“I need to get reacquainted with my kitchen.” - Carol “C.J.” Johnson: Age 61, Administrative Coordinator, Birmingham, Ala.


For the last year, C.J. has been time crunched and energy depleted. After a long day’s work, she attended to her ailing mom. When mealtime came, “It was just way too easy to go through somebody’s drive-through,” she says. Although she loves to cook, the idea of shopping and cooking for one was too tiring to even think about. The result: an upsurge in restaurant food spending and an increase in pounds.


C.J. needs to devote some time to nurturing herself—and with a little mind-set tweak, cooking can feel like well-deserved “me time.” With a busy schedule, the idea of cooking more often may seem impossible—but that’s where make-ahead meals and small-batch cooking techniques can help.

  • Cook and freeze. On the weekend, cook lasagna, soup, or chili, and freeze individual portions—your own custom frozen dinner to tote to work for lunch or reheat for dinner on a busy night. See our best freezable recipes.
  • A healthy breakfast is just a muffin tin away. Bake and freeze muffins or individual frittatas (baked in muffin tins) for pre-portioned, grab and-go breakfasts.
  • Make a batch of pasta salad for the week. Try penne with diced red bell pepper and red onion plus purchased or homemade vinaigrette. Add something new each day so you don’t get sick of it—toasted nuts and feta cheese, sliced grilled chicken breast, or olives and canned tuna.
  • Learn to cook en papillote. It’s a smart option for those cooking for one—a great one-dish meal with almost no cleanup.
  • Cook with friends. Open a bottle of wine, and have a friend or two over. You might be more willing to tackle a new technique together, and you’ll learn from each other—a new ingredient, a cool tip, a time-saving option.