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Cooking for one or two
Karissa Winkel
Karissa Winkel

Sometimes cooking is a hassle. This is especially true if you are only feeding one or two people. Dining out or preparing a frozen meal can seem to be an easier option, but regularly eating convenience foods can take a toll on your physical health and waistline.

Fast food and TV dinners tend to be high in sodium, saturated fat, sugar, and calories. On the other hand, homemade meals are usually more nutritious and more affordable. When you cook, you are free to be creative! You can substitute ingredients to tailor your meal to your budget and taste. You can also take charge of your diet to improve your self-esteem and overall health.

Here are a few tips for cooking for one or two:

First, make a plan. One of the best ways to simplify the process is to create a menu and grocery list each week. When you menu plan, you take the guesswork out and you will be prepared with ingredients on hand for each meal you make.

Learn how to halve recipes. This may be a rather obvious tip, but most recipes are designed to feed a group of 4-6. Instead of eating leftovers all week long, divide the ingredient portions in half to cut down on food waste.

Cook your main protein once a week. For example, by roasting chicken on the weekend, you can use the leftover meat to quickly create different meals throughout the week. Add the meat to a soup or salad, slice it in sandwiches, use it in tacos, or create a stir-fry or pasta dish. 

Use non-traditional protein sources. Think outside of the box by substituting for alternative protein sources. For example, black bean quesadillas or tofu stir-fry are nutritious options that don’t require preparing raw meat. Another option is to get creative with canned meats. Use a pouch of tuna to make tuna salad or a can of chicken to create buffalo chicken dip.

Utilize the freezer. It may be tough to get through an entire meal without it going bad. Dividing leftovers into single-serving portions can help you create healthy frozen meals for days you don’t have time to cook. You can also freeze perishable foods like bread. Simply, slice, freeze, and take out one or two pieces as needed. Other convenient freezer foods are steamable vegetables and frozen fruits.

Cooking for one or two doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it doesn’t have to involve “cooking” at all! Be prepared with items on hand to create a variety of meals, and be open to trying new foods and recipes. You may realize that preparing simple meals can be nutritious, affordable, and quick.


Karissa Winkel is the family and community wellness agent with K-State Research and Extension – Cottonwood District. Contact her at 620-793-1910 or krwinkel@ksu.edu.