Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Are you your own dinner guest?

My wife and I have enough siblings to form two soccer teams with extras in the reserves. We always find preparing and cooking meals for one or two people can be a challenge, especially if you’re used to cooking for an extended family of 12 to15 family members back home. Since we have our own small family of three, we have learnt to "scale down" our cooking and meal preparations. We would like to share some of our thoughts and experiences on how to cook for one and to make the most of your meals and budget by planning ahead, making your cooking count and making your meals an experience. Living away from home for the first time, many overseas students have to fend for themselves when it come to meal preparation. They don't feel like cooking because they either do not know how to cook or often find it hard to get motivated to cook for just only for themselves, and if you are a student or single person arriving in a new country to study or live, most likely you cook and dine alone.

If you are your own dinner guest, we can assure that you’re not alone. With our aging population and changes in our eating patterns and lifestyles, family members rarely have time to eat together, cooking for one has become quite common. Just because you are a student doesn’t mean you’re stuck eating 2 minutes instant noodles and monotonous pre-packaged lunch boxes from the food courts. For the same cost as fast food, plus some basic cooking skill and time, you can eat healthy and delicious "home cook" food. Here's how:

Planning Ahead:

Meal planning begins before you go to the supermarket or the local grocery store. You can save money and preparation time by planning to buy foods that can be easily divided into portions for one. Pick up what’s freshest and cheapest and try not to buy more than you need. Picking up a bag of cheap apples or bananas isn’t frugal if you end up throwing half of it away. However, picking up a cheap bag of bananas, making some muffins or banana cake and freezing what you cannot use right away is! Once you get home from the store, dedicate some time to properly storing the foods you purchased. Divide them into single size portions and cling wrapped them individually before putting them away in the freezer. This will allow you to thaw out only the amount you need later.

Making your cooking count:

We firmly believe that if you have to spend 2 to 3hrs slaving over a hot stove, it could only be justified, if you can make a few meals out of your labour. Prepare meals by making larger quantities to make an extra few batches. Eat and enjoy one portion immediately and freeze the rest in single servings for those days when you’re busy with your uni assignments or tired. Remember to label your frozen meals with the date; most meals last for two to three months in the freezer. Meals that freeze well include curry, pasta dishes, casseroles and soups.

Make the most of leftovers:

Planning for leftovers makes preparation easier and reduces food waste. To preserve nutrients and keep the food safe to eat, cover and chill extra portions as soon as you’ve served the amount you’ll be eating right away. Leftovers stored in the fridge should be used within 2 - 3 days. They can also be stored in the freezer for 2 - 3 months.

Making your meal an experience:

If the weather’s permit, take your meal outside. We are sure that nothing beats a meal—no matter how simple and frugal—enjoyed outside on a balmy Sydney evening is delicious anytime.
Invite friends over for a meal and ask them to bring a plate as well. Not only you can taste others cooking, but also enjoy their companionship... at least, you are not your own dinner guest!


  1. Thanks for the great idea Phil. I used to eat dinner with my ex-neighbour (Wife is Swedish & Husband from Rumanien) every friday during the summer. We put all our food together & share. I not only get more informations how to cook bothe Swedish food & Rumanien food but also gained more knowledge of the diff. culture.

  2. Hi! Very good blog. Will definitely be stopping by often. My mum enjoyed all your articles too. yen.

  3. Hi Estee,
    Thanks for your stories in your blog. It evokes a shared sense of nostagia of my own childhood in Singapore. You are absolutely right that food has played an important part in introducing us to different cultures and tastes. We used to bring a plate across the street to our elderly neighbours until they moved to a retirement village. They reckons I cooked the best "nasi goreng" they ever tasted.
    We will bring "a plate" when we go to visit them this Easter weekend.

  4. Hi Yen and Aunty Connie,
    Thanks for visiting and reading our blog.
    We know Aunty Connie is a good cook and we look forward in seeing her recipes contribution and comment in this blog.

  5. yes yes keep it up!! and more recipe please!!

  6. I asked my daughter what she wanted to eat for Easter lunch, she said steam egg with mince pork. (Her favourite) do you know how to make steam egg taste like tofu?

  7. Hi BY,
    Stay tuned for the egg tofu recipe.


  8. Hi Estee,
    Yes. We must have known it through telepathy! My wife has bought some fresh eggs from the weekend market and planning to cook egg tofu tomorrow. What a pleasant surprise to know that you are requesting for the recipe.

  9. Thanks for the recipe Phil!!! You are so kind. I will try this recipe next week & keep you posted on the result. Thanks again.

  10. Hi Estee,
    Do you need the recipe for making soya milk?