Monday, December 5, 2011

The Joy of Having a Neighbor Who Cooks for One

My neighbor Gloria and I occasionally share lunches out (we both love Indian food), trade samples of our favorite dishes with each other and, now and again, pick up an item or two for the other when we find good deals on produce at bargain prices. We're not bosom-buddy girlfriends, although we've known each other for many years. Instead, our admiration and respect for each other center first on being good neighbors (helpful but not intrusive) and second on loving food and cooking for one.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Meal Planning Habits: Does the Nut Fall Far from the Tree?

Like most behaviors, meal planning comes more easily to some than to others. What we see and experience as children probably has a lot to do with it. I know for sure that this nut didn't fall far from the tree: I plan and cook much as my mother did when she was raising me. As a result, meal planning is a habit, something I don't think too much about unless I'm telling someone else how I go about it, or unless I'm trying a different approach because someone in my life has a special need.

As I set out this morning for the grocery store with my weekly shopping list, which this week includes ingredients for my mother's black bean, tomato, and garlic salad, I got to thinking about my mother's shopping strategy. She is almost never an impulse buyer, always having in her head her list for healthy, or as she puts it, "proper" food. I think that as I go on through the years, I probably won't need a list either, but for now I do as I continue to refine the art of meal planning for one, something she's perfected over the last forty years.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sitting on the Urge to Over-buy when Prices are Cheap

A short two miles from where I live is a produce outlet called Produce Junction where buying fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, and eggs in bulk makes for super savings. If I'm careful, I can save a bundle. When oranges in the supermarket are a dollar each, I can get the same variety and quality at Produce Junction for one-third the cost, so long as I buy a minimum of six. Same goes for celery: in the supermarket, $2.29 a bunch; at the bulk outlet, two beautiful bunches for two dollars, but I have to buy two to get the deal.

Finding these super-saving deals is a mixed blessing when planning meals and cooking for one. The prices can't be beat, but just how much can I buy without some of it going to waste?

I've learned a few quick ways to make sure the bargain-priced produce doesn't spoil in the fridge or on the counter.

Why Plan Meals When You're Cooking Only for You?

I used to think that meal planning was pointless, since I'm the only one who's eating. After all, if I have a few staples in the pantry, a selection of fresh vegetables in the refrigerator bin, and a piece of meat or fish in the freezer, I can whip something up, right? And if I don't feel like doing that, I can always order out or pick up something already prepared, a tired girl's treat that is one of my biggest temptations at the end of a busy day. I'm kind of lucky, cooking only for myself. I have no one to answer to, no one whose picky needs have to be met, and no one to criticize me. So, I can eat what I please.

What a convenient trap to fall into. By not planning meals, because it's only me, I am spending money I don't need to, risking eating foods that don't promote my health, and wasting time making decisions I don't need to make.

Save Money
If I plan meals ahead of time, I can eat tasty, satisfying, healthful foods for about 50% of what it costs to order out, dine out, or pick up food through a drive-in window. There are some who don't agree with me, but that's because they've dismissed two critical aspects of cooking for yourself: the cost benefits of planning ahead, and the false justification of applying your hourly rate on the outside job to cooking for yourself at home. That last part may sound a bit strange, but take a look at this article that asks, is eating out cheaper than cooking? Food for thought.