If you’re cooking for one or two, are you ordering out or driving through way too often? We know that cooking can be a fun, creative part of your life, but if your days of cooking for a houseful are in the past, those old favorite recipes might be way too much at this stage.
Wouldn’t it be great to cook delicious meals without cooking for an army? Think of the money you’d save! Think of the waste you’d eliminate. Whether you’re cooking for two or just you, sometimes it’s hard to adapt recipes to ‘fit.’ Here are seven creative tips to make that work, no matter your style, including ideas for cooking for two on a budget or healthily.
#1 Cook for More and Share the Extras
The first step toward cooking for one or two is to choose any family-sized recipe and simply enjoy your meal. Sometimes it’s fun to make the whole thing like the old days. But instead of tossing or Tupperwaring, consider sharing. Depending on how much is left over, you could share a plate or pan with that sweet neighbor or your elderly relative. If you’d like to do this regularly, check with your church, homeless shelter, or women’s shelter and pack up your leftovers to share with those in need. It will be a big blessing for them and you.
Additionally, you could ask folks over to join you for a meal and then send some leftovers home with them!
Here’s a post with more ideas for developing friendships: 3 Strategies to Meet New Friends
#2 Grocery Shopping for Two
Shopping for two should be different than shopping for a whole family (kind of obvious, but it could be a hard habit to break). If you want to enjoy the benefits of only cooking for two or just you, you need to start with how you shop.
My husband and I have recently started using YNAB (You Need a Budget) and love it but are finding that our grocery spending could use some fat trimming! It always comes back to planning. I tend to be a ‘no list shopper,’ which doesn’t cut it these days. Deciding what you’ll eat, at least for dinners, is essential if you want to shave off some of the waste in the shopping cart.
Buy what you need for the week or be willing to divide it up and store/freeze it for future planned meals. Be especially careful with produce and other perishable items. Nothing worse than having to throw things out you forgot you had (“wouldn’t it be fun to get a fresh pineapple?!”) or didn’t have planned into your week.
Using a calendar, planner, or simply jotting down 3 or 4 main dinner ideas for the week on a piece of paper will change your life. I love to use the Plan to Eat app for this purpose. This amazing app saves and stores recipes, allows you to plan using those recipes, and then creates a shopping list for you!
See Tip #6 for more information on Plan to Eat. 😊
#3 Leftovers Deserve a Shot
Sometimes you just want the leftovers! Talk about easy cooking for two! Whether you cooked at home and the recipe didn’t sound that big! Or, the portions were huge at Cracker Barrel or Applebee’s, so you got a doggy bag. Haven’t you heard everything’s better on the 2nd or even the 3rd day? Warm it up, add a jazzy salad and enjoy for the next day or a few. I intentionally double my meatloaf, so there’ll be enough for a couple more meals and meatloaf sandwiches! (Thick bread, lots of mayo and ketchup, and a nice sprinkling of salt. Perfection!)
Another consideration if you consistently take home restaurant leftovers would be splitting the meal. You must eat out with someone with similar tastes and maybe agree to take turns with orders. If you can get it to work, you’ll save some bucks!
#4 Cookbooks that Help You in Cooking for Two
Check out the “30 Minute Cooking for Two: Healthy Dishes Without All the Fuss’ it has lots of practical, easy meals for two. And they’re healthy as well! After a while of following these recipes, you’ll be able to easily size down your recipes.
30 Minute shares solutions for shopping for two, pantry and fridge staples on hand, storing suggestions, and ten tips on minimizing waste. The first tip was to “Plan your meals before grocery shopping to avoid impulse and overbuying.” This leads me to my suggestion below in Tip #6 for the Plan to Eat app.
Another title that could prove extremely helpful and delicious in cooking for one or two is One-Pot Cooking for Two: Effortless Meals for Your Sheet Pan, Skillet, Slow Cooker, and More. This cookbook supports creating delicious smaller meals and using fewer pans and dishes (what could be better than that?!) This title is now in my cart. I’ll update this post after I’ve checked it out in person.
#5 Do the Freezer Prep in One or Two Meal Size Containers
Cook ahead and FREEZE in single or double serving portions and then pop those puppies in the microwave when you’re in the mood. I bought an awesome book several years ago (it must’ve gotten lost in the move!) with a complete system for prepping ahead with freezer meals. If that sounds appealing to you, here are a couple of titles that look great to me (as replacement titles!) The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook and Taste of Home Make It Freeze It: 295 Make-Ahead Meals that Save Time & Money
#6 Cooking for Two with My Favorite Online Tool
One very helpful online resource is Plan to Eat. I love that place. You can plan your meals, capture recipes, and even create shopping lists! Super fun! Click here for a free trial. If you decide to sign up, let’s be friends, and then we can share recipes! I’m a big fan of The Pioneer Woman, The Kitchen, and Trisha Yearwood, so I tag their recipes to find them quicker. I also tag for the Mediterranean Diet, Cast Iron Cooking, Clean Eating, Air Fryer Recipes, and Cooking for Two. I would love to connect on PTE! 😊
Also, Plan to Eat will adjust ingredient amounts to the number of servings. Some online recipes will do the same thing before you save them. While you’re shrinking those meals, you might want to lighten them up, too; check out the link below for a post called Your Favorite Comfort Foods (Only Lighter) for doing just that.
The app just added a feature for using leftovers. I love how they’re always adding helpful new things. So fun…PTE is worth its weight in gold!
‘Cooking for Two’ Related QH Posts and Page
#7 Tasty and Easy Meals for Two Ideas
- One Dish Kitchen is a Facebook page and website which only does delicious small meals for one or two. Check this one out! Small Batch Microwave Fudge…yum.
- Why Experts Recommend Meal Planning for Every Home is an amazing resource to keep nearby when planning your meals. Everything you need to know about the practical side of meal planning…plus tons of yummy recipes for the process. 5 ⭐️’s
- Here are 6 Easy Meals Made in Minutes at the Silver Sneakers site. They look like they’d be very tasty while healthy. And, they’re formulated for one person…perfect.
This Magic Pantry Recipe Generator will give you the tools you need to generate your meals right out of your pantry. It’s free…have fun ‘generating’!
So, let’s wrap this up. When you’re not cooking for a family any longer, it takes a while to readjust to cooking for yourself or maybe two or three. This post has a few suggestions for making that transition more seamless. Some of the ideas might solve another issue of this time of life; being alone. Sharing a meal can add to social belonging for you or someone else. And, regarding our initial problem of eating out too often, I’m hoping the suggestions will result in your spending less or having fewer leftovers (unless you want them!)
Finding a new purpose in living and joy in the day-to-day was the goal when author Kathy Rowland and her entire family (adult kids and grandkids) moved from the PNW to Texas several years ago. The focus of Quiet Hollow is to encourage ‘next chapter women’ – those who are retired, empty-nesters, or have found themselves without a spouse to jump back into life. And, she shares multiple tips, ideas, and possibilities toward that end. Kathy completed her almost 30 years as an elementary teacher and hopped into over a decade of volunteer work, side hustle-type businesses, and grandchild care before discovering her unique and fulfilling purpose for the next chapter of life. What you read on Quiet Hollow is a large part of that calling. Another part is the happy life she’s leading in Central Texas in the same neighborhood as the 3 big kids and her 5 grandkids. She and her college sweetheart husband made sure to add a pool to their new Texas home, so there are lots of noisy, splashy days in their little oasis of a backyard. Come join her on Quiet Hollow in a conversation about finding and living the life you were created to live in this later stage. The chats will be full of laughter, support, faith, and inspiration to create.
So excited for you Kathy, love your new home! Miss your ever smiling face and our occasional coffee dates. I look forward to following your blog and live vicariously through you, at least for now. ?
Thank you so much Susan! I miss those visits as well. Would love to have a visit down here…anytime! 🙂