Managing Meals for One or Two

By Pam Phillippe

It’s happening all over Florida.  More and more people are finding themselves living alone or with just one other person.  In fact, more than 55% of all households are made up of one or two people and that percentage is growing.  While one-person households are increasing, food packaging is still mainly for families.

How do you plan and prepare nutritious meals which fit into a one or two-person lifestyle?  It can be a real problem.  For example, you may be in a rut, and have the same thing over and over.  You may find yourself faced with endless leftovers.  Then again, you may always be grabbing a quick snack instead of a nutritious meal.  Maybe you fix too much and then either eat too much or let the excess go to waste.

But cooking for one or two doesn’t have to create problems.  It can be quick, tasty, and economical.  You can even afford to occasionally indulge in a luxury food without killing your food budget.  You can also try new foods without worrying whether or not others will like them.  Of course, if there are two of you, you’ll have to do some compromising.

Cooking for one or two can be a fun experience.  The fun starts when you go grocery shopping.  Remember, if you don’t want to cook too much, start by not buying too much.  Plan your meals carefully using the food pyramid before you go shopping.  Shop using a prepared list of what only you need.

Fresh produce is a good buy for a small household since you can usually purchase just the amount you want.  Even if you find the fruits and vegetables you want prepackaged in large quantities, you can tell the produce manager politely, “I only need one Gala apple.”  He or she will gladly meet your needs if he knows them.  If you find it more convenient to store vegetables for a longer time period, buy them frozen in a plastic bag.  That way you can shake out just the amount you need at one time and put the rest back in the freezer.  Vegetables that are packed loosely, such as corn, beans, and broccoli work best.

Learn to speak up at the grocery store.  If you don’t see what you want, ask for it.  For example, stop by the meat counter at the beginning of your shopping.  Look for small packages of meat.  If you don’t see them, talk with the butcher, tell him or her what you need, and ask that several small packages be made for you.  Say you’ll be back in 15 to 30 minutes at the end of your shopping to pick them up.  He or she will appreciate not being rushed.  Fresh meat should be used be within two to three days.

Items such as non-perishables or food you know you’ll finish go ahead and buy the larger economy-size packages, if you have enough storage space.  If you know you won’t be able to finish that large package, buy the smaller size even though it may cost a few pennies more.  A large size package is really no bargain if it goes to waste.  Watch for smaller size packages and stock up on them.

Don’t forget that staples like flour, sugar, dried beans, rice, pasta, coffee and tea keep well.  Just remember to store all staples in tightly closed containers.  Two items you may want to keep on hand are a type of master mix and dry egg whites.  Kept covered and refrigerated, these will last several weeks.

Canned foods are also practical buys.  It’s a good idea to keep several cans of meat, fish, fruit, and vegetables around for times when you can’t go to the store or just don’t feel up to cooking a fancier meal.

There are different ways of buying milk.  You can buy nonfat dry milk which can be mixed with water before you are ready to use it.  Put it into the refrigerator until very cold.  Drink it plain or with flavoring.  You can combine it with fresh milk.  Evaporated milk has a long shelf life.  Mix evaporated milk with water according to directions on the can.  Mix just enough to last for 2 to 3 days.  Boxed milk, or UHT milk, is a fairly new product and has a shelf life of six months.

Use leftovers as planned overs.  Save leftover canned or cooked vegetable for vegetable soup at the end of the week.  Or leftover fruit for a mixed fruit cobbler.  Cooking smaller amounts of food means using smaller-sized equipment.  You’ll obtain better results if you use one and two-quart sauce pans or seven and eight-inch skillets rather than the large ‘family-size’ equipment.  Not as much liquid evaporated and food is less likely to burn with small-sized cookware.

For ideas on leftovers as planned overs, ideas on food budgeting, and shopping for one or two, contact the Charlotte County Extension Service at 764-4340.

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