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FUNCTIONALITY – Are you an empty breeder? Maybe a student who lives alone? Maybe you are a single parent with one or two children. No matter what situation you find yourself in, creating healthy meals for one or two people can feel like a chore.
With help from Utah State University’s Department of Food Sciences, we’ve put together some helpful tips to make mealtime a little easier – and, hopefully, more wallet-friendly.
Cook more, not less! Preparing a few big meals ahead of time will save you time and money. You may have read our “cook once, eat twice” Blog. Using some of these same methods, you can create something to freeze, use later in the week, and / or use as leftovers. This method also saves you money by removing some of the temptation to eat out.
Know what is freezer compatible and what is not. While rice, soups, casseroles, and even bread products freeze well, you should avoid freezing things that can curdle when frozen and then thawed. This includes things like gravy, sour cream, yogurt, and mayonnaise when used as a dressing.
Keep in mind that the reason for not freezing is quality, not the possibility of “spoilage” or toxicity. Potatoes may not freeze well simply because, once thawed, they can become soft and lose some of their taste and texture. To learn more about foods that 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 prevent air from reaching the product and to minimize moisture loss.
Depending on how you store or freeze your food, there are many methods of defrosting. Individual servings of soup stored in freezer bags can be thawed and reheated in a pot of boiling water. Foods stored in a microwave-safe container can be thawed or heated quickly in a microwave oven. Be sure to stir soups or stews frequently to avoid hot spots.
Bakery products freeze well. Loaves of bread, muffins or individual cookies can be frozen on a baking sheet and then kept together in a large bag. You can even pre-bake French toast and freeze individual slices for reheating later in the toaster.
When it comes to cooking for one or two, less isn’t always the best. Weekly preparation is also helpful. I like to take a few hours on a Saturday or Sunday morning to prepare some veg, pre-cook some chicken or ground beef, and put a few things in the fridge to thaw for the week ahead. Whether there are four of us at the table or two, advanced meal preparation is a real time saver for me.
One of my favorite things to cook as part of my meal prep is grated chicken. Here’s 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 one pinch of salt and pepper. Cook the chicken over low heat for six hours. Shred with a fork. Divide between storage containers and refrigerate.
If you’re cooking for one, 1/2 to 3/4 cup of grated chicken in each storage container will do. If you are cooking for two, put 1 to 1 1/2 cups of chicken in each container. There are a number of ways you can use your chicken throughout the week. Each pound of chicken is roughly equivalent to 1 cup of cooked chicken. Typically, recipes call for 1/2 to 3/4 cup of chicken per person. If you cook 4 pounds of chicken, you’ll have enough for four to six single servings.
Depending on how many chicken recipes you want to make for the week, you may want to increase or decrease the amount of chicken you cook in your slow cooker. Cooked chicken can stay in the refrigerator for three or four days. You can also make it a supplement to freeze for later use. Frozen chicken can stay in the freezer for up to six months before it starts to decline in quality.
The recipes below have been adapted to serve two people. If you’re cooking for one, try cutting the recipe in half or saving the excess as leftovers. Enjoy!
If you are using the chicken that you have already cooked in the slow cooker, you will not need to cook the chicken as directed in the recipe. Follow the recipe steps, but instead of cooking the chicken for 5-8 minutes, you just need to reheat it for 2-3 minutes.
Here is another recipe where you can use the chicken you cooked ahead of time to speed up the cooking process. You can heat the chicken in the microwave or serve it cold on a salad.
Written by CANDI MERRITT and BECKY EGLI, Certified Ambassadors of Nutrition Education.
This article was originally published on April 14, 2021 on the USU extension Create a blog for better health.
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