5 Easy Weeknight Meals For One That Will Get You Excited About Dinner

Easy weeknight meals for one

Verywell / Theresa Chiechi

A one-person household used to be a rarity, but these days, more and more people are living alone. If you’re among the many who live sans roommates or family members, there are numerous activities you probably do solo—including cooking for yourself.

Since cooking for one presents certain challenges, it can be tempting to rely on restaurant meals or pre-packaged microwaveable fare. But research shows that home-cooked meals are best for your health. One large 2017 study found that people who ate home-prepared foods were more likely to have better diet quality.

Whether you’re newly single or have been living alone for years, there’s always an opportunity to get savvier about creating meals for one that are both easy and nutritious. Here’s a look at the challenges and benefits of single-serving cooking, tips for making it easier, and five delicious recipes just right for solo dining.

The Challenges of Cooking For One

Although any number of people can comprise a household, the nuclear family of four still seems to be the standard metric for many recipe developers. For this reason, lots of recipes simply make too much food for one person. Unless you’re a math whiz, this can take some time-consuming calculating.

Some recipes, meanwhile, don’t make it easy to downsize the end result. For example, it’s hard to transform multi-serving foods like pies or casseroles into solo-sized versions.

Grocery shopping can also be a challenge for those who live (and eat) alone. The large size of most packaged foods means some ingredients may go bad before you can use them. And since shopping for multiple people tends to offset cost, solo grocery shopping could result in spending more money per meal than shopping for a family.

The Benefits of Cooking For One                    

Despite the obstacles solo cooking can present, it comes with hidden benefits, too. When your meal plan is entirely up to you, the food prep world is your oyster! This means you can make the choices that best suit your tastes and health goals as you meal plan, cook, and eat.

With no one else to tell you what to eat and when, you can also feel relieved of the pressure that sometimes comes with social eating. By cooking and dining alone, you get to determine your portion sizes, decide when you’d like to eat, and judge when you’d like to stop eating. Without the distraction of eating with others, you may be more likely to tap into feelings of fullness for an experience that's more mindful.

Tips For Grocery Shopping and Cooking For One

To make shopping and cooking for yourself more of an adventure—and less of a headache—try these tips:

Make a Meal Plan

Meal planning is a helpful tool for nutritious eating, no matter how many people you’re cooking for. Deciding your weekly breakfasts, lunches, and dinners before grocery shopping gives you control over exactly what to purchase and how to make the most of your food supply.

Stock up on Non-perishable Items

No one likes throwing out food, but food waste is a common problem for solo chefs. To prevent unfortunate losses, focus on purchasing non-perishable items that will keep for a long time. These might include canned beans, vegetables, and meats like chicken or tuna, or frozen fruits and veggies. And don’t forget about non-perishable flavor enhancers like dried herbs, spices, oils, and vinegars.

Get Familiar With Measurement Conversions

Since most recipes are intended for multiple eaters, there’s no getting around a little math if you’re cooking for one. Get familiar with basic measurement conversions like how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon and how many cups are in a quart. With a little practice, you’ll be downsizing recipes like a pro.

Get Friendly With the Freezer

Rather than make multiple individual meals, sometimes what's easiest is to make a bigger batch and save the leftovers. Enter your best friend, the freezer! Once you’ve cooked a larger recipe, portion out individual servings in freezer-safe containers. Then, when you’re ready to eat, simply pull them out and reheat. You may be surprised to discover how many foods can keep in the freezer. Soups, casseroles, baked goods, and meat dishes all hold up well when frozen.

Recipes for One

Need a little inspiration for party-of-one dining? Fill out your meal plan with these five easy, single-serving recipes.

Low-Sugar Coconut Raspberry Oatmeal

Purchased oatmeal packets that serve one are convenient, but sometimes filled with artificial flavors. Start your day off on a better note with this homemade low-sugar coconut raspberry oatmeal. It gets its sweetness naturally from an infusion of frozen raspberries, then adds coconut flakes and chia seeds for a pleasing crunch. Bonus: this oatmeal is gluten and dairy-free, making it an ideal choice for those with food sensitivities.

Tuna Salad Collard Green Wrap

For a nutrient-rich lunch for one, check out this tuna salad collard green wrap. Its filling is wrapped in a large collard green leaf instead of the usual tortilla. The dark green of this leaf isn’t just pretty to look at; it comes with notable health benefits. Collard greens are a member of the cruciferous vegetable family. Research shows that eating more of this type of vegetable may reduce the risk of several types of cancer.

Besides the top-notch nutrients in collard greens, this wrap also packs fiber and extra color from apple chunks and an entire carrot, plus plenty of protein from a 5-ounce can of tuna. Dislike tuna? Opt for a low sodium, nitrate-free deli meat, like turkey with a slice of cheese.

Berry Balsamic Quinoa Bowl

Is it a breakfast, a lunch, or a dinner? You decide! A berry balsamic quinoa bowl is a delicious, nourishing choice any time of the day. This complexly flavored grain bowl layers three types of fresh berries, spinach, and walnuts atop a bed of fluffy quinoa. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar finishes things off with a tangy bite. Add a grilled chicken breast or pan-seared tofu slices to make it even more satisfying.

Foil-Cooked Salmon Over Pan-Cooked Green Beans

Light the candles and pull out the classy tablecloth—just because you’re dining alone doesn’t mean you can’t have a fancy dinner now and then! Foil-cooked salmon over pan-cooked green beans is a simple-but-elegant meal for when you’d like to treat yourself.

Here, heart-healthy salmon gets slathered with a delicious herb dressing and served alongside green beans and tomatoes. Pair the whole thing with a grain like couscous or quinoa to soak up the flavor.

California Summer Vegetable Omelet

When you’ve got extra veggie scraps hanging around the crisper, an omelet is an easy way to enjoy them. For a light, veggie-filled meal for one, try this California summer vegetable omelet. It’s packed with antioxidant-rich cherry tomatoes, healthy fats from avocado slices, and a sizable dose of protein from eggs and Monterey Jack cheese. A sprinkle of fresh cilantro finishes things off with a pop of extra color.

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Wall Street Journal. More Americans Are Living Solo, and Companies Want Their Business. June 2, 2019.

  2. Mills S, Brown H, Wrieden W, White M, Adams J. Frequency of eating home cooked meals and potential benefits for diet and health: cross-sectional analysis of a population-based cohort studyInt J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017;14(1):109. doi:10.1186/s12966-017-0567-y

  3. National Cancer Institute. Cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention. Jun 7, 2012.

By Sarah Garone, NDTR
Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a freelance health and wellness writer who runs a food blog.