Seven Solo Meals Worth Making

by Camille on September 3, 2010

Chicken Wraps With Mango, Basil and Mint Photo by jamieanne

Earlier this week, a post on the Wall Street Journal’s “The Juggle” blog caught my attention. Author Anjali Athavaley asked, “Is cooking for one a waste of time and money?”

It’s a great question. Personally, even though I have a husband and a child, I often find myself eating alone, particularly at lunch. And as much as I love not cooking–even if it’s just grabbing something from Whole Foods’ salad bar–I inevitably eat healthier when I make it myself.

Not cooking is supposed to save time–but honestly, it’s usually faster to skip the restaurant or deli and stay in. Deborah Madison, author of What We Eat When We Eat Alone, agrees. “We tend to move so fast that we assume there isn’t time to make a meal for only ourselves,” says Madison. “But the truth is, you can throw together a beautiful meal quickly and easily—it is just for one, after all.”

With that in mind, here are seven fast, delicious and healthy options that are perfect for one person:

1. A cup of hummus with chopped vegetables. “This meal, which takes all of three minutes to pull together, is great for lunch or a large snack,” says Marisa Moore, R.D., a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “And it contains protein, carbohydrates and a little fat—the nutrient combo that keeps you feeling fuller, longer.”

2. Sweet potatoes. “Many women that I interviewed for my book said that sweet potatoes are a mainstay of their solo meals,” says Madison. That’s because these low-cal but nutrient-dense tubers can be cooked in the microwave in under five minutes, and can be served whole, mashed, sweet (with a little cinnamon or brown sugar) or savory (topped with chopped chicken or caramelized onions).

3. Oatmeal topped with nuts or dried fruit. “Don’t assume oatmeal is just for breakfast. It makes a filling, delicious lunch or dinner, too,” says Moore, who recommends adding a dollop of yogurt to your oats for an added protein punch.

4. Sandwich wraps. “Fill a whole grain wrap with sliced turkey, a little cheese and some tomato and lettuce and voila—you’ve got a meal in under two minutes,” says Moore.

5. A salad with dried fruit (like cherries or raisins), nuts and some extra vegetables (think cucumbers, celery and carrots). “Use pre-washed salad greens and bagged fruit and nuts to cut down on prep time,” advises Moore.

6. Eggs. “Breakfast for dinner is brilliant,” says Madison. An omelet with toast or salad makes a warm, tasty meal that can be whipped up in less than 15 minutes.

7. Leftovers. “Yesterday’s lunch or dinner can be a great resource for single serving meals,” says Madison. Don’t have quite enough to fill your plate? Most leftovers—from stir-fry to rotisserie chicken to chili—can be scrambled up with some egg whites, frozen stir-fry veggies or rice to make a proper meal.


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Double up (and other time-saving cooking ideas)
September 8, 2010 at 11:35 am


Dragonkat747 September 4, 2010 at 4:09 pm

A few of my favorite meals for one:

1. Canned chickpeas with tuna: One can of chickpeas and one of tuna (each well drained) mixed with a little olive oil and kosher or sea salt and fresh ground pepper. In a mini chopper, chop a handful of fresh onion, a clove of garlic and a pinch of fresh cilantro or parsley. Stir this into the chickpeas and drizzle fresh lemon juice over the whole thing. Quick, delicious and nutritious.

2. Avocado & bean salad: One can of black and one can of cannellini beans (drained & rinsed) mixed together in a large bowl; in a mini-chopper, chop 3 cloves of garlic and a very generous portion of cilantro, and stir that into the beans (add some onion and fresh tomato if you like, or a spoonful of a salsa fresca); dice a whole ripe avocado, and douse that with some fresh lime juice and stir that into the whole mix. Serve over baby greens and top with grated cheddar cheese. This keeps so well in the fridge you can eat it for a couple of days easily.

Lauren Slayton September 7, 2010 at 2:17 pm

I love the idea that just because you are solo, you still can and should cook. Somehow, when I cook for my family it’s often something I concoct with the kids and my husband’s tastes in mind. When it’s just me, I can hot sauce up the wazoo or combine ingredients the others may deem “too healthy.” I’m looking forward to fall foods, squashes and soups are some of my solo favorites.

Jen September 8, 2010 at 9:41 am

I usually cook for two but make enough for two dinners, so it’s like I’m cooking for 4 really (so I only have to cook every other day and just re-heat on the off days). I’ve come to enjoy the occasions when I get to eat by myself, and on those days I often make something my husband doesn’t like. One of my favorites is a tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad (he hates tomatoes and I love them). Especially if I have buffalo mozzarella on hand. With a little olive oil and sea salt, it’s a delicious dinner.

Camille September 8, 2010 at 11:44 am

Hi Jen,
I just mentioned your comment on today’s post (–thanks for sharing!

Tasti Wave September 8, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Thanks for this list of meals. I think with the right recipes and techniques it is possible to put together some great meals quickly.

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