Cooking for one on a budget

Portrait of smiling woman with wineglass cooking in kitchen

When you're home alone, the idea of cooking (and clearing up afterwards) might not sound too appealing, and all too often you're tempted to reach for a ready meal or TV dinner.

But cooking for one doesn't have to be a chore, so put on some music, get creative in the kitchen and you'll be eating cheap, healthy meals rather than processed rubbish before you know it.

Think of the benefits
When you're cooking for one, you don't have to worry about what suits someone else - it's all about what you want to eat. Though planning meals is an essential for those on a budget, don't forget that by the time you've finished work, most supermarkets are trying desperately to get rid of stock that's about to go out of date, and singles can take advantage by snapping up that day's dinner without having to think what their other half might fancy.

Beware of BOGOF deals
As tempting as those buy one, get one free offers might seem, they're of little use to single folk, unless they're non-perishable items like frozen or tinned goods. When it comes to fruit, veg and meat, avoid buying more than you need just because it's on a deal. It'll only end up in the bin.

Opt for one-dish dinners
The clearing up often puts people off when cooking for one, and if that sounds like you, then keep cleaning to a minimum by cooking one-pot meals. Casseroles, chills, stews and soups are ideal for these purposes, and you can get all your nutrition in one place by adding fresh veggies, protein and carbs like potatoes or pasta. And don't worry if you cook too much - simply separate into individual portions, label with the date, and freeze for an emergency meal.

Cook once, use often
Protein might be an essential part of your diet, but for meat-eaters it can be an expensive business. Rather than forking out more for chicken breast fillets, buy a whole bird and cook a hearty roast at the weekend. You'll have plenty of leftover meat for the rest of the week, and you don't have to make do with chicken sandwiches. You can add the remainder to soups, salads, quesadillas, risottos, pasta or curry, whatever you like. It's the perfect way to get your protein and stretch your money further.

Invest in a slow-cooker
From stews and soups to curries and casseroles, slow-cookers are an essential piece of kitchen kit for singletons, particularly during winter. All you need do is chop the ingredients, throw them in the pot, add stock or chopped tomatoes, and let the machine do the rest while you're at work. By the time you get home you'll have a hearty, warming meal ready and waiting, and because it's slow-cooked, even the cheapest cuts of meat will be tasty and tender.

So if you're living alone, throw out those TV dinners and get rid of the ready meals. Home cooking doesn't have to be hard, and you'll be healthier, and more satisfied if you've employed some kitchen creativity.

Do you live alone? What tips and tricks do you use to make your money go further? Leave your comments below...
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