Being single again, I'm thinking it's time I learned how to cook for myself, problem is knowing how to cook, and buy, buying being a significant part of the problem, in quantities that will be just enough for me, and having it be healthy and not all premade. Are there any good cookbooks that lend themselves to this? I should note that I really don't want to eat the same things for a couple of days.

Also do any of the Absolute Beginner Books lend themselves to this? as I'm not very experienced

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    My solution is simple, quantities just for me, to last me 3 days.
    – SF.
    Commented Feb 25, 2013 at 12:49

5 Answers 5


So, my other answer was more general techniques and advise ... but for the actual cookbook question ... the whole 'cooking for one' has been a pet peeve of mine for some time (I missed getting my entry together for the first Food Network Star competition, and they have a restriction in the application form that's kept me from entering ever since)

But, a couple cookbooks that seem to still be in print:

  • Going Solo in the Kitchen : Mostly cookbook with lots of simple recipes, but lots of advice and tips in the beginning and scattered throughout. And brings up a good point:

Actually, cooking for yourself isn't difficult--like anything else, it just sounds difficult if you haven't mastered the basics. Solo cooking is really much easier than cooking for others: It takes far less time, is less costly, and is less emotionally charged (if your food doesn't come out well, you're the only one who knows it.) It's probably one of the arenas of your life where you are totally in control. You can eat when and what you like every night.

... also look for the 'low number of ingredient' type cookbooks. (the concept's been around for longer than Five Ingredient Fix ... I have plenty of this sort of cookbook, but most are out of print. (and I don't actually have that one))

... and if you're not looking for the fine dining type cooking for one, some of the 'college cookbooks' and other introductory cookbooks tend to be more suited for low effort (or low skill), and fewer people, but most still insist on making 4-8 servings, even for the college ones, so take NBenatar's advice.

Also, not exactly cookbooks ... more food writing, plus recipes, but specifically of the 'cooking alone' variety:

... I have some other ones, eg, "The Bachelor's Dinner: Good Food for Single People", by David Jones which strives to be more fine dining (a little too much in that direction for my opinion), but they're out of print, and that one doesn't even show up when I search by ISBN.

Also, if you follow any of the links, Amazon makes recommendations of similar books, as there's lots of books on the topic (just they're ones I haven't read)


One of the problems with using regular cookbooks to cook for yourself is after doing it for long enough, it's hard to get motivated to cook anything too complicated; no one else is going to know if you have a peanut butter sandwich for dinner.

I contributed a few of my lazy ideas to Neurotic Physiology's "Grad Student Cooking in Style", but a large part of it didn't make it in time for the deadline (she didn't accept my 'you didn't say which timezone' excuse) ... here are the various comments I hade typed up, minus the recipes:

The problem with grad school cooking -- unless you're also supporting a family (in which case, hopefully they'll share in the cooking duties), except for the pre-packaged foods, most of it's not sold to serve one person, and the price breaks seem to be when you buy 3 to 5 lb of meat at a time.

So, my suggestion is to buy the unreasonably sized package of meat, but then prepare it so it can be used in sizes you want.

For instance, when that 'family sized' pack of ground beef goes on sale -- I make most of it into burgers, wrap them individually in wax paper, pop eight of 'em into a gallon sized zip-top bag, and freeze 'em. If you want, add some italian seasoning or steak seasoning as you're forming the burgers for some extra variety. (although, they're more versatile if you leave 'em plain. You can toss 'em onto a George Foreman grill still frozen, and they'll come out fine. (although, you'll want to take the wax paper off first). Or, you can thaw 'em, and turn it into a meat sauce for pasta, a quick-cook chili, or anything else that uses ground beef.

During my undergrad, as I didn't have freezer space, I'd get a package in the 1lb range (maybe a little larger), and cook it together with a diced large onion (maybe softball sized), a few cloves of garlic, crushed, and maybe a bell pepper if they were reasonably priced that week. Tightly sealed, the mixture would keep in the fridge for a week, and I just had to heat some up with either :

  • tomato sauce & pasta : meat sauce
  • rice & seasonings : dirty rice
  • can of diced or crushed tomatoes, chili powder : chili (beans are optional ... but it's great over a baked potato)

... the dirty rice would often find itself with a tortilla, cheese and hot sauce in burrito form. If bell peppers are on sale, cut one in half, vertically, then take out the stem, seeds and membrane. Place it cut-side down in a baking dish and roast at 350F 'til it's softened some (maybe 10-15 min), then remove from the oven, stuff with a mix of dirty rice and cheese, then put back into the oven to bake 'til the cheese melts. (f it's leftover dirty rice, you'll cook the bell pepper less on its own, so that it doesn't completely soften up before the rice is heated through ... or microwave the rice first so it's warm before stuffing) ...

If you don't have the freezer space, you can also make meatloaf. I don't have a set recipe ... vegetables (carrots, onions, bell pepper, I've even thrown in a thawed package of frozen spinach), ground beef, a couple of eggs, some bread crumbs (or, if it's not stale enough to break into crumbs, tear it up, soak in milk or water, then squeeze it out, and add the damp bread), italian spices, lay on a sheet pan, then bake. If it starts getting too dark before the center's cooked, add some type of sauce to the top (ketchup, tomato sauce, barbeque sauce, whatever).

If you don't have a microwave to reheat it, just cut it into slices, and then pan fry to warm through. You can also crumble leftovers into tomato sauce and serve over pasta.


If you have freezer space, and a large pot (not worth it otherwise), buy chicken when it' on sale, poach it, then freeze it. If you're even more adventurous, make chicken stock, too.

The normal problem with poaching chicken is you have to remember to take it out, or it gets rubbery -- but there's a trick:

  • bring a pot of water that'll still fit the chicken to a boil (lid on will boil faster)
  • add the chicken to the pot
  • put the lid back on, and bring the water back to a boil.
  • Wait two to three minutes.
  • Turn the heat down to low.

After an hour, the chicken will be cooked ... but it won't be overcooked, even if you leave it in there for three hours. Because we boiled the outside of it, we've disinfected it in case it had surface contamination.

If it's boneless, you can just let it cool, and then cut into chunks later. If there's bones, I take 'em out, and then shread the meat, bag it up, and freeze it in reasonably sized bits. (which for me means filling a quart sized freezer bag part way, then sort of squishing it into two chunks, so it doesn't freeze as one giant lump, and I can take out only half of it at a time.)

If you have some sad vegetables (past their prime, but not rotted, moldy, or mushy ... but we're talking about grad students, you'd have eaten it way before it go to that stage), cut into chunks and toss after you've let the water boil. If you're like my mom, and cut up and freeze stuff for that later batch of stock (along with parmesan rinds, stems from some herbs, etc.), toss it in while boiling, so you don't cool the water down too fast after the boil. Add some salt and pepper, then leave like normal. After deboning the chicken, throw the bones back in, and left simmer for another hour or two ... then strain and cool ... and then after it's spent a night in the fridge, freeze (in ice cube trays or muffin tins, then pop into a zip-top bag, and stash in the freezer for when you need it.

Uses for chopped up chicken:

  • While still a little warm, make chicken salad
  • chicken noodle casserole -- any left-overs can go into a casserole dish, so you can just bake it the next day. (if you want to top it w/ bread crumbs and extra cheese, feel free)
  • chicken pot pie

Uses for shredded chicken:

  • Thaw in a pan with a little bit of water; add taco seasonings; serve as a burrito, with beans & rice, roll into enchiladas, or however you like.
  • shredded chicken also works great in casseroles.


I'ver never been much of a steak eater, but when either top or bottom round goes on sale as a 'london broil' cut (sale for me is ~$4/lb, sometimes less), I'll splurge, and make it into a variety of things: (note -- not all 'london broil' is the same .... they sometimes try to pass off chuck as london broil).

... so, with the leftovers of the london broil, we can then turn it into other completely different meals for the rest of the week:

  • Fajitas
  • Cheesesteak
  • Stir fry
  • Salad w/ steak
  • Beef Stroganoff

When I was single I used to enjoy going to the grocery store and choosing what I would make for dinner that night. I would walk through produce and be inspired by whatever looked fresh and colorful and go from there. The meat department often had single portions of fish or steak, and upon enquiry it turned out that they would break up a pack of meat into single portions for customers. Buying for one person meant being able to splurge a little on certain items. Something else that came in handy was a very small pot and frying pan for cooking single portions. And on occasions where I made too much food, I would bring the rest to work and share with coworkers. Best wishes!

  • I still prefer grocery shopping that way ... and an excellent point on the pot sizing ... no sense heating up 2 gal of water just to cook a portion or two of pasta. (and even if you don't fill it, the increased surface area changes how things cook, and you have to deal with faster evaporation and stir more often)
    – Joe
    Commented Jan 15, 2011 at 22:11
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    Yup, stick me in the kitchen with a cookbook trying to write a shopping list, I'm hopeless. But in the shop checking out whatever takes my fancy, really gets the creative juices going!
    – Benjol
    Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 13:31

You dont need a special cook book for this. Simply make meals that are for 2 people and either put one portion in the freezer or eat it for lunch the next day.

You'll have to experiment with how much to buy yourself - or simply buy what you need for that evenings meal on that day. Do this for a couple of weeks keep track of it, you can then figure out how much to buy weekly and start doing single shops.


A friend of mine has a blog called "Closet Cooking" which is dedicated to cooking in a small kitchen. Thus, the batch sizes tend to be smaller than some other recipes you might find.

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