I started having to cook for just myself in late January 2007 when Mom had a silent heart attack and a frontal lobe stroke. I didn't know how to cope very well. Mom went from the hospital into a local nursing home. I had a lot of things that I had to get used to including being by myself with a very beautiful Chocolate Point Siamese cat who was not a lap cat.
I learned that if I cooked a Stouffer's frozen corn souffle or a frozen spinach souffle I could reheat it in a small Corning dish.
I dealt with leftover pot roast by freezing it into single serving portions.
I found that if I made my own potato leek soup from scratch it was more economical than if I used the Knorr dry soup mix plus it had the advantage of having less sodium. I make my own homemade chicken stock from the leftover rotisserie chickens that I freeze until I have 2 of them. I learned that I could recycle the green portion of the leeks and add them to the chicken broth ingredients.
I learned to watch the sales and to buy the frozen Stouffer's entrees on sale for quick meals.
I came up with several recipes that can be made with a rotisserie chicken. I learned that Harris Teeter puts them on sale on Sundays and that Food Lion puts them on sale on Fridays. I buy them on those days because I do love to save money.
I tried making my own meatballs. They were very good, but I can buy them cheaper than I can make them when they are on sale.
The trick with saving grocery money is to read the sale flyers from the various grocery stores. I've learned to watch the sales of certain things I like and enjoy. Sometimes things I like are cheaper as a mix when they are on sale. Sometimes I've made mistakes, but I end up giving the mixes I don't like to food bank collections. I combine the store specials with my coupons that I clip regularly. I carry my coupons with me every time I go out.
I am going to learn how to make my own pasta using my pasta machine. I'll be making my own fancy raviolis for a little more than what they cost in the dairy case. The difference is that I will be making enough for several meals.
I have learned that if I don't think I can finish the cake I've made before it gets stale, I can take it to the nursing home for the nursing staff. I do the same thing with cookies.
I have a 9 cubic foot chest freezer in my pantry. That helps me to take advantage of sales. The other thing that helps me is the Food Saver that Mom got us in December 2006. I look at the entrees for Home Bistro (www.homebistro.com) for ideas of meals that I would enjoy and then I think how I can make them less expensively. I have found that I can afford steaks if I watch for the sales on whole beef tenderloins and have it cut into steaks. I pay $7.99 a pound on sale for the tenderloin. Each steak is $2.50, which is very nice on my budget. The tenderloins provide me with more meals for less money than if I order from Home Bistro.
I've tried new foods and recipes since cooking for just myself. I cook with fat free evaporated milk and powdered milk. I buy butter on sale and I freeze it. I also try to keep an open mind. I am trying to make up menus of meals I enjoy. I managed to find a copy of a cookbook on eBay Mom used while I was growing up. Now I can prepare foods I remember enjoying in the past. I am very fortunate because Mom encouraged me to cook while I was a small child. I learned how to shop wisely from Mom and from a man I used to date. I keep a well-stocked kitchen, pantry, and freezer. This helps me to eat at home instead of going out to eat a lot or to hit the drive-thru. I took some cooking classes so that I could cook things like souffles. I make homemade soups and I enjoy them.