Are you a young adult starting out? An “empty nester”? A middle-aged household of one or two? If so, you’re not alone; one- and two-person households are increasing. A common dilemma is how to prepare and enjoy healthy meals for just one or two and make it worth the time, effort and cost. That’s where we can help! Get started with these tips for cooking for one:
When you shop for one or two, do you tend to overbuy and then find that the extras go to waste? This is a common challenge. Shopping for small households often takes restraint and planning, along with small-scale, savvy shopping.
- Start with a list.
That’s always good shopping advice, but it’s especially important if you’re just setting up a small household or becoming an empty nester.
- Look for small packages.
More and more companies package food products in single or double servings for small households and individual meals and snacks. For one- or two-person households, buying food in small containers can mean more food variety. Instead of trying to use up one bigger package, enjoy the variety of several smaller ones.
- Custom shop.
Buy from bulk bins, produce displays, bakery or deli counters, farmers’ markets or wherever you can choose the amount you need.
- Get acquainted.
Meat-, produce- and seafood-counter staff, among others, can usually package the amount you want.
- Leverage convenience.
Instead of buying many individual ingredients, build menus with the convenience of mixed and ready-to-eat foods: salad mixes, stir-fry mixes, herb blends, sauces and more. They’re not too costly in small amounts.
- Find a shopping buddy.
If economy-sized packages or “buy one get one free” offers prove to be better deals, split them with a friend.
- Repackage at home.
Stock up on sealable plastic bags, freezer wrap and plastic containers with tight seals. Repackage in the right sizes for you. Then label and freeze meat, poultry, fish and leftovers.
Does cooking a healthy meal for one or two seem like too much effort? And how do you size your favorite recipes, meant for serving four or more? With a shift in mindset, right-sized food prep is as quick and easy as cooking for a larger household.
- Get a cookbook for you.
Look for a cookbook or magazine that offers quick and easy recipes meant for cooking for one or two. Then you won’t have to adjust recipes designed for four or more servings.
- Equip for “small scale” cooking.
Choose smaller kitchen equipment (pots, pans, bowls) and appliances (food processor, coffee maker, toaster).
- Cook once, eat twice.
Prepare enough food for more than one meal. Cool and place your leftovers into a container for another meal. For example, prepare one tuna casserole, lasagna or meatloaf, then divide it into several smaller pans. Or grill two chicken breasts: one for dinner tonight topped with salsa or chutney, one for tomorrow, shredded for a BBQ Cheddar Chicken Roll-Ups.
- Plan speed-scratch meals.
Cut your food prep time by using some convenience foods, such as canned tuna, baby carrots, frozen vegetable mixes or pre-washed salad greens.
Table for One...or Two
For many people, eating alone isn’t as pleasurable as sharing with the family. Yet enjoying the pleasure of flavorful food with its nutritional benefits adds to the quality of life and, usually, to more healthful eating.
- Make mealtime pleasant.
Even when you eat alone, serve food on a plate, not in a preparation dish. Take a few moments to relax and enjoy the food, rather than rushing a meal or eating it on the run. Turn on some music you enjoy.
- Take turns with others in your situation.
Make a standing date to cook and eat with friends at your home, theirs or at a restaurant. Use these opportunities to experiment with new foods, flavors and cooking techniques.
Cooking for one doesn’t have to be a challenge with these tips! You’ll be a pro at preparing healthy meals for one or two in no time. For more tips, recipes for two and Healthy Living resources, be sure to visit My Food and Family.