NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Meal for One or Two

Meals for One or Two


          If you’re eating by yourself tonight, you’re not alone. You’re part of a growing trend. For many, cooking for one or two seems like too much work. Often recipes serve at least four. Bulk foods may be economical but not necessarily interesting over time. Perishable foods may be difficult to keep on hand without wasting them. Mealtime can be lonely. Plus, cooking inherently means doing dishes.

          The good news is that preparing meals for one or two can be easy — and enjoyable — by planning ahead and making meals simple. Plus, many manufacturers now cater to the single diner with pre-packaged individual serving foods to help you create well-balanced meals.

          Plan Ahead -The easiest way to prepare a meal for one or two is to plan ahead. It’s hard to make a meal if you don’t have any or all of the ingredients. Keep a variety of staple foods on hand — especially those foods you enjoy eating — so you are ready when it’s time to cook a meal.

          Foods are often less expensive when purchased in bulk, but what to do with it all?  If you buy more than you can eat in a safe and reasonable amount of time, freeze the foods. If you don’t like chopping vegetables or don’t expect to use a whole head of lettuce before it spoils, purchase prepackaged salad greens. Plan leftovers, so all you have to do is re-heat and eat. Make a pan of lasagna or enchiladas. Bake a casserole. Cook a pot of chili, soup or beans when you have time. Package them in small individual bags or containers and freeze the servings for later, when you may not have as much time or don’t feel like preparing something.

          Balance your Meals-The Food Guide Pyramid serves as a useful guide for making daily food choices and building balanced meals.  Utilizing the Food Pyramid a tuna sandwich with a few slices of cheese, lettuce (or salad mix), and tomatoes, along with an apple, contains all the food groups. A few baby carrots or pre-packaged carrot sticks on the side would help boost your vegetable intake too — helping add more vitamins, minerals, and fiber to your diet. Another option, for a hot meal, consider a plate of cooked pasta with spaghetti sauce, grated Parmesan cheese, and cooked lean ground beef. Complemented with a side of canned peaches or dried apricots, this meal has selections from all the food groups. Add fresh tomatoes, onions, green peppers or mushrooms to the sauce for more flavor and vegetables. You could build a similar meal using tortillas or rice in place of pasta, along with your favorite vegetables and fruits, and meat, beans or eggs with yogurt or a glass of milk.

          Beating the Blahs – When cooking for one or two, foods may seem less than appetizing. Experimenting with different herbs and spices can add flavor to even the plainest foods.  On occasion, you might want to take a shortcut in preparing a meal by using a pre-packaged entree.  For example, serve a frozen meat entree with fresh or frozen vegetables and fresh fruit.  Look for entrees labeled as low-fat and low-sodium.

          Reducing Recipes - Most recipes can be cut in half or in thirds. Some ingredients are difficult to divide, such as an egg. If the recipe you want to cut in half calls for a large egg, try using a small egg or just the egg white. Check for doneness of halved recipes five to ten minutes sooner than the original recipe.

          Store Food Safely -A meal isn’t complete until all leftover food is stored safely. Make sure you have food storage containers — such as thick plastic bags or shallow plastic containers — to store any leftovers safely in the refrigerator or freezer. Leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours.

          Make Mealtime Enjoyable- Finally, now that you have created a meal, try to create a pleasant setting for dining at home. Listen to relaxing music, choose a pleasant location, or set the table — even if it’s just for you. An attractive placemat, flowers and candles help make a meal important, even if your company is yourself and the evening news on television.


          Microwave Potatoes for Two

2 potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly

¼ cup sliced onions

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ cup shredded cheese

          Coat a 9-inch microwave safe plate with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange potato and onion slices on plate; sprinkle with seasonings. Cover and microwave on high for 6-8 minutes (cooking times vary with each microwave). Sprinkle with cheese and cook for 2minutes or until potatoes are tender. Makes two servings.



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