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Cooking for one can be a joy, especially when you have the right tools and ingredients at your fingertips. A well-stocked kitchen doesn’t mean you need every gadget out there; instead, it’s about having the essentials that make cooking efficient and enjoyable. Let’s dive into the must-haves that will make your kitchen a haven for creating delicious single serving meals.

Unlock the ease of cooking for one with our helpful articles and single serving recipe collections. Check out guides like “How to Read a Recipe,” “10 Essential Tips for Cooking for One,” and “Four Meals from One Pound of Ground Beef.”

The Benefits Of A Well-Stocked Kitchen

A well-stocked kitchen and pantry make it easy to whip up meals at the last minute with little to no planning. You can take a protein from the freezer or fridge, add some spices, and combine it with a vegetable or starch and a salad. In just 20 to 30 minutes, you’ll have a delicious meal ready.

Once your kitchen is stocked with essentials you use every day, grocery shopping each week becomes about replenishing what you’ve used and adding specific ingredients for planned meals. If you’re following a specific diet, having the right foods on hand helps you stick to it and avoid those late-night or mid-afternoon temptations. This approach has helped me maintain my diet and avoid those “indiscretions.”

The items on this list are essentials that many recipes, including those on this website and in our cookbook, are built on. Remember, everyone’s pantry will look a bit different, so feel free to add or subtract items based on what you love and use frequently.

You can easily modify most of the recipes on our website to fit what you have in your pantry and refrigerator.

beef and broccoli over white rice on a blue plate.
Beef And Broccoli For One

What Are The Essential Kitchen Tools?

To cook effectively, especially for one, you need a few key tools. Here are the basics:

  • Knives: A good chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a serrated knife can handle most cutting tasks.
  • Cutting Boards: Have at least two—one for raw meat and one for fruits and vegetables.
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons: Accurate measurements are crucial for baking and cooking.
  • Mixing Bowls: A variety of sizes will come in handy for mixing ingredients.
  • Pots and Pans: A skillet, a saucepan, and a stockpot are versatile and cover most cooking methods.
  • Baking Sheets and Pans: Perfect for baking, roasting, and more.
  • Utensils: Spatulas, wooden spoons, tongs, and a whisk are essential for stirring, flipping, and serving.
  • Small Baking Dishes: Small baking dishes are perfect for single serving recipes. You can find 5×5 inch baking dishes, 5×7 inch baking dishes, and 10-ounce ramekins in our online store, all of which are used in our single serving recipes.

What Pantry Staples Should I Always Have?

Keeping your pantry stocked with basic ingredients ensures you can whip up a meal without a last-minute trip to the store. Here are some staples:

  • Grains and Pasta: Rice, quinoa, and a variety of pasta.
  • Canned Goods: Tomatoes, beans, and broth are versatile and have a long shelf life.
  • Baking Essentials: Flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and yeast.
  • Oils and Vinegars: Olive oil or avocado oil and balsamic vinegar are great for cooking and dressing salads.
  • Spices and Herbs: Salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, and basil can transform any dish. Spices can be expensive if bought at full price from the grocery store. To save money, consider growing your own herbs and watch for sales. Many grocery stores and markets have bulk bin aisles where you can buy spices in smaller quantities. This way, you only pay for what you need and avoid cluttering your pantry with partially used spice jars. It also allows you to experiment with new spices without committing to a full jar.
chicken with paprika sauce over rotini pasta next to fresh basil and a bowl of grated parmesan cheese
Chicken Paprika For One

What Should I Keep In My Refrigerator?

Before you head to the store, take a moment to look through your refrigerator. Knowing what you already have helps you avoid buying duplicates and ensures you don’t run out of essentials. Everyone’s refrigerator will look a bit different based on personal preferences and dietary needs. Here’s a general list of items that many find useful to keep on hand:

  • Eggs: Great for breakfasts, baking, and quick meals.
  • Cheese: A versatile ingredient for snacks, salads, and main dishes.
  • Butter: Essential for cooking and baking.
  • Heavy Cream: Useful for making sauces, soups, and desserts.
  • Plain Yogurt: A healthy snack and a base for dressings and marinades.
  • Mayonnaise and Mustard: Condiments for sandwiches and dressings.
  • Carrots, Bell Peppers, Celery: Versatile vegetables for snacking, salads, and cooking.
  • Sausage (Italian and ground): Adds flavor to many dishes.
  • Onions (red and yellow): A staple in many recipes.
  • Garlic: Adds depth to savory dishes.
  • Tomatoes: Fresh tomatoes are great for salads, sandwiches, and cooking.
  • Lettuce: Ideal for salads and sandwiches.
  • Apples: A healthy snack and versatile ingredient for both sweet and savory dishes.
  • Lemons: Useful for cooking, baking, and beverages.
  • Jams or Jellies: Perfect for spreads, desserts, and glazes.

Remember, not everyone likes or eats all of these items. Customize your refrigerator based on what you enjoy and use regularly.

three pancakes on a white plate with blueberries on top and scattered around the plate.
Pancakes For One

What Should I Keep In My Freezer?

Stocking your freezer with essential items ensures you always have ingredients on hand for quick and easy meals. Here’s a look at what to keep in your freezer:

Why Stock Your Freezer?

Keeping pieces of meat and fish in the freezer allows you to easily pull one out, defrost it, and cook it when ready. Look for packages of chicken, beef, or seafood when they are on sale. Then, immediately divide, individually wrap, and freeze pieces for later use.

Freezing and Food Safety – USDA Recommendations:

  • Uncooked Chicken Breasts: No longer than nine months.
  • Frozen Raw Fish: Up to 8 months.
  • Raw Shellfish: Up to 12 months.
  • Uncooked Ground Beef: Up to 4 months.
  • Uncooked Steaks, Roasts, or Chops: Up to 8 months.

Items For Your Freezer:

  • Frozen Chicken and Fish: Essential proteins for various meals like Greek Chicken or Baked Cod.
  • Bread Crumbs: Handy for breading and topping casseroles like Chicken Divan or Meatloaf.
  • Frozen Fruit: Perfect for smoothies, baking, and quick desserts like Mango Sorbet or Blueberry Cobbler.
  • Vegetables: Frozen peas, corn, and mixed vegetables are convenient for quick side dishes or additions to recipes like Chicken Fried Rice, Taco Soup, or Chicken Pot Pie.
  • Herbs: Freezing fresh herbs in ice cube trays with a bit of water or olive oil preserves their flavor for cooking.
  • Broth or Stock: Homemade or store-bought, frozen in portions for soups and sauces.
  • Cooked Grains: Pre-cooked rice, quinoa, or barley frozen in portions for quick meal prep.

Customize Your Freezer:

Not everyone will need or use the same items. Customize your freezer based on your dietary preferences and cooking habits. By keeping a variety of ingredients on hand, you’ll always be prepared to create delicious meals with ease.

a small bowl of blueberry crumble topped with whipped cream next to a larger dish of the crumble.
Blueberry Crumble For One

How Can I Organize My Kitchen Efficiently?

An organized kitchen makes cooking more enjoyable and efficient. Here are some tips:

  • Group Similar Items: Keep baking supplies together, cooking utensils in one spot, and spices in another.
  • Use Clear Containers: Store dry goods like flour, sugar, and pasta in clear, airtight containers.
  • Label Everything: Labels help you find what you need quickly and keep track of expiration dates.
  • Maximize Storage Space: Use shelves, hooks, and drawer organizers to keep everything in its place.
a spinach and orzo salad in a pink bowl on a silver tray.
Spinach And Orzo Salad For One

What Are Some Tips For Maintaining A Clean Kitchen?

A clean kitchen is a happy kitchen. Here’s how to keep yours spotless:

  • Clean As You Go: Wash dishes and wipe down surfaces as you cook to avoid a big mess at the end.
  • Daily Tasks: Wipe down counters, sweep the floor, and take out the trash daily.
  • Weekly Deep Clean: Dedicate time each week to clean appliances, scrub the sink, and organize the fridge.
  • Monthly Maintenance: Clean the oven, microwave, and deep clean the pantry.
one chocolate chip cookie on a silver tray next to a plate of four chocolate chip cookies
Small Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies

How Can I Make My Kitchen More Eco-Friendly?

Making small changes can lead to a more sustainable kitchen. Here are some ideas:

  • Use Reusable Bags and Containers: Reduce plastic waste by using reusable grocery bags and storage containers.
  • Compost Food Scraps: Composting reduces waste and creates nutrient-rich soil for gardening.
  • Buy in Bulk: Purchasing items like grains and spices in bulk reduces packaging waste.
  • Energy-Efficient Appliances: Consider energy-efficient appliances to reduce electricity usage.

Stocking and organizing your kitchen doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Focus on the essentials, keep your space organized, and maintain cleanliness for a kitchen that’s ready to handle any recipe. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating delicious meals for one with ease.

Red 5-inch square baking dish with One Dish Kitchen branded paper sleeve around it.

Make 80+ Recipes With This Dish!

Ideal for home chefs, this individual square ceramic baking dish is safe for oven, microwave, freezer, and dishwasher. Simple to use & easy to clean!


I’m Joanie and I’m incredibly happy you’re here! Our aim is to inspire individuals with access to single serving recipes, education, and a supportive community that will enable them to enjoy the preparation of a meal that will nourish both body and soul.

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  1. Suzanne says:

    I just came across this site – and look forward to cooking more than frozen meals, or ordering takeout to get me through the weekend (I work where I do get 1 meal a day during the work week). You caught my attention with the French onion soup – as wanted some so bad last week, can’t wait to make it!

  2. Steve Mills says:

    If I open a can of biscuits can I bake half and freeze the other half?
    Trying to wrap my head around cooking for one. My wife passed away from covid January 17.

    1. Joanie Zisk says:

      Hi Steve, I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope you find the recipes here helpful. You can freeze an opened can of biscuits, separate the raw biscuits and lay them out on a baking sheet (don’t let them touch each other or they will stick together) and freeze. Once frozen, transfer the biscuits to sealable freezer bags and store in the freezer. Remove one at a time, as needed and allow the dough to thaw in the refrigerator. Bake according to the original instructions.

  3. Dina says:

    Joanie, this website has been a life saver. My husband passed away a few months ago, so cooking for one has been a real learning experience. Your recipes allow me to cook much smarter and also to try new ingredients and combinations. Thanks for such a great resource!

    1. Joanie Zisk says:

      Dina, I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m glad the recipes are helpful to you. Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know.

    2. Mo says:

      Oh, thank you for this question and this answer. I’ve passed on buying canned biscuits on sale because I knew I couldn’t use them all, and freezing the cooked ones didn’t provide a satisfactory response for me. Freeze the uncooked? Wonderful!

  4. jane parkes says:

    Brilliant site, lovely recipes, favourite at the moment double eggplant bake much much nicer than twice baked potato. Many thanks Joanie.

    1. Joanie Zisk says:

      I’m so glad you are enjoying the recipes. The twice baked eggplant is one of my favorites too.