Do you often find yourself cooking for one? Life is more than Hot Pockets, yo! Take the struggles out of meal planning with these great tips! Find out how to make it work for you while also saving on your grocery bill!

Woman cooking for one, from Shelf Cooking

Meal planning and cooking for one are hard, we're not gonna lie! You don't want to eat the same thing day in and day out, and a bowl of cereal really isn't the best meal… Even if it is way cheaper than grabbing take out!

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Whether you're in college and living with roommates, in the workforce and living on your own, or retired and living your best life, your wallet and your health will greatly benefit from learning how to cook for one! Use our quick and easy tips and you'll be a cooking for one pro in no time. Oh yea, party hard!


Weekly meal planner on a counter, from Shelf Cooking

Like anything in life, to make meal planning work, you've got to commit to it! You need to learn how to meal plan the proper way so you're using your kitchen inventory rather than just buying what you want at the grocery store, all willy nilly. Your grocery budget will not only benefit, but you'll cut down on waste (no more tossing food out!)

The good news? Meal planning and cooking for one aren't that different from meal planning and cooking for two people. Luckily for you, we've got a mega-comprehensive meal planning post that goes into all those details of meal planning and cooking for one that you'll want to start off with. Seriously, we'll wait here while you go check that meal planning post out

Okay, now that you've got the low-down on cooking for one, here are some tips and ideas to make it easier on you!


Pressure cooker on a counter, from Shelf Cooking

At the end of a busy day of classes or work, we know the last thing you want to do is whip out your recipe binder and start cooking a meal for one. That's why we love slow cookers so much! You can throw everything in it before you leave in the morning, and you'll come home to a freshly-cooked meal that you don't have to do anything for.

An Instant Pot is another tried and true method for an easy meal on the table, lickety-split. You can cook some rice to go along with whatever delicious meal you have going in the slow cooker. You can even make full meals in your Instant Pot after you get home!

A toaster oven or air fryer is one of the best ways you can cook a smaller meal without heating up the whole house! They use less electricity than the big oven and are the perfect size for cooking smaller portions. They also heat up much quicker than the regular oven, so cooking for one in the toaster oven or air fryer has food on the table lickety split


We mention this in our meal planning for two post, but it's such a big tip that we didn't want you to miss it! Most recipes make 2-4 servings. If you don't want leftovers, then scale the recipes back!

If that sounds daunting, no worries. Let Google do all the work for you! You can easily search for what half of something is. is another great way to help you know exactly how to do this because they have a cool feature that allows you to adjust the number of servings you want to yield.

Our favorite app for calculating recipe yields is Favoreats. You can even use it to meal plan, pull together a shopping list, and stock up with a pantry list. Talk about any cook's best friend! Use code JORDAN15 for 15% off.


Friends prepping food and salad on a table, from Shelf Cooking

Have roommates or friends you like to eat with? Start planning out meals to cook with them as well! It's a fun way to get together in your home, versus spending an arm and a leg at a restaurant. It shares the burden of having to cook every night with other people while also allowing you to cook a “normal portioned” recipe without having to scale it back. Talk about having a home-cooked meal every night while also lowering your grocery bill!


Sometimes you just don't want to cook, but you still want to get together and eat with your friends. We get it! Plan to do that once or twice a week for lunch or dinner and know that's the plan before you do your meal planning and grocery shopping for the week. It'll keep you from buying too much food and not being able to use it all before it goes bad.

When we go out to eat, we like to stretch that meal into two meals when it's possible. As an example, what was an expensive meal becomes a little bit more reasonable when you're getting two servings out of it! Going somewhere with free bread, salads, or chips and salsa? Fill up on that at the restaurant and take the majority of your food home. Got an entrée that you have a hard time finishing? Divide your plate down the middle and only eat half of it!

As you can see, cooking for one isn't all toaster pastries and tears. Let us know how these meal planning tips and cooking for one ideas have worked for you! And share your tried and true methods in the comments below or at our Shelf Cooking Facebook community page!

Image with text that reads "meal planning and cooking for one," from Shelf Cooking

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Happy cooking!