Shopping & Cooking for One or Two
If you're single, eating healthy can be a challenge. Recipes assume you're cooking for a family of four. Meats are often packaged into one-pound minimum trays. Even some produce is bundled together and sold in sizes that are far more than an individual would want.
All of those things make it harder to find healthy choices to cook and reasonable serving sizes to buy. There are options. Here are more than a dozen things you can do to cook healthier when there's just one or two of you.
Buy foods that are packaged smaller or available in individual size servings. Yes, the economy size does reduce the price of each item, but how much are you really saving if you throw half of it away when it goes bad?
If you shop weekly, use the perishable things up early in the week and move to canned and frozen items later on. If you aren't sure how much you need, keep a notebook of what, and how much you throw out. Then the next time you buy that item, buy only as much as you used before.
Buy and prepare one new piece of fruit or produce a week. Learn how to cook a Japanese eggplant, figure out how to eat a pummelo or include a blood orange in with your lunch. It's a great way to get more fruits and vegetables in your diet and it'll expand your knowledge of healthy foods you can prepare for yourself.
Ask for food packages to be broken up into smaller amounts. The meat department is a prime place to do this. Have the butcher resize or repackage exactly the amount of meat you want so you aren't buying any more than you need.
Choose frozen foods that come in individual servings or containers you can re-seal. The beautiful thing about frozen foods is that they stay fresh for months. Go ahead and buy that large bag of frozen fruit or vegetables, but only take out and thaw the single portion you need.
Prepare a large meal, but freeze some servings for later. For best results, freeze the food as soon as you're finished preparing it. Don't store it in the refrigerator or let is sit on the counter first. Remember that you can freeze the side dishes too. Even slices of bread can be frozen and kept fresh for months, before you re-heat them later.
Cook once and eat twice. Make a dish for dinner, then take half and put it in the refrigerator. The next day bring that portion out and re-heat it for lunch.
Get foods that can be used for two or more purposes. Make a meatloaf, but only cook half the meat. Store the other half in the refrigerator to use the next day for an omelet, meatballs or stuffed peppers. Boil rice to be used as a side dish the first day, as stuffing in a burrito the second and in a rice pudding the third.
Make one-dish meals. Look for recipes that combine things from several food groups that you can cook together. Casseroles, chili, crock pot stews, sandwiches and stir-fried meals (with very little oil) can all be healthy options. One-dish meals are usually easier to make and take less time to clean up.
Break out the candles, good china and best silverware. Turn mealtime into an event that you look forward to, rather than something you do as you're slumped on the couch watching television re-runs. If the meal is something you're excited about, you're less likely to dread taking the time making something healthy.
Share your cooking responsibilities with a friend. You cook lunch or dinner one day and they cook it the next. That way you spend less time in the kitchen and you have someone to spend your mealtime with. You can take it one step further and start a cooking club. Get a group of friends together that you cook and share meals with. Freeze whatever you don't eat right away for later.
A meal doesn't have to be a sit down affair with a salad, entrée and two sides. You can make a meal out of some fresh fruit or vegetables, a protein bar or shake, even a hearty salad can suffice if it's made in a healthy way.
Don't be afraid of pre-packaged meals. Several companies make reasonable options like Healthy Choice, Kashi and Lean Cuisine. You shouldn't eat them for every meal of the day, the sodium levels are too high for that, but they work well when you don't want to put any effort into something but still want to avoid eating junk.
Try a cookbook written for one or two. It'll serve as a form of inspiration while providing shopping tips, menu suggestions and preparation shortcuts. Look for the ones that are full of healthy menus for one or two.
Cut recipes down to size. Take a recipe designed for four and cut all the ingredients in half. In order to make it easier, I've included a table below that breaks down the measurements in half and in one-third for you.
Cutting a Recipe in Half
If it says...
|1/2 teaspoon||1/4 teaspoon|
|1 teaspoon||1/2 teaspoon|
|1 tablespoon||1 ½ teaspoons|
|1/4 cup||2 tablespoons|
|1/3 cup||2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons|
|1/2 cup||1/4 cup|
|2/3 cup||1/3 cup|
|3/4 cup||6 tablespoons|
|1 cup||1/2 cup|
Cutting a Recipe Down to 1/3
If it says...
|1/4 cup||1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon|
|1/3 cup||1 tablespoon + 2 1/3 teaspoons|
|1/2 cup||2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons|
|2/3 cup||3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon|
|3/4 cup||4 tablespoons|
|1 cup||1/3 cup|
Two more tips when you're reducing recipes:
- Be careful adding spices. You may need less (or more) of some seasonings when you cut a recipe down.
- Check food 5 to 10 minutes sooner than the cooking or baking times call for on the original recipe. Smaller portions may be finished quicker.
Eat well and enjoy.
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beginning any diet or exercise program.