A Table For One

By: Monica Nagele

In a world that often emphasizes communal dining and family gatherings, navigating the world of solo cooking and dining can be challenging. Even with a bank of nutrition knowledge, I find myself settling for a bowl of cereal or PB and J. That’s not too fun…or sustaining.

#1 Let the freezer become your best friend.

Consider making brown rice or barley and freeze in individual portions using a muffin pan. Once frozen, the discs can be stored in a zip-top bag. Fresh meat can also be cooked, seasoned and stored in individual portions. Consider buying a pound fresh ground beef, adding a packet of reduced-sodium taco seasoning and put in ½ cup portions in the freezer to easily add to a taco, burrito bowl, taco salad, or quesadilla any day of the week. Consider also making a whole meal such as a lasagna and put it into two pans. One to bake now, and another in the freezer to bake next month.

#2 never throw food away

Cut down on waste at the grocery store, by buying only the produce that you can reasonably eat before the produce goes bad. Take extra grapes or cherries out of the bag and pare down that bunch of bananas to what you’ll eat. If the produce looks like it’s going to go bad before you can get to it, chop it into slices and (again) freeze it to make a quick vegetable stir fry or some yummy fruit smoothies or blueberry pancakes.

#3 keep some not-so-perishable staples on hand

You can get more creative with more ingredients to mix and match with. Keep your favorite type of canned beans, canned vegetables (such as corn or tomatoes) or jar of salsa on hand to sprinkle on top of a pizza, salad or throw into a stuffed pepper or soup. Eggs can be cooked different ways and with different seasonings to spice up your meal. Kept in the refrigerator, they keep for months so these are an easy way to get in a quick protein.

#4 Eat mindfully

Don’t let your dinner alone be a bag of chips while doing laundry. Use the space to slow down, spark some creativity and do something for yourself. While cooking light a candle and enjoy some relaxing music. While eating, tune into and notice the texture, flavor, color, and aroma of the food you are enjoying. Be proud of yourself for taking care of your physical and emotional health. This can help you feel accomplished for whatever life throws your way.

If this is something you are struggling with join Dusk to Dawn Bereavement and Monica Nagele from Purdue Extension on a culinary adventure that not only equips individuals with practical meal planning and storage skills but also aids in the healing process after experiencing grief and adjusting to cooking for one. This support group will be held at Christ Lutheran Church Wednesdays in September from noon to 1 PM.

– Monica Nagele is the County Extension Director and educator of health and human science for the Montgomery County Purdue Extension.