Life stages sometimes require adjustments in cooking strategies, so this focus on cooking for one or two people will give you some specific ways to consider how to switch up how you prepare food from day to day. The methods will meet the needs of a small household and give you ideas for how to keep variety in your meals. All of this, while continuing to make food from scratch with a few convenience items used.
Start by dividing favorite recipes into two or three smaller containers and freeze them for a future use. Some foods freeze better than others. Pasta dishes often do not freeze well, especially soups with noodles in them. Lasagna is an exception, as it will freeze and thaw nicely. Mashed potatoes aren’t a good candidate for freezing, either, but tater tots on top of a casserole will freeze and bake up just fine.
Make a whole recipe of lasagna, meatballs, Shepherd’s Pie (without the mashed potatoes), or Anything Casserole and build it in two or three smaller pans. Loaf pans, small crocks, or any oven-safe dish or pan can work. Cover each with foil and write the contents and date on it. Then wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for later use. Simply remove a pan from the freezer the night before you want to bake it next, and then place it into a 350° oven for 30-40 minutes prior to dinner.
With a little practice, you will be able to prepare a smaller quantity or divide full quantities into the size that works for you and freeze the rest. A great benefit from doing that is having extra meals in freezer storage, thus cutting down on time spent in the kitchen on a daily basis. You can also learn to spot recipes that will freeze well in individual servings.
Prepare and Store Individual Servings
Some recipes are especially good for freezing and using just one or two servings at a time.
Queen Anne Frozen Fruit Salad is an example of a side dish that can be prepared and stored to easily pull out whatever quantity you want later. It is made in a muffin tin, then removed and each cup of frozen salad is stored in a freezer container or zip-lock bag.
Other tasty treats to make a full batch and freeze include healthy breakfast cookies, bran muffins, and fruit or vegetable breads. Use small loaf pans, muffin tins, or cut a full loaf in half or thirds before freezing, and you have special treats to pull out whenever you want.
Unbaked cookie dough balls frozen on a cookie sheet and then stored in a freezer bag can be pulled out 2 or 3 at a time to bake for a nice snack.
Keep an Eye on Freezer Inventory
When you’re filling your freezer with prepared foods, be sure to label the containers with contents and date. Keep rotating your stock forward and use up the oldest first. Stockpiling foods in the freezer is only great if you actually use the meals you have prepped! When making a meal plan, take a look at your pantry and freezer for ideas. It is always nice to find a fully prepared casserole that can be used on a busy weeknight, which negates the need to shop or spend extra time in the kitchen that day.
Adjust Quantities for Salads when Cooking for One or Two
Almost any salad can be pared down in size to meet the needs of a small household. If you’re making Black Bean and Rice Salad, use half of the can of black beans and then plan to make chili soup or burritos another day and add to that the other half can of beans. When making a tossed salad, use just a portion of the head of lettuce and save the rest. Romaine, leaf, or bibb lettuce leaves can be used on the next night as a wrap for Korean Beef, Sloppy Joes, or on a burger or sandwich.
Homemade Sauces and Dips
You might already use my Casserole Sauce Mix. It’s perfect for making just the right amount of a cream soup base, instead of opening a whole can of cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup. If you’re customizing Anything Casserole or Tater Tot Hot Dish, just make smaller quantities and bake your casserole in a small loaf pan, stoneware bowl, or Pyrex dish. Remember to use the homemade powdered mix in a quantity of one part powdered mix to two parts water. Whisk it well, microwave for 2 minutes, whisk, and continue microwaving at 30 second to 1 minute intervals until thickened.
Dill Dip is also easily adjusted down in size by doing some quick math and giving your dip a taste test.
My Favorite Convenience Food: Ready Baked Rolls
Along with your homemade foods – which taste better, cost less, and are healthier for you than using all prepared foods – add in a few items designed for convenience. One of my favorites is fully baked frozen rolls or biscuits. Refrigerator biscuits can be a downfall for a small household, because, well, face it: eight biscuits for one or two people, and they’re best hot out of the oven, so, do you see where I’m going here? Pulling just a couple biscuits out of a package of Sister Schubert’s dinner rolls is a great remedy, and they warm up in a 350° oven in 5 minutes.
Simplicity: Chicken and Vegetables
I also have EIGHT super simple chicken tenderloin recipes that can be made every night of the week because they are so very different. Various spices make these recipes anything but mundane. And by using flash frozen chicken tenderloins, which thaw and cook up quickly, meals come together fast. Check out my Chicken Eight Ways post for the details.