza night in their repertoire to give themselves a night off, but a pizza delivery (or even a pick-up) seems a little unnecessary for a party of one. Instead, keep some sort of flatbread or pizza dough on hand and, whenever you want, you can transform leftover chicken and vegetables into a personal pizza.

10. Invite people over.

Sometimes there’s a recipe for, say, a giant brisket that you really want to make and you don’t want to deal with leftovers. Don’t! Just invite people over to dine with you. Meal planning can work with real life, and real life includes socializing!

Do you meal plan for one? What are your best tips?