Many people have a hard time cooking for two or for just themselves. Sometimes it’s an older individual or couple who once cooked for their whole family when their kids were still living at home. There are also younger singles and couples without children who feel like they waste so much food and time cooking every night just for them.
Often, these people end up wasting food or giving up on cooking and opt for easily accessible processed options and take-out. These choices can lead to all kinds of chronic digestive issues, weight gain, and disease. Eating out all of the time is also a strain on the bank account and, let’s be honest, we don’t know where or how the food in restaurants is prepared most of the time. Cooking fresh and healthy meals at home is one way to combat these issues.
It is possible to maintain a healthy, sustainable lifestyle when you’re cooking for one or two. Below are a few tips to get on you on the right track.
1. Plan Ahead
When you make a plan before you head to the grocery store you are far more likely to stick to the list, spend less money, and get in some healthy meals. When you know what you’ll be cooking, you can set aside the time required to cook these planned meals if the ingredients are available at home. Finally, you can even think through a plan for leftovers to be used on busy nights that week. Be realistic. Start by planning 2 or 3 homemade dinners a week, have easy lunches on hand, and use or freeze the leftovers. Go with what works for you.
2. Buy in bulk whenever possible & use your freezer.
Bulk bin pricing is usually equal to or less expensive than buying ingredients in full-sized packaging. You don’t want to miss out on really great bulk prices just because there’s only one or two of you. The key here is to only buy what you can use up. This is where your freezer comes into play. When you buy a huge pack of cheese, chicken breast, ground meat, and some produce, divide it into smaller portions and freeze it. If there is a great price on chicken, you could buy 10 lbs, get quart sized freezer bags and put two breasts in each bag. Bulk produce like bananas, kale, spinach, peaches, berries, etc. can be frozen in bags for easy smoothies. If you’re not a fan of plastic freezer bags, there are now some great reusable silicon bags available! You could also buy bulk spinach and kale to be used in sauces and salads for some extra greens in your diet.
3. Consider going more Plant-Based.
Animal protein is historically what takes the most prep time and money. If time is your obstacle to getting healthy meals at home, try having the ingredients for a big salad on hand. You can mix it up each day with capers, olives, artichokes, hard-boiled eggs, seeds, nuts, lemon juice, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, kale, spinach, sprouts, and even fruit! The combinations are endless, easy, and can keep your diet from feeling repetitive.
4. Spruce up the leftovers.
There are two kinds of people, those that love leftovers and those that hate them. Many find them boring and repetitive, but they don’t have to be! If you make roasted chicken with vegetables for dinner, reinvent your leftovers into quesadillas, chicken salad, or a soup the next day. Tired of salad? You can keep the onions and dressing on the side, and blend up the leftovers with some fruit into a green smoothie or add the veggies to some eggs and make an omelet.
5. Don’t overbuy produce.
We all love the look of fresh produce, but so often produce goes bad before it is eaten. Buy what is fresh and in season in small amounts that you will eat that week then you can change it up the following week to get a variety. If you happen to come across an amazing deal on some produce, check to see how well it freezes using this guide before you buy.
6. Learn how to scale down larger recipes.
Most recipes are designed for at least 2-4 servings and making the entire recipe is great if you want leftovers that are freezable. However, if you don’t want the extra food, simply learn how to scale a recipe down to a single serving. Granted, sometimes it’s hard to scale certain recipes down to a single serving and it does require some research and work. It is often also more economical to cook on a larger scale and have leftovers, but if you want to cook more single serving recipes, it can be done.
Cooking for one or two doesn’t have to be hard or boring. When you plan ahead and keep healthy options readily available, it actually can become quite easy.