How to grocery shop for 1 pax and create a new dish with your kitchen leftovers

Cooking for one pax can be healthy, yummy and exciting if you know how to reuse your fresh produce and be strategic with it. You will realize in the recipes below (portioned for the use of 1 to 2 pax) that the ingredients are either repeatable in other recipes, or they are sauces/condiments/items that can be stored for a long time.

How to grocery shop for you and yourself?

Select smaller size produce

You probably won’t need a large onion or large bell pepper. If you are not intending to repurpose this item in any ways in the next few days, select a smaller one.

Choose greens that you can either eat cooked or raw

Baby carrots, mini cucumbers, mini bell peppers are example of “cook able”, or can be thrown into salads or sauté in olive oil.

Frozen vegetables are awesome!

They are nutritious and an easy peasy addition to your stir fry dish, pasta etc.

The must-haves in every kitchen

Onions (adds flavor and texture), garlics (spam it everywhere), fresh herbs (takes your cooking from average to great), lemons (flavors the water, squeeze over food) etc. You know what I mean. 😊


Eggs are magical not just with the different variations you can do with it. The recipe possibilities are endless and you can whip up a meal in a flash. They are a must-have in your grocery list.


Select a mild flavor so that you can use it for a variety of things. Cheese can be used in sandwiches, shredded over scrambled eggs, stirred into pastas and even cubed in salads. Even for snacking with biscuits.

Meat stuff

Leftover chicken breasts, chicken thighs or sausages can be pan-fried or grilled for another day’s dinner.

Pantry basics

You need not replenish these often as they can last for a long time. Extra virgin olive oil (for salads and sautéing), vegetable oil, soy sauce, vinegar (balsamic for angmo or rice vinegar for Asian cuisine), salt & pepper and some of your favorite dip sauce/condiments.

Pasta and canned food

Example of a quickest homemade meal ever: make tomato sauce by sautéing half a can of canned tomatoes, top it with garlic and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Done.

Recycle your leftovers

For example, the leftover chicken breast that you use for your Teriyaki chicken rice tonight can be tossed into a healthy chicken salad tomorrow. And trust me you won’t feel like you are eating leftovers.

Be creative with your leftovers

Play around with whatever you want to use up in the fridge. And the best thing about cooking for yourself is that you are free to attempt different flavors, sauces and whatnot. You might very well find your very own favorite secret recipe!

5 simple recipes using repeated ingredients

Teriyaki chicken with broccoli

Teriyaki Chicken with Broccoli

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients for the sauce

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup low sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Whisk all these ingredients together and set aside

Ingredients for the dish

  • 4 cups of broccoli
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large boneless skinless chicken breast (diced into 1-inch cubes)

Let’s start cooking…

Add the broccoli in a medium pot of boiling water for 5 minutes.

Immediately transfer the broccoli to an ice bath (large bowl of water with ice in it) to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. 

Cook the chicken cubes till brown for about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the broccoli (drained well) and turn the heat down to medium. Pour in the sauce and let it thicken for about 5 minutes. Toss until well coated.

Serve it over white rice.

Honey sriracha lime chicken skillet

Honey Sriracha Lime Chicken

(Sriracha is a sweet, salty and spicy dipping sauce with Thai origins)

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients for the sauce

  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Whisk all these ingredients together and set aside

Ingredients for the dish

  • ½ tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 ¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning

Let’s start cooking…

Use a 10-inch round cast-iron skillet or 10-inch round oven-safe skillet. Heat the vegetable oil over in medium-high heat.

Preheat the oven to broil (broiling is a cooking method in which food is cooked directly under high heat).

Meanwhile, pat dry the chicken thighs and sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides.

Once the oil is hot, add the seasoned chicken to the skillet. Give it about 3 minutes to get a nice brown colour on one side before turning it over to the other side, repeating the process.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the sauce on top. Let the sauce and chicken simmer for about 10 minutes, turning it occasionally. Continue to baste the chicken with the sauce using either a pastry brush or a large spoon.

After about 10 minutes, place the entire skillet on the top rack of the oven to broil. It should be done within 5 minutes under high heat. Remember to keep an eye on it.

Finally, do a final brush on the tops of the chicken with the sauce, add salt and pepper for taste.

Serve with rice.

One pot jambalaya

One-pot Jambalaya

(Jambalaya is of Louisiana origins with Spanish and French influence, typically meat and vegetables mixed with rice)

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes

  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 1 green bell pepper diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small onion, diced (about ½ cup)
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • ½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 ounces andouille sausages, cut into rounds
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 servings of cooked long grain white rice
  • 1 ½ cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf

Let’s start cooking…

Add vegetable oil to a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

When the oil is hot, add in the bell pepper, onion, celery and garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes until fragrant.

Add in chicken, andouille sausage and tomato paste. Stir and mix well together. 

Add in white rice and stir until it is lightly roasted.

Next, stir in the chicken broth, diced tomatoes, Cajun seasoning and that 1 bay leaf.

Cover and let it cook over low heat for the next 30 minutes (or until rice is cooked through and liquid completely absorbed).

Stir every 10 minutes or so to prevent rice from sticking to the pan.

Beef enchilada rice bake

Beef Enchilada Rice Bake

(Classic beef Enchilada, converted into a rice bake dish, WOW!)

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients for the dish

  • 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced (about ¾ cup)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced (about ¾ cup)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ pound 80 / 20 ground beef
  • 1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained well
  • 2 servings of cooked white rice
  • ½ cup red Enchilada sauce
  • 1 ½ cups shredded Mexican cheese

Let’s start cooking…

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Use a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the vegetable oil.

After the oil is heated up, add in the onions, green bell pepper and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes and then sprinkle in the cumin, salt and black pepper. Stir.

Place the ground beef into the skillet and break it up into pieces using a wooden spoon or spatula.

Add the diced tomatoes and stir.

Lower the heat and add rice to the skillet. Stir rice together with the rest of the ingredients until evenly distributed. Add the Enchilada sauce and stir.

Place this mixture into a 2 ½ quart oven-safe casserole dish. Sprinkle cheese evenly on the rice.

Place the casserole dish in the oven on the middle rack. Bake uncovered for the next 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove from oven and drizzle more Enchilada sauce on top if you like.

kimchi fried rice

Kimchi Fried Rice

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients for the dish

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided into 2 portions
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 small onion, diced (about ½ cup)
  • 1 cup frozen vegetables (of peas, carrots, corn etc), thawed
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 ½ cups kimchi, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon kimchi juice
  • 2 servings of day old cooked white rice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Let’s start cooking…

Use a large skillet over medium-high heat and add ½ tablespoon of vegetable oil.

Once its heated up, add the eggs to the skillet and scramble them. Remove the scrambled eggs from the skillet. Set aside.

Add the remaining vegetable oil, onion, frozen vegetables, garlic, kimchi and kimchi juice. Sauté until onion is translucent and cooked. Takes about 3 minutes.

Next, add the rice into the skillet and stir.

Turn the heat to medium-low. Continue stirring the rice and mixture. The last step is to add the scrambled eggs and season it with salt and pepper.

dinner for two book

Recipes are adapted from Julie Wampler’s "Dinner For Two" cookbook

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