Remember when you’d be standing in line at Disneyland and the ride escorts (what is the formal name for those guys?) would shout that phrase for all the park to hear about the single spot they had open next to a kid? And that kid, oh that poor, poor kid would be trying his hardest to shrink in his seat so as to appear as innocuous as possible. Cooking for one can often be like that.

Sure making your money stretch when feeding a family of four can be daunting, but you’re also wasting little in ways of food. Cooking for one? Well I did manage to make a box of Macaroni and Cheese last for approximately 5 days but it is now a very rare occasion where you will find me eating it at all. So it begs the question: how does one save money on cooking (while keeping a healthy amount of variety in the meals) when the amount of cooking they need to do is for 1-2 people?

Prepare Meals a Week Out
Sounds easy enough right? Compile a select few recipes and build your week’s meal around these (Bonus Point: Choose recipes that feature ingredients coinciding with that week’s grocery sales). This ensures that you will only be making one shopping trip (possibly two to capitalize on any deals your local grocers have going) which saves on gas and time.

Cook Once, Eat Twice
I hate leftovers, no wait I despise them. However, if I make something one night, and realize it can be turned around for a whole new meal the next, well then you’ve got yourself a deal. The most versatile ingredient to do this with is chicken. Now although I, myself, am a vegetarian I’m sure many of you out there are not. So here is an example of two recipes using the same ingredient.

Chicken Risotto
boneless, chicken breasts
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups uncooked regular long grain rice
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. butter

Cut chicken breasts into 1-1/2″ pieces and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In heavy saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook for 5 minutes until tender. Add chicken pieces, and cook and stir until chicken begins to brown, about 3 minutes.
Cook until liquid is reduced, stirring frequently. Continue to add chicken broth to keep rice covered, stirring frequently. Cook about 25 minutes until rice is tender. Add cheese and butter just before serving and stir to melt. 6-8 servings

Risotto Cakes with Tomato Sauce
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp. sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg white
2 cups leftover Risotto
3/4 cup dry purchased bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. dried thyme leaves
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
In large saucepan, saute onion in 1 Tbsp. olive oil until tender. Add tomatoes with their liquid, 1/2 tsp. thyme, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer over low heat while preparing risotto cakes. (You could also just warm up 2 cups of your favorite pasta sauce.)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In large bowl, combine egg white and leftover risotto and blend until combined. In shallow pan, combine bread crumbs and 1/4 tsp. thyme leaves. Form 1/4 cup portions of the risotto mixture into 8 cakes and roll in bread crumb mixture to coat.
Heat butter and 2 Tbsp. olive oil in nonstick skillet. Fry risotto patties 2-3 minutes on each side, turning once, until golden brown. Place on cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees 5-10 minutes until heated through. Serve with tomato sauce. 4 servings

Easy Freeze
Incorporate meals that are easy to make, portion out and then freeze. One of my favorites?

Vegetarian Chili
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon salt
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 (4 ounce) cans chopped green chile peppers, drained
2 (12 ounce) packages vegetarian burger crumbles
3 (28 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can black beans
1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion, and season with bay leaves, cumin, oregano, and salt. Cook and stir until onion is tender, then mix in the celery, green bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, garlic, and green chile peppers. When vegetables are heated through, mix in the vegetarian burger crumbles. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer 5 minutes.

Mix the tomatoes into the pot. Season chili with chili powder and pepper. Stir in the kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and black beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 45 minutes. Stir in the corn, and continue cooking 5 minutes before serving.

One of the best websites I came across is All Recipes since it allows you to adjust your serving size, which in turn automatically adjusts the ingredients (goodbye dividing fractions, I never did like you much). Additionally, you can select recipes that catch your fancy and add them to a shopping list function thus make shopping even more convenient!

Have any yummy, frugal recipes? Do share.