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Prairie Fare: As Families Evolve, Scale Your Recipes Accordingly

Changes in the family, such as children leaving, may mean changes in shopping and cooking practices. (Photo by Mumland courtesy of Changes in the family, such as children leaving, may mean changes in shopping and cooking practices. (Photo by Mumland courtesy of
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You can adapt many recipes to fit your current household size.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Why do we have so many leftovers?” I pondered as I perused our refrigerator. I glanced at the counter, and I opened the cupboards. The “snack counter” where we keep ready-to-grab afterschool items was stacked with food. We had way too much bread. The juice and milk containers in the refrigerator were nearly full.

Then the reality of the change in our family during the past month dawned on me. I guess I have been in denial that one kid has flown out of our family nest.

Our 18-year-old son is now in college and living away from home. I no longer hear the refrigerator and cupboard doors being opened at midnight. My teenage eating machine is getting his nutrition somewhere else most of the time.

We need to scale down our food buying and preparation. If we eat everything, we will need to scale up the size of our clothing.

So I packed the extra bread in freezer bags. I put a box of granola bars in my briefcase to entice my son to visit me in my office. He lives just down the street from me in the dorm.

As we all know, families evolve with time. They expand and contract as babies arrive and children leave home after they graduate. Grocery shopping and cooking practices often need to change during this evolution.

Whether you’re a single person, empty nester couple with grown children or a widow or widower, you don’t need to throw out your favorite family recipes. You can adapt many recipes to fit your current household size.

On the positive side, making family-sized recipes can provide you with leftovers for future meals. Simply freeze the remaining food in meal-sized containers. You can freeze cooked vegetables to use in stews, soups and other dishes. Be sure to label the containers with the contents and date to avoid “surprise meals” later!

What if you don’t like leftovers? Consider them as “planned-overs” and try them in completely different recipes. For example, add leftover fruit to muffin, quick-bread or pancake batter or blend leftover fruit with yogurt to make a smoothie. Use extra bread to make French toast, bread pudding or stuffing. Use planned-over meat in tacos, soup or stir-fry or on salads.

Explore the forms of food available in your favorite grocery store. Some items can be purchased individually (such as potatoes), as individual quick-frozen items (such as chicken breasts) or in resealable packages (such as frozen vegetables). You can buy and use what you need.

Try these tips to help reduce your recipes:

  • Choose recipes that are easy to divide mathematically.
  • If a recipe calls for a can of beans or soup and you would like to divide the recipe in half, use what you need and refrigerate or freeze the remaining food. Label the container with the contents and date.
  • Add seasonings gradually. Sometimes you may need to add more (or less) of the spice to reach the desired flavor.
  • Check for doneness of halved recipes five to 10 minutes sooner than the original recipe.
  • Keep notes about what works and what doesn’t!

For more tips, see “Cooking for One or Two” at If you are in the growing family stage, check out the resources at

Leftover pizza always is a welcome sight in our refrigerator, so here’s one that makes use of fall’s bounty.

Fall Veggie Pizza

1 1/2 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1 12-inch whole-wheat pizza crust (prebaked)

1 c. chopped broccoli florets

1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced

1 medium onion, sliced into strips

1/2 medium red bell pepper, cut into strips

1 medium tomato, thinly sliced

2 cloves minced garlic

1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning

2 Tbsp. olive or canola oil

Preheat oven to 450 F. Sprinkle half of the cheese evenly over the crust and set aside. Sauté vegetables, garlic and Italian seasoning in hot oil for three to five minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Spoon vegetables over pizza crust. Top with remaining cheese. Bake for five minutes or until cheese melts. Cut into eight slices.

One slice has 320 calories, 23 grams (g) of fat, 18 g of carbohydrate, 15 g of protein, 3 g of fiber and 540 milligrams of sodium.

Note: Choose a reduced-sodium cheese if you need to restrict salt in your diet.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – Sept. 12, 2013

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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