Dinner Tips: Cooking For Two

Save Time And Money When Cooking For Two

Whether you’re in a new relationship or your kids have finally flown the nest, cooking for two presents numerous challenges. After all, your routine used to involve either dining on your own or preparing meals for an entire household. When two people are involved, dining out becomes twice as expensive, but dining in can involve cooking too much food (as most recipes are designed for families). Finding the right balance between healthy cooking for two and not overdoing it doesn’t have to be difficult. With a little advanced planning, you can pull it off.

Two Times the Effort

The first step is to realize that you don’t need to be a gourmet chef. Cooking for two can certainly incorporate gourmet elements, but it’s not a prerequisite. Instead, take the pressure off of yourself and focus on nourishing and supporting one another. As you get better at planning your meals, you’ll be able to fine-tune these techniques.

Plus there is the advantage of two people working together. Team up with your partner and divvy up the cooking chores. Many couples make a deal that one cooks and the other washes the dishes. This arrangement is extremely equitable allowing both partners to take on their fair share of the work. This doesn’t mean that one partner is relegated to dish duty forever. In fact, many couples have achieved culinary harmony by alternating nights. Cook one night, clean the next. You can even alternate weeks with your partner being in charge of shopping, cooking and cleaning up one week and you returning the favor the next week. However you work it out, dividing the cooking for two chores is a terrific way to add variety to your meals and develop a sense of teamwork.

Leveraging Leftovers

Even if you’re on your own when cooking for two, strategies for getting the most out of your efforts come into play. Do you both work? How many leftovers can you handle? If both partners work full time, quick and easy meals are essential. Leftovers may be convenient and cost effective as brown-bag lunches throughout the week. On the other hand, retirees have more time to devote to their cooking routines and may tire of leftovers during the week.

When cooking dinner for two, it’s inevitable that in most cases you will have too much food. Whether you store the leftovers in the freezer or eat them in the ensuing days is up to you. But if you want to get the most out of your shopping budget, pick one or the other.

People cooking for two often prepare half of the food for immediate consumption and freeze the rest. Not only will you waste less food, but you’ll have an easy meal a few weeks later. For example, if you’re making a chicken enchilada casserole, combine the ingredients as usual, except assemble them into two smaller casserole dishes rather than one large one. Heat one up and freeze the other.

When freezing, use either disposable foil containers or medium-sized casserole dishes. Disposable containers make it exceptionally easy to separate and store your meals.

When using casserole dishes for freezing, you don’t need to commit the dish to weeks in the freezer. Instead, line it with foil and spray the foil with cooking spray. Assemble the casserole ingredients inside and freeze overnight. The next morning, simply lift out the foil-lined frozen casserole, remove the foil and insert into a freezer bag. Now you’ll have a frozen block that is the exact shape of the casserole dish. When it’s time to reheat and serve, simply insert the frozen block into the appropriate greased casserole dish and reheat.

It’s just as easy cooking for two as it is cooking for families – only you’ll have more food to deal with later. If you don’t want to freeze extra meals and casseroles or waste food, consider serving up less of it in the first place.  Who says you need to buy a four- or six-pack of chicken breasts when you can easily purchase just two at the meat counter? Instead of buying a full turkey, buy just the breast. This isn’t always practical or economical, especially if chicken breasts are on sale in bulk. But when buying in bulk, use your good sense to separate the breasts into smaller, two-serving sized portions and freeze.

Another technique is to make your food do double duty. For example, you might roast a whole chicken on one night and then use the remaining meat for chicken chimichangas the next night. In fact, reviving the traditional Sunday dinner isn’t a bad idea when cooking for two.

Start with a main dish such as chicken, turkey, ham, tri-tip roast, or pot roast and use the leftovers throughout the week. Chicken and turkey are terrific in many casseroles, pasta dishes, soups and Mexican meals while ham can be used in omelets, quiches and deviled-ham salad. Make barbeque sandwiches or chili out of the tri-tip roast, and shredded-beef tacos or machaca out of the pot roast. Whenever you can use one meal and make it into two or more meals, you’ve successfully mastered the art of cooking for two.

For example, if you love marinated flank steak but can’t possibly eat it all in one sitting between the two of you, plan your menu so that you will use up the extra meat before it goes bad in your refrigerator. The second meal could be as simple as steak and eggs in the morning, steak-stuffed pita pockets with plain yogurt for lunch, or flank-steak nachos for dinner. The point is to plan your menu ahead and get the most out of every meal you make.

Roasted vegetables are delicious, healthy and incredibly easy to make. Simply fire up your oven to about 400 degrees and slice your favorite veggies such as onions, eggplant, zucchini, carrots and asparagus. Drizzle a little olive oil and sprinkle a few spices on top. Toss lightly and roast in the oven for 10 to 20 minutes. Go ahead and roast more than the two of you will need.

Enjoy these roasted veggies as a side dish on the first night and then whirl the remaining veggies in a food processor along with cream cheese for a delicious dip or spread the following day. You can also use leftover roasted vegetables in omelets, as pizza toppings, in salads or on sandwiches.

Most recipes are created with four to six servings in mind but can easily be halved. If you don’t want to cook the full batch and freeze half, the alternative is to cut the recipe in half. Cutting recipes in half involves simple math. However, when doing so, cooking times can vary. You’ll have half as much volume so the meal may cook faster than originally planned. Keep an eye on the meal to be sure it doesn’t burn or overcook.

Cooking for two doesn’t need to be complicated. It’s ideal when you can share the chores, share the food and stretch the budget. Bon appetit!

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