Na Na pinches her pennies

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

Meals for one

Why is it that many recipes, even those that advertised as cooking for one, say four servings?  How about the recipes that call for one small bit of something from a container leaving you wondering what to do with the rest of it.  I recently saw a four week diet plan which sounded nice until I looked further.  On day one it called for half a cup of crunch cereal with milk.  Ok, that sounds reasonable but looking through the rest of the breakfast meals not once did the plan repeat the cereal.  So, I’m supposed to buy a whole box of cereal just to eat half a cup on this one month diet?  What about the rest of the box?  The problem of what to do with the rest of the container is the main reason I don’t like using recipes.  I prefer to make up my own recipes using whatever I have in the house.

I believe the world is finally paying attention and figuring out recipes for one person are needed but without the leftover bits in cans or packages.  Well of course; the diet and food industry is going to find its new profit maker which seems to be the single portion servings.  Be wary of the profit makers!  I saw these cake mixes during our monthly shopping trip on Friday.  Inside the box are four pouches for single serve size cakes.  Cost $2.79

There was also single serve icing for $1.19 to go on those single serve cakes.  With icing each cake works out to $1.00 per serving.  Everywhere I looked there seemed to be single serve sizes of different things.  Flour, cornmeal, and sugar in two pound packs isn’t new but my mind saw them differently this time.  Funny I hadn’t noticed so many single serving items before.  I need to be more aware of changes.

Have you heard of mug meals?  That would be simple one serving size meals cooked in a mug in a microwave.   Surely you’ve heard of mug cake?  Well, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of mug meals for a couple of years even though I dismissed it as being too much work and no left overs for the next day.  What I had seen at the grocery caused me to start re-thinking the mug meal concept.  I’ve decided to give single serve cooking a try but not in a mug and not in a microwave.  I have pans that could be considered “mug” size.  My new pans are so small they look like kids toys.

I have two one pint sauce pots that hold two cups liquid at the brim but when cooking would be about one half to one cup.  I have an eight inch skillet, a five inch skillet, and a six inch griddle pan.  The colander is about six inch too.  My daughter says she has a ten inch skillet to give me just in case I need a larger one for special occasions.  I also have these aluminum mini-loaf pans and mini-pie pans just right for one or two people.  These will do until I find actual pans this size.  I saw some really cute mini Pyrex pie pans and loaf pans on Amazon.  I’ll keep looking in the stores first.

I don’t know where they are at the moment but I also have a single serve electric skillet, a dorm room size crock pot, and a couple other appliances my daughter used back when she went away to college.  I’ll be putting those to use too.  She has a growing family, often having nine kids + to feed, and very often cooks large family gathering meals.  She wants my larger pots and I want to make do with the small ones.  Eventually I plan to get a much smaller apartment size or RV size refrigerator.

I plan to keep a journal of every meal I cook in my tiny pans.  Its an experiment.  I love doing experiments.  Right now I’m not sure this will work out for me but its exciting to think about.  One problem I’ve always had is that I could never figure out how many calories I was eating since all my meals are made with whatever I had available.  Its very hard to menu plan or follow recipes when what I’m eating came from the food bank or discount bins.  I believe I’ve solved that calorie counting problem.  I searched the internet and found a calorie counter program that lets people cut and paste ingredients then it will calculate and create a nutrition label just like those found on a package.  A work around the cut and paste issue is to type the ingredients into a word processor then highlight and copy to paste into the calculator.  The program doesn’t know where the “copy and paste” came from; only what it is.   I haven’t tried this calculator yet but the idea sounds good for those of us who cook without written recipes.  My doctor would be really happy if I kept a journal with the calorie counts.    This is the link if you would like to check it out for yourself.    I also have the calorie King book too.

In theory this all sounds too good to be true.  Fewer items in smaller sizes taking up less space in the kitchen will be nice.  It can’t hurt to give it a try.  If it doesn’t work out I can always go back to larger batch cooking.  Hmm… I wonder, could I make mini-loaves of sandwich bread?  That’s another experiment to do but it will have to wait for cooler days.  Without air conditioning the house gets too hot for baking.

Like so much of the US we are in a heat wave right now so I’m mostly eating  cold stuff.  Maybe I’ll do a couple of microwave mug meals as an experiment and not heat up the house.  Cooking single servings in tiny pots is a very new experience for me.  I really would like opinions.  Have you tried or are you doing mug cooking?  Are you doing tiny pot cooking?

A note:  I’m working on a post about how I’m surviving the heat wave without air conditioning and other posts about my shopping and my cooking for one person.  Doing is better than writing about doing.

12 comments on “Meals for one

  1. Debby
    June 18, 2018

    I love this blog. Just discovered it today. The way you explained the ACA was much easier to understand than any other explanation I have seen. I plan on catching up with the old entries a bit at a time. Thanks!


    • Anita
      June 19, 2018

      Hi Debby glad to have you join us. Don’t forget to read comments. Its where readers share their frugal ways and you can too.


  2. craftytadpole
    June 18, 2018

    Good luck with your new endeavor! I will be watching to see what I can learn. I have been making a change that may be obvious to most people but for some reason, I just couldn’t accept that it was a reasonable strategy. Yes, I have been “halving” a lot of our recipes. For me there is the added benefit of no left over desserts hanging out in the fridge begging me to eat them.


    • Anita
      June 18, 2018

      Hee, hee, those left over desserts sure do beg to be eaten don’t they? Yup, that seems to be the same problem I had. I just couldn’t wrap my brain around the idea of smaller meals. Halving recipes is a good suggestion. I’ve been watching your WW2 ration diet with interest. You are doing great.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lilli
    June 18, 2018

    I am desperate to keep the A.C. Off. Got slammed with a double water bill this month. 85.00 s month and 165.00 this month. Water dept is definitely crooked. Every neighbor I have had the same problem. Strange we all doubled our usage. One kid leaving for the military, other will be gone for 8 weeks. I have a plan too. All frozen meals will be removed and thawed. Warned in microwave or crockpot cooking. I can place crockpot outside on patio table and use outside outlet. I am turning breakers pretty much off and only leaving kitchen and bedroom on. I have a small window unit I can use if it gets bad. I hope to drop water and electric to bare bones. I hope to continue to lose a few pounds. I may keep water meter shut off and keep two five gallon buckets filled for necessary flushing. I am going to pretend it is 1800.lilli


    • Anita
      June 18, 2018

      Lilli, I believe you when you say the water company is crooked. Kathi, lives in Flint MI, complained for years about the water company there. We talked about it many times over the years. Only after media brought attention to Flint water issues did anyone take notice. Here in Louisville we don’t have access to the water meter. We have to trust the water company to tell the truth about our usage. HA!

      I understand the need to cut expenses to bare minimum. I’m having to do it myself and so are many others. No one can convince me the economy is getting better while so many of us are struggling to keep basic life essentials.


  4. Margie in Toronto
    June 18, 2018

    I would enjoy seeing some items in smaller sized servings, but since I don’t eat many processed foods it’s not too much of an issue. I’m used to cooking and freezing extras and I find that works best for me. I like to batch cook several items and then mix and match meals for the week. This morning I was up early and roasted carrots with onions, broccoli, peppers, brussels sprouts & cauliflower before it got too hot – felt like 40C – over 100F and humid! These I’ll combine with various proteins or add them to salads. It’s too hot to cook much else so I’ve got a variety of cold meats, I’ll make up some canned salmon and might pick up a BBQ chicken breast later in the week. The Summer is the one time that I will eat cold meats so they are a bit of a treat.
    I have seen the mug cakes but since I don’ have a microwave……. plus I’m eating low carb so won’t be doing much baking this Summer anyway.
    I did cave in today and bought a WW bun – but just a small dinner roll size- and that has been dinner with some ham & cheese and veggies on the side. It is very tempting in the heat just to make a sandwich but trying not to do it too often.
    I do find that shopping at the bulk food store makes things a lot easier when I just want a small variety of something or want to try a new ingredient.
    I have A/C in the bedroom but only fans in the rest of my apt. so cooking anything that requires using the oven is not a good idea!


    • Anita
      June 18, 2018

      Thanks for sharing Margie. I prefer to stay away from processed foods too. It was that I was mesmerized by seeing so many tiny packages showing up on store shelves these days. I laughed when I saw what looked like boxes of spaghetti sliced in half to make short spaghetti in half pounds boxes. I wondered what the Italian cooks will think about those. The single serve cans of corn, green beans, carrots, and other veggies are a small 4 ounce size. I saw cans of salmon also in 4 ounce and 7 ounce size. I sure hope the small packages are not a dire warning of the future of our food.

      Yes, too hot to cook in this heat wave. Our heat index was 99 today and 101 yesterday. I use my microwave as a fancy left over food warmer upper. I can’t see me using it for actual cooking.


  5. Sandy
    June 18, 2018

    Good luck on your new endeavor. Will look forward to the progress reports.


  6. Kathleen
    June 17, 2018

    Hello Anita,
    If I get hungry for lets say Meatloaf, Mashed potatoes, peas … I cook one pound meatloaf…divide it in 4 containers with Potatoes and peas…eat it 2 nights or 3 nights and freeze the 4th one for a week or so down the road..
    I cooked a chicken in a pressure cooker the other day..won’t heat the house up. made sandwiches and plan on making chicken and homemade egg noodles in a few days..saved the broth in the freezer and chicken enough for that And it will last a few days..Now that I am alone I really don’t mind eating same things for a few days
    especially things I love…comfort food
    I made a lot of soup before it got too hot..
    We had a cool rainy day yesterday and I canned 14 pints pinto beans and 14 pints black beans.. I love beans.. bean tacos,beans on salad,beans lots of ways.
    I HAVE noticed that I have been eating a lot more sandwiches and not MEALS..
    More snack foods for meals and not very well balanced meals.. breakfast is my healthiest meal of the day..Oatmeal and eggs..mostly.
    You take care…I’m watching to see how you figure this out… 😆


    • Anita
      June 18, 2018

      Hee, hee, I had the one pound meatloaf, potatoes, and peas yesterday. Divided into four of course. We seem to have gone through similar taste changes. More sandwiches and snack foods as meals. I’m hoping to re-train my brain by using easy, small meals that don’t repeat more than once from each cooking session because I really don’t care for frozen meals anymore. Even my own homemade ones. My canning will have to wait for cooler weather. I don’t have AC.


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This entry was posted on June 17, 2018 by in COOKING FOR ONE OR TWO, DOWNSIZING MY LIFE, FRUGAL DIABETIC.

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