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Cooking For Two? These 10 Useful Tips Make It Easy

Cooking For Two

There are a lot of little adjustments that go hand-in-hand with getting older. Lately I’ve been struggling with one of those adjustments in particular – figuring out how to cook for fewer people! My youngest son is the only one of our kids still living at home, but until recently I’ve been cooking the same big-batch recipes I’ve always used. We end up with a LOT of leftovers, and sometimes we can’t use them up before they go bad. I knew I needed to down-size my cooking, but I didn’t know where to start!

To help make my cooking transition easier, I went searching for tips that would help me cook for fewer people. I hope that if you’re cooking for two, you’ll find these tips just as helpful as I have!

10 Tips and Tricks for Cooking for Two

Cooking For Two

1. Use Smaller Cookware

One way to make cooking for two easier is to use smaller cookware and bakeware! Loaf pans are great for making two-person portions of casseroles, meatloaves, and lasagnas. Mini bundt pans are great for baking cakes and other desserts. I also like to use small ceramic ramekins to make individual desserts, and mini pot pies!

Related: These Mini Peach Pies Are The Best Way To Savor Summer

2. Learn Substitutions

When you’re cooking for two, it doesn’t generally make sense to keep a bunch of different perishable ingredients on hand. But you can do more with less by getting familiar with ingredient substitutions!

For instance, you can add a little bit of lemon juice to some milk to make a buttermilk substitute, or stir some molasses into white sugar to make brown sugar! Check out more easy substitutions at the link below.

Related: 20 Pantry Staples You Can Easily Make Yourself!

Cooking For Two

3. Use Your Freezer

Using your freezer is a great way to extend the life of perishable ingredients. You can take what you need out of the freezer when you need it, and leave the rest to use later on. You can keep bacon in the freezer by rolling up the pieces individually and storing them in a bag. Grab a few slices at a time, then let them thaw and cook as usual. Or store your sticks of butter in the freezer and pull one out as needed! Get more ideas for using your freezer below.

Related: 20 Ways To Use Your Freezer To Save Time And Money

Cooking For Two

4. Look For Smaller Produce

Using up fresh produce before it goes bad can be tricky when you’re only cooking for two. But you can work around this problem by buying less produce in the first place! Many organic options in the produce section come in smaller amounts, or you can check out the salad bar if your grocery store has one! Buy and use frozen fruits and veggies where possible too.

Cooking For Two

5. Ask The Butcher

Take advantage of the talented butchers behind the meat counter at your local grocery store. If you’re cooking a recipe for two and only need a half-pound of beef or one chicken breast, just ask! They can give you exactly as much as you need, which will help you cut down on potential food waste.

Cooking For Two

6. Shop Bulk Bins

Shop the bulk bins for your dry goods. You’ll be able to buy exactly as much as you need! And prices for items in the bulk bins are usually lower than their packaged equivalents, so you’ll be saving money too.

Cooking For Two

7. Buy Smaller Amounts

Look for smaller sizes of packaged foods, like yogurt, applesauce, milk, etc. Buying the bigger containers may be cheaper per pound, but you’ll likely save money by reducing your food waste.

Cooking For Two

8. Long-Term Storage

When you’re cooking for two, you can still take advantage of bulk goods! Just choose ones that will keep well over a long period of time, like honey and vinegar. For more foods that store well, check out my post below.

Related: 10 Foods That Will Never Expire

Cooking For Two

9. Just Concentrate!

Concentrated products can be very useful for those who are cooking for two. Things like beef bouillon or broth concentrates keep for a long time, and can be used in all sorts of different recipes.

Cooking For Two

10. Use Dried Herbs & Spices

There’s nothing wrong with relying on dried herbs and spices versus fresh ones! They keep a lot longer and it’s much less likely that they’ll get wasted. You can do a quick search online to find out how to substitute dried stuff in for the fresh version.

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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Food & Recipes

  • My dad always wanted to make sure “there was enough” for our family of three, so my mother would always make a little extra. After the children (and their friends) got married and moved away, I have had trouble paring down in my cooking. I still cook about the same, but have turned into a freeze-ahead maven, and actually look for large recipes to make and freeze. Anything calling for a 9×13 pan, I use two 8×8″ – with salad, or sides, it’s plenty. Jillee, I loved the idea of the mini cake pans! Note to self. . . .
    Love your blog and all your great hints and tips! Blessings!

  • Ladies and the odd gent that like the tips and tricks found on Jill.’s blog. My wife and I do not have children so we cook for two but quickly it it became clear that it takes the same effort to cook a pot full as just for us two. I am one of those guys that say if it dont kill it feeds! ( loosely set over in English). We put the c ooked food in portions for a meal and feeze it. We had visitors where the husband flatly refused to eat re heated food. I told them then DO NOT let him know what we are doing! He ate re heated food for three months and never knew it! He discovered that the day they left and I laughed at him and said that he ate it all the time.
    Potatoes we never could freeze and reheat the taste stay bad. For the eyeblind we did cook one portion or two but the rest reheated. I had a dad that was very fussy and Ma said a man can eat all but do not have to know all I took an oath when I saw Ma weep that if I ever would marry my wife will not weep for my things did just to spite her.

    • Same here – we love to cook big pots of stuff (especially in the winter). We freeze 1 or 2 person portions in quart zip bags as flat as possible – this allows us to store lots of stuff in the freezer, AND it allows us to:
      1: Take out as much as we need for a lunch for one or a dinner for two
      2: Feed unexpected guests with little notice
      3: Take meals to our parents, grown children, new parents, or those fresh out of hospital and convalescing, who might need a couple of ready-to-go meals in their freezer
      4: Have variety for ourselves without having to cook EVERY night….

  • I was given a copy of Betty Crocker’s Cooking for Two cookbook when I got married back in 1982. I still rely on it more than any other cookbook in my collection. Chapters include things to cook when money is tight or when time is tight. It also shows you how to buy a large cut of meat and make several meals out of the left overs. I don’t think this particular book is published any longer but if you can find a copy of it, it’s worth its weight in gold.

  • I love your tips, you are very thoughtful and I do so enjoy reading your suggestions.
    Also you might add buying a vacuum packer to the list of suggestions. As a new empty-nester I am having trouble down sizing my cooking and, but knowing I can save the left overs is a good thing.

    • Now that it’s just me, a Food Saver system has been ideal. I use it all the time, especially with meats. I also found a local grocery store that has bulk rice, flour, and spices so I can only buy what I need to cook for the week and it cuts down on waste. I also take advantage of their butcher when I need to and they are happy to cut off a small piece of steak for me to take home and cook.

  • My aunt was never married and cooked for herself. She got the mini loaf pans and would make a large meat loaf and use the small pans. Bake 1 and freeze the rest. She did the same thing with her homemade Mac and cheese. When bell peppers were on sale she would buy plenty and stuff and freeze them. This makes fixing dinner easy having all these choices that you just heat up. She was a school teacher and seldom got home before 5 PM. But she could always eat by 6.

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