Cooking for One or TwoIt can be tricky when cooking for one (or even two) to make the most of your ingredients and to minimize dishes — particularly when many recipes focus on making a meal for a family and serve four to six people. But just because you have a smaller household doesn't mean you should abandon the kitchen for fast food or takeout.
The first step to dinner-for-one success is to make cooking healthy meals a priority. Planning ahead and arming yourself with a few tips and tricks will put you on the path to triumph in the kitchen.
The best strategy when cooking for one is to become friends with your freezer. Instead of scaling down, cook up full recipes: cook once, eat twice. Save time, money and clean up by freezing soups, chili, pasta dishes and extra vegetables. Pull these 'frozen meals' out when you don't feel like cooking or just need a quick meal. Here are some more tips.
· Cook a batch of whole grains such as brown rice or barley and freeze in individual portions using a muffin pan. Once frozen, the discs can be stored in a freezer bag.
· Have a six-pack of whole-grain English muffins or a whole loaf of bread? Tuck those extras into the freezer for another day; wrap them tightly in plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn.
· Visit the bulk bins at your local health food and grocery stores. You can buy exactly what you need with no waste and it's often less expensive per pound. In addition to grains, you can score a deal on dried herbs and spices as well as nuts, seeds and dried beans.
Veggies and Fruits
· Since many of us only shop once a week, buying fresh produce can be an issue. Canned and frozen produce can be just as nutritious as fresh and it's there when you need it.
· Bulk bags of fruits and veggies are only a better deal if you eat them before they spoil. Only buy what you can reasonably eat before the produce perishes: take extra grapes or cherries out of the bag and pare down that bunch of bananas to what you'll eat.
· Be strategic. Enjoy your most perishable fresh produce like berries and spinach early in the week. Save heartier produce like cabbage, carrots and potatoes for meals later in the week.
· Eggs can make a meal happen in a flash, anytime! They are an excellent source of protein and contain a bounty of nutrients such as vitamin D and choline. You can hard-boil a few on the weekend to have as an easy breakfast, snack or quick salad addition.
· Buy a whole package of meat or poultry and wrap individual portions in freezer-safe paper; label each with the date and contents.
· Peanut butter, tofu, dried beans and peas, eggs and nuts are protein sources in addition to meat, poultry and fish.
Find a friend and do a meal trade. Do you know anyone else who is dining solo? Suggest that each of you find a recipe that serves two and whip it up. Keep one portion for yourself and trade the second portion so you’ll have two different single-serving meals. And the more the merrier when it comes to the food exchange. More people = more variety.
Cook once and eat all week. Consider buying in a whole chicken, ham or even pot roast. Yes, that’s a lot of food for one person, and it takes some time to make these recipes, but the beauty of cooking up a large amount of meat is that you can use it over the course of a few days and it can be something different every time (and you can freeze some for later use too!). A whole chicken becomes chicken salad on Monday, then a chicken taco on Tuesday. A pot roast can get sliced thinly and used in a wrap one day, then chopped up and added to soup the next.