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Old 07-06-2010, 07:40 AM   #1
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Cooking For One, or Maybe Two

This is an issue that started when a woman (no, didn't know her, but we live in a small town) and I happened to be walking down the same aisles of the grocery store. She said she had no idea how to cook for one; she was buying cans of this and pre-cooked meals for one. I knew nothing about her life, her background, her family. We chatted for a bit, and I told her I'd learned to cook for six, and to this day I have a hard time bringing it down to a meal for two. It is ridiculous, given that I'm 55 and have no kids. Seriously, I find it hard to make some meals for two, I always cook too much. But those early lessons die hard.

What makes it worthwhile is that I simply package up and bring a package of food to a couple of shut-in friends.

But, still, what do you recommend for someone cooking for one? Healthy, good food that isn't more trouble than it is worth?

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Old 07-06-2010, 08:10 AM   #2
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Claire, I have trouble cooking for two after cooking for 4. My kids have been gone for several years, but I still have problems reducing the amount I make for a meal. Luckily most of what I make is good for leftovers or to go in other dishes. Dh was gone last week and I ate cereal every night that I didn't eat out with family or friends. I have a friend who is a widow and still cooks for herself - a complete meal. She dishes up the leftovers and freezes them for another time.
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Old 07-06-2010, 08:11 AM   #3
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I've been cooking for "one" for almost three yeas now. Believe me, I understand the problem! I have been pushing myself to learn to cook for one, but I'm still struggling with it in many ways. Cooking for "two" has become a snap, and what I usually do, figuring my extra portion will simply be an extra meal for lunch or dinner the following day.
Fresh vegetables often goes bad before they are used up, so I've developed a sharing network with friends, and we agree to each buy a different vegetable, and then share it in exchange with others.

Cooking for two is simply taking any recipe and cutting it in half since most recipes are designed for a family of "four". And recipes for "two" use quantities that are available in the grocery. Quantities for "one" are not.

A local farmer's market enables me to purchase limited quantities of some things, but during the winter months I sometimes resolve myself to throwing away some things that don't keep very long.

Good luck to you!
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Old 07-06-2010, 11:39 AM   #4
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For vegetables that are sold by the pound and not packaged... buy smaller quantities. (or share, like mentioned, good idea)
Repackage meats... like a package of sirloins, put only one in a freezer bag, same with chops, etc.
I find that frozen chicken breasts are nice, you can take out one at a time, same with frozen fish filets.
I find that cooking by technique instead of recipes can help.
Cooking rice, then packaging it in individual servings and freezing works nicely. Then just take out the pre-cooked, frozen rice, thaw slightly by running under water, then saute with small amounts of oil, chopped veggies. Or toss in simmering water (still in the bag) to reheat if you want it plain.
A toaster oven works well for single servings.
The freezer is your friend, too!
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Old 07-06-2010, 12:45 PM   #5
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I've been cooking for two for over 30 years now. Really just a matter of sitting down & making a weekly plan.

For instance, I'll roast a chicken, or duck, (or Guinea Fowl - lol!) & instead of carving it, will cut it into quarters. We'll enjoy a quarter each with sides for one meal, & the 2 remaining quarters will make another meal, either as is or as part of a stirfry or something. Leftover cooked veggies become part of a Frittata or soup or pasta sauce or jambalaya. Our traditional Xmas roast goose gives us at least 4 meals, sometimes more - Xmas dinner, Xmas dinner leftovers, New Year's Cassoulet, leftover New Year's Cassoulet.

Pasta dishes are great, because you can either cook just enough for one or two, or make the full recipe & enjoy the rest another day or days. And baked pasta dishes can be frozen in portion sizes. I frequently make turkey lasagna & cut it up & wrap it in single-serving portions for the freezer.

If we have a taste for hot dogs (turkey dogs in our case), I'll either freeze the rest of the package or slice & add it to a mac & cheese casserole or some baked beans.

I never buy packaged processed meals for convenience, although I do purchase some items that we enjoy - the Zatarain's rice mixes for instance. But that's not something we eat all the time, & there's a difference when you're buying it because you like it rather than as a constant replacement for healthy from-scratch stuff.

And these days boneless skinless chicken breasts are frequently individually vacuum-sealed & sold in bags of a dozen or so for the freezer. Easy as pie to pull one or two out & make a recipe.

It really is just a matter of planning & thinking ahead as to how you'll use something & buying accordingly. Really is NOT difficult at all if you just take the time.
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Old 07-06-2010, 01:00 PM   #6
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I cooked for two for 11 years when I had to care for my ailing mother, then it went down to one. Definitely a challenge and having a FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer and a small chest freezer is almost mandatory. I'm also forced by income to be frugal and for several years I did my shopping at the local food bank and prepared whatever I was given that week.

All food gets placed into portion-size containers or bags. Bags of frozen food for example will get placed in pint FoodSaver bags. Those FoodSaver "steamer" bags are great for the veggies or one-bag meals. Many times I will get family-size pkgs of chicken and precook before freezing. The same can be done with steaks, freezing with marinade or rub so it does its thing before freezing and while thawing. Makes for some quick and easy meals. Just grab a meat and a bag of veggies, already portioned.

I also heavily use the Slow Cooker. I have a 1-quart "crockette", 2-quart
mini", 4-quart and a 6-quart, all acquired over the years. The 4-qt gets used the most and leftovers get bagged and frozen for a future meal. The 6-qt is for when I do a whole chicken or large roast occasionally. I'm still working on a variety of recipes for the 2-qt (recently acquired) for more everyday use. The 1-qt I've had for 30+ years I think and I love using for soups and Irish oatmeal.

I also tossed away all those fancy cookbooks with recipes for 6-8 (or more) that I drool over but never would make. I don't need the frustration. I use my Living Cookbook software on the computer and store my favorite recipes. The program also scales the size. Works great.
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Old 07-06-2010, 02:22 PM   #7
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Cooking for one isn't just a matter of planning. When you have purchased food and cooked for a family, that need to make "enough" just doesn't go away. I've found measuring helps. For instance, when cooking lentils, I use a 1/4 cup measure and FORCE myself to believe it will be enough. Amazingly it is. Same with beans, rice, oatmeal, etc.
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Old 07-06-2010, 02:22 PM   #8
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I always cook enough so there are always leftovers which gets saved to take for lunch at work.
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Old 07-06-2010, 02:36 PM   #9
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I started cooking on a regular and serious basis when I got divorced I had to learn to cook for one out of necessity.

Food I ate fell into a couple of categories:

A simple meal for one based on a single portion of protein - a burger, chicken breast, pork chop, etc., along with a starch and a veggie. Starch was often rice, some form of potato or pasta, veggies were either frozen and microwaved or fresh steamed. To accomplish this, I bought meats on sale and froze them in individual pieces. If you defrost a single chicken breast half, that's all there is for dinner. This doesn't work if you buy a tray of sox chicken breast halves and toss the whole thing in the freezer. If you do that, you have to defrost and cook them all.

Another type of meal was foods I cooked in larger portions and froze in meal-sized containers for later use. Pasta sauce, chili, soups, stews, casseroles, etc. I'd spend a weekend day cooking something like a pasta sauce with sausages and meatballs and have a dozen meals in the freezer.

Sometimes I felt like a roast chicken so I'd cook one and plan to have the leftovers a day or two later.

I even cooked a full Thanksgiving dinner for myself once. I had a lot of leftovers that day.

It's doable but requires changing the way you think about cooking.

Now I cook for two. The process is the same. the portions that go into the freezer are just a little bigger.
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Old 07-06-2010, 02:43 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by web-collage View Post
Cooking for one isn't just a matter of planning. When you have purchased food and cooked for a family, that need to make "enough" just doesn't go away. I've found measuring helps. For instance, when cooking lentils, I use a 1/4 cup measure and FORCE myself to believe it will be enough. Amazingly it is. Same with beans, rice, oatmeal, etc.
What you've just described IS planning.
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