Does ANYONE really know how to cook for 2?

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Senior Cook
Jul 9, 2011
cook for two? I have always cooked for an army, and now that my nest is empty, I just don't know how to shrink the recipes, dishes, the food. I have cookbooks on cooking for two, but then I think, what if it's not enough? will there be leftovers for lunch? What is someone drops in?

Any ideas? My family is southern, and the idea of not having enough food to satisfy everyone is abhorrent.
I cook for two and used to cook for one for a while.

There are options. If you're making things like soup, chili, enchiladas, lasagna, etc., you can make a larger batch and freeze the food in meal-sized portions.

For certain recipes, you will have to reduce the quantities down to size one time so you'll have it when you need it. I buy steaks, pork products, sausages, chicken, etc. in quantity when they're on sale, then cut up and wrap them in meal packages. I buy ground beef in large quantities and freeze it in half-pound plastic wrapped packets. Most recipes call for a ground beef in multiples of a half pound so I just defrost one, two or three packets for the recipe.

The day before, move the frozen meat for tomorrow from the freezer to the fridge and it'll be ready for dinner.

Sometimes yo may want to make enough for four so you'll have leftovers for lunches or a dinner of leftovers.

I don't see how you can plan for unexpected guests.

It's really no harder than cooking for a crowd, you just have to get into a routine.
You start by seeing how much you have left of your usual dishes when it's just the 2 of you. If you have more than half left over, then you know you can safely cut the amounts in half and have leftovers. Some things are hard to cut in half like lasagna. For those kids of dishes you can go ahead and make it then freeze the remainder or store it in lunch sized portions. I was just getting used to cooking for the 2 of us when the yungun moved back home after college since he can't find a job yet.
Honestly, despite trying my best to cook for two for the last several months, all I've really accomplished is starting a nifty system of getting good use out of leftovers.

Such as, I'll often make something like fajitas and turn it into a poor mans (delicious!) stir fry for lunch the following day.

And if there's still leftovers then dang I'll just eat it as a snack.

So no, my answer is no.
I have this book and it is a great reference for cooking for two and has some great recipes in it. It is "Canadian" but I am sure you will understand the recipes and the cuisine is pretty similar.;)
I'm now cooking for one and Andy's way is the way I use.

I buy in bulk, package in dinner or dish size portions. The bulk hamburger is now in 3 pound chubs, so I started cutting them into fourths (easier) and found that 3/4 # is plenty in most dishes, and since I like to add ground sausage for extra flavor, I cut the 1# sausages into thirds. So total meat is now about a pound, the basic amount for most recipes.

I stick to the pound size dishes because that goes with whole cans of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce for instance.

I try to make dishes like casseroles in a smaller casserole dish (6" X 7"). It divides into 4 meal size portions. I eat one or two, then freeze the rest for later.

I've found that I have to balance my love of cooking with what I like to eat. Too often I'll want to make chili when I already have some frozen!

It's definitely a balancing act.

I try to remember that the more ingredients I use, the bigger the final dish. The recipes with 4 or 5 ingredients are more compatible with cooking for 1 or 2.

I love to make beans, and have found that it's just as easy to make a half a package (1/2#) and it makes plenty without filling the freezer.

Mac & cheese. Start with 1/2 cup of macaroni instead of a whole cup. It's no big deal, just less leftovers.
Cooking for two is more about attitude than anything else.

I agree with everything the others have said and I will only add two things.

Cut back on your buying until you have no scraps for the cat or garbage for the trash man.

Think of the treats that you were not able to have when feeding your army.

Now is the time in your life to enjoy them and indulge yourself.

Oh! If someone drops in pick up the phone and order a pizza!
It is tricky to cook for two. When I was first learning how to cook for two, I made huge quantities of food. Lately I have been cooking the perfect amount with no leftovers. We just discussed last night that we want to have leftovers again. So that means that I will need to cook for 4. JESH!
Cooking for two is more about attitude than anything else.

I agree with everything the others have said and I will only add two things.

Cut back on your buying until you have no scraps for the cat or garbage for the trash man.

Think of the treats that you were not able to have when feeding your army.

Now is the time in your life to enjoy them and indulge yourself.

Oh! If someone drops in pick up the phone and order a pizza!

You're so right, Aunt Bea. Oyster stew is a regular on my menu now, and if lobsters were available, they would be on my menu on a regular basis too.
Unless we have company I cook for two and I love it. I don't buy many things by bulk because it's my personal preference and I can do that without breaking the budget. One thing I really enjoy is to eat leftovers for breakfast so when I cook a favorite recipe the leftovers are not a problem for us. We do eat better than when we had kids at home. Normally a meal consists of meat, carbohydrates of some sort and a green salad because we like green salad but vegetables not so much. I rarely bake these days just for us and often send leftover desserts home with guests.
I used to cook for one, now I cook for two. I've always been able to cook for 8.
a if you are making chili or spaghetti sauce or soup, does it really matter? Make what you want and freeze portions for later.
b buy appropriately. leg of lamb for two? probaly not but really nice loin chops, yes.
use those 8" skillets and those 1 qt pots
be creative with your leftovers. that pork roast with veg becomes a stew or soup as well as sandwiches or a salad.
tonight I am having chicken salad sandwiches from left over roasted chicken. I am also having a cup of soup made from broth from the carcass and the leftover veg. nothing wasted and it all tastes wonderful.
+1 on the smaller pots and pans. I rarely pull my large saute pan out anymore. The 3.5 qt does just fine and helps me limit the amount of food I'm putting in it.
Its all about your thought process. You can easily scale back recipes you love. Don't worry about having enough for a surprise guest or two. I'm thinking if you had to cook for an army you're probably a pro at stretching a meal! Also, like Aunt Bea says, there's always take out!
There are lots of us who cook for two Sherry, and you've already heard some great ideas that I also use. My husband isn't big on sandwiches for lunch so leftovers are generally welcome here.

Jabbor said,
Some things are hard to cut in half like lasagna.
I've discovered that making lasagna in a loaf pan will give you a nice high lasagna like we used to make for a crowd in a big lasagna pan. The first piece is a little tricky to get out, but it's tricky in a big pan too.

I also often make good use of my little individual casseroles for the two of us, and the presentation pleases me.
I do not know how to cook for two unless I'm making eggs and toast.
I'm 'cooking for two challenged'.

I grew up cooking for 6 or more, then my own family of 5, teenage boys and now just three of us. I don't downsize, I just freeze family portions.

Yesterday I made beef bourguignon. After three of us ate, I put 4 individual quarts of it sans potatoes in the freezer and more than 2 quarts in the refrigerator along with the leftover potatoes.
Today we'll have leftovers (which are better than fresh cooked) and it frees up the kitchen for dehydrating tomatoes and shucking corn to freeze or can.
Desserts are easier if you invest in a couple of small ramekins and just cut your recipes to make 2 small desserts instead of a big one. Cakes are simple, just half the recipe and cook separately. Cheesecake needs to be cut down to about 1/3 of the recipe to really work. Souffles and other special recipes are easy to find online predivided into 2 portions!
I started by realizing that I didn't require leftovers for the next day's lunch, and if anyone stops by during mealtime without calling first, they're SOL cuz they ain't gettin' fed here. There's a McDonalds, a Carl's Jr, two Mexican restaurants, a dumpling house and a Jewish deli within walking distance if they're hungry.

One of the reasons I like buying Omaha Steaks meat is that almost everything they sell is individually vacuum packed in single portions.
I usually only use a recipe as a starting point. After cooking for 4, then for 3, then the two of us, I've started using about what I think we will need for one meal. I find if I make more, we will usually eat it even if we don't need it. We love leftovers so when we do, enjoy them without making an entire meal again. When I make cakes, etc that do require a recipe, I usually give at least half of it away. The recipient appreciates it and we don't have to try to eat it up.I have a cookbook for 2, but found many of the recipes were things we probably wouldn't enjoy.
"Does ANYONE really know how to cook for 2?"


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