ALOHA FROM JENNIE: In a small one or two person household, it seems easier to enjoy takeout food rather than cooking meals, especially for individuals like myself with no culinary skills whatsoever. Furthermore, some seniors can have physical ailments that may make standing at the stove for long periods an ordeal (in my case, a broken ankle).
My alternative is to produce single serving homecooked packed meals, similar to the items you’d find at a store deli. Usually, this meal assembly is done during a leisurely Sunday afternoon session in anticipation of the upcoming workweek.
The trick is to use common ingredients in preparing a variety of dishes, which avoids waste and keeps the meals more interesting than trying to finish the same large pot of beef stew over three days. Below is a whiteboard outlining a number of common ingredients which are then used to produce three separate dishes: pizza bread (a variation of garlic bread), Italian pasta, and spinach salad.
Most of the ‘work’ can actually be done by sitting at the kitchen table and preparing the common ingredients. Conceptually, the end result would be like the Subway sandwiches assembly line. You’d slice and dice mushrooms, bell peppers, fresh tomatoes, onions, and garlic and place the ingredients into separate containers (I like paper bowls).
In the meantime, you can monitor the stove and cook your pasta and hardboiled eggs without needing to literally watch the pot boil. You should also have on hand for your assembly line some shredded cheese, olives, bagged spinach, and a jar of pasta sauce.
For the pizza bread, you’ll slice up a loaf of French bread and layer the ingredients onto the bread as described on the whiteboard. I usually place each bread slice on a sheet of aluminum foil, do the assembly, and then tightly encase the finished product with the foil and refrigerate. The packed bread can then be baked in a toaster or home oven right in its foil compartment (open the top of the foil and expose the bread to let the cheese melt and ingredients bake).
The spinach salad can be assembled into a large bowl, although I prefer to use a large ziploc bag, since I can toss everything together within the sealed bag. I then parcel out single servings into small sandwich bags for the upcoming week.
The only stove work involves browning the ground beef (or meatballs) for the Italian pasta dish. After adding a selection of the common ingredients including mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, onions/garlic and spices, you end up with a very hearty pasta sauce to go with your rotini, rigatoni, elbow pasta shells or spaghetti.
Of course, you'd add any other ingredients that you enjoy and omit those that you dislike. Hope that this lazy cooking technique sounds interesting to some of you.