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FEATURE – Are you an empty nest Maybe a student who lives alone? Perhaps you are a single parent of one or two children. No matter what your particular situation, preparing healthy meals for one or two people may seem like a chore.
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With the help of the Department of Food Science at Utah State University, we’ve put together some helpful tips to make mealtime a little easier and, hopefully, easier on your wallet.
Cook more, not less! Preparing a few large meals in advance will save you time and money. Maybe you have our “cook once, eat twiceBlog. Some of these methods allow you to create something to freeze, use later in the week, and / or use as leftovers. This method will also save you money by eliminating the temptation to eat out.
Know what’s freezer-friendly and what’s not. While rice, soups, casseroles, and even bread products will freeze well, avoiding freezing things that may curdle while freezing and thawing. This includes things like sauce, sour cream, yogurt, and mayonnaise when used as a dressing.
Remember that the reason for not freezing is quality, not the possibility of “spoilage” or toxicity. Potatoes may not freeze well just because they become mushy when thawed and can lose some of their taste and texture. To learn more about which foods freeze well, Click here.
Food can be packaged for storage in many unique ways. You can use freezer paper, storage bags, or glass containers with lids. The key is to keep air from reaching the product and to minimize moisture loss.
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There are numerous methods of defrosting, depending on how you store or freeze your food. Individual servings of soup that are kept in freezer bags can be thawed and warmed in a saucepan of boiling water. Food stored in a microwaveable container can be quickly thawed or heated in a microwave oven. Make sure to stir soups or stews frequently to avoid hot spots.
Bread products freeze well. Individual loaves of bread, muffins or biscuits can be frozen on a baking sheet and then stored together in a large bag. You can even pre-cook French toast and freeze individual slices to reheat them in the toaster later.
When it comes to cooking for one or two people, less isn’t always the best. Weekly preparation is also helpful. I like to take a few hours on Saturday or Sunday mornings to cook some vegetables, pre-cook chicken or ground beef, and put a few things in the fridge to thaw them for the week ahead. Regardless of whether there are four or two of us at the dining table, the advanced preparation of meals saves a lot of time in my home.
One of my favorite things to do with my meal preparation is chicken schnitzel. This is how I like to do it:
In the morning, place 4 pounds of thawed chicken breasts in a slow cooker with two (15 ounce) cans of low-sodium chicken broth, 4 teaspoons of onion powder, 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook the chicken on low heat for six hours. Chop with a fork. Distribute in storage containers and refrigerate.
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If you’re cooking for one, 1/2 to 3/4 cup of shredded chicken will do in each storage container. If you are cooking with two people, add 1 to 1 1/2 cups of chicken to each container. There are several ways you can use your chicken during the week. Each pound of chicken is roughly equivalent to 1 cup of cooked chicken. Typically, recipes call for 1/2 to 3/4 cups of chicken per person. If you cook 4 pounds of chicken you will have enough for four to six individual servings.
Depending on how many chicken recipes you want to make for the week, you can increase or decrease the amount of chicken that you cook in your slow cooker. Cooked chicken can be left in the refrigerator for three or four days. You can also make extra freeze for later use. Frozen chicken can stay in the freezer for up to six months before it loses quality.
The following recipes have been adapted for two people. If you’re cooking for one, try cutting the recipe in half or saving the extra as leftovers. Enjoy!
If you’re using the chicken you’ve already cooked in the pot, you don’t have to cook the chicken as outlined in the recipe. Follow the recipe steps, but instead of cooking the chicken for 5-8 minutes, all you need to do is heat it for 2-3 minutes.
Here’s another recipe that lets you use the chicken that you cooked earlier to speed up the cooking process. You can heat the chicken in the microwave or serve it cold on the salad.
Written by CANDI MERRITT and BECKY EGLI, Certified Nutrition Education Ambassadors.
This article originally appeared on the USU Extension Create Better Health blog on April 14, 2021.
Copyright © CreateBetterHealth.org, all rights reserved.
The Create Better Health blog is part of the Utah State University expansion and is known nationwide as SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education). Create Better Health offers free nutrition and cooking classes across the state of Utah.