Is it just me, or are the cookbook/online recipe/portion size people completely against singles, couples without children and two-person households???
Everything I pick up to buy in the store is designed to feed a family of four or more. Well, HELLO, there are only two of us!!
Every recipe I find in my cookbooks or print out online serves 6-8 . For someone as math-phobic as I am, sitting in front of a cookbook with a calculator and trying to figure out the necessary measurement adjustments to feed only two hungry people produces panicky breathing and a sweaty brow. Forget about it if it’s a recipe that I’m getting out of one of my many British cookbooks I got on super-sale from Barnes and Nobles.
The metric system AND division?? Sorry honey, we’re ordering pizza tonight!!!
It’s sad that Singles and Twosomes (or smaller families, even) sometimes end up throwing away or wasting food because, due to the American status quo, it’s easier to purchase and cook their food in the same manner a larger family does. It often seems impossible not to. It often just doesn’t get eaten in time and into the trash it goes. What a waste.
BUT WAIT, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel!! Frustrated about this two-person-family prejudice, I did a little research, and came up with the following tips:
- Rescale/downsize recipes you are printing online. I love browsing the web for recipes. Problem is (and it took me a shamefully long time to realize this), most recipes are written to accommodate a family of four or more. We would always end up with a TON of leftover food that often got chucked in the trash. However, a lot of recipe sites, such as allrecipes.com, allow the user to adjust the recipe to the number of servings they would like to make. No muss, no fuss, one click of the button and ingredient measurements are automatically adjusted to fit your needs!!! Love it! However, on smaller sites that don’t offer this option, you can always bust out the old calculator to split recipes in halves/quarters/thirds/etc. If you like math. I don’t, so I’m an allrecipes devotee. All Hail Allrecipes.com!!!
- There are a growing number of cookbooks out there geared towards the two-person family!! Yeah!! Just do a quick search on amazon.com for two-person cooking or two-person recipes and you should have a pretty nice selection of books to purchase. Sure, it’s cheaper to print free recipes from the internet, but there’s nothing like having at least a small collection of cookbooks on display in your kitchen. Ones that you actually use. Not glossy, expensive decoys to make your husband’s boss think you’re a domestic goddess when the extravagant meal you just placed before him is really take-out from the french restaurant down the street served on Grandma Audrey’s wedding gift china.
- Ok, you still have leftovers galore…FREEZE THEM or LUNCHBOX THEM. This is my method. If whatever we had for dinner is an easy freeze, say chili or soup or lasagna, I portion it out into 2-person sized meal servings, wrap it in saran wrap, pop it in a freezer bag, date and label it, and toss it in the freezer. Some crazy, busy night when there is no time to cook and you are starving, you will thank me!! If it’s something that’s not great to freeze (fettucine alfredo for example), It goes into Mike’s hot thermos for lunch the next day. I bought him a fantastic thermos that keeps food hot or cold for 7 hours. The lid is a serving bowl, and there’s a stainless steel spoon tucked inside of it. Lunch is served!!
- Start with a whole chicken. Or pot roast. Or pork roast. Whatever. I do this all the time, and not only is it great for two-person or small families, but it will save you tons of money as you can get three meals out of the deal. Using the chicken as an example, I’ll cook the whole bird (usually in the crock pot, which saves my valuable time, and saves money on utilities, AND keeps the house blessedly cool in the summer since I don’t have to turn on the inferno of an oven) on the first night, using a recipe I’ve found online or in a cookbook, and serve it up with some tasty sides, maybe a veggie and a potato or rice. The next day, I’ll repurpose the leftover chicken into another dish, maybe some chicken enchiladas, or a white chicken chili, a recipe in which I can further stretch out the remaining chicken with beans or rice or other ingredients. The third day, if there is still some life left in the old bird, I’ll do the same, but with a different dish. Usually by this time there’s not much left, so it may just be a chicken and bean soup (heavy on the beans). At the very least, I can use the chicken bones and carcass to make an awesome homemade chicken stock, and base another soup from that, or freeze it for later use. Whoo! There are similar scenarios with other meats, but that’s another blog post! And, if you scored your bird or roast when the grocery store was having a BOGO sale (like I do) you just ate for three days (and ate well) for probably under $10.
- Bulk bins are a two-person household’s friend. Seriously, if I have to buy one more $6 jar of tarragon that I need for a recipe, I’ll scream. I know I’m never going to use it again before it expires and dies a slow, tasteless death in my pantry. Check out ethnic stores, health food stores, and even some grocery stores for bulk bins where you can purchase as little or as much of spices, beans, lentils, rice, etc. as you need by weight. Really a lifesaver if it’s an ingredient you know you don’t use regularly.
- Watch what you buy at the grocery store. It’s hard to find smaller packages of ground meat, pork chops and chicken. We twosomes can combat this in two ways. One, it’s OK to ask your butcher if he can accommodate you with whatever sized package of meat you need. That’s his job. Butchers at the grocery store are often underutilized by clueless shoppers. Your friendly butcher can point you in the direction of meat markdowns, cut large pieces of meat for you to order (usually for free), and get you that one pound package of ground meat you’re looking for when the meat section cooler is full of huuuge six pound family-size bulk portions. Two, it can often be in your best (financial) interest to buy that huge, six pound family-size bulk portion. Heft it over your shoulder and take it home. Open it up, and divide it into smaller portions, big enough for several two-person meals. Wrap it up, date it, and freeze it. You’ll often snag a deep discount buying the bigger packaging, and now you won’t have to buy any ground meat for a while.
And, if all else fails, don’t forget about Fido or Fluffy. I’m not opposed to feeding Joey the occasional table scrap or two. He is healthier that I am. I don’t like to waste food when people and animals struggle to survive in some countries, so if my cat gets to eat the last scoop of Chicken Tetrazzini, so be it. I’m not gorging him on the stuff, it’s more like a treat. And he still eats his dry food just fine. If you have one of those pets that would rather pout and starve for a week than go back to his regular food after consuming even a lick of yummy people food, then you might want to abstain from doing this.
So Singles, Twosomes and smaller families, don’t dispair!! There are ways around Minivan mentality! Hopefully these tips will help you to reduce or eliminate the food waste that often happens when twosomes are forced to buy or cook big-family style. I’ll be back with more tips, tricks and recipes later. Right now, I’m off to score some big freebies on a shopping trip, tell you all about it later!!