Meal prepping for one is notoriously difficult. Either we’re stuck eating the same thing all week or throwing out food because we couldn’t get to it in time. And on top of that, living alone often means a smaller kitchen space, so there’s less counter and cabinet space to work with. Appliances, foods, and prep tools have to be chosen pragmatically—and juggling your knowledge of every fresh food’s shelf life is a lot to keep up with.
Managing your kitchen alone is all about keeping your food fresh and your mess minimal. With less time spent on cleanup and delicious, varied meals on hand, you’ll be happier, healthier, and have more time to actually enjoy the foods you make!
Kitchen Hack #1: Keep Cleanup Minimal
When you have limited counter space and no one to help with the dishes, it’s essential that you use the fewest dishes. Maybe you cook everything in one appliance, but there are even some appliances that let you prepare and serve in the same dish. Here are a few of my favorites.
1) Instant Pot
Instant Pots are a popular kitchen hack for anyone looking for a quick, delicious meal. They’re smaller than ye crockpots of old, and certainly a lot faster. The InstaPot uses heat and pressure to quickly cook multiple ingredients at once. The internet is littered with InstaPot recipes; just dump in your ingredients and voila! You can cook a full meal, hard-boil eggs, or soups and broths. Just be careful the first time you use it and don’t release the pressure too early! Not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything.
It’s Saturday morning! Time for some Adventure Time and bacon pancakes! But there’s no need to dirty up all your pots and pans to make one meal. A nice, big divided skillet saves you from hefty cleanup on your day off. One flat side will accommodate a small pancake, fish, or meat, while the textured grill side is great for bacon or veggies. Plus it’s nonstick for easy cleaning, and the extra grip on the handle gives you plenty of control.
Getting in your daily fruits and veggies can be hard when you live alone. After all, fruit only stays good for so long, and you can’t always get to the grocery store frequently enough to keep fresh food around. Frozen fruit smoothies are a great addition or alternative to fresh fruit. Smoothies are a great breakfast item for folks who are on the go, and having the smoothie already in the cup once you’ve made it? Super helpful.
Get the Most Out of Your Food
And speaking of food waste, keeping your munchies fresh is a real struggle when you live and eat alone. Even on weeks where I’ve gotten really creative with portioning, freezing, and treating my dog with scraps, I’ve still thrown out more food than I’d like because I couldn’t eat it in time. Fortunately, over time I’ve found some handy products that help me keep foods fresh for longer.
Knowing how to best store your fresh food is one of the most valuable skills you’ll learn. And from there, having enough high-quality storage containers on-hand is essential. Each kind of fruit and veggie has its own tricks to keeping it as fresh as possible for as long as possible. The raised bottoms on these Rubbermaid containers prevent foods from getting soggy with condensation while the FreshVent regulates oxygen and carbon dioxide inside the container. Plus, the containers come in any configuration you might need, and they’re modular, meaning they’ll take up minimal storage space when not in use.
There’s nothing like fresh greenery to brighten up a space and make your kitchen smell amazing—regardless of how small and windowless it is. This indoor herb grower comes equipped with an LED light and light-up buttons that tell you when to feed and water your herb friends. The kit includes Genovese basil, curly parsley, dill, thyme, Thai basil, and mint seeds, but you can also grow small peppers if that tickles your tonsils. The aerogarden has slots for 6 plants, which can grow up to 12″ tall. It’s pretty compact in terms of counter space, and you’ll never have to throw away unused herbs again. I’ve already mentioned that this changed my cooking life, and I highly recommend it for fans of fresh herbs.
Of course, staying fed takes a combination of fresh food storage and a cache of frozen food options. Keeping frozen soups, stews, and portions of pasta will come in the clutch one day. Meal prepping for one is all well and good until you get sick—having some heat-and-eat food is going to be a lifesaver. These silicone trays allow you to freeze foods into blocks that are handy, stackable, and super easy to pop out of their silicone cases when it’s time to heat them up.
Kitchen Hacks for Special Occasions
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, whether you live alone or not, it’s important to take time to indulge yourself. Whether it’s making your perfect cup of coffee or a glass of wine and a fancy meal for a special occasion, everyone deserves to be excited about going into their kitchen. Growing up, I got the idea that eating alone was a sad thing to do. But now that I’m an “adult”, I’ve come to treasure time spent in my kitchen brewing the perfect cup of tea. So whatever your little treat is, there are compact, attractive options for the things you love.
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but you deserve fancy coffee. And you shouldn’t have to put on pants to go get it. This Nespresso coffee maker comes with a milk frother, so you can master the art of making shapes in your milk foam. Nespresso operates with coffee and espresso pods that you can send back to the company for recycling. There are all kinds of flavors, and the pods are available on Amazon Prime, making them really convenient for subscription folks. The coffee maker is magic because of its single portion sizes, but it’s also great for minimal clean-up needs. The water tank is adjustable, making it ultra-adaptable for kitchens with limited counter space.
2) Wine Corker
Listen, I’m not saying you can’t drink a full bottle of wine in one go. I believe in you! But if you don’t want to, you shouldn’t have to start a homemade wine vinegar business so you can enjoy some wine. A wine pump means that you can stop worrying about the shelf-life of your opened wine. Now you can finish your bottle of wine within the span of a week, meaning that your mealtimes can enjoy variety. And the pump is so easy to use—just fix a rubber stopper in the bottle, place the pump over it, and give it a few pushes until all the air has been removed.
You don’t have to cook an elaborate meal or uncork a bottle to enjoy a luxurious moment. Look no further than a cup of tea for a special, elegant moment perfect for any time of day. And having a tea kettle with preset temps is essential for the perfectly brewed cup. Hate having to babysit the kettle? Just press the temperature button from white, green, black, or herbal and wait for the beep! And then enjoy tea time.
Single living often means apartment living, and apartment living means you can’t have a grill unless you want to burn down your building. And grills are a lot of effort. But you can still enjoy traditionally-grilled foods without a fire or the use of propane or propane accessories. Thanks to a drip tray, cleaning this grill is really easy, and it fits nicely in a cabinet so you can hide it away when it’s not in use. Look, you won’t get the taste of charcoal, but you’ll still be able to exert moderate Dad-energy by watching your food grill through the searing window on the top.
Donuts, funnel cake, french fries, fried Oreos—whatever your fried food fix, an air fryer is a great little indulgent doo-dad to have around for special snack occasions. Does it look cute on the counter? Yes. Is it easy to clean? Yes. And it comes in several colors, so you can choose the look that fits your space. Air frying is a healthier option than frying, so you can still enjoy your sinful treats with your body’s health in mind. This is one of those kitchen accessories that will make you take a creative look into your pantry. Welcome to the freedom of chaos: basically anything can be fried.
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