Savvy solutions for single cooks

One of the worst things about cooking meals for one is the waste. A recipe to feed four people calls for one onion diced or one tin of tomatoes – what do you do with the other three quarters? Non-singles will tell you that you should cook the whole recipe and freeze it – as if your punishment for being single is to eat the same food four times over a short period. Instead, you end up with a freezer full of leftovers that you don’t feel like eating but feel guilty about wasting. Hopefully, these tips will make it a little easier to enjoy your meals for one, without the waste or the guilt.

Garlic and ginger
The base for most curries and stir fries.

  • 1 bulb of garlic – cloves peeled and roughly chopped
  • 6cm chunk of ginger – peeled and roughly chopped
  • Drizzle of olive oil

Whizz together in a food processor (or an electric coffee grinder)

Spoon on to a sheet of cling film, then roll into a sausage shape and freeze.

Cut off chunks as needed (if you like things a little spicier you could include chillies in the mix).

Casserole/stew/soup base

  • 1kg carrots
  • 1 bunch of celery (why is it a bunch when it’s one thing?)
  • 4–6 onions

Chop, food process or slice all ingredients and mix together in a large bowl.

Freeze in a plastic zip lock (less freezer effect than a freezer bag).

Pull out a handful whenever making a bolognaise, stew, soup and cook in a little oil until soft and lightly coloured through before adding other ingredients.

Instead of buying onions and throwing out most of them, try buying spring onions instead. It is much easier to prepare a small portion  and they add almost the same flavour to the dish, but are just a little more delicate.

If you prefer ‘real’ onions, dice the whole thing, set aside what you need for your recipe and freeze the rest in a zip lock bag.

Tinned ingredients
Save your takeaway coffee cups because they are great for freezing half a tin of ingredients.  Freeze standing up in the coffee cup then transfer to a freezer bag so they will keep better.  Next time you make the same recipe, you won’t need to buy the tins of ingredients because the portion you need will be in the freezer.

Herbs are difficult; you need to buy a whole bunch of rosemary to use three sprigs. Once I made a deal with another grocery store customer that I would buy the bunch; he would give me $2 and I would give him half – but it was still too much. Growing your own is great – but your herb patch may not stretch to the many varieties you want for cooking.

Dried herbs are always an option, but if you do buy fresh, make sure to wrap the herbs loosely in paper towels only and place in your vegetable crisper. They will keep longest this way.

There’s always too much leftover pasta.  The best way to reheat cooked pasta (plain, un-sauced) is to pour boiling water over it, or immerse it in boiling water for 30 seconds. This will refresh it without drying it out or making it gluggy. It’s what they do in restaurants.

Dice a variety of capsicums, or just one colour, and freeze. They freeze surprisingly well, and though you couldn’t eat them raw and defrosted, they cook up very well.

Buying small
Even though the unit price (i.e., price per kg/ml) is higher when you buy a smaller quantity, it can still represent a saving if there is no waste. Better to use all of what you buy at a higher price than throw your savings in the bin.

And we’d be remiss if we didn’t give you a recipe to test your new-found knowledge.

Smoked salmon pasta for one

Cooking time: 15 minutes


  • 1 pack hot smoked salmon (flaked)
  • 4 spring onions diced
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 2 tablespoons cream (any type, including sour)
  • 125 grams of spaghetti (1/4 box)
  • 1 tablespoon capers (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Knob of butter 

Put the water on to boil.

While waiting for the water to boil, prep the ingredients.

Once the pasta is on, allow five minutes to cook the rest of the ingredients.

With five minutes to go, put the frying pan on the stove top. Heat to medium and add oil and butter.

Once the butter melts, add the spring onions and garlic, and cook over low heat until soft.

With one minute to go, add the capers and salmon.

Drain the pasta and add to the frying pan with cream, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Toss through with tongs and serve.

Related articles:
Paella for One
Creamy Fish Pie for One
Fried Rice for One


YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.
- Our Partners -


- Advertisment -
- Advertisment -