Cooking for One or Two

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couplePreparing smaller meals, especially for just one or two people, can seem like more effort than it’s worth. Often recipes serve at least four. Leftovers are wasted. And cooking means that there will be dishes to wash. The good news is that preparing meals for one or two can be easy and enjoyable by following a few suggestions.

The easiest way to prepare is to plan meals. Planning meals that provide the nutrients and calories you need to be healthy and to keep the immune system strong can also help to reduce the risk of chronic disease.

Planning starts by checking to see what you have in your pantry, refrigerator or freezer. Start by making a meal plan for one week, using what you have on hand and foods you like. Start with the main dish, and then add a bread, pasta or starch. Add a hot or cold vegetable and choose a fruit to complement.

Remember the saying “Cook once, eat twice”? At least once a week, prepare extra portions of at least one main dish and package it in single-size servings that can be easily reheated or frozen. Cook a pot of stew, soup or chili and freeze into smaller portions.

To eliminate food waste and unnecessary leftovers, prepare foods in smaller pans and baking dishes. Purchase smaller amounts of foods and ingredients. Cutting recipes in half for smaller servings can be tricky. There is no simple rule to let you know which recipes can be cut in half and still be tasty. Using recipes that are easily divisible by 2, adding seasonings a bit at a time and following this table can help you cut recipes in half with greater success.

When the Recipes says: Reduce to:
¼ cup 2 Tablespoons
1/3 cup 2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons
¾ cup 6 Tablespoons
1 cup ½ cup
1 Tablespoon 1 – ½ teaspoons
1 teaspoon ½ teaspoon
¼ teaspoon 1/8 teaspoon
1/8 teaspoon dash

DSC02742Shopping for food is another key element in preparing smaller meals. Use your menu plan to make a grocery list. Only buy larger packages if you will use it. It’s not a bargain if the food is wasted.

Purchase generic brands or store brands. You can easily compare the ingredient list on the nutrition facts label to make sure that it contains the same ingredients as a national brand. Use coupons for items that you typically buy.

It doesn’t have to be difficult to cook tasty and nutritious meals for one or two people. Remember the many benefits in of cooking for yourself. Make eating meals an exciting part of the day, whether you are eating alone or getting together with friends.

Sources: University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service
Oklahoma State University

Written By

Dee Decker, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionDee DeckerExtension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences Call Dee Email Dee N.C. Cooperative Extension, Swain County Center
Updated on May 19, 2015
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