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Cooking for Two: Tips & Tricks of the Trade

photo of not cooking for a crowd

When you are cooking for just two people, heating up a microwave dinner or grabbing take out sounds much easier than whipping up a balanced meal in the kitchen. It can also be a difficult task to find healthy recipes that make two servings. But your eating habits don’t have to suffer just because you are feeding two mouths. Cooking healthful meals at home can help you control your diabetes and your weight. This month, we’re bringing you dozens of tips and recipes to make healthy cooking for two easier and fun!

It all starts at the grocery store. Buying the right amount of groceries for just two people can be a challenge. It is frustrating when you have to throw away fresh produce or meat that has gone bad because you didn’t get around to using it. This is where planning ahead comes into play:

  1. On the weekend, think about which days during the coming week that you will have time to cook.
  2. Do a quick pantry and fridge inventory to find out which foods you already have and what needs to be used. From there, write down the meals you want to make during the coming week. Make this a fun process by planning out your menus for the week with the other person you cook for.
  3. Once you have your plan, make a grocery list and go to the grocery store to get what you’ll need for the week. Avoid going to the grocery store hungry. This is a general rule for everyone, and it will help you stick to your list and resist the temptation to splurge on less healthy items.

When grocery shopping, use the salad bar to your advantage. If you only need a little bit of an ingredient, check for it on the salad bar if there is one at your grocery store. You can fill a salad container with the smaller amount that you need instead of buying a large package. What’s more – most vegetables on the salad bar are already cut, which saves you chopping time at home. 

Keep package sizes in mind when you go grocery shopping. Meat, chicken, and seafood are items that you need to use within a few days after buying them. They are often pre-packaged in larger quantities. Instead, visit your store's counter where you can order meats, seafood, and deli items by weight. This allows you to purchase less at once. If you don’t have a fresh counter at your store, you can buy the larger packages and freeze what you don't use right away.

Some grocery items come in single-serve packages. These may be a better choice than buying a larger container that you won't use before it spoils. For example, buying individually packaged cottage cheese or yogurt may work better for you than buying them by the quart.

It helps to have some "go-to" healthy recipes for two. Having some familiar "go-to" recipes can be a time-saving grace for anyone. If you are looking for some healthy recipes, a great place to start is our Recipes for Two list . Some of our favorite quick and easy recipes for two are:

You might also be interested in this month’s featured cookbook Diabetes & Heart Healthy Meals for Two by American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association. This is an entire cookbook of recipes that make two servings, and you’ll find everything from vegetable side dishes, to breakfasts, to entrees.

Batch cook and save leftovers for a quick meal at a later date. Homemade casseroles, soups, stews, chili, and roasts typically make a lot of servings, but they also freeze well. Use batch cooking to your advantage with these dishes. Make these ahead of time and portion them out in smaller containers or plastic bags. Store them in the freezer. On days when you know you won’t have time to cook, move them to the fridge the night before to defrost. You’ll have a pre-portioned meal that you can simply reheat in the microwave when you get home for dinner. 

Not a fan of leftovers? Get creative with extras that you end up with. Let’s say you buy a pound and a half of fresh chicken. You could grill it all up at once and use it over the next three days to make three completely different meals:

Day #1: Grilled chicken breast with ½ cup mashed sweet potatoes and steamed green beans.
Day #2: Pesto pasta with chicken and roasted vegetables mixed in.
Day#3: Open-faced chicken salad sandwich with a side salad.

Cooking for one, not two? You can still use many of the tips above. Our Diabetes Forecast article A Guide to Cooking for One may also help. 

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