Planning and cooking small meals might not feel like it's worth your time, especially since recipes are typically designed for four to six people. It's just easier to go out to eat or pick up something on the way home.
Okay, that's true -- it is easier to buy dinner than it is to make it, but there's something special about a home cooked meal. It's healthier -- you control the ingredients, so you can make meals with less fat, sugar and salt, and more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Actually, it's not all that difficult -- you just need to be prepared.
Take an hour or so to make up a meal plan for a few days or a week. Make a shopping list based on the ingredients you'll need - it helps to choose two or more meals that use some of the same fresh ingredients so you don't end up wasting them. Or in some cases, you can freeze leftover ingredients for another week.
Try out some recipes specifically designed for one or two people. You can also look for larger recipes and cut them down by half or make two or three meals at one time and freeze the leftovers for healthier frozen dinners later, similar to once-a-month cooking. Look for recipes that call for ingredients that are low in calories, sugar and saturated fat, but rich in nutrients like dishes that feature lots of colorful vegetables.
More Cooking and Meal Planning Help
I've also got a few grocery shopping tips. Some foods can be purchased in bulk because they store well for a long time. You can keep dry beans, pasta, flour, and other dry goods in covered containers and use as much as you'd like whenever you want them.
Stock up on canned goods; just think about the amounts you'll use after the containers are open. A large family-sized can of soup might seem like a great bargain, but not if you end up throwing half of it away.
Stay with smaller single and double serving sizes of canned goods. Grocery shopping is always easier when you have a shopping list. This way you'll buy the foods you need, and you'll be less tempted to fill your cart with highly processed meals.
Shopping for Groceries
What about leftovers? Some of your favorite recipes might be difficult to scale down in size, but you can save the leftovers for another meal. You might bake a whole chicken for dinner one night and use the leftover meat to make a stir-fry or stew. Or you could use some of the chicken on a sandwich to take to work or school the next day.
Be sure to practice good food safety when you store leftovers. They should be stored in the right size containers, usually sealed, in put into the refrigerator or freezer within one hour after serving. Frozen foods can last for several months, but refrigerated cooked foods will keep for less than a week, so you'll want to make good use of them quickly.
When it's time for eat your leftovers, be sure to reheat them thoroughly before serving, to avoid cold spots in your food. Frozen foods should be thawed in the refrigerator or in the microwave (in microwave-safe dishes only) and not left on the counter to thaw at room temperature.