Tips and Strategies for Meal Planning for Two People
I’m not going to lie, meal planning for just two people is a struggle. It is something that has taken me years to get better at, and still, there are many meals where we are eating leftovers for days. The one thing that has helped most is my utilization of the freezer. But more on that in a minute.
On the one hand it might seem like meal planning for two would be a breeze: fewer preferences, food allergies, or picky eaters; less to buy, a quicker prep, etc. While there might be aspects of these factors that make meal planning for just two people easier, there are an equal number of challenges.
First off, there is the fact that most recipes aren’t written for just two people, but rather, four to six. Additionally, while there is some control over how many servings to make in one meal, the prep process is for the most part unchanged. Whether two chicken breasts are getting baked, or four, there is still the same amount of dirty dishes.
There is one additional challenge that is a specific to Andrew and I. In addition to just being the two of us, we also have small appetites. We are small statured people so it literally doesn’t take as much food to fill us up. But just because we can’t eat large quantities of food in one sitting, doesn’t mean we want to be deprived of good quality.
So these are a few of the tips I have come up with over the years to make it easier to meal plan for just the two of us:
Start with the right recipe: Ideally I will be working off a recipe that is written for just two people. There seem to be more and more cook books written for just two, like this one. Also, I have learned how to adapt a recipe that is written for four to six people by cutting the ingredients in half.
Pre-section meats before freezing: When I’ve come home from the grocery store, I separate meats into single servings. For example, single chicken breasts, or dividing up ground meat into 1/2 pound servings.
Learn to freeze left-overs: But if cutting down a recipe really isn’t an option, or I’m purposefully making a dish that I want to have left-overs, I’ve learned what freezes well and what doesn’t. Truth of it is, anything can be frozen, it just doesn’t mean that it will reheat and taste good. Soups, stews and most casseroles freeze well. Some pastas, breads or other starches have a harder time. Most of the challenge is related to how water or air in the dish reacts when reheating from a frozen state.
Batch ingredients over several different recipes: Beef comes to mind for this tip. A single purchase of ground beef can yield three different dishes: enchiladas, hamburgers and beef stroganoff.
Invite over friends or family for a big meal: Make it a party! Who says it always has to be dinner for two? Lasagna is a dish that always makes enough to feed an army. I set a couple of extra places at the tables and let the leftovers take care of themselves.
Shop small quantities of ingredients: Fight the bulk urge. Sometimes there is not a “better value” to be had if I can’t consume it all before it goes bad. One thing I’m really liking is more grocery stores are stocking smaller quantiles of things like dairy and spices. They can tend to be expensive and hard to keep. The dairy will go bad too quickly, and the spices will go bad before I have the chance to use them all.
Schedule meals leaving room for flexibility: I plan as best as I can, but I also leave room for flexibility. Skipping meals and calling in for take-out can happen more often with just two mouths to feed.
Shop out of my own kitchen: Many nights, the answer on what to cook comes from my own kitchen pantry and/or refrigerator. An ingredient that I’ve had on hand for a while, or left-overs from a previous meal will inspire me to create a great dinner from things I already own. Pasta, pizza and deluxe salads are some of the first ideas that come to mind.
Mmmmm….. I’m getting hungry. What’s on the menu tonight?