THE DELUDED DIVA SPEAKS ... Cooking for one

You all know her — or maybe you are her - the poor pitiful woman at the grocery check out with a cart filled with Lean Cuisines, dog treats and a solitary one-pint bottle of milk.
She might as well be wearing a neon sign that flashes, “Alone, ALONE.” Strangely enough, I don’t find it depressing at all. I consider my kitchen my private laboratory where I can mix ingredients and experiment with techniques much the same way I mix metaphors. Some work, others get a good laugh.
Thankfully, I love to cook and I’m always trying out new recipes on my friends and family. My failures are legendary, and my rich compost pile is a testimony to my mistakes, so at least my garden appreciates me.
But when you don’t have anyone except yourself and your pets to appreciate the fruits of your labor in the kitchen, what’s the point?
Well, there’s always that stray boyfriend who shows up to push you to the next level. But cooking for one or two is challenging at best. Have you ever tried making a single serving of lasagna? It can’t be done. So you make a huge batch, invite your friends, and send them home with Tupperware containers of the leftovers. You’re back to square one: eating Lean Cuisines again.
But buyer beware - Lean Cuisines don’t always have “lean” results. I dined exclusively on them back in 2007 when I was on a health kick. I gained 15 pounds and my lipid profile went through the roof! Go figure. They are high in sodium and additives, and low in healthy things like whole grains and veggies. Plus, the servings are so small you have to eat two to be able to take a decent nap.
To prevent waste, save money, and stick to a healthy diet, here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years:
•Always make a list before you go to the grocery. I do this on Wednesdays using the grocery inserts in my local paper. I look at the weekly “specials,” make my plan and write my list. When I don’t do this, I arrive home with things like Fiddle Faddles, huge squashes which require a chain saw to slice and stinky cheeses that you can smell from the driveway.
• Opt for single servings of tempting treats. Let’s face it: Grocery store items are not exactly geared toward single people. I mean, do you really need a half gallon of ice cream tempting you all week long when all you wanted was a small taste? Yes, larger packages can sometimes be more economical, but when we’re talking about sweets and other junk foods, singles might be better served by paying more for single serving items so that you don’t have to finish off a whole bag of chips, cookies, or candy by yourself.
• Freezer items are life savers. My monthly purchases always include flash frozen chicken tenders – Tyson and Kroger produce the best. They go on sale about once a month, and can be yours for about $6 for a 2-1/2 pound bag. It will provide 8-10 meals, or until you start clucking like a chicken.
You don’t even have to thaw them unless you want to make chicken stock. I squirt them with some Olive Oil Pam and sprinkle with lemon pepper, toss them in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes and dump a bag of fresh spinach on the plate. Chop up the cooked chicken tenders and dress them with some oil and vinegar and you have a healthy meal fit for a queen, (or a king, I guess).

Emily Jones is a retired journalist who lives in Starkville. She edits a website for bouncing baby boomers facing retirement and she welcomes comments at