Mohave County WIC

Cooking Solo

By the end of this lesson you will:

Identify tips for cooking solo
List nutritious snacks
List three ways to make cooking for one or two trouble-free.

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Activity 1:  
List a reason why you do not cook for yourself.


Cooking Solo (or for Two!)?

Preparing a meal for family or guests can often bring a sense of accomplishment.  But making dinner you'll be eating alone or for a small child can seem like a big effort with a small reward.  If you're like most Americans whose busy lifestyles keep them running, you're probably not interested in making a career out of meal planning and preparation.  And you shouldn't have to - if you take a little time to plan ahead.

It doesn't have to be difficult to cook tasty, nutritious meals for one or two people.  This lesson will share timesaving tips, menus and recipes for preparing meals that are delicious and inexpensive.

For a few minutes on the weekend or during your lunch break, think about what you'd like to eat during the week.  Don't feel as if you have to write a detailed daily meal plan - keep it simple.  You'll have more success if you allow yourself flexibility.

Equip your Kitchen

An adequately stocked kitchen will make it easier to prepare a quick bite before leaving for class, work, or a pull together supper for a small family.  You don't need a gourmet kitchen to cook and eat well.  Just make sure you have some of these basic utensils:

Vegetable steamer-place in medium saucepan to steam vegetables

Small non-stick skillet-perfect for stir-frying

Colander or strainer

Two cutting boards-one for meats and one for fruits, veggies, and breads

Wooden spoons and plastic spatula-which won't damage your cookware

Measuring cup and measuring spoons

Storage containers with lids-for leftovers

Heaving-duty plastic freezer bags and labels-for making contents and dates on frozen foods

Your cabinets don't have to be bulging with exotic ingredients before you can make superb meals.  Just keep some of these ingredients on hand:

Herbs and spices such as oregano, basil, thyme, chili powder, curry powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt and pepper

Olive oil and canola oil-for cooking and quick salad dressings

Fat-free, reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth

Flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder

Condiments such as vinegar, mustard, salsa, Worcestershire sauce, reduced sodium soy sauce and jam

Quick-cooking brown rice

If there's room in your freeze, keep a small assortment of whole-grain bread and rolls - pull out individual pieces to thaw slowly or defrost in the microwave.

Shopping for One or Two

Shopping for one or two people does not have to be a challenge...

Picking up Produce

Choose some fresh vegetables and fruits that keep well for a week or more: artichokes, beets, cabbage, carrots, celery, kale, onions, parsnips, potatoes, winter squash, sweet potatoes, apples, grapefruits or oranges.

Consider shopping with a friend.  Try sharing a head of cabbage or a melon.

Buy fruits and vegetables in season; they will be cheaper and most flavorful at these times.

Don't wash vegetables until ready to use; they will stay fresher longer.

Pop unused portions of red and green peppers, onions, mushrooms into plastic freezer bags to use later in pastas or stir-fries.

Keep fruit where you will see it and remember to eat it, whether is is stored in the fridge or in your fruit bowl.

Fresh, Frozen, Canned or Dried?

Read labels on frozen and canned fruits and vegetables.  Avoid those with extra sodium and sugar.

Choose canned fruits in their own juices rather than in heavy syrup, which contains a lot of sugar and calories.

Keep in mind that dried fruit tends to be high in calories.  Eat in moderation.  One serving of dried fruit is equal to one-quarter cup.

Buying in Bulk?

Choose foods that will store well if you buy in large quantities, such as cereal, pasta, dried fruit, dried beans, lentil and whole grains like rice and barley.  Other foods, such as bread, grated cheese and ground or whole-bean coffee may be stored in the freezer for long periods of time.  If you plan to keep staples such as whole wheat flour, wheat germ or nuts for an extended period of time, it is best to refrigerate them.  Click here for more into of storing food safely.

Buy frozen vegetables in bags, rather than boxes.  Use only what you need!

Buy fish, poultry, or lean cuts of meat on sale and freeze them.  Don't forget to date your bags.


Food Storage Chart

Food Shelf Refrigerator Freezer Comments
Bread 2-4 days 1-2 weeks 3 months  
Breastmilk   3-4 days 3 months  
Cottage cheese   5 days 3 months  
Cheese, hard   4 weeks opened 6 months Wrap well after opening
Chicken, fresh   1-2 days uncooked;
3-4 days after cooking
9 months uncooked;
4-6 months cooked
Cream cheese   2 weeks Doesn't freeze well  
Eggs   4-5 weeks in shell;
2-4 days separated;
1 week hard-cooked
Don't freeze Discard eggs with even slight crack in shell.
Fish, fresh   1-2 days uncooked;
3-4 days after cooking
2-3 months fatty types;
6 months lean types;
3-6 months shellfish;
4-6 months cooked fish
Fish or chicken, canned 2-5 years unopened 2-3 days after opening   Transfer to glass dish after opening.
Flour, white 6-12 months unopened;
6-8 months opened
Flour, whole wheat 1-2 months unopened 6-8 months opened   Bring to room temperature before baking for proper leavening.
Homemade baby food   3 days 1 month  
Luncheon meat   2-5 days 1-2 months  
(beef, pork, lamb)
  3-5 days chops, steaks;
1-2 days ground;
3-4 days cooked
4-12 months chops, steaks;
3-4 months ground;
2-3 months cooked
May be frozen up to 2 weeks in store wrap.  If freezing for longer, use extra wrapping.
Milk   Read "sell by" date    
Nuts 12 months sealed can;
2-3 months opened
4-6 months 9-12 months First loses flavor, late becomes rancid.
Oil (olive, canola, other vegetable) 1 year unopened;
4-8 months opened
    A sharp smell means flavor quality is off, but still safe to use.
Peanut butter, commercial 6-9 months No need to refrigerate, unless indicated on label    
Tomato sauce, jarred 12-18 months unopened 1 week opened    
Salsa, jarred 12 months unopened 1 month opened    
Sour cream   1-3 weeks Doesn't freeze well  
Yogurt   Read "sell by" date 1-2 months Discard if you see mold

Activity 2:

1. Which of the following is a good way to prepare when cooking for one or two?
 a. Plan your meals at the beginning of the week.
 b. Maintain plastic bags for leftovers.
 c. Choose fresh vegetables and fruits that will keep for a week or longer.
 d. All of the above


2. How long should luncheon meat be left in the refrigerator?
a. 2-5 days
b. 1 week
c. 2 weeks


Cooking for One or Two

Once you have prepared your kitchen and have shopping under control, cooking for one or two can be a simple process.


Smart Snacking - chose nutritious foods:

Vegetables, fruits

Lowfat yogurt

A handful of nuts


Air-popped popcorn

Lowfat cheese

A slice of whole-grain toast with peanut butter

Hummus spread on whole wheat pita bread


Tips for Perking Up Prepared Foods:

Lightly sauté fresh vegetables such as onions, mushrooms, peppers and eggplant and add to bottle or canned spaghetti sauce.

Add a single-serving can of tuna and chopped veggies to pasta salad purchased from the grocery store deli counter.

Top frozen pizza with lots of tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli and onions.

Add diced tomatoes, shredded carrots, raisins and pine nuts to quick-cooking brown rice or couscous.  Season with a splash of balsamic or other flavorful vinegar.

Add canned and rinsed black-eyed peas, thawed and drained frozen okra, diced tomato and sliced green onion to reduced sodium, canned tomato soup.

Stir-fry pre-chopped vegetables from the grocery salad bar and serve with rice and beans.

For breakfast, try a cinnamon raisin bagel topped with lite cream cheese and apple slices.

Open a can of fat-free refried beans and heat in the microwave, add veggies and salsa and roll mixture up in a tortilla.

Add frozen corn, steamed and diced green and red bell peppers and cilantro to a can of reduced sodium black bean soup.

Add grapes, chopped celery, dried cherries or golden raisins and walnuts to prepackaged salad greens and toss with your favorite lowfat dressing.


Menus and Recipes

Now that you've learned the basics of preparing nutritious meals for one or two, you can try these menus and recipes.   

Menu 1:

Veggie Burger on a Bun
Oven-baked Sweet Potato Fries
Leafy Green Salad

Oven-Baked Sweet Potatoes
1 small sweet potato, cut into "French fry" sticks
1/2 tsp. canola oil
Salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika, to taste
Cooking Spray
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  In medium bowl, toss sweet potato sticks with oil and seasonings.  Put sticks in baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes.

Makes 1 serving. Nutritional Analysis 82 calories, 15 g carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, 2 g fat, 1 g protein.

Menu 2:

Macaroni'n Parmesan Cheese
Green Beans Vinaigrette
Fresh Papaya Slices

Macaroni'n Parmesan Cheese
3/4 cup elbow macaroni
Boiling water
1 1/2 Tbsp. floor
1 cup nonfat milk
1/4 tsp. dried mustard powder
1/4-1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, gated
1/4 cup lite cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup chopped, lightly steamed broccoli
Salt and pepper, to taste
Paprika (optional)
Cook macaroni according to package instructions.  Meanwhile, in saucepan off heat, mix flour and cold milk until flour is completely dissolved.  Add dried mustard, garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce an cook over low to medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.  Reduce heat to low and stir in broccoli.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  If desired, sprinkle paprika over top before serving.

Makes 2 servings. Nutritional Analysis 82 calories, 15 g carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, 2 g fat, 1 g protein.


Green Beans Vinaigrette
1 1/2 cups cooked green beans (fresh or frozen)
2 Tbsp. drained canned pimentos
1 Tbsp. minced chives
1 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. honey
In medium bowl, mix together green beans, pimentos and chives.  In separate small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard and honey, then toss into green beans.

Makes 2 servings. Nutritional Analysis 61 calories, 9 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, 2 g fat, 2 g protein.

Menu 3:

Black Bean and Feta Tostados
Sliced Jicama, Carrots and Celery
Fresh Fruit

Black Bean and Feta Tostado
1 whole wheat tortilla
1/3 cup canned nonfat, vegetarian refried black beans
2 Tbsp. salsa
1 Tbsp. canned chopped green chilies
1/4 cup chopped tomato
2 Tbsp. reduced fat crumbled feta cheese
1 Tbsp. chopped green onion
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place tortilla directly on center oven rack.  Bake 6 minutes, turning over after 3 minutes, then remove from oven.  Mix beans with salsa and chilies.  Heat over medium heat until hot, or heat in microwave.  Spread bean mixture over crisped tortilla.  Top with tomato and feta.  Garnish with chopped green onion.

Makes 1 serving. Nutritional Analysis 213 calories, 38 g carbohydrates, 7 g dietary fiber, 5 g fat, 11 g protein.

Menu 4:

Honey Mustard Salmon
with Lime and Peppers
Baked Potato
Apple Cherry Granola Crisp

Honey Mustard Salmon with Lime and Peppers
1 Tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. prepared mustard
1 salmon fillet, 4-5 oz.
1/4 small yellow pepper, cut in slices
1/4 small red pepper, cut in slices
1/4 small green pepper, cut in slices
Salt and pepper, to taste (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In small bowl mix together first 3 ingredients.  Place salmon on piece of parchment paper large enough to fold over and completely cover fish.  Poke holes into fish with fork.  Pour lime marinade over fish, then top with pepper slices.  Add salt and pepper, if desired.  Wrap fish in parchment paper, then wrap in tin foil to cover.  Bake until done, about 20 minutes.

Makes 1 serving. Nutritional Analysis 227 calories, 17 g carbohydrates, 8 g dietary fiber, 5 g fat, 23 g protein.


Apple Cherry Granola Crisp
1 cup thawed frozen sweet dark cherries
3 green apples, sliced with seeds removed (peel if desired)
2 Tbsp. cherry or apple juice
1 Tbsp. flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup lowfat granola
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In medium bowl, mix cherries, apples and juice.  In separates small bowl, mix together flour, sugar and cinnamon.  Pour flour mixture over fruit and toss well to coat.  Arrange in 9x9-inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.  Top with granola.  Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes.  Uncover and continue baking another 15 minutes or until apples are tender and mixture is bubbly.

Makes 6 servings. Nutritional Analysis 201 calories, 49 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, 1 g fat, 2 g protein.


Menu 5:

Garlic Steak for One
Basil Mashed Potatoes
Steamed Asparagus
Vanilla lowfat Frozen Yogurt
with Pineapple Chucks

Garlic Steak for One
1 small, extra lean steak, 4 oz
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 clover garlic, sliced into 10 pieces
Salt and pepper, if desired.
Poke holes all over steak with fork, then make 10 little slivers.  Put garlic slices into slivers.  On plate or in plastic bag, marinate steak in Worcestershire sauce at least 1 hour, turning once, in refrigerator.  Away from direct flame, grill or broil steak until done to your liking, turning at least once.  Do not char.  Add salt and pepper, if desired.

Makes 1 serving. Nutritional Analysis 203 calories, 7 g carbohydrates, 0 g dietary fiber, 8 g fat, 24 g protein.


Basil Mashed Potatoes
1 medium red potato, washed and cut into quarters
2-4 Tbsp. fat-free sour cream
1/2 tsp. dried basil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Steam or microwave potatoes until tender.  Mash well with fork, adding sour cream to desired consistency.  Add basil and season with salt and pepper.

Makes 1 serving. Nutritional Analysis 162 calories, 36 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, <1 g fat, 4 g protein.

Click here to print out menus and recipes!

Don't forget, you should not skip meals.  It is important that you eat every 4-5 hours.  If you skip meals because you don't want to eat alone - remember you're eating to fuel your body.  Be sure to anticipate those inevitable evenings when you'll be too tired or rushed to make anything.  Prepare a few stand-by meals that you can have in the freezer and simply heat up.  If you have easy-to-make, healthy and enticing foods on hand, you'll be much more enthusiastic about eating well.


Now let's review!

Activity 3:

1. Don't wash vegetables until ready to use. True False 
2. Make sure your kitchen is equip with essential cooking gear and common ingredients. True  False 
3. It's important to eat every 8 hours. True  False 


4. List three healthy snacks.


5. List three ways to make cooking for one or two trouble-free.



Which WIC Office do you go to?

Bullhead City
Lake Havasu City

Where are you taking today's lesson?




You have completed the lesson on “Cooking Solo”.  If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail one of our nutritionists.  We’ll be glad to answer any of your questions.

In Kingman you may contact a Nutritionist at
In Bullhead City you may contact a Nutritionist at
In Lake Havasu City you may contact a Nutritionist at

* If you have an extra minute, please fill out our survey on the WIC home page (where you chose this class) so we can better serve you.  Thank You.


Activity 2: 1.d. All of the above
2. a. 2-5 days
Activity 3: 1. True
2. True
3. False
4. Any of the following:

Vegetables, fruits

Lowfat yogurt

A handful of nuts


Air-popped popcorn

Lowfat cheese

A slice of whole-grain toast with peanut butter

Hummus spread on whole wheat pita bread

5. Plan meals, perk up prepared foods, store leftovers in plastic bags and date bags, and equip your kitchen.

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