When faced with the task of cooking for one or two people, we often find ourselves reaching for the takeout menu or hitting up the drive through. Those options seem simple enough, but they tend to take a toll on our health and our wallets when they become a regular habit. Here are a few tips to help make cooking for one or two more manageable.

Making a meal plan can help cut down on waste and break up the monotony of traditional meals for one. Sketch out at least your suppers for the week and be mindful to use ingredients several ways. Especially with produce, if we don’t plan on incorporating an ingredient in more than one meal, it often gets forgotten and left to decay in the crisper. If you buy a bag of spinach for the week start off with a spinach salad, toss some in a smoothie, saute some with garlic and mix with pasta and chicken, and throw the rest in some soup with your leftover chicken.

Another way to cut down on waste and increase variety when cooking for one is to avoid overbuying ingredients. Shop in the bulk bins or get single servings at the meat and seafood counter so you only buy what you can use. Don’t purchase too much fresh produce at once — use your meal plan to figure out how much you will realistically eat that week. Make sure to have some frozen veggies and fruits on hand so you’ll always have a produce option. Bread products, such as breads, rolls and tortillas, can be stored in the freezer and thawed when needed as well.

If you enjoy cooking but can’t finish the leftovers, you can freeze leftovers in single serve portions or you can try to scale the recipe down so you don’t have so many leftovers. Some recipes are hard to scale down for just one serving, but you could get it down to 2-3 servings to have a manageable amount of leftovers. Another option is to cook simple meals that include single servings of your protein, veggie and grain. You can roast a single serving of chicken or fish on a baking pan pan with your vegetables and, at the same time, microwave some instant brown rice with a little low sodium broth, and slice some fruit for dessert.

Here are some other simple single-serve meal ideas:

Veggie omelet

Yogurt and fruit parfait

Oatmeal or smoothie bowl


Meat and veggie wrap



Loaded baked potato

Black bean burrito

Pasta with veggies and sauce.

Philly steak sandwich

Serves: 1


1/4 green pepper, thinly sliced

1/4 small onion, thinly sliced

3 ounces lean roast beef, shaved

1 whole wheat bun

2 tablespoons cheddar cheese, shredded


Heat the oven to 350 F. Lightly coat a baking pan with cooking spray. Spray a frying pan with cooking spray. Over medium heat, sauté the peppers and onions until they soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the roast beef and sauté for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.

Place the roast beef mixture on the bottom half of the bun. Place in the prepared baking dish. Top with 2 tablespoons of the cheese. Bake until the cheese has melted, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove and add the top of bun and serve

Nutrition information: Calories 350, fat 14 g, saturated fat 6 g, sodium 323 mg, carbohydrate 23 g, fiber 3 g, protein 33 g

Lemony egg in a nest

Serves: 1


1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon water

2 cups baby spinach

1/2 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1-2 teaspoons lemon zest

1 egg

Pinch of salt and pepper (1/16 teaspoon)

Cooking spray


Heat the olive oil in a medium nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the spinach, water, salt, and pepper, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 1 minute. Mash chickpeas with a fork and then add chickpeas and lemon zest to the spinach. With your spatula, shape the mixture into a wreath shape with a hole in the middle. Spray the cooking spray into the hole and crack the egg into the hole. Cover the pan with a lid and cook until egg has cooked through. Use a large spatula to transfer the egg and “nest” to a plate and serve. Pairs well with whole grain toast

Nutrition information: Calories 250, fat 14 g, saturated fat 2.5 g, sodium 425 mg, carbohydrate 20 g, fiber 6 g, protein 13 g,

Romi Londre, RDN, CD, is a registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System.


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