Cooking from scratch and eating at home are some of the best ways to save money on your food budget, but cooking for one or two can be challenging. Maybe you’re worried about eating the same leftovers for an entire week. Perhaps you struggle with being motivated to cook for yourself at all when there’s no one else to appreciate it with you.
Whatever your home situation is, you can make eating at home work for you. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
Here are some great tips for cooking for one or two:
Plan for leftovers
Just because you are cooking for a smaller number of people doesn’t mean you have to cut back the recipe so it makes less. By making a normal size recipe, you’ll have to cook less often.
You probably won’t want to eat the same thing for five days in a row, so change it up. Cook two nights in a row and then alternate the leftovers so you don’t have the same meal twice in a row.
Leftovers also make a quick and easy lunch to bring to work (or eat at home). My husband enjoys a change from the standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I always use these Rubbermaid containers when I send leftovers with my husband (or put them in the freezer). They are amazing! I can send anything– soup, yogurt, fruit salad– and they never leak!
Be creative with leftovers
We like to use our leftovers creatively so we don’t get the same exact meal night after night. For example, I’ll cook salsa chicken in the crock pot and we’ll have it over rice the first night. The next night we’ll have the salsa chicken in burritos with lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, and sour cream.
Think outside of the casserole. How can you reuse different parts of your meal? You can make leftover mashed potatoes into potato pancakes. Spaghetti sauce makes a great topping for steamed squash. Leftover broccoli goes great in quiche. Mr. SixFiguresUnder loves sandwiches made from extra breakfast pancakes, especially if they have chocolate chips in them. The possibilities are endless.
Learn to Love your Freezer
Learn the many different foods that freeze well. Freezing foods buys you extra time to use them before they go bad. For example, a gallon of milk is much cheaper than two half gallons. If you can’t use a whole gallon before your milk goes bad, pour half of your milk into another container and freeze it.
Package leftovers in individual servings and put them in the freezer for a quick lunch or dinner down the road. By doing this, you are essentially make your own “TV dinners,” only cheaper and healthier than what you’d buy at the store.
Be vigilant about not letting your produce or leftovers go bad. Keep your fridge clean and organized so you can see what you have.
Before food goes bad, use it or stick it in the freezer. Keep a bag with veggies to use for soup or vegetable stock. Veggies and fruits can be frozen to use for smoothies or baked goods.
Buy in bulk
You’ve noticed that single servings and smaller portioned food items can be really overpriced. Don’t let being a family of one or two stop you from getting the savings of buying in bulk.
Try splitting a large purchase with friends or family. This might be buying a 25-lb bag of rolled oats and splitting it a few ways, or it could be sharing the meat from a co-owned cow or pig.
Repackage and freeze foods in quantities that are right for you. I love having the right portions frozen and ready to use after I brown ground beef stretched with veggies.
You Can Do It!
No matter what your situation you can make cooking at home work well for you. You deserve a home-cooked meal. Your wallet and your palate will thank you!
What about you?
- How do you making eating at home work for you?
- What tips do you have for others who are cooking for one or two?
- Any favorite recipes or ideas to share?
This post contains an affiliate link to a product that we use and love! That means that when you shop through this link you’re helping support this site at no extra cost to you.
Barbara Hill says
We have been a 2 person household for a couple years now. I’ve found smoothies to be a great meal for me. Lots of frozen fish are prepackaged in single serving sizes. These make wonderful meals. I like soups, and often make a big pot like I would when my kids were home. I then freeze in individual sizes, and a few in sizes big enough for 2. I find this a wonderful lunch or dinner (they are usually hearty soups, red beans and rice, chicken tortilla soup, and so on.
I’ve also found when you come home from the grocery store it really makes a difference to put your meat in freezer bags that are portioned for 2 or 1. Of course stews, are also great to freeze, but we also like baked potatoes as a meal, as well as baked sweet potatoes. Breakfast foods for dinner and grilled cheese are always quick, non pre planned dinners. I’ve found if you have enough quick meals in your head, the ones you look up, and work on for a dinner become more of a pleasure, than such an every night chore.
Thanks for sharing your insights Barbara! Dividing up meat before you freeze it makes things much simpler. Oh, and we love breakfast for dinner too– quick and easy and everyone loves it! 🙂
These are good suggestions. I’ve lived alone for twelve years and have been dealing with this issue for a long time. If I make a normal yield recipe, it creates leftovers that last me longer than a week. For folks who prefer to eat fresh or struggle with leftovers on that scale, I think the best solution is scaling down recipes. I received one of the America’s Test Kitchen Cooking for Two cookbooks as a gift a few years ago and it has really changed my life. Everything turns out great, I have a renewed interest in cooking at home now that it doesn’t mean I’m committed to long-term leftovers, I have an easier time with portion control, I waste less food, and I save money on groceries. (One “Cooking for Two” recipe yields enough for me for three or four meals–so there are still some leftovers.)
Thank you for posting this. I came back a week and a half ago from dropping my younger daughter off at college. With just me at home, I have been eating way too much takeout food.
I am joining the no spend challenge next month and that is a main spending issue I hope to address.
Yay! I love this post because I just cook for me! The freezer is definitely my friend and I reference your “you can freeze that” post often. I love chilies….white chicken chili, chicken taco chili, and regular beef chili! Sometimes I’ll eat it as is, sometimes I’ll top it with Greek yogurt and cheese, and I always use different hot sauces to change it up! I never let anything go to waste! I freeze loaves of bread and take slices out to go directly in the toaster. Comes out perfect for my eggs in the morning!
This was a great and timely post, as our 3rd and youngest son has recently moved into his college dorm. It has been a long time since I have cooked for just the 2 of us, even as our sons moved out I never changed my cooking habits! I definitely could use my freezer more for leftovers. I’m sure it will help our grocery bill as we scale back and adjust to this situation. thanks for the post, Stephanie.