Planning Wisely When Cooking for One

person eating grilled chicken and vegetables

Eating well is important at any age. Healthy eating can help prevent heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer. It’s easier to eat well if you have a good plan. However, you may find it hard to plan and prepare meals for just yourself. This is especially true if you have never been the main grocery shopper in your home or if you have never planned meals before. This article will give you tips on choosing healthy foods, grocery shopping and meal planning. With a little planning, you can eat well and enjoy a balanced, healthy diet.

How can I plan a healthy menu for one?

Menu planning is a lot easier when you start with the right tools:

  • Use Canada’s Food Guide to help you plan your meals. 
  • Create a shopping list. Stock your kitchen with the healthy foods. Having the right foods in your kitchen will make it easier to prepare quick and nutritious meals.
  • Organize your shopping list in the same way that the store is laid out to save time and energy.

Which recipes should I make?

Once you know which foods to eat, pick recipes made with healthy foods from Canada’s Food Guide. Here are some tips for choosing recipes:

  • Collect recipes that use few ingredients
  • Look for recipes that call for vegetables, whole grains like brown rice or quinoa, lean meats like lean beef, turkey, pork and chicken and legumes like beans, peas and lentils
  • Make sure the recipes include cooking methods that you know how to do and are fast to make
  • Look for recipes that make four to six servings. If you make extra portions, you can eat the leftovers the following day or freeze them for future use. You can also cut recipes in half to make fewer portions.

No matter which recipe you choose, the most important part is eating well and enjoying it! Look for recipes from:

  • Healthy eating cookbooks: borrow from the library or a friend
  • Magazines
  • TV
  • Friends

What could my day’s meal plan look like?

Your meal plan might include three meals and one or two small snacks. Based on Canada’s Food Guide, a healthy plan for a 70-year old female may look like this:


¾ cup of oatmeal

1 banana

1 cup of milk


1 cup of beef and bean chili

1 cup of mixed green salad

1 Tbsp of salad dressing

1 small whole grain roll


1 apple

2 oz of lower fat cheese (18% milk fat or less)


2 ½ oz chicken breast

1 cup of brown rice

1 cup of broccoli

6 asparagus spears

½ cup of grapes


¾ cup of low-fat yogurt

¾ cup of whole grain cereal

How can I shop on a fixed budget?

Keeping a shopping list will help you stay within your budget. It also helps to shop on “discount days” for seniors, which are offered by some grocery stores. Even if a food is on sale, it is not a bargain if you will not eat it once you buy it! Buy only what you like to eat. For more budget-friendly shopping tips, here are 10 tips for planning meals when on a budget. Find coupons that match your shopping list items or find sale prices using:

  • In store flyers
  • Grocery store websites
  • Newspapers
  • Coupon websites 

What else should I plan for?

It is always smart to plan for emergencies. Whether it is due to bad weather or personal illness, there may be times when you can’t grocery shop. Have an emergency shelf stocked with items such as:

  • Pasta
  • Canned tuna and salmon
  • Peanut butter
  • Tomato sauce
  • Canned or frozen vegetables, legumes and fruit
  • Frozen bread
  • Powdered milk

You can plan quick and creative meals with just a few basic items. For example, using the foods listed above, you can make: 

  • Spaghetti with tuna and tomato sauce
  • A peanut butter sandwich, glass of milk and canned peaches
  • Pasta with chickpeas and mixed frozen vegetables 

For a complete shopping list for your emergency shelf, click here.

Bottom Line

It is easier to eat well if you have a plan. If you have recipes and healthy ingredients, it is simpler to make nutritious meals. To learn more about cooking for one, please click here.


Last Update – May 16, 2022

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