Make a meal plan

On Sunday nights, take a few minutes to sit down and select some recipes that you’d like to make for the week. This will allow you to go to the grocery store with a list of exactly what you need for meals for the week so that you don’t over-purchase and have produce go bad. It can also set you on course for knowing what you’ll make throughout the week so you’re not standing in front of your fridge, feeling hungry with no options in sight.

Store your food properly

“The mistake a lot of people make isn't as much overbuying, but not storing their produce properly,” explains Alison Cayne, founder and CEO of Haven’s Kitchen. If you're cooking for one, you don't need tons of veggies in the fridge, but if you do buy fresh greens or herbs, she notes that you'll often get several more days out of them if you wrap them in a damp paper towel and store them in the fridge. You can also purchase frozen vegetables and fruit, like berries, so that you can keep them for longer in your freezer and only pull out what you need, a little at a time.

Freeze leftovers

Having food leftover doesn’t mean you have to eat it the next day, and the day after that, and so on. Pop leftover meals in the freezer in smaller portions and thaw that out on a day where you just don’t feel like cooking. “One of the best tips I teach my students is to make pureed soups with produce that is on its way out and freeze them in resealable baggies flat, like a stack of paper, rather than in Tupperware,” says Cayne. This helps your food to defrost much faster and to take up less room in the freezer. “Most things can be frozen for at least a few months, and it's a great way to get in those nutrients when you don't have a lot of time,” she adds. You also don’t need full meals to freeze. Yes, you can freeze chili, but you can also freeze shredded chicken, steamed vegetables, and side dishes as well.

Reinvent leftovers

Have some steamed veggies leftover? Toss them in some pasta. Did you make roasted chicken the other night? Use leftover pieces for protein on a salad. Chef Serge Krikorian of catering company Vibrant Occasions loves to make a batch of shredded brisket tacos and have tacos for dinner one night, breakfast tacos with scrambled eggs, brisket, and salsa for breakfast one morning, and brisket nachos for lunch. “I'm a big proponent of cook once, eat several times,” he says. “That's why I still cook in batches of 6-8 servings, even though it's just me and my wife at home now, and [I] freeze the leftovers to enjoy in the future.”

Use smaller appliances

Don’t feel like firing up the oven? Then don’t! Warm something up in a toaster oven instead. And take advantage of other more convenient appliances around your kitchen. “Small appliances, such as a slow cooker, pressure cooker, or Instant Pot can be great for making smaller portions of meals,” says Shelly Martin, a chef and founder of These types of gadgets, she adds, allow you to “set it and forget it,” freeing up your time for other activities.

Embrace simplicity

Don't feel like you need to make elaborate meals all the time. “Simple meals like sandwiches, salads, and pasta dishes can be just as satisfying and require fewer ingredients,” says Martin. Look through your fridge and pantry for anything you can pile onto a sandwich, like canned salmon, sliced turkey, and vegetables. Top with your favorite condiments and you have a ready meal. You can also toss proteins and nuts with lettuce and your favorite dressing for an easy and delicious lunch.

Pare down recipes

Just because a recipe says it’s meant to feed a large family doesn’t mean you can’t still make it to feed less people. “Most recipes are written for 4-6 servings so think about making about a quarter of what it says,” says Cayne. When you're buying raw meat or fish, for instance, she says to think of about ½ lb. as a serving. It may be helpful to write out a new recipe by doing the conversions ahead of time and follow that. For instance, if something requires ½ cup of tomatoes and you want to make half the quantity, you’ll only need ¼ cup.

Get creative 

Have some staple ingredients on hand and then switch things up. “The easiest way to get creative is with the flavor you add,” says Cayne. If you like chicken and salmon, you can make dozens of different meals with those two ingredients just by switching up the cooking technique, the sauce, and seasoning. For instance, you could serve chicken with BBQ sauce one night and then sauté it with teriyaki sauce and vegetables the next. Cayne also suggests refraining from buying ingredients for special recipes that you may never use again, as those may just sit in your pantry and eventually expire.

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