Love Food Hate Waste – The Single Serving Dilemma – How to Cook for One without Wasting Food

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LFHW logoPortion sizes and recipes are often created with the typical ‘family of four’ in mind. So reducing food waste can be a challenge when you are cooking for one. Because even if last night’s dinner will be today’s lunch, solo dining can still mean more leftovers than you want or need. But eating alone doesn’t have to equal excess food. Here’s five ways to love a table set for one, without creating the waste we hate.

Kim from New Westminster, BC emailed us with the following comments on the challenges of food shopping for a single-person household:

“This is my problem. I am single and live alone. If I buy a head of lettuce, I either am eating lettuce for a week, 2 meals a day, or I end up throwing half of it out, because I can’t eat it in time. I buy one English cucumber – it goes completely soft and mushy before I can eat it all. If I buy a watermelon or cantaloupe, most of it will go moldy before I can eat it. I’ve resorted to buying cut fruit, but it’s extremely expensive and only available at certain stores.

Meat is almost unheard of for me to buy. Even if I go to a deli counter and buy slices – I have to eat everything within a couple of days after thawing it. One time I ended up eating sliced ham for 6 meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – so I would use the meat up.

How do we get around the sizes of the vegetables and fruits? That’s my biggest issue! When you eat alone, things need to be SMALL. I’m sure this is a bigger problem than one might think with all the seniors that are living alone.

Topping it off – I do shift work and my shifts can potentially change EVERY SINGLE DAY. One day I could be working 1630 – 2400, another day 0900 – 1630. How do I plans meals and food purchases around a schedule like this? Any suggestions?”

Kim’s story isn’t unusual. There are more and more single person households these days and they all face similar challenges when it comes to spending wisely on food and avoiding waste. Here’s some ideas to help make your food last longer and your grocery budget stretch further:

Start With a Plan

One of the most effective ways to reduce food waste is with a weekly menu plan. By planning your meals before you head to the grocery store you can pick and choose recipes utilizing similar ingredients. Items like onions, garlic, and green peppers are as at home in an Italian spaghetti sauce as an Asian stirfry or Mexican taco salad. You can utilize the same ingredients in three very different meals and that lonely half onion won’t end up drying out in the fridge waiting for you to need it again. The Love Food Hate Waste menu sets are a great place to start. Don’t forget to check your fridge and pantry before you go to the grocery store. You may already have some ingredients you need to use up. What else do you need to turn them into a meal?

Embrace the Container

Have plenty of reusable containers in all kinds of sizes available for those inevitable leftovers. Single serving sizes are ideal for pre-made lunches and dinners. Little containers make it easy to keep things like homemade dips and side dishes until the next meal, rather than making a fresh batch for each meal. Bigger containers can store items like a whole chicken or roast beef and stop them from drying out uncovered in the fridge. Once you have your leftovers safely stored, learn how to organize your fridge to make food last longer.

Fill the Freezer

You might be surprised by the wide variety of food items that can be frozen and stored for long periods of time. From corn on the cob to yoghurt, many foods are quite suitable for freezing. The Love Food Hate Waste website has a list of foods you might not have considered putting in your freezer, along with useful tips for ensuring they stay fresh and tasty. For instance, freeze your bread the day you buy it and only take out slices as you need them. Frozen bread will stay fresh for as long as three months without drying out. You can even save some money if you wait for a sale to stock up!

Shop (Or Eat) With a Friend

There’s no doubt that buying in bulk can save you money at the grocery checkout. But not if the food spoils or goes stale before you finish it. Consider partnering with a friend to take advantage of quantity discounts on items like canned goods, in-season fruits and vegetables, and bulk meat purchases. Another approach, spice up your menu and your social life with a dinner club. You can host a weekly get-together, or simply have each participant cook a big meal that is split into portions and delivered to your door. A great way to break out of cooking the same-old dishes again and again, adding some variety to your diet too! Here are some food-saving ideas from our Love Food Hate Waste friends.

Know Your Portions

As noted above, most recipes are designed to feed four or more. That can lead to waste if you aren’t cooking for a full house. But some online recipes, including those at the Love Food Hate Waste website, can automatically recalculate ingredient measures. An ideal solution for cooking small portions of dishes best served fresh, or when you don’t want to deal with leftovers.

For more information, including menus, recipes, food storage tips, and facts
about shelf life and best before dates, visit the Love Food – Hate Waste website:

You can also follow the campaign on social media at:

Hashtag: #nofoodwasted
Twitter: @LFHW_ca
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