Cooking for One

Meal Prep Plan: How I Prep a Week of Easy Meals for One in Just Over an Hour

updated Apr 16, 2021
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Credit: Kelli Foster
Credit: The Kitchn

Cooking for one isn’t always easy. I consistently struggle with either trying to scale down a recipe to a single serving or making a full batch of something that I hope to eat all week, but in reality get tired of by meal three. Sometimes it honestly just feels easier to order takeout and call it a day.

But I set out to change all that with this Meal Prep Plan for one. The strategy is to start with a great basic recipe that has a protein and a versatile vegetable. This way you can then repurpose the leftovers to make another easy and quick “new” meal with just a couple of additional ingredients. For example, this plan repurposes stir-fry leftovers into tacos, then a hearty meat sauce to spoon over spaghetti squash.

So get ready to take the challenge out of cooking for one with this Power Hour. All you need is a little over an hour and you will be prepped for a week of takeout-inspired meals that are not only delicious, but also make you feel like you’ve conquered the serving size game. Here’s how to do it.

Credit: Photos: Kelli Foster; Design: The Kitchn

My Meal Prep Goals

  • Breakfast: A quick breakfast option that is both healthy and filling (five days).
  • Lunch: A creative and delicious bowl-inspired lunch that prevents the temptation of buying lunch (five days).
  • Dinner: A variety of options that require minimal prep and cooking during the week (five days).
  • Nutritional Goals: This week’s meal plan doesn’t start with any particular nutritional goals in mind, but aims for healthy-ish meals that repurpose ingredients in easy and creative ways.
Credit: The Kitchn

Meal Prep Snapshot

  • Feeds: 1 adult for five days
  • Prep time: 90 minutes or less
  • Meals Covered: About 80% (no weekend meals)
  • Weeknight Cooking Required: Light/moderate. Some stovetop cooking and oven required, but most components are already prepped and ready to be heated and assembled.

My Meal Plan




Credit: The Kitchn
Credit: Kelli Foster

My Shopping List

My shopping list when cooking for one focuses on buying for full basic recipes and then adding minimal new ingredients to create “new” recipes using the leftovers. When cooking for one, I always have things like shredded cheese, tortillas, canned tomatoes, and onions in my kitchen. By keeping some basic pantry ingredients on hand at all times, leftovers can easily be recycled and turned into a completely new dish. Be sure to check your pantry for any spices or staples that you already have on hand before shopping.

  • Produce: 2 avocados, 1/2 cup blueberries, 1 pound sweet potatoes, 1 bunch lacinato kale (try and buy pre-chopped to save time if you can!), 1/4 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves, 6 cloves garlic, 1 lemon, 1 piece fresh ginger, 1 pound zucchini (about 3 medium), 1 bunch scallions, 1 large yellow onion, 1 bunch cilantro, 1 cup shredded red cabbage, 1 lime, 2 1/2 pounds spaghetti squash, 1 medium red onion
  • Meat & Seafood: 1 pound ground pork, 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Dry Goods: 1 loaf hearty sandwich bread, 1 tablespoon honey, 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 cup old-fashioned oats, flaky sea salt, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, 2 tablespoons chia seeds, olive oil, 1 cup quinoa, 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, 1/2 cup pitted Castelvetrano olives, 1/4 cup roasted, unsalted almonds, 3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sambal oelek or Asian chili-garlic sauce, 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, canola oil, white or brown rice to serve, 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 2 teaspoons garam masala, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon ground turmeric, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, 2 to 3 corn tortillas, 1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • Dairy: 6 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt, 1 cup milk or plant-based milk, 2 ounces feta cheese, 1/2 cup whole-milk plain yogurt, 3/4 cup heavy cream, 1 package naan bread (2 pieces), 1 container grated Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Credit: The Kitchn

Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done

  1. Prep and roast vegetables. Arrange the oven racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat to 450°F. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle the inside with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper. Place cut-side down on the baking sheet. Prepare the sweet potatoes and chickpeas for the quinoa bowls on a separate rimmed baking sheet, according to recipe instructions. Roast the sweet potatoes on the top oven rack and spaghetti squash on the bottom. Once the sweet potatoes have finished cooking, remove from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 400ºF. Continue cooking the squash for another 15 to 20 minutes until tender and the prongs of a fork can easily pierce through the skin. Cool the squash completely, then shred and place in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  2. Make quinoa and pesto. Meanwhile, make the quinoa and chopped pesto according to recipe instructions for the quinoa bowls. Divide the quinoa mixture between four containers.
  3. Prep kale. If you didn’t buy pre-chopped kale, remove the stems and thinly slice 1 bunch lacinato kale. Divide the kale, cooled sweet potatoes and chickpeas, and feta between the four containers with quinoa. Seal and place in the refrigerator.
  4. Make overnight oats. Double the recipe for Blueberry Walnut Overnight Oats and prepare according to instructions. Store in two sealable jars in the refrigerator.
  5. Make stir-fry sauce and yogurt mixture. Mix together the stir-fry sauce according to recipe instructions and place in a sealed container. Triple the yogurt mixture for the avocado toast according to recipe instructions and place in a sealed container. Place both items in the refrigerator.
  6. Prep chicken tikka masala for slow cooker. This recipe will be cooked on Tuesday night (a lighter cooking night) to keep the dish fresh for later in the week. But it’s smart to prep all the ingredients today so that when Tuesday rolls around all you need to do is dump everything into the slow cooker and turn the machine on. Following the second step of the recipe instructions, dice the onion and mince the garlic and ginger. Sauté with the spices, then stir in the tomato paste and drained diced tomatoes. Allow the mixture to cool, place in an airtight container, and refrigerate. Cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. With these simple steps you just completed 90% of the recipe.
Credit: The Kitchn
Credit: The Kitchn


  • Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Honey-Yogurt Avocado Toast: This breakfast only takes five minutes to assemble. Each day, toast a piece of bread and spread with 2 tablespoons of the honey yogurt mixture. Pit, peel, and thinly slice half an avocado, wrapping the other half for another morning. Place on top of the toast, drizzle with additional honey and flaky salt.
  • Tuesday and Thursday, Blueberry Walnut Overnight Oats: These oats are the perfect on-the-go breakfast since they are already assembled and prepared from meal prep day. I like to add a little honey to mine, but it’s up to you!



  • Monday, Spicy Ground Pork and Zucchini Stir-Fry: Pull out the stir-fry sauce that was prepped previously. Cut the two zucchini into 1/2-inch-thick half-moons and thinly slice 1/4 cup scallions. Cook 1 cup rice according to package instructions. Reserve half to serve with the chicken tikka masala on Thursday. Cook the Spicy Ground Pork and Zucchini Stir-Fry according to recipe instructions. Save the remaining three servings in an airtight container once cooled.
  • Tuesday, Leftover Ground Pork Tacos and cook Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala: Combine 1 cup shredded red cabbage, 2 tablespoons olive oil, the juice of 1 lime, 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a small bowl. Allow to marinate while you assemble the tacos. Reheat one serving of the Ground Pork and Zucchini Stir-Fry in a frying pan on the stove. Meanwhile, char two to three corn tortillas over an open flame until lightly browned. Divide the pork mixture between the tortillas, top with the slaw mixture. Thinly slice 1/2 of a remaining avocado and place on top of tacos.
  • For the Slow- Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala: Add the cubed chicken, sautéed onion mixture, 1/2 cup whole-milk plain yogurt, drained tomatoes, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in the slow cooker. Allow to cook on Low for 8 hours or High for 4 hours depending on your schedule (8 hours is great if you prep your slow cooker right before you head to bed!). When slow cooking is complete, stir in 3/4 cup heavy cream, allow to cool, and place in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Wednesday, Spaghetti Squash with Ground Pork and Red Sauce: The most time-consuming portion of this meal is already taken care of: making the spaghetti squash. To make the red sauce, dice 1/2 red onion and mince 2 cloves of garlic. Heat a medium heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sauté the onion and garlic until softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Add remaining two servings of Ground Pork and Zucchini Stir-Fry and 1 teaspoon dried thyme and cook another minute or so. Add 1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes and 1/2 cup water. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, adding more water to thin the sauce, as needed. Reheat half of the spaghetti squash. Spoon half of the red sauce mixture over the spaghetti sauce and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese. Save the remaining half of the red sauce and spaghetti squash for Friday’s lunch.
  • Thursday, Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala: Reheat the remaining rice as well as one serving of the chicken tikka masala. Heat the naan according to package instructions and garnish the dish with cilantro.
  • Friday, Chicken Tikka Masala Pizza: Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Place remaining piece of naan on a rimmed baking sheet. Top with one serving of the leftover chicken tikka masala. Top with 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese and thinly sliced red onion. Bake until golden-brown and cheese is melted and bubbling, 10 to 12 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and serve. Save the remaining two servings of chicken tikka masala for the weekend or freeze for a later date.


Power Hour Meal Prep is the series where we help you put it all together. We show you how to eat well during the week with an hour or two of Power Hour prep over the weekend. Every plan is different; mix and match to find your own personal sweet spot.