Delicious Dinner Ideas for Two, or Just One

For most of my adult life, I've only been cooking for one or two people: previously just me and now my husband and me. Unless we're entertaining, it's just the two of us. I've become the queen of cooking for two simply by optimizing the way I cook. Here are a few tricks I use, so I don't have to rely on single-serving frozen meals or too much takeout.

Separate Your Proteins When I buy meat from my butcher, particularly when something is on special, I have him wrap things up in two-packs: two pork chops, two steaks, two chicken breasts. That way, I can cook two portions when I buy them, and then put the rest in the freezer. Then, when I need them, I just thaw one package and prep for dinner. You can even add your favorite marinade to chicken breasts and then freeze them, and they're completely ready-to-go.

I've become the queen of cooking for two by simply optimizing the way I cook.

Your Freezer Is Your Friend I use my freezer to its maximum capacity. I don't have a chest freezer, but in my standard kitchen freezer, I always keep vegetables, baggies full of stock (in one-cup portions), a few different kinds of protein and individual portions of fruit. The freezer is also great for leftovers: Most recipes are for four servings, so the other two servings of a casserole, chili or stew can be easily frozen if you don't want to eat it for lunch the next day.

Embrace Leftovers I don't make huge batches of anything, because my husband and I get bored eating the same soup every day. But if a dish makes four servings, and we only eat two, I package the other two up right away into lunch-friendly containers. My husband can pop a container in a bag and take it to work in the morning, or I can easily heat up a portion at home.

Keep Staples in the Pantry I always keep a few cans of black, garbanzo and cannellini beans in my pantry, along with some canned tomatoes and whole-wheat pasta. With a few extra ingredients, I can throw together a salsa, a salad, a soup or a pasta dish in just a few steps using some easy dinner recipes for two.

Instead of Big Grocery Trips, Go Every Few Days Big shopping trips are great for large families, but not for one-or two-person households. In order to keep food fresh, like vegetables and dairy, I only buy enough supplies for a couple of days. That way, you don't waste nearly as much, and your refrigerator doesn't overflow. If you don't have time to go, you can always use pantry staples in between. (Just don't forget to restock!)

Buy Top-Notch Ingredients for an Indulgent Dinner Only need dinner ideas for two, or just yourself? Splurge on the good stuff! Make risotto with inexpensive Arborio rice (found in the bulk area of your grocery store) but splurge on Parmigiano-Reggiano and a little truffle oil. Get some cold-smoked salmon to go with your bagels and cream cheese for breakfast. Because you're buying in smaller quantities, it won't take as much to make your meal extra-special.

Recipe websites and supermarket aisles might seem geared toward those feeding families or large crowds. But with a little imagination and effort, you can prepare meals that are just as delicious from recipes for one, or the two of you.

Meet Julie Niesen

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