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Cooking for 1 or 2

A laughing couple assembles Mason jar salads.

Jan. 24, 2022—Looking to eat healthier this year, make the most of your monthly budget or even have some fun exploring the world through food?

Cooking at home is a great way to do all these things.

But finding recipes—and even buying groceries—can be a challenge if you're cooking for just one or two people. These strategies from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Heart Association and other experts can make cooking at home easier—and fun.

Planning and prepping

Scale down. Some websites let you recalculate the recipes for the number of servings you want. And some recipes can be simple enough to scale back just by looking at them. This recipe for oven-baked salmon with snow peas is an example. (Note: To make them work, follow recipes for baked goods the way they are written—and share the surplus with friends.)

Go large. You probably already have a number of meals you make regularly. Pasta. Meat or poultry dishes. Salads. Soups. Review your list to see if you can make extra portions to eat later.

Cook big batches of sauces, soups, stews or beans. Refrigerate them and use them in different recipes throughout the week. Or freeze them for later use. Buy containers that hold one or two servings to make defrosting just the right amount easier.

Go slow or speedy. Slow cookers and automated pressure cookers take the hassle out of meal making. If you are cooking for just one or two, choose a smaller machine. Any leftovers can be refrigerated or frozen for later.

Shopping strategies

Shop fresh. Does your recipe call for a single carrot? Do you need two avocados to prep that guac? Shop the fresh produce section, where you can choose how many fruits or vegetables to buy. That way you can buy only what you need. Make the most of your selection with these guides to choosing and storing your favorite fruits and veggies.

Stock up on shelf-stable staples. Canned fish, like tuna, are high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Rinsed and drained canned beans make meatless meals quick and easy. Whole grains like brown rice, barley, bulger and corn grits can be made into dinner “bowls,” along with vegetables and a protein.

And don't forget the bulk bins. They're a great place to buy just the amount you need for the recipe you have in mind.

Add flavor. Vinegars, oils, hot sauces, herbs, spices and other condiments can take a meal from boring to glorious. And they can let you explore other world cuisines. Salsas are varied and great for topping fish, chicken or other proteins. Soy sauce-based dressings make stir-fries easy. Just watch out for excessive sodium.

Fridge and freezer friends

Think ingredients. Choose individually portioned proteins like meat, fish, blocks of tofu and plant-based burgers. Frozen mixed veggies can make a quick and tasty stir-fry or soup. Keep a bag in the freezer and use only what you need.

Love your leftovers. Think about how your meal tonight can become part of a meal later in the week. For example, sautéed chicken (without sauce) can be added to a dinner salad, tacos or soups.

Be food safe

Leftovers don't last forever, even in the freezer. Find out how long you can store yours with this easy guide to cold storage safety.

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