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Planning Healthy Meals for One or Two - A Checklist!
Wednesday, February 29, 2012 • Posted February 29, 2012

Sometimes, it can be hard to get motivated when cooking a meal for just one or two people. Here is a checklist to help you get the most value for your time and money if you are cooking for two, or just you!

General Tips

- Maximize your nutrition!

• Make half your plate fruits and vegetables

• Make at least half your grains whole grains

• Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk

- Cook once, eat twice

• Plan two meals from the same entrée

• Separate out extra food BEFORE serving- you’ll eat less, and the extra will stay safer in the fridge or freezer!

• Eat extras in 3–4 days or freezeShopping Tips

- Should you buy in bulk?

• May be half the cost but just as expensive if you toss half!

• Smaller portions help avoid eating the same food over and over

• Repackage meat in freezer bags for smaller servings and freeze

- Consider individually packaged servings of items if you frequently have leftovers

• String cheese, wrapped cheese slices

• Single containers of tuna, soup, or fruit

• Individual cartons of yogurt

- Buy a smaller number of servings from meat counter

• Enjoy one pork chop

• Purchase a single salmon filet

• Explore a different cut of beef

- Buy fruit at varying stages of ripeness

• Buy some fruit to eat immediately and some to ripen for later

• Apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, kiwi, nectarines, peaches, pears, and plums continue to ripen after purchase

• Refrigerate fruit after it has ripened for longer storage

- Buy frozen vegetables in bags

• Pour out only what you need

Use in 8 months or per package guidelines

Toss into soups, casseroles, saladsThaw corn or peas in strainer under cool running water for salads

• Taste and nutrition

Comparable to fresh

Often lower in salt than canned veggies

- Can-do canned foods

• Nutrition is comparable to fresh/frozen

• No refrigerator space needed

• Helpful in emergency; have manual can opener handy

• Remove from can when storing unused portions

• Check the “use by date” on cans for best safety/quality; after can is opened, use within 3–4 days

• Low sodium versions available

• Canned Food Alliance offers recipes at

- Shop at supermarket salad bars• Purchase small amounts of fruits/vegetables

• Buy individual salads

• Use foods within 1–2 days of purchase for best quality

Restaurant Tips

- Benefit from large restaurant portions • Two meals for price of one

• Divide meal in half BEFORE eating!

• Refrigerate perishables in shallow containers within 2 hours of service

Storage Tips

- Refrigerator storage tips

• Refrigerate in a shallow pan — food should be no more than 2 inches deep

• Eat perishable foods in 3–4 days; heat until steaming hot (165°F)

• Thaw packages on a plate in refrigerator near bottom so they don’t drip on other foods Nn

Freezer Storage Tips

• Store it, don’t ignore it — food is “safe” indefinitely at 0°F but “quality” lowers over time

• Use freezer quality containers for freezer storage

• Safest to thaw in fridge; it takes about 24 hours to thaw 5 pounds of food

• Foods that don’t freeze well include: watery foods such as cabbage, celery, lettuce, etc.; cream or custard fillings; milk sauces; sour cream; cheese or crumb toppings, mayonnaise; gelatin; and fried foods

• Store bread in freezer; remove a slice at a time and toast as needed.

Reducing Recipe Size

Recipes can frequently be successfully reduced by 1/2 to 1/3. Some helpful equivalents include: • 1 cup = 16 tablespoons

• 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons • 1 cup = 8 fluid ounces (Note:measuring cups measure volume, not weight)

• 1 fluid ounce = 2 tablespoons • 1 pound = 16 ounces (weight)

• 1 pint = 2 cups

• 1 quart = 2 pints

- To change pan sizes:

• 9 x 2 x 13-inch pan holds 14 to 15 cups; for half, use:

Square 8 x 2-inch

Round 9 x 2-inch

Reduce oven temperature by 25°F if substituting glass for metal pan

Source: UNL Extension “Cook it Quick”e-newsletter

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