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Cooking Nutritious Meals for One or Two

Cooking for one or two can be tricky. You want to make the most of your ingredients and minimize dishes, but may think it is impossible, especially when many recipes serve four to six people. You don’t have to abandon the kitchen for takeout, or settle on eating a bowl of cereal.


Make cooking healthy meals a priority. One such way is to use your freezer. Instead of scaling down a recipe, cook the full recipe. You will save time, money & clean up by following the principle of: cook once, eat twice. Consider freezing soups, casseroles, chili, pasta dishes and extra vegetables. Then when you do not feel like cooking, just pull these frozen meals out and enjoy.

You still need to make sure that your meals are healthy and one way to do that is plan your menus according to MyPlate, to meet your nutritional needs.

You want to make at least half your grains whole. Cook a batch of whole grains such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta and freeze in individual portions using a muffin pan. Once frozen, the discs can be stored in a zip-top bag and then reheated or used as the base of a favorite recipe.

Vary your veggies is another key message that we should follow, even when cooking for one or two. Buying fresh produce may be difficult to do if you can’t go to the farmers market or grocery store a few days a week. This is when you want to use your freezer and buy frozen. In most cases it can be just as nutritious as fresh. Be sure you shop wisely and chose vegetables without added sauces or butter. Probably one of the biggest advantages is that since they are frozen, there is no rush to use them before they spoil. They will keep in the freezer indefinitely, but will lose quality the longer they are kept.

Focus on fruits is another key message. We all want to buy the big bags of oranges or apples, but if you let them spoil, they are not a good deal. Only buy what you can reasonably eat or cook before they will spoil.  Eat the more perishable fruits early in the week, and save more hearty fruit such s apples and oranges for later in the week.

Get your calcium rich protein. While the quart of nonfat yogurt may be cheaper than the singles, if you can’t eat it before it expires, you are throwing money in the garbage, and although our freezer is our friend, yogurt does not freeze well. You also may consider purchasing cheese slices from the deli instead of dairy section of the supermarket. While they may be higher in cost per pound, in the long run you will save because you can choose how much you will eat before it goes bad.

Go lean with protein is the last key message for planning a healthy plate. Protein does not always have to be a meat. You can have eggs, beans, and nuts. With eggs, you can throw a meal together fast. They are inexpensive, an excellent source of protein and contain a wealth of nutrients. At our house, we hard boil a few and keep in the refrigerator for breakfast, snack or to put in a tossed green salad. Also buy family packs of meat, poultry or fish instead of the smaller packages, wrap individual portions in freezer-safe paper, and use freezer tape to secure. Label each package with the date and contents.

To receive your free publication on Cooking Nutritious Meals for One or Two, contact the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture in the Miller County Courthouse, call 870-779-3609, or e-mail me at You may also follow me on facebook at or on twitter @Carla M. Haley.

Mini Meatloaves is an example of a recipe that you can make and freeze for later. Per serving it has 150 calories, 4.5 total grams fat, 7 grams carbohydrates, 1 dietary fiber and 170 mg sodium.

Mini Meatloaves

1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey

One and one half cups salsa, divided in half

1 egg, lightly beaten

One fourth cup dry bread crumbs

One fourth cup chopped onion

Dash of  black pepper


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, using three fourth cups salsa. Divide into 5 equal portions. Shape into flatten loaves. Spray baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place loaves in dish and spoon remaining salsa on top of the loaves. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. 

By Carla Haley Hadley M.S.
County Extension Agent
Family & Consumer Sciences
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Haley Hadley M.S.
County Extension Agent
Family & Consumer Sciences
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service

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