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Cooking Solo Can Still Be Nutritious

Those who cook for only one or two deserve better than canned or convenience food. Meals do not have to be a big production to be nutritious.


It’s not as much fun to cook for one or two as it is for a group or family. For some, a solo dinner turns out to be a canned heat-and-eat meal or convenience food lacking in nutritional value and freshly cooked goodness. Those who are cooking for one or two deserve better.

Meals do not have to be a big production to be nutritious. A cup of soup and a sandwich or fruit and cottage cheese are quick to fix, taste great, and can give you the nutrients you need.

People skip meals for lots of reasons. Sometimes it’s because shopping or preparing meals is too difficult. It may be because money is tight or eating alone is unappealing.

To prepare a meal for one or two, consider using quick cooking methods, such as steaming, grilling, broiling, and stir-frying. These methods have the advantage of requiring little or no added fat and are fairly quick. Think of stir-frying last night’s vegetables and meat, and serving it over brown rice.

Cut clean up time by baking and roasting on foil or parchment paper. This way, you don’t have to spend a lot of time cleaning pans after dinner.

Modify your family favorite recipes by cutting large recipes down to 2 servings, unless you like leftovers or planned overs which is always a time saver. When modifying recipes, add seasonings a little at a time and taste. The recipe may need more than half. Check for doneness at least 5 to 10 minutes before the original time and use smaller pans and dishes for smaller amounts.

Keep easy-to-fix foods on hand at all times. When you feel hungry, grab a snack and enjoy! Some easy nutritious snacks might include cinnamon toast and apple juice, cheese slices and fruit, cereal with milk, graham crackers and milk, wheat crackers and cottage cheese, blueberry muffin and juice, peanut butter toast and milk, fruit yogurt with crackers, peanut butter and apple or banana, pudding and fruit juice, or a sandwich on whole wheat bread.

It’s also a great idea to have emergency food on hand. This is food that you can store for 3-4 months in case you are unable to get out of your house for several days. Some examples are canned and dried foods that are shelf stable, such as nut butters, canned tuna, crackers, and canned milk. An example of a non-perishable menu for one day might include for breakfast, bottled orange juice, dry cereal, graham crackers, and canned milk. Lunch could be saltine crackers, peanut butter, canned vegetable soup, canned fruit, and bottled water. While dinner is canned tuna, canned vegetables, dried fruit, and sealed ready-to-eat pudding, you are getting variety and nutrition.

Click for your free copy of Cooking for One or Two or contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse. We're online at, on Facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS, on Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at

Add Beef and Vegetable Stir fry to your menu tonight.  It is designed for cooking for one or two and can utilize leftovers.

Beef and Vegetable Stir Fry

3/4 pound (12 ounces) Beef round steak, boneless

1-teaspoon vegetable oil

1/2 cup each sliced onion, celery, and carrots

1-tablespoon soy sauce

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

dash pepper

2 cups zucchini squash, cut in thin strips

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 cup water

Trim all fat from steak. Slice steak across the grain into thin strips about 1/8 inch wide and 3 inches long. Heat oil in pan. Add beef strips and stir-fry over high heat, turning pieces constantly, until beef is no longer red, about 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat. Add carrots, celery, onion, and seasonings. Cover and cook until carrots are slightly tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add squash; cook until vegetables are tender-crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Mix cornstarch and water until smooth. Add slowly to beef mixture, stirring constantly. Cook until thickened and vegetables are coated with a thin glaze.

By Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609


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