Buying grocery items in bulk may seem like a way to save money, but mushy salad greens in the refrigerator vegetable drawer mean wasted dollars.
Here are some tips for saving time and money at the supermarket when planning fast and healthy meals for two.
- Avoid waste,;use the salad bar. A full container of cherry tomatoes or a whole bag of shredded cabbage may be an impractical purchase, so select just what you need or like at the salad bar.
- Six-ounce bags of greens, such as spinach, arugula or mixed salad greens, are perfect for serving two.
- The 6- or 7-ounce cans and pouches of tuna, salmon, sardines and crab are the right size.
- If you need shrimp, buy peeled frozen tail-on shrimp in 2-pound bags. Since the shrimp do not stick together in the bag, you can take out what you need when you need it, without having to defrost the whole amount..
- If your local supermarket only sells prepackaged meats and you have a small freezer, ask the meat department to give you just the amount you need.
- One 14-ounce can of chicken or beef broth works well when making soup for two. When you only need a small amount of broth for a recipe, use a low-sodium bouillon mix. Cooking rice in leftover broth gives it great flavor.
- 8-ounce cans of regular and no-salt-added tomato sauce are just the right size to have on hand for dinner.
- Small drink boxes of 100% juice are convenient for making sauces and salad dressings, without a lot of extra juice left over..
- Buy smaller servings of dairy products—pints of milk, 6 and 8 ounce containers of yogurt, 4 ounce containers of cottage cheese and 3 ounce blocks of cream cheese to avoid spoilage after these packages are opened.
So, you find a recipe that sounds good, but the yield is “four to six servings.” How do you get to amounts for two servings? Divide the ingredients by four? By six? In half or make the full amount and hope that the leftover portions are good reheated?
Instead think about what the portions are per serving for a particular ingredient.
If you’re looking at a recipe for pasta, and you know that your preference is for two ounces each, look at how much pasta the recipe calls for. Twelve ounces? Then your starting point is to divide by three for two servings. Sometimes there are two or more main ingredients to a recipe – pasta and a sauce or meat and vegetables – in which case you want to think about portion sizes for all the elements.
Sauces are particularly difficult to make in small amounts without ruining the overall flavor. I often cut the sauce for a dish that serves 6-8 in half rather than try to reduce it further. I know that I’ll probably have more than we need, but it’s usually an easier reduction without ruining the flavor of the sauce. I can often freeze the extra or use it later in the week for another dish.
It is also helpful, if you develop a file of recipes that serve just two. I will help you out by sharing the following recipes.
Stuffed Turkey or Pork Tenderloin
This dish goes well with mashed sweet potatoes and a green vegetable. Serve the leftover pear on the side.
- 3/4 cup thin sweet onion wedges
- 3 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 cup thinly sliced fresh mushrooms
- 1/2 cup cored red skinned pear, finely diced
- 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
- 1 10 ounce turkey breast tenderloin
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
In a large nonstick ovenproof skillet, cook onion, covered, in 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and add mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes. Add chopped pear and thyme. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until pear is just tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Using a sharp knife, cut a large pocket in the side of the turkey or pork tenderloin by cutting horizontally into the tenderloin, but not all the way through to the opposite side. Spoon cooled onion mixture into the pocket. Secure opening with wooden toothpicks. Sprinkle top of tenderloin with salt and pepper.
Carefully wipe out the skillet. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to the skillet; heat over medium heat. Add stuffed tenderloin, top side down, to hot skillet. Cook for 5 minutes or until browned. Turn tenderloin.
Roast, uncovered, in the oven about 20 minutes or until no longer pink (165 degrees F). Cover with foil and let stand for 5 minutes. Slice to serve.
Cioppino For Two
Serve with crusty bread and a green salad.
- 4 small red potatoes, (1 to 2-inch diameter), quartered
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 small firm white fish fillet, diced (about 6-8 ounces) such as grouper, cod, halibut or snapper
- 2 large sea scallops, cut in half and patted dry
- 4 peeled medium shrimp
- 6 mussels or small clams
- 1 small sweet onion, sliced
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1-2 teaspoons hot paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup seafood stock or water
- 2 plum tomatoes, diced
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Place potatoes in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add fish filet and scallops; cook, stirring once or twice, until just opaque, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and onion to the pan and stir to coat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high, add Italian seasoning, paprika to taste, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add wine, stock or water and tomatoes; bring to a simmer.
Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the fish, scallops, shrimp and mussels or clams, potatoes and capers, return to a simmer and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Garnish with parsley.
Fusilli with Sausage, Arugula and Tomatoes
To make this dish vegetarian, leave out the sausage and add one 8-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed. Heat with the arugula and tomatoes.
- 4 ounces fusilli pasta
- 4 ounces spicy Italian sausage, casing removed
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 4 cups arugula or baby spinach
- 1/2 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
- 1/4 cup finely shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta 8 to 10 minutes, or according to package directions.
Meanwhile, cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes.
Stir in garlic, arugula or spinach and tomatoes. Cook, stirring often, until the greens wilt and the tomatoes begin to break down, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; cover and keep warm.
Combine cheese, pepper and salt in a serving bowl. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the pasta cooking liquid and the olive oil.
Drain the pasta and add it to the serving bowl. Toss to combine. Pour the sausage-arugula mixture over the pasta and divide into two serving bowls.
Chicken with Prosciutto and Tomato Sauce Over Polenta
- 4 (6-ounce) chicken thighs, skin removed
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2/3 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal
- 2 cups water or chicken broth
- 1 cup chopped seeded peeled plum tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 very thin slices prosciutto, cut into thin strips (about 1/4 cup)
- Fresh sage sprigs
Sprinkle the chicken with the sage, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour.
Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 4 minutes on each side. Add wine; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 180°.
Place the cornmeal and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 1-quart casserole. Gradually add water or broth, stirring until blended. Cover dish and microwave at high 12 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes.
Remove chicken from the skillet. Add tomatoes to pan; cook 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice and prosciutto.
Spoon polenta onto two plates, top with chicken and pour the sauce over the chicken. Garnish with fresh sage sprigs, if desired.
Sirloin Tips with Bell Peppers
Serve with egg noodles tossed with parsley and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
- 8 ounces sirloin steak, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 teaspoon fennel seed, roughly chopped or coarsely ground in a spice mill
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 3/4 cup reduced-sodium beef broth, divided
- 1/4 cup dry red wine
- 2 bell peppers (one yellow; one red), cut into strips
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Rub steak with fennel seed and 1/4 teaspoon salt, turning to coat on all sides.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the steak in a single layer and cook, turning once, until browned on the outside and still pink in the middle, about 2-3 minutes.
Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
Add garlic to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup broth and wine, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add bell peppers, oregano, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper; bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the peppers are tender-crisp, 4 to 6 minutes.
Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup broth and flour in a small bowl. Add to the pepper mixture, increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.
Return the steak to the pan. Adjust heat to maintain a slow simmer and cook, turning the meat once, about 2 minutes to heat. Serve over cooked noodles, if desired.
Heidi Dawn Medina
February 26, 2015 at 8:40 am
These look tasty. I’m always looking for recipes for 2, so thanks for adding a few more to the recipe box.
February 26, 2015 at 9:32 am
Thank you Heidi. I agree since these days I mostly cook for two. I have also had feedback from readers who are single that they appreciate smaller portion recipes.
February 26, 2015 at 11:23 am
With one kid in college and the other in high school, I’m often cooking for just 2 of us these days. Thanks for some fresh inspiration!
February 26, 2015 at 5:17 pm
So true. thank you Karen.
For the Love of Cooking
February 26, 2015 at 12:45 pm
Cioppino is one of my favorites!
February 26, 2015 at 5:17 pm
Yes it ours also. Thanks Pam.
Marisa Franca @ All Our Way
February 26, 2015 at 3:34 pm
Wonderful post Jovina!! Since we are empty nesters we do like to cook but making something for just two can be a challenge. I can’t wait to try some of your recipes. My mamma had a cioppino recipe that I’ve been wanting to try — but yours looks and sounds terrific. I hate the big box stores — I know “hate” is a pretty strong term but i get all itchy and nervous in there. The only thing we buy vegetable wise in bulk is lettuce, English cucumbers and celery. We eat salad every single night. Thank you for some fantastic tips. Mille grazie!
February 26, 2015 at 5:20 pm
Thank you Marisa. I don’t shop in warehouse stores either. I prefer the smaller markets or the farmers market where I know the produce is local and fresh.
February 27, 2015 at 2:45 pm
The Sirloin Tips look yummy. I just make some Fajitas last night using sirloin tips.
February 27, 2015 at 9:17 pm
I bet that turned out well.
Amanda | What's Cooking
February 28, 2015 at 5:42 pm
Such great tips. I cook for two all the time and i really hate leftovers. The cioppino looks amazing.
February 28, 2015 at 8:18 pm
I am with you on leftovers. They have to be reinvented or forget it. So I have tried to develop a group of recipes that. we only eat once.The best thing about the cioppino is that you can put whatever fish you like in it but just two of each.
October 21, 2015 at 7:26 pm
HELLO,I JUST READ THE RECIPE FOR LASAGNA FLORENTINE ROLLS, I AM GONNA TRY IT,LOL..EVERY RECIPE LOOKS DELICIOUS,,,MY HUSBAND IS FROM THE TOP OF ITALY’S MAP CLOSER TO SWITZERLAND LOTS OF BUTTER,CREAMS,,,WELL THANKS FOR YOUR BEAUTIFUL RECIPES.