Planning meals for one or two

Are you eating cereal or soup for dinner every night now that you’re cooking for one or two? Preparing smaller meals doesn’t have to mean the end of dinners you enjoyed when cooking for four or more.

When asked why single diners stop preparing meals, the reasons given are often based on time or loss of interest. People feel that it takes too long to prepare a full meal or they just don’t feel like cooking anymore. If you find yourself in the cereal and soup dinner group, try some of the following tips to add more flavor and enjoyment to your dining experience.

It all starts with planning ahead. Without some idea of what you would like to eat, you’ll find yourself heading for that cereal box or out to the fast food drive-thru. MyPlate can help you plan meals with foods from each of the major food groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, protein and dairy as well as information about the number of servings needed every day. This way you can better plan just how much food you need to buy at the grocery store. And the amounts of food you buy don’t have to be supersized either. Here are some ideas on smaller sizes you can purchase from each food group:

Vegetables: Buy smaller eight ounce size cans. If you have a freezer, purchase frozen vegetables and use only the amount you will be eating. For fresh produce buy by the piece rather than in bulk. For instance, you might want to buy one or two baking potatoes rather than a five pound bag.

Fruits: Buy smaller eight ounce cans. If you have a freezer, buy frozen. When buying fruit, buy by the piece. You don’t have to purchase the whole bunch of bananas. You can break one or two off a larger bunch.

Grains: Buy the smallest package or break larger packages down into individual sized portions. Bread, and bread products like dinner rolls, can be wrapped and stored in the freezer.

Protein: If you don’t have freezer space, look for a supermarket with a meat manager or a local butcher shop where you can ask for individual portions. Many markets will sell you one or two pork chops or let you package your pound of ground beef into two half pound packages.

Dairy: Buy the size you know you’ll use before the expiration date. You won’t save money by buying a gallon of milk if it spoils before you can drink it. Also consider using non-fat dry milk which can be reconstituted in smaller amounts.

Plan for meals that you can prepare, freeze and re-heat later. Making a pot of soup or a casserole when you have the time and energy and then packaging individual servings to be re-heated later is a life saver for those days when you just don’t feel like cooking. With a little planning and creativity, you can enjoy eating a variety of nutritious meals again.

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