I began cooking for myself regularly when I was a culinary student in Paris more than a decade ago. Back in those days, I lived in a tiny studio with a small refrigerator and very few cupboards. My pantry was compact and I shopped for most ingredients at the neighborhood farmers markets on an almost daily basis.
During this time, I learned two fundamental lessons for solo cooking:
1. It’s always best to buy small quantities of food so you avoid wasting ingredients.
2. When buying small quantities is not an option, properly storing food is key, as is stocking up on items with long shelf lives.
I've put together a list of the essentials I keep in my fridge and freezer. They go a long way when feeding just one mouth.
Whether I need something to sustain me while cooking or just want something to nibble on while watching Netflix, these are a few of the things I keep on hand in the fridge—and they double as ingredients in my dinner recipes:
Proteins can be tricky in terms of keeping well. Lentils and beans are great options. So are eggs, of course. Another life-saver is smoked salmon, which is great for sandwiches, salads, omelets, or pasta. Once opened, eat within five days.
These are the things that can be easily forgotten, left alone in a solo cook’s fridge until rendered inedible. The best way to avoid this sad fate is to use leftovers quickly or store them properly. Some ideas:
Save yourself a headache (and/or a smell test), and always write what you’re freezing as well as the date on the zip-top plastic bag you're storing it in.
What has your experience been cooking for one? Tell us about it—and about your 1-person-pantry staples—in the comments.
Klancy Miller is the author of Cooking Solo: The Joy of Cooking for Yourself, due out March 8, 2016 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.