25 November 2017

Keeping House for One: Meals

Dear Lissy,

Your oldest brother just landed a sweet job, and rented his first apartment.  Daddy and I love his new church,workplace, and home!  As he and I have talked through the logistics of being on your ownsome, I realized I had a hole in my homemaking posts to you:  Keeping a home for one.  The simple fact is that a full time job and faithfulness to a local church fill a week.  The margin around those responsibilities is generally at times that your energy will be low.  So how do you keep an apartment neat and homey, eat nutritious meals, and keep up with the paperwork?  Let's start with a simplified version of what we've learned for a larger home that keeps the life, budget, and energy levels of a single person in mind. 

We'll begin with meals, because that was my biggest challenge as a newlywed. I made the all-or-nothing mistake:  we either had nutritious homemade meals or hit Checkers for burgers, fries, and milkshakes.  The better choice would have been to eat easy meals 3-4 times a week, homemade meals 2-3 times a week, and planned in an occasional splurge out.  I also made the colossal mistake of being "too tired to do dishes right now" and ended up with a dishpan full of gross slimy dishes to deal with every couple of days.  Yuck!  Now I would recommend a hearty supply of paper goods for days you know you don't have the energy to clean the kitchen.  Even if you don't take time to do the dishes, scrape, rinse, and stack instead of soaking.

  • Basic Breakfast(2-3x/wk):  Ready to eat, but can be a sugar bomb or budget buster if you're not careful.
    • Yogurt and granola
    • Cold cereal
    • Protein bar
    • Bagel with cream cheese
  • Better Breakfast(3-4x/wk):  Has to be prepared, but generally cheap and healthy.  Make several days at once on a slow morning so you have one prep and cleanup.
    • Scrambled egg and sausage burrito (make 4 at once, wrap and save 3)
    • Hard boiled eggs and muffins from mix (make 6 of each once, wrap and save 4 for later)
    • Smoothie:  Make up bags to store in freezer with all ingredients, blend at breakfast.
  • Splurge (1x/wk):  Convenience store, donut shop, fast food, diner.


  • Basic Lunch(3-4x/wk):  Fast and easy, but can be a fat bomb or budget buster.  Most items can be made at home inexpensively, or purchased at a grocery store for a few extra $
    • Sandwich, chips, fruit, snack
    • Crackers/pretzels and fresh veg with hummus
    • Salad or wrap
    • Meal replacement bar or shake
  • Better Lunch(2-3x/wk):  Leftovers! If you have access to a microwave, dinner leftovers make an nutritious and inexpensive lunch.
  • Splurge (1x/wk):  Convenience store, sandwich shops, fast food, cafe, food truck.


  • Basic Dinner (3-4x/week):  Bowls. Make these up one evening and store the leftovers for the rest of the week.
    • Cook off 2 cups rice, 1# noodles, or 4 baked potatoes.  Store 3 portions in container in fridge, save out 1 for dinner.
    • Cook off 4 portions of meat.  This can be 4 of the same or varied. Slice/Chop and store 3 portions, save 1 out for dinner.  A rotisserie chicken is an easy way to do this without a lot of time or mess if you have a busy week.  Scrambled hamburger also is fast and lends itself well to Mexican and Italian sauces.
    • Buy 1# total of frozen veg.  I keep a several bags of different types of frozen veg in the freezer. 
    • Buy 3 - 4 different jarred sauces that you like:  Chinese, Salsa/Taco Sauce, Gravy, Spaghetti/Alfredo, etc.  These are generally found in the center aisles of the store.
    • Assemble as needed:  1 cup starch, 1 portion (4-6 oz) meat, 4 oz veg, and enough sauce to make it yummy. Microwave in a bowl. Add shredded cheese, olives, etc. if desired.
    Better Dinner (2-3x/week):  On nights you don't have an after dinner commitment, make a fresh hot meal for 4, and use leftovers for lunch.  This meal will be a main, veg or salad, good bread, and a light dessert like pudding or jello.  
    • Make a soup or casserole and you'll have lunch leftovers for the rest of the week.  
    • Try a new cooking technique -- maybe a frittata.  
    • Meatloaf or meatballs feed an army, but also freeze well for nights you don't feel like cooking.  
  • Splurge(1x/wk):  Order in a pizza, or go out with a friend!


One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you live alone is not planning for snacks.  You will snack if you live alone! The key is finding snacks that don't sabotage your health goals, and planning for a few splurges.
  • Basic Snacks:  Healthy snacks that provide a good amount of munchy pleasure and meet nutritional goals are essential.
    • Cut up veggies and dip (Baby carrots, black olives, celery, cherry tomatoes, broccoli crowns, etc.)
    • Fruit:  Clementines, apples, bananas, grapes, fruit cups
    • Wasa bread or other whole grain cracker and cream cheese or hummus.
    • Popcorn (invest in an air popper -- microwave popcorn is expensive and unhealthy!) 
  • Splurge Snacks:  Everyone loves a treat!  The secret is to buy just a week's worth at the grocery store and avoid the convenience store trap.  If snacks are a real temptation, use 7 gallon ziplocs, and split the goodies up by day as soon as you get home. You can put a plastic spoon into a bag to portion out ice cream or pudding.
    • One week supply of individual serving size bags or cans of chips.  Most grocery stores have these available either near the deli or checkout.  Avoid family sized bags -- once they're open, they're hard to resist.
    • Six pack of 100 calorie mini cans or even 12 oz cans of soda.  
    • Small candy bars come in a flat pack of 5 or 6 pieces for around $1, minis in a bag for about $3.
    • Ice cream cups or bars (don't do the half gallon thing as a single person!) 
    • Granola bars
    • Pudding or jello cups

 Kitchen Management and Grocery Shopping

Grocery shop one day a week with a list and a budget.  We usually went after church midweek when the store was slowIf money is available, ordering online for pick up may be worth your time.  Hitting a fast food restaurant once costs more than the service charge at most grocery stores.

Put away groceries as soon as you get home.

Commit to keeping the kitchen clean as you go. If you don't keep any other area of your home clean, commit to the kitchen.  Clean as you go, and always leave the kitchen shiny clean.  Even now, I go through spurts of restaurant clean and "that can totally wait until morning".  I have never regretted staying up a few extra minutes to clean the kitchen, and it's even better if I clean as I go so there's never a Swedish Chef level mess to begin with.  I have the best "luck" if I remember the Flylady mantra of keeping my sink shiny 24/7.  The rest of the apartment may look like a bomb went off, but the sink stays shiny!

Clean your fridge out every week the night before trash day.

Progress, not Perfection!  I've said this in at least 50 posts on this blog.  There's no such thing as a "perfect" week.  Do the best you can with the time, energy, and $ God has provided.  If you end up eating a Snickers and Combos for lunch once in a while, so be it.  If you have to bleach the dishes you left in the sink for 2 days, do it, and move on.  Another writer I love puts it this way:  "Something is better than nothing, but always aim for more."

I can't wait to visit your first apartment someday!



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