For those of you who are more likely to eat alone or with one other individual, preparing a small meal may seem like a lot of work, leaving you wondering if it’s worth cooking for one or two. One of the top reasons for preparing meals at home is that homemade meals taste better. We also know they are more economical, compared with restaurant meals. By preparing meals ourselves, we can focus on foods that we need, eat fewer empty calories, and decrease portion sizes.
The nutrient value of foods prepared at home can be tailored to specific dietary needs. Fat, sugar and sodium can often be reduced or eliminated, depending on the home prepared recipes. Most recipes can be cut in half or in thirds. Reducing the Size of Recipes is a useful resource by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension.
When purchasing groceries for one or two, it’s essential to plan ahead and have items on hand that are easily adapted to a variety of meals. Consider the following tips at the grocery store:
- Buy fruits and vegetables that store well such as apples, oranges, carrots, sweet potatoes, cabbage and squash.
- Canned, frozen or dried foods often have a longer shelf-life and are usually more cost effective.
- Stock up on foods that are easily prepared in small portions such as small cans of tuna, pasta sauce, vegetables, small bags or boxes of rice, breakfast cereal, peanut butter, and noodles.
- Additional pantry items to consider for meal preparation include: flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, condiments, herbs and spices, dried beans, and lentils.
- Compare Nutrition Facts labels to get the most nutrition for your money.
- Take a calculator with you to the store to compare “unit prices” on foods.
If you refer to leftovers as “planned overs” and intentionally work them into your menu by cooking extra food for later use, you’ll have an endless variety of creative uses for leftovers. To save time, do some tasks ahead such as washing and trimming vegetables, cook ground meat for tacos, or cook noodles for a pasta salad. Try freezing planned over vegetables for use in soups and other dishes.
Make Mealtime Enjoyable
Try the following ideas to add to the enjoyment of eating:
- Create a pleasant setting for eating at home by listening to music.
- Set and eat at a table.
- Try a new recipe.
- Invite a friend over to a two-person potluck.
- Take your time when eating; enjoy the taste, textures and colors of the food you’re eating.
A Food Storage Guide by North Dakota State University Extension Service answers the following questions: how long can I store different foods before it loses quality, deteriorates, or is no longer safe to eat? Planning Healthy Meals for One or Two – a Checklist is available by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cooperative Extension to help you get the most value for your time and money
- Colorado State University Extension. Healthy Eating for One or Two (revised 2013).
- North Dakota State University Extension Service. Cooking for One or Two.
- University of Wisconsin-Extension. Eating Well When Eating Alone.