Cooking for One—How I ate well on my own for a week (with super simple meal ideas)

My husband is traveling for work (remember that?) so I’m on my own this week. Here’s how I’m feeding myself well while doing very little actual cooking.

I miss Liam when he’s out of town, but I don’t miss having to make a full dinner every night. Liam follows a pretty Paleo diet—lots of protein and veggies. I prefer to go lighter on the meat, heavier on carbs, and sprinkle cheese on pretty much everything. Also, I like to eat dinner early. I’m starving by 5:30pm, when Liam is still deep in his work day. So this week’s challenge is how is to buy, prepare and eat what I please. Convenience was a big factor. I tried a couple new recipes, but you’ll see there’s not much actual cooking involved here!

Here’s what I learned and the dishes I made to suit my taste.

Tips for Cooking for Yourself

Lemons, avocado, pasta, olive oil, cheese and veggies— all can be used in multiple ways

Plan for what will really bring you pleasure, especially if it isn’t something your spouse likes to eat. For me that’s pasta! I want to stay healthy-ish, but I also give myself permission to indulge a bit. Eating alone for a week is spartan enough. Plus, I find I eat less when I’m eating exactly what I want at the time I want to eat.

Buy ingredients you can use multiple ways. You don’t want too many items that will go to waste. My dishes were mainly Mediterranean or Mexican. There’s so many yummy things you can create with avocados, tomatoes, lemon, olive oil, basil and feta.

Simplify recipes. I made a new dish, Marinated Beans on Olive Oil Toast (photo below), but adapted it to what I had on hand. It called for three fresh herbs, I used one. I used chickpeas instead of white beans and swapped out the required roasted red pepper and sun-dried tomatoes for fresh. It was still delicious.

Skip the sides and make one dish meals to simplify the prep time and cut down on dishes. Microwavable entrees like nachos or stuffed baked potatoes mean you can prepare the food on the plate you’ll eat from.

Embrace your inner child with finger foods like peanut butter and banana, cheese toast and apple, and turkey & cheese stick roll ups. There’s a reason kids like these simple dishes—they’re yummy.

Norman Love Chocolates

Mix up your meals. Is a quesadilla a breakfast or dinner food? Who cares? Eat whatever you want, when you want. The beauty of cooking for one is that you’re the only person you have to please.

Set a place for yourself with a placemat and nice napkin and keep it out on the table. It will help you resist eating over the sink or in front of the TV. You can still savor mealtime when eating alone.

Treat yourself. Cooking for yourself is less expensive than going out to eat, so feel free to splurge on some special treats. Whether it’s fine chocolate, a glass of good wine or gourmet popcorn, celebrate your solitude with something extra delicious.

Dishes I Made This Week

I’m not a skilled chef or photographer, so cut me a little slack. And if you avoid dairy or are gluten-free, you won’t find much you can eat here. But the point is to cater to your own taste and these dishes fit mine. I’d love to hear what you would cook up.

One pot broccoli and pasta (with sautéed herb chicken tenders). This no-recipe pasta dish is my fave and I would eat it on it’s own, but I needed to use up the chicken. Before the pasta is almost cooked, I throw the broccoli in for a few minutes and cover the pot (you could use asparagus, zucchini or any veggie you like). Then I drain it all and toss in olive oil, garlic salt and top it with fresh basil and parmesan cheese. I sautéed the chicken tenders in olive oil and sprinkled them with Italian seasoning. A squirt of lemon elevates everything.

Marinated White Bean Salad on Olive Oil Toast. This is the dish I modified the hell out of and it still turned out to be flavorful and satisfying. The toast is the only thing you heat, and it’s amazing. All toast should be made with olive oil in a pan! I halved the recipe and ate it twice but still had leftovers.

Microwave Mediterranean Potato. I love potatoes. These plastic wrapped spuds can be found in your supermarket produce section and only take a few minutes to cook in the microwave oven. I drizzled mine with olive oil then plopped on a big scoop of tzatziki sauce topped with tomato, green onion and greek olives. A hearty, easy-peasy meal for one.

Orrecchiette with tuna, capers and arugula. I tried this new recipe by Jamie Oliver and am so glad I did. It’s my kind of dish. Just a few ingredients, including a can of tuna I had on hand in my pantry. It’s so flavorful and fresh tasting, I felt like I was in Italy. (It didn’t call for cheese, but I sprinkled on the parm anyway.) Plenty of leftovers, but it just keeps getting better.

Same Ingredient Nachos and Quesadillas. These two dishes are differently constructed versions of the same basic ingredients: refried beans, shredded cheese, peppers, avocado, tomato salsa and sour cream. Microwave them over tortilla chips for nachos or turn them into a stove top quesadilla. Either way it’s an easy dish you can whip up in minutes.

Lastly, my favorite classic. Cheese Toast! It’s a perfect lunch. So melty, warm and comforting. With a sliced honey crisp apple, I’m in heaven.

I did go out for a couple meals with friends, so I wasn’t completely solo. But I really enjoyed the challenge of cooking for myself and it certainly made mealtime more of an occasion (and less lonely). How do you cook when you’re on your own? Please share your suggestions!

8 thoughts

    1. Would love to know how you cook for yourself Laura! I enjoyed the challenge of cooking instead of just eating cheese and crackers. And the new recipes I tried are keepers.


  1. Hi Marjie, I too would be solo when hubby was flying. It was my time to make meals that he did not care for. Love your chicken pea toast and the others. Will need to try these when we cruise this summer.


  2. Hi Margie, My husband is going back to Indy for 2 weeks. I do a mini turkey rueben sandwich on rye toast, a salad and glass on vino. Maybe a Stuffed celery with cheese and crackers I will meet friends for happy hour dinner or just do the popcorn thing. I love having gals over and creating a pasta dish that includes asparagus, Roma tomatoes, broccoli , onions and garlic, parm cheese and olive oil. I don’t do red sauce but pasta is easy using any veggies you have. I’ll do a cold cut sandwich or if not really hungry an egg and cheese omelette. I basically eat fairly early as I can get acid reflux. I watch lifetime movies and pamper myself with a facial and hair in a towel. Haha then very ready for his return,


    1. Sally, that all sounds delicious. Love you take the time to pamper yourself in other ways as well. I’ve been watching the second season of Bridgerton. A visual, romantic treat!


  3. Well….I am currently sitting in a parking lot of my favorite place to get deep dish pizza in my area as my husband is gone for a few nights.

    My other favorites for solo dinners are:
    Cheese and crackers and prosciutto
    Peanut Butter toast on sourdough bread
    Prego spaghetti and garlic bread

    I am VERY IMPRESSED that you actually made full and healthy meals for yourself! That’s AWESOME!!! 🌟🌟🌟


    1. Berit, I’m laughing because I picked up a pizza of my own from California Pizza Kitchen last night. After a week in the kitchen it’s time for take out! You can never go wrong with cheese and crackers – for any meal.


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