Meta Description: Creating tasty meals for just two people can be a challenge. Explore ideas and tips for cooking for couples and singles in Ontario, from meal planning to kitchen organization.
Cooking for one or two people presents some unique challenges compared to cooking for a larger family. It can be difficult to use up ingredients before they go bad, recipes may provide too large of portions, and inspiration can run low for daily meals. However, with some planning and creativity, cooking for two in Ontario can be rewarding and delicious.
Benefits of Cooking for Two
Cooking for just yourself or your partner has many advantages despite the small portion sizes. Here are some of the best reasons to embrace cooking for two:
- Saves money – Buying groceries and cooking at home is significantly cheaper than dining out. Meal planning and smart grocery shopping prevents food waste.
- Portion control – Cooking the right amount prevents overeating. Smaller meals from fresh ingredients are healthier.
- Explore new recipes – More freedom to experiment with recipes not suitable for families. Try cuisines from around the world.
- Quality time together – Cooking together is a fun bonding activity for couples. Collaborate on menus and tradeoff cooking duties.
- Learn new skills – With just two servings, there’s more opportunity to try advanced cooking techniques. Become an expert on sauces and knives skills.
- Customized meals – Cater recipes to each person’s unique tastes and dietary needs. Accommodate food allergies or restrictions more easily.
Embracing the joy of cooking for two opens up possibilities for home chefs in Ontario. Keep reading for more tips and ideas.
Meal Planning and Preparation
Careful planning is key to ensuring cooking for two is easy and not wasteful. Here are some meal planning tips:
- Take inventory – Check what ingredients you already have before shopping to avoid buying duplicates. Use up soon-to-expire items first.
- Make a weekly meal plan – Decide on 5-7 recipes to make that week. Include some leftovers and easy meals for busy nights.
- Shop with a list – Make a grocery list based on your meal plan. Shop once per week to get everything you need.
- Look for small portions – Buy pre-cut vegetables or meat divided into smaller packs. Purchase spices in small jars.
- Prepare and freeze – Chop and cook ingredients in advance on less busy days. Portion into freezer bags or containers.
- Cook once, eat twice – Make double batches of soups, grains, beans, etc. Revive leftovers into new meals later in the week.
With some organization, you can scale down recipes to cook just enough food for two while minimizing waste.
Grocery Shopping Tips for Cooking Duos
Shopping for two people requires a different strategy than for a large family. Here are grocery shopping tips for couples and singles:
- Buy fewer perishables – Only buy as much fresh produce, meat, and dairy as you can use up before expiration. Get small amounts.
- Check unit pricing – The bulk big pack is not always the better deal. Compare per ounce or pound prices rather than total package price.
- Divide and freeze – For deals on meat and bread, divide packages up and freeze portions to avoid waste.
- Love your leftovers – Embrace leftovers! Cook once and repurpose ingredients creatively. Freeze individual servings.
- Buy small quantities – For ingredients only called for in small amounts like herbs or condiments, buy the smallest jar or package.
- Choose recipes wisely – Plan recipes that use common ingredients like eggs or chicken in multiple dishes that week.
- Buy frozen produce – For small servings of veggies, frozen ones eliminate waste from fresh spoilage.
With some savvy shopping skills, you can get all you need for recipes for two without breaking the bank or letting food go to waste.
Essential Kitchen Equipment for Cooking Duos
Cooking for two doesn’t require as many gadgets and appliances. Here are the essentials:
- Good chef’s knife – Invest in one high-quality 8″ or 10″ chefs knife properly sharpened for all chopping, slicing, and dicing tasks.
- Small pots and pans – Opt for 8″ or 10″ skillet pans and 2 or 3-quart saucepots to match small portions.
- Mixing bowls – Keep a small 2-quart and larger 4-quart bowl for mixing and prep work.
- Prep tools – Kitchen shears, measuring cups and spoons, vegetable peeler, grater, etc. make prep work easy.
- Sheet pans – Half sheet pans take up less room. Use liners for easy cleanup.
- Appliances – For dinners, focus on a skillet or sauté pan, stock pot, and sheet pans before buying extra gadgets. Quality over quantity.
- Knife sharpener – Keep knives razor sharp. This makes chopping efficient and safe. Invest in a sharpening stone or electric device.
The key is choosing the right tools for small batches rather than going overboard on appliances you won’t use often. Focus on quality and multi-purpose items.
Best Tips for Using Leftovers Creatively
Cooking for two makes leftovers inevitable. Avoid food waste by repurposing them creatively:
- Add protein to salads – Leftover chicken, beef, eggs, or seafood make excellent salad toppers.
- Turn into tacos or bowls – Combine grains, beans, veggies, meat or tofu into Mexican or Buddha bowls.
- Toss with pasta – Transform leftovers into pasta dishes with some olive oil or sauce.
- Fold into omelets or frittatas – Almost any veggie or meat makes delicious omelet fillings.
- Blend into soup – Spin leftovers into hearty pureed or chunky soups.
- Create rice bowls – Cooked rice or grains served with sautéed veggies and proteins makes a fast, balanced meal.
- Simmer into stew or curry – Merge leftovers into curries, stews, chillis, or casseroles.
With an open mind, yesterday’s leftovers can become innovative new meals. Embrace the creativity!
Quick and Easy Dinners for Two to Make During the Week
It’s tempting to just order takeout on busy weeknights. Stay on budget and eat healthier by making these quick and easy dinners for two:
Sheet Pan Meals
- Chicken or salmon with potatoes and green beans
- Sausages with squash and Brussel sprouts
- Pork chops with carrots and asparagus
- Steak and peppers with cauliflower rice
Sheet pan dinners require minimal clean up and preparation for fast, wholesome meals.
Eggs and Omelettes
- Veggie omelette with goat cheese
- Frittata with kale and bacon
- Poached eggs over spinach with toast
- Huevos rancheros bowls
With protein-rich eggs, some veggies or cheese, and toast, omelettes make a satisfying dinner any night of the week.
Bowls and Salads
- Burrito bowls with rice, beans, salsa, avocado
- Poke bowl with rice, tuna, edamame
- Chicken caesar salad
- Steak salad with blue cheese
Build a hearty meal in a bowl by combining fresh greens, whole grains, protein and toppings.
Soups and Stews
- Lentil and sausage stew
- Chicken tortilla soup
- Beef barley soup
- Veggie chili
Simmer flavorful broths filled with meats, veggies, beans or grains for comforting dinners ready when you are.
Stir Fries and Skillet Meals
- Shrimp and veggie stir fry with rice
- Steak fajitas
- Chicken fried rice
- Sausage and peppers skillet
Fire up one pan to quickly sauté bold flavored protein and veggie meals.
With good meal planning, even busy weeknights can include homecooked dinners for two.
Satisfying Sunday Dinner Ideas for Couples
Sunday dinners are a perfect time for couples to unwind and connect over delicious food. Plan a relaxing meal with these ideas:
Roast Chicken or Turkey Breast
A hearty roasted chicken or turkey breast makes leftovers for lunches or future meals. Serve with:
- Roasted potatoes and green beans
- Stuffing or bread rolls
- Cranberry sauce
- Salad or soup
Choose a pasta type like ravioli, gnocchi, or linguine. Make it romantic by:
- Creating DIY pizza bar with assorted toppings
- Making pasta together
- Making meatballs or clams to top pasta dishes
- Pairing with wine and crusty garlic bread
Set up a interactive taco bar with:
- Protein – chicken, beef, pork carnitas, fish
- Tortillas or taco shells
- Toppings – lettuce, tomato, onion, beans, rice, salsa, cheese, etc.
- Margaritas or sangria
Design unique individual pizzas:
- Pre-make pizza dough
- Assorted toppings – meats, veggies, cheeses
- Bruschetta for an appetizer
- Salad with homemade dressing
Sundays are for lingering over hearty, comforting meals together.
Romantic Dinner Ideas for Cooking at Home
Make date night special without the big bill by cooking romantic dinners at home:
Surf and Turf
Indulge in decadent lobster tails and filet mignon served with:
- Roasted asparagus spears
- Twice baked potatoes
- Caesar salad
Skewer and dip pieces of steak, shrimp, bread, fruit, and veggies into melted cheese, chocolate or oil fondue pots.
Tapas for Two
Serve an assortment of small Spanish bites like:
- Meatballs in tomato sauce
- Stuff mushrooms
- Patatas bravas
- Garlic shrimp
- Chorizo stuffed dates
- Manchego cheese sticks
Pan sear steaks tableside and flambé in cognac right before her eyes. Serve with dramatic flair.
Coq Au Vin
Simmer chicken braised in red wine sauce with pearl onions, mushrooms, parsley and bacon over noodles.
With music, candles, wine and a homecooked meal, romance is served best at home.
Cooking for One: Tips and Meal Ideas
Preparing just a single serving can be even more challenging. Here are tips for cooking tasty meals for one:
- Prep in batches – Roast vegetables, cook grains, grill meats in larger quantities you can portion out for multiple meals.
- Use smaller appliances – Cook meals in a toaster oven, slow cooker or air fryer rather than firing up the big oven.
- Buy pre-cut produce – Purchase smaller quantities of pre-washed, pre-cut fruits, veggies and meats.
- Make extra sauce – Make extra sauce or dressings to flavor multiple meals throughout the week.
- Eat leftovers – Cook once, eat multiple times. Embrace leftovers for quick lunches or dinners later on.
Quick Meal Ideas:
- Broiled fish with couscous and roasted veggies
- Frittata with peppers, onions, cheese
- Tofu stir fry with rice
- Soup or chili in slow cooker
- Kabobs on the grill
- Zucchini caprese pasta
- Charcuterie board
With a little creativity, solo cooks can also enjoy varied and tasty home cooked meals.
Sample Weekly Meal Plan for Cooking for Two
Use this sample weeklong meal plan as a template to organize your own menus for cooking for two:
Monday: Veggie Stir Fry
- Stir fry mixed veggies in ginger sauce over brown rice
- Edamame on the side
Tuesday: Soup and Salad
- Lentil soup with crusty bread
- Tossed green salad with homemade vinaigrette
- Fish, chicken or beef tacos
- Beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, cheese, avocado
- Pasta primavera with veggies in creamy or tomato sauce
- Side salad with Italian dressing
Friday: Takeout Night!
- Treat yourself by dining out or ordering in
- Apps, sushi, pizza…you deserve it!
Saturday: Chicken Dinner
- Roast chicken with potatoes and carrots
- Dinner rolls
Sunday: Breakfast for Dinner
- Special breakfast foods like omelettes, waffles, or pancakes
- Fresh fruit
Planning ahead takes the stress out of cooking for two all week. Adjust recipes to use up leftovers later in the week.
Grocery List for Cooking for Two
Use this grocery list template as a starting point. Adjust quantities and items based on planned recipes:
Fruits and Vegetables
- Bell peppers
- Salad greens
- Frozen mixed berries
Dairy and Eggs
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Parmesan cheese
Meat and Seafood
- Chicken breasts or thighs
- Ground turkey or beef
- Frozen shrimp
- Canned tuna
- Canned beans
- Jarred pasta sauce
- Salsa or taco sauce
- Balsamic vinegar
- Olive oil
Herbs and Spices
- Chili powder
Adjust quantities to match recipes you plan to make that week.
FAQ About Cooking for Two
How do you grocery shop for just two people?
- Make a meal plan first to create a targeted list
- Buy only what you know you’ll use up
- Purchase in smaller quantities
- Divide large packages into portions and freeze
- Look for soup/salad bar takeout deals
What are the best appliances for cooking for two?
- 8 or 10 inch skillets and saucepans
- Half sheet pans
- Small mixing bowls
- Toaster oven
- Slow cooker
- Air fryer
- Quality chef’s knife
How can you avoid food waste when cooking for two?
- Do an inventory before shopping
- Freeze or preserve excess produce or cooked food
- Repurpose leftovers creatively
- Compost if food does spoil
- Only buy what you know you’ll eat in time
What are some meal planning tips for couples?
- Compare schedules and calendars
- Plan date nights or nights off from cooking
- Share menu ideas and rotate food preferences
- Assign cooking days
- Discuss diet needs and restrictions
- Make a master grocery list
What are the best date night meals to cook at home?
- Steak dinners
- Tapas or apps party
- DIY pizza night
- Pastas with wine
- Seafood like shrimp scampi
- Breakfast for dinner
Cooking for one or two has challenges but with some organization, creativity and the right kitchen tools, singles and couples can enjoy delicious, affordable homecooked meals. Meal prep, make shopping lists and repurpose leftovers to get the most value from groceries. A little planning goes a long way to making cooking for two rewarding and fun.