Cooking for Two: How to Be Cost Effective and Waste Less

I remember the ease with which my family of five would cook a meal and then have no problem with leftovers. Bulk cooking was required to feed three growing children as well as our parents. Food was not often wasted, as there was always someone who wanted seconds and even if food was still left, it was normally gone within a day or so. Simple. I can’t say that about today though!

I did not realize until I had seen it for myself that cooking for a larger group is easier than cooking for just one or two people. I thought that cooking for more people equaled more work, which it does, but then it goes around more easily too and is usually eaten fairly quickly. Try cooking that same casserole for a couple and you will see how hard it can really be! Just about every ingredient has to be reduced in proportion so that the couple do not end up with a mountain of food that will take a week to eat.

One of my dearest friends faces this same problem. She is an excellent cook, and can easily lay a beautiful table for several guests. She finds this enjoyable and easy. But one time she confided in me that she struggles to cook for just herself. Since her children have moved out and she is left alone she has stopped cooking proper meals for herself. Later on I found out what her dilemma really involved.

As a widow on a limited budget she cannot cook a family sized meal because she would be eating it for days afterwards. She tended to live on sandwiches, boiled eggs and salads because these were quick and cheap meal solutions for her.

Now I am married and my husband and I face the same test. We do not have children to feed, just ourselves. We love to entertain and spread out a feast for our guests. But when we are not doing this, we have to content ourselves with other options. It is not as easy as it sounds to cook for just two. Every time I look through a cook book it mentions that it serves at least 4 people. So right there, I must scan each ingredient and reduce it by half, so that it will meet our specific needs.

Although we make good use of our expensive food scales, this does not always work. If you cook a meal with several ingredients in it, the end result is bound to be quite bulky. Leftovers cannot always be avoided. But to prevent boredom I would suggest cooking two or three different meals and if there are leftovers from each one, then you can choose what to eat again the next day and alternate it until the food is gone. I have found this to be quite a good all round solution. As much as I may like a particular meal, I do not want to eat it day after day until it is gone.

Another solution that I have found quite useful is to gradually change my shopping habits. Unless I need to buy rice or cereal in bulk, I have tried buying smaller portion sizes. Canned and other non-perishable foods can be bought without any immediate worry about expiration dates. Look for smaller canned items too.

It might be cheaper all round to buy the larger can of food. But if you end up throwing away half of it, was it really worth the deal? My husband and I were pleased when we visited a Mexican supermarket recently and we came across a 7oz bag of macaroni. This might seem trivial, but if you like macaroni and cheese or other macaroni dishes, 7oz is far more preferable than a 1lb bag. I try to avoid wasting food, so if it has been sitting in the fridge for a week I feel a bit guilty of the waste and tell myself I will do better next time.

If you do not mind having leftovers after cooking a meal for two you can always put the food into individual serving size freezer containers and eat the food on another occasion. At least then, you will not be wasting the food and it will come in handy as a homemade microwave meal whenever you want it. This has helped us save money and time when we were not in the mood to cook.

These meal options can help you to avoid the temptation of eating out on a regular basis. Over time, the cheap “all you can eat buffet” will start to show around your waist and the money will add up. It is not possible for those on a budget to eat out regularly. Senior citizens can take advantage of discounts, but it is still not ideal for them to do so regularly.

It is possible to enjoy good, wholesome meals for two on a budget if you plan ahead and watch portions sizes when you go shopping. There is no reason why you should cook for a crowd and then have to deal with the excessive leftovers if you plan carefully and watch what you use and waste.

Over time, it will become easier to recognize portions for two that will help take away the headache of cooking smaller amounts.

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