Planning meals for just the two—without acquiring a boatload of leftovers—can be a challenge. But it’s definitely doable and can actually be a lot of fun if you like to experiment with a variety of foods and tastes. It can also be very economical if you know how to cook for two without incurring a lot of waste.
Here are some tips and tricks if you’re cooking for just you plus one.
- Avoid waste by using your grocery store’s salad bar. A full container of cherry tomatoes or a whole bag of shredded cabbage may be way more than you need, so select just package up the proper portion at the salad bar.
- Six-ounce bags of greens (think spinach, arugula, watercress and mixed varieties of lettuce) are perfect for serving a pair.
- If you’re looking for a protein to add to a salad, a quesadilla, an omelet or some other entrée, the 6- or 7-ounce cans and pouches of tuna, salmon, chicken, sardines and crab are perfect for two
- If you need shrimp, buy peeled frozen tail-on shrimp. These are usually sold in 2-pound bags but you can take out the exact amount you need without having to defrost the whole amount. Some grocery stores also have bulk freezer bins of shrimp.
- Small drink boxes of 100% juice are convenient for making sauces and salad dressings, without a lot of extra juice left over.
- Substitute whole-wheat pita breads for a large ball of dough when making pizza. It’s quicker and works great for portion control, as well. Plus, leftover pitas freeze well.
- Buy smaller servings of dairy products, which tend to spoil quickly—for example, buy pints of milk (instead of gallons), 6- and 8-ounce containers of yogurt and 4-ounce containers of cottage cheese.
- Cut recipes in half. Most recipes are written to serve four or more people, but no worries—just halve all the ingredients to make it appropriate for two. If it’s difficult to do so, make the entire recipe then freeze leftovers.
- Freeze meat into two portions. Buying meat when it’s on sale just makes sense. If the sale is really good, you might want to really stock up. Just be sure that when you go to freeze it, you split it up into smaller portions so that you can just thaw what you need when it’s time to cook.
One last tip: Plan meals so that you can cook and use one particular ingredient in more than one dish. For example, cook rice as a side dish for one meal, and then use the remainder in a casserole or rice pudding. Bake chicken as an entrée for one meal and use the leftovers in sandwiches or soup, or toss with greens for a tasty salad. Or make a meatloaf mixture and bake some as a meatloaf and the rest as meatballs. Freeze the meatballs to use with your next pasta dish or as an appetizer at your next party.