Weekly meal plan for one

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Published on 1 January 2024 by Andrew Owen (4 minutes)

I first started cooking for myself when I went to tertiary college. My mom gave me a Delia Smith cookbook called “One is Fun!”. Lately, due to differing dietary requirements, I’ve found myself cooking for one again. I still don’t think it’s fun. Typically, convenience meals contain artificial ingredients and high levels of salt, sugar or fat, aren’t very nutritious and don’t taste great. The standard alternative is batch cooking and freezing, but then you sacrifice variety. Some people drink nutrient-shakes, but as you have to eat to survive, you might as well enjoy the experience. So I came up with weekly meal plan based on a set of common ingredients that’s tasty, nutritious, simple and quick to make.

  • Monday: pasta with veggie ragout and pulses
  • Tuesday: grilled fish
  • Wednesday: veggie pizza
  • Thursday: fish pie
  • Friday: falafel wrap
  • Saturday: chicken skewers
  • Sunday: lamb tagine

One of the keys to not feeling hungry in the daytime is having meals at regular times. I almost always start the day with a bowl of muesli (minimum 45g for fiber) at around 0730. You can mix it up by having different fruits with it. Frozen berries are a good choice as they don’t go off and they defrost quickly. I’m told you should leave between four and five hours between breakfast and lunch, so I typically eat at midday. I have a leaf salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a little grated cheese. For convenience, I use store bought ready-to-eat leaf salad. They tend not to keep, so it’s best to buy on the day. I like to keep my pantry stocked with:

  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • balsamic vinegar
  • black pepper corns
  • butter (unsalted)
  • capers
  • corn oil
  • corn starch
  • couscous
  • cream of tartar
  • dried herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, marjoram, oregano, tarragon and pre-mixed Italian herbs)
  • flour (plain and wholemeal)
  • garlic (fresh)
  • lemon juice
  • lemon oil
  • monosodium glutamate (MSG; I agree with Anthony Bourdain who said: “Chinese restaurant syndrome is caused by racism.”)
  • mushroom ketchup
  • olive oil
  • Parmesan
  • sea salt
  • spices (cayenne pepper, chilies, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, cumin, fennel seeds, ginger, paprika, tumeric)
  • stock cubes (beef, chicken, lamb, fish, vegetable)
  • tomato paste
  • vanilla extract

I usually eat evening meals at around 1930 (12 hours after breakfast). If I don’t feel like eating what’s on the meal plan for a given day, I’ll swap it with a different day. The other way I add variety is by changing the seasoning I use with the dishes from week to week. My main influence is the Mediterranean diet (in the non-faddy weight-loss sense of the word diet). But it’s important to listen to what your body tells you. If you’re craving something (other than junk food) you probably need that. And you should make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B and folic acid (especially if you’re vegan). My weekly shop usually looks something like this:

  • bell peppers (red, yellow and green)
  • black olives (pitted)
  • chicken (I usually go for diced breast, but if you have the prep time, thighs are cheaper and tastier)
  • flat bread (freeze after purchase)
  • garbanzo beans (chickpeas; canned)
  • green veg (garden peas or green beans)
  • lamb (I buy diced when I can get it, but sometimes I have to get chops and dice them myself)
  • milk (I prefer whole milk, I buy it in the smallest possible quantity to avoid waste)
  • mixed beans (canned, for the ragout)
  • mixed leaf salad (I usually go for Italian)
  • mozzarella (the kind that comes in water)
  • muesli (I recommend the ones without added sugar)
  • mushrooms (I go for the medium-sized ones)
  • nuts (for the tagine; I usually use flaked almonds)
  • pasta (I like penne and fusilli, but sometimes I go for spaghetti or pasta sheets if I’m turning the ragout into lasagna)
  • pizza bases (I can make my own, but it’s less convenient and they’re not as good as the stone baked ones I can get from the store)
  • potatoes (small bag, I like roosters)
  • prawns (small, frozen)
  • red onion
  • salmon (I should go to a fishmonger, but I usually get it pre-cut with the skin on from the supermarket)
  • soft fruit (for the tagine; I like apricots, figs and dates)
  • sweetcorn (canned)
  • tomatoes (canned)
  • white cheddar (mature or vintage)
  • white fish fillets (frozen; I usually go for hake or cod)
  • white onion

I typically buy things in the smallest quantity possible for freshness. Anything that can be frozen will go straight in the freezer until the day I need it. If I can only get things in larger quantities, I’ll divide them in bags before freezing them. My final tip is to get a copy of Harold McGee’s “Keys to Good Cooking”. It has no recipes, but covers food safety and all the basic techniques you need. It also has tables of conversions and substitutes. And crucially it has advice on how to rescue things when they go wrong.