Cooking for one: insights from a culinary professional

As a 20-something, figuring out what to cook for dinner can be overwhelming. Missie DeLoach, culinary lab technician at Jefferson State Culinary & Hospitality Institute, has suggested some of her best tips for cooking as a young professional:

“An important kitchen must-have is the slow cooker. You can make hot dips, soups, stews and roasts. My mother even cooks BBQ pork chops in hers! Pinterest and other websites have tons of ideas if you’re struggling.

“Another great idea is to save leftover peas, beans, corn, other cooked veggies (except mashed potatoes), roasts and chicken pieces in the freezer, and you’ve got all the ingredients for homemade soup for when it gets cool. Just throw them all in the slow-cooker with a little water, put it on its lowest setting and let it cook all day while you’re at work. When you come home, it’s ready when you are.

“Lastly, my secret weapon—lasagna! I make lasagna with my family’s old recipe, but Stouffer’s is good in a pinch.”

DeLoach is a young, single professional, so she can give particularly relevant insight into shopping and cooking for one. “I’ve learned quickly about how to stretch my dollar to its maximum potential,” she said. Here is a grocery list of basic, staple foods that she suggests keeping in the cupboard.

For baking:

  • All-purpose flour (useful in most all baked goods and other cooking purposes)
  • Baking soda (great for cooking and cleaning!)
  • Baking powder
  • White sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Powdered sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • Chocolate chips


  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Chili powder
  • Cayenne pepper (chili and taco must!)
  • Garlic (or garlic powder)
  • Fresh basil and oregano (for Italian night)


  • Chicken stock (or bouillon cubes)
  • Mustard
  • Olive oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Soy sauce
  • Hot sauce
  • Maple syrup (for late night pancake decisions)
  • Powdered parmesan cheese
  • Steak sauce/marinade of choice (I prefer Dale’s Low Sodium marinade to lightly soak my burgers in when they come off the grill)
  • Onions & potatoes (lasts a good while in cool, dark pantry/cupboard)

Noodles & Canned Goods:

  • Spaghetti or fettuccini noodles
  • Long-grain rice
  • Canned petite diced tomatoes
  • Tomato sauce (for spaghetti)
  • Canned black beans/kidney beans (great for taco meat, chili, and black beans with corn in salsa)
  • Canned/packaged tuna/salmon


  • Bacon
  • Corn
  • Peas/beans
  • Blueberries/strawberries
  • Chicken breast
  • Ground beef/turkey
  • Shrimp
  • Fish
  • Bread (if you find a good deal on loaf bread, buy an extra or two and store them in the freezer. Pull one out and thaw in the fridge the day before)


  • Butter (seems to last forever)
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Milk (I drink a lot of milk, but if you just need it for baking purposes, buy dry powdered milk and follow instructions to reconstitute it with water)


  • Foil
  • Plastic wrap
  • Freezer bags (gallon & quart sizes) and sandwich bags