Cooking for One or Two

By Patrice Powers-Barker, OSU Extension, Lucas County (Adapted from OSU FactSheet written by Shari Gallup
The Truth Contributor

One does not have to be a lonely number! Whether you are a senior citizen, college student, bachelor, or bachelorette, cooking for one or two can be easy and fun. Although finding the motivation to cook for yourself can sometimes be difficult, it is well worth it. Research shows that frequent cooking at home leads to consuming fewer calories both at home and when eating out when compared to those who seldom cooked.

While throwing a TV dinner in the microwave can seem like a simple answer, eating boxed convenience foods can take a toll on physical and mental health, as well as a waistline. Fast food as well as highly processed food tend to be low in nutrition and high in fat, sugar, sodium, and calories, and therefore are not as good for the body. Preparing food at home can be quick and easy.

When planning what to prepare, it helps to keep a few things in mind: What foods do you like? What foods need to be used up in your refrigerator? What is your schedule like? Do you have more time on certain days of the week or on the weekends to prepare? Being mindful of these things can make it easier when planning and preparing healthy meals at home. Fresh fruits and vegetables are great along with frozen or canned. Selecting canned food without extra salt, sugar, or additives can be a good choice.

Cooking at home for one or two can be quick and easy for every meal of the day:

  • Breakfast – High-fiber cereal, yogurt, or a fruit or protein shake with fruit and vegetables. You can prepare overnight oats for an easy morning.
  • Lunch – Leftovers from previous night’s dinner, a homemade sandwich, or a simple salad. If you’re not eating in your own kitchen, think of creative and healthy ways to celebrate National Brown-Bag-It-Day on May 25. Each year this day recognizes the benefits of packing your lunch for work or school or trip to the park.
  • Dinner – make it easy with slow cooker meals, chicken with vegetables, breakfast omelet, or a microwaved baked potato topped with chili, cottage cheese, or canned tuna and served with steamed vegetables.

No time to cook? Then, cook once and eat twice! By cooking a larger meal, you can then re-use or freeze leftovers for the next week. For example, if you cook chicken, vegetables, and rice one evening for dinner, just cook twice the amount of chicken and use it the next day in a wrap for lunch, on a salad, or in a sandwich! Cook once, eat twice! This cuts down on the number of times you need to cook new meals from scratch and helps you stay on track with healthy eating by staying away from processed foods. Cook large meals, and then freeze or re-use leftovers for a second meal to cut down on cooking time.

Inspirations for cooking come from many places—friends, magazines, and the internet—but the best inspirations come from tasting good food. Think of what kind of ingredients you like to eat and use those ingredients to inspire your favorite recipes. You may also want to use online resources for ideas on planning healthy meals. One great resource is the USDA’s This site emphasizes fruit, vegetable, grains, protein and dairy groups and gives specific examples for planning and preparing healthy meals, including recipes, healthy eating tips, trackers for physical activity and much more.

Keep in mind, food does not last forever. Be sure to label and store food in air-tight containers and refrigerate it within two hours. On average, plan on using up food within three to four days.

Take Time to Enjoy! Planning and preparing healthy meals can bring a sense of accomplishment. Additionally, taking the time to eat well can bring much enjoyment— a fit body, good health, and a reduced risk of many diseases. Make eating an exciting part of your day.

Join OSU Extension, Lucas County this month for “Nature for the Health of It” on Thursday May 9, 2024 from 3:00 – 5:00pm at the Glass City Enrichment Center, 815 Front Street, Toledo, OH 43605 (the building is located at the new Glass City Metropark but it is located on Front Street directly across from Burger King next to Waite High School). This program is open to adults, youth, and their parents/caregivers. It is a free program but we ask you to register at or call 419-574-0983.