As someone who cooks for themselves alone a lot, how can I improve my efficiency/speed of prep, cooking, clean up etc.

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    Welcome! This is quite broad. Is there anything in particular you find to be slower than you'd like? We're very happy to have you ask multiple questions about different things, even. That lets folks focus on giving you really helpful direct answers. – Cascabel Jul 27 '17 at 6:24
  • I'm slow at putting everything together, prepping food. I use too many bowls, I do all my preparation in an efficient manner.What I'm aiming for are techniques that help efficiency, speed, prep etc. – Carol Jul 27 '17 at 6:49
  • Voting to close as too broad; but could also have been as 'opinion based', because you do not give us numbers. – user34961 Jul 27 '17 at 7:27
  • Let's not get carried away. We don't need numbers in order to help, just specifics. Using too many bowls might be a good starting point - can you explain more about that? Maybe an example of a dish you prepare and how you're using lots of bowls to make it? Or something that's too slow for another reason? – Cascabel Jul 27 '17 at 7:38
  • related : cooking.stackexchange.com/q/11075/67 ; cooking.stackexchange.com/q/12218/67 ; cooking.stackexchange.com/q/1580/67 (The second one was closed in 2012 to serve as an example ... but a mod deleted it in 2014, so it's not elligible to vote to re-open) – Joe Jul 27 '17 at 15:37

Cook in large batches. The difference in time between preparing a single serving and, say, six servings is far, far less than 6x.

Pick the kind of meals that are okay to be refrigerated/frozen, or otherwise preserved, obtain a bunch of single meal sized tupperware boxes, make sure to have room in your refrigerator/freezer/pantry, and prepare quite a few meals of the same dish at a time. Eat one serving, leave the rest "for later".

Don't go about it the way you cook the next batch only when current one runs out, but stagger that - a week of cooking six servings of a new dish every day, leaves you with five more weeks worth of varied meals. Label your food, with type and date so that you don't leave anything too long and you know what you have (it's quite hard to tell some foods apart when they are frozen).

You also don't need to make complete meals - you can prepare some more time-consuming ingredients in large batches, then make the readily made parts of the meal as needed, fresh - e.g. prepare several spaghetti sauces with meat, leaving cooking pasta and adding fresh seasoning as you prepare individual meals.

  • Agreed -- your major speed trick is to try to get back some of the economy of scale ... although you can make some shortcuts on individual dishes, that's your main advantage. related : cooking.stackexchange.com/q/149/67 – Joe Jul 27 '17 at 15:43

The make multiple servings or prep ingredients for multiple dishes is valid, but at a price. Some items take it better than others, but even with an item like carrots that hold up well to prep days in advance, there is still a loss of quality compared to prep just prior to use, the degrading is simply slower than for some other items. On things like that you almost have to pick and choose and decide which is more important to you, the prep time or the improved freshness.

Even when not preparing for one, I am very guilty of the too many bowl syndrome, as I am accused of dirtying every item in the kitchen to make one bowl of cold cereal. Something I find that works for some things though is divided plates which I grew up using for picnics or camping. If I make something like stir-fry, I can prep my items and group them in the order I want to add them rather than having half a dozen containers of ingredients, I end up with one but still get them separated by cooking time and order.

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    Some things (eg curries) even get better from resting in the fridge :) – rackandboneman Jul 28 '17 at 0:27
  • @rackandboneman True, there are some things that meld and mellow on storage. Some sauces come to mind and those I would definitely got the big batch route for sure. – dlb Jul 28 '17 at 1:26

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