Any empty nester will agree, cooking for two can be a little tricky. Never fear, friends! I'm here to help you figure it out!
Maybe you've cooked for a family of four or five for years, and now it's just the two of you.
Or maybe, like me, some days you're cooking for a family of six and then extra-curricular activities hit. As our kids get older, I have stretches where I am just cooking for the two of us!
It can be hard to adjust, I get it.
I mean, sure you can half recipes when you're cooking for two but let's be honest...what's a girl to do with a half used can of diced tomatoes?
Or maybe, you have a family living under your own roof, but due to sports, music lessons and the lifestyle of teenagers, you have nights where you feed a family and other nights where it's just the two of you.
That's where I'm at friends! And on those nights, I know how hard it can be to cook. But cold cereal will only go so far, you know?
Tips for Cooking for Two
It never fails. You find a recipe you’d love to try, but the dinner recipes are too big. Or maybe, it has you buying so many different types of foods, you couldn’t possibly eat all the leftover portions.
Outside of inviting the whole neighborhood over to eat, here are some handy tips for cooking for two!
Have a Plan
Planning isn’t always fun, I get it.
But let's be real! It's the best way to make sure you have the right amount of food without throwing dollars out the window.
Plan your meals out in advance and make a detailed grocery list with the precise portions that you need of each food item. Sometimes, I've found it's easier to buy a smaller portion of, say, celery - if I am only planning to use it one recipe.
I'm not one to munch on celery sticks, so sometimes I opt for the pre-cut produce at the grocery store.
Ask the Butcher to Make a Smaller Portion
This is an advantage of getting to know your local grocery store and butcher shop!
If a roast is too big or really, any portion of meat is too large, don’t be shy about asking the meat department to cut it smaller for you. Many times the meat departments are happy to do this for you.
Think about cutting roasts, splitting chicken breasts, etc.
If it's a Saturday or particularly busy day, there may be a small wait. For this reason, I'd suggest you hit up that department first. If they can't get to it right away, then it's no biggie. You can catch up on your other grocery shopping while they make your life easier!
I've also had the meat department package things like pork chops and chicken breasts into individual or two packs for me.
If a sale on bulk meat is going on, you can always freeze it for later, too!
Adjust the Recipe
It’s usually pretty easy to divide a recipe so that you only make the portions you need. If a recipe serves six, simply divide the ingredient quantity by 3 to get 2 servings.
Of course, when a recipe calls for 3 eggs and serves 4 people, it becomes a bit more complicated. I get it.
My friend, Zona Cooks, has a cooking for two website that may help you out.
In addition, when it comes to baking and other types of recipes, it may require adjustment of the cooking time as well.
So when in doubt, use my next tip of portioning and freezing.
Portion Meals and Freeze
If you can’t adjust a recipe, it actually can be a blessing in disguise! You'll save plenty of time portioning a ready-made meal and freezing it.
Let's take soup, for example. Soup makes big batches and it's not very easy to downsize. Soup for a few days is fine, soup for a week....well, let's just not.
I like to freeze portions for two in these soup containers. I can thaw them overnight in the refrigerator and reheat in the microwave or on the stove top.
The same thing goes for other main dish recipes like taco meat, sloppy joes, cookies, muffins, and the like.
You can eat what you’d like and then divide the rest into 2 portion packages and freeze.
More examples of freezing:
- Make my slow cooker brown rice, cool and freeze in individual portions.
- Breakfast casseroles can be cooked, cooled and individually wrapped and frozen.
- Main dish casseroles make enough for eight. I'd divide those recipes into two 8x8 containers. I'd make one for now and freeze the other for later!
Tips for freezing:
- Always use freezer-safe storage containers and bags. They are thick and designed to keep moisture in and odors from other foods out.
- Remove all air from bags before sealing. For storage containers, use small enough containers so they are full with little or no extra space. This helps prevent freezer burn.
- Always completely cool your food before freezing, so it freezes faster and stays fresher. In addition, if you freeze baked goods before they are cooled, they retain moisture and can mold easily.
- Label all your frozen items. Take note of the contents, portion and the date you made the item. That way, you can keep track of food that needs to be eaten before it expires.
- To thaw most frozen foods, just leave in the refrigerator overnight.
Almost all foods can be frozen and saved for later. Here's my master list of foods you can freeze.
Get Creative with Leftovers when cooking for two
If you love leftovers, this is a no-brainer. Simply package up the remainder of your meal and make it a lunch to go the next day.
If you’re not so keen on leftovers or crave variety, there is plenty you can do with pre-cooked meals and ingredients.
If you roast a chicken, you can turn it into a potpie the next day and a wonderful chicken broth the day after.
Chicken salad wraps and sandwiches are yummy as well!
Grilling steaks? Chop it up and serve it in a Mexican Chopped Salad the next day.
If you're willing to get a little creative, miscellaneous food items can be added to soups, placed on pizzas and more. There’s always something you can do with those leftovers sitting in your fridge!
Cooking for Two Cookbooks
These cookbooks may be helpful for you too!
I'll be adding cooking for two solutions to my recipes as I continue to expand my collection. I hope they can help you during your time in the kitchen!
Do you have a cooking for two tip to share? Drop a comment below and tell me!
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