As we rounded the corner into 2022, I once again had a singular resolution in mind: cook more food at home (rather than resorting to my number one financial vice — having Postmates deliver food to my home). I live alone, and cooking for one comes with its own struggles, especially when you are neurotic about food freshness and not a huge fan of leftovers. I’ve tried meal kits: Daily Harvest, Blue Apron, Freshly, EveryPlate, Hungry Root, but never ended up with something that worked. So I turned to another way to pour money into a project about saving money: buying things that make home cooking easier and more psychologically appealing!!!
My friends… it worked.
If crying isn’t your favorite thing to do while you are attempting to cook a meal, there are lots of tips for tear-free onion chopping (some of which are discussed in this comment thread on another EXCELLENT post about kitchen gadgets for reluctant cooks!), but none of them really worked for me and my sensitive eyeballs. Then I found the magic formula: firstly, my genius brother informed me that refrigerating an onion makes it possible to chop tearlessly. Secondly: ONION GOGGLES!!!! A refrigerated onion + onion goggles = a tear-free chop.
Freshworks Storage Sets
A fun thing about me is that after numerous bouts of food poisoning, I have developed an intense neurosis around food freshness and perishability, an illogical mindset that has challenged the goodwill of many otherwise loving humans who feel I determine a food item is inedible (due to perceived devolutions of appearance, temperature, shape, form, or, most dreaded of all, its proximity to an expiration date) when they know it objectively is fine. So I thought buying a series of incredibly specific containers that extend the freshness of various foods would solve this problem completely — and it has, partially! First up: my greens literally last an entire extra week in these things, and they also extend the lifespan of my favorite food, raspberries. I’ve also read great things about these produce storage containers from OXO.
That said, it’s good to look up ideal storage for various produce before storing them, as many already arrive in their ideal containers! There are also lots of valuable tips out there for when you want to store pre-chopped veggies or the ideal set-up w/r/t washing and paper towels.
The Always Pan
In the 2021 Autostraddle Gift Guide, I declared my desire for an Always Pan, claiming “I think if I had an always pan that is good for “always” then I would immediately start cooking more and save lots of money.” My mother, bless her heart, immediately purchased me an Always Pan, and receiving an expensive gift is a great way to psych me into changing my behavior!!!!! Because what kind of a**hole gets an expensive gift from their Mom and then is like thanks but I’m ordering TenderGreens? NOT THIS GIRL. The Always Pan is not only beautiful which somehow makes cooking more appealing (I cannot understate the importance of this), it genuinely cooks food better than every other pan in the universe (by which I mean Ikea and Target pans I’ve been using all my life).
This avocado keeper has been truly transformational, enabling me to use half of an avocado one day and then the other half later that same day! I got one for onions and tomatoes also.
Brilliance Leak Proof Food Storage Containers
I notoriously hate leftovers, but not anymore!! These microwave-safe containers “lock in freshness” and I don’t know what that means but it’s enough to calm my psychological issues.
Clear Stackable Kitchen Storage Bins with Handles
The longer this list goes on, the more I question my sanity, but somehow the beautifully organized kitchens of TikTok got me thinking that if everything in MY kitchen was beautifully organized using a series of overpriced plastic containers, it would be easier to find the tools and ingredients I needed — and also to quickly locate important snacks before they passed their imaginary expiration date — and I would cook more and waste less food. Honestly, I was correct?? I’m not sure which exact bins I ended up buying, ’cause I went to HomeGoods, but they looked like this — I use them for Lara bars, Bubbly waters, microwave popcorn, That’s It bars, fruit snacks and so much more. It’s also good to keep an eye on what I’m running low on now that my items are no longer obscured by their oppressive containers.
Everything Bagel Seasoning
The thing is I don’t even like Everything Bagels so that’s why I’m 85 years late to this trend, but a few months ago my girlfriend made me eggs and I was like wow what’s in these, these are amazing??? And it was Everything Bagel seasoning. It makes everything really good.
The Mealtime App
This app rules! You can tell it what you’ve got in your fridge already, your dietary preferences and foods you don’t like and also specify your priorities for your meal plan, like minimal food waste or an inexpensive menu, and it helps you build out menus for the week and makes you a grocery list!!
Mamison Reusable Household Gloves
Let’s be honest: it’s usually not cooking I am avoiding, it’s cleaning up after the cooking. These gloves last forever and make dishwashing much more pleasant, plus I can turn up the water to SCORCHING HOT for what I perceive is a superior clean!
An Audible Subscription
When I’m cooking with a friend/partner or they are cooking for me, we can sit in the kitchen and gab! When I’m cooking alone, I am left with a nightmare scenario: my own thoughts. I’ve noticed that I’m way more likely to cook complicated recipes when I want an excuse to keep listening to the book I’ve become obsessed with, so I also allow myself a healthy amount of cheap psychological thrillers.
I just treated myself to an Always Pan and I used it for the very first time tonight! I can confirm it was a delight to use!
right? like i feel so much happier cooking with it!?!
I can’t believe the difference having the little spatula rest makes 😂. It’s like the pan equivalent of pockets!
With my two year old, we refer to the everything but the bagel seasoning as “magic sprinkles.” It goes on an alarmingly high number of the foods she eats and makes us feel like great cooks and great parents as she gobbles down broccoli, cauliflower, black beans and more. In short, 100% agree.
This is a great list of tools, apps and storage tricks for neurotic solo cooks. There are so many useful information here which will help me to organize my kitchen and make life easier. I am going to follow all the tips in this post one by one and see what works best on me. Thanks for sharing this with us.
I feel like this article has now prompted a totally required TikTok binge on pantry organising and wishlist making. This is my comfort blanket for today. Thanks Riese.
It warms my heart to read this article! Love, -mom-
this is very sweet!
Onion-cutting life hack! I learned this from a friend: cut the onion in half with a sharp knife, and then immediately rinse each half under cold running water in the sink. It really helps get rid of the stuff that makes your eyes sting. I usually just have to rinse each half once and then can go on my merry way cutting the rest up with no problem! But you could also try rinsing it again once you’ve cut it into quarters. Apparently water attracts the chemical in the onion (hence why it gets in your eyes and causes tears) so rinsing really helps!
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