Healthy Cooking for Two

While these days I’m still cooking for four (soon-to-be five), there will come a day when my kids will fly the coop and I’ll be back to healthy cooking for two. When this happened to my parents and my friend’s parents they seemed suddenly at a loss about what to do, and it got me wondering whether I would remember the basics of healthy cooking for two. It also made me realize that currently, before my weekly (usually multiple) trips to the grocery store I always ask my family what they’d like for dinner that week but I rarely, if ever, ask myself this same question! Healthy cooking for two can be enjoyable as you no longer must worry about what your kids want to eat and can finally make something without hearing “I don’t want this!” or “I don’t like this!”

Don’t know where to start with healthy cooking for two? Try one or all of the five tips below, today!

Revamp Your Recipe Box with Recipes for Two

Try these recipes for two people from Greatist. You can also use some of the money you’ll be saving on groceries (from no longer buying snacks and food for a larger family) on cookbooks or recipe/meal subscription programs for two people. If you want to eat at home but don’t want to cook, try a meal delivery service. Check out this review of healthy meal kit delivery services in Shape Magazine to help you find the right option. If cooking from scratch is more your thing, check out this Healthy Cookbook for Two.

Keep Making the Same Recipes You’ve Always Made and Freeze the Leftovers

There’s no need to spend time learning how to scale down recipes if you don’t want to, just make the same large batches you’ve always made, portion off what you and your partner will eat in a day or two, and then pre-portion and freeze the rest. Be sure you label and date your frozen entrées, so you know by when you’ll need to eat them. Freeze them in freezer and microwave safe containers so once they defrost you can just pop them in the microwave and enjoy! If storing things like sauces and soups in plastic bags, make sure they’re the freezer-type bags and not storage so the food will stand up to the cold temps. According to Kitchn, in a regular freezer food should keep for up to three months before showing signs of freezer burn. You can also check out this handy resource from with storage times for different foods in the refrigerator and freezer. These guidelines are only for quality as notes that frozen foods constantly stored at 0°F or below can be kept indefinitely. If something is older than three months that’s OK, just check the package for signs of freezer burn and use your best judgement.  

Start a Cooking Club

When I graduated from high school I remember my friend’s parents throwing an empty nest party for all the parents whose kids were leaving the house. Chances are, there are many couples in your community struggling with the same challenges as you when it comes to healthy cooking for two. Reach out to friends and fellow parents and start a monthly cooking club. The cooking club will not only fulfill a basic need of getting more healthy recipes into your home but will also provide an outlet for like-minded moms and dads to share and commiserate about their entrée into empty-nestville. Ask everyone to bring to-go containers so food can be portioned and split at the end and all guests can go home with something new. To add some nostalgia to the gatherings, base the cooking club meals on favorite recipes from when your kids were growing up.

Revert to Prep-work in the Kitchen

Gone are the days are hurried meals that need to be prepped ahead of time to avoid grabbing something to-go on the way home from a busy day. With the time you used to spend at soccer games and dance practice, instead re-learn how to prep and cook healthy meals for two from scratch. Make cooking a hobby and save money by buying whole fruits and vegetables instead of pre-cut and ready-to-eat items and learn to enjoy cooking again. Don’t forget if you’re cooking for two and only need an exact amount of meat or poultry, ask the butcher in your local grocery store to cut only what you need to help cut down on food waste. Alternatively, you can buy the whole portion and cut off what you need for the recipe and freeze the rest. Also, frequent the bulk bins in the supermarket so you can buy the exact quantity you want of things like dry beans, nuts and grains.

Resist the Urge to Eat Out More

When you suddenly become an empty-nester it may seem easier and more fun to start eating out more, but keep in mind it’s not usually as healthy for your heart or your wallet as cooking at home. In fact, results from a 2016 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found people eat about 200 more calories at restaurants, on average, compared to eating at home. Since the average person eats out about 4 times per week, these extra calories can really add up. If you do decide to dine out, decide ahead of time to split something with your partner, and check out for healthy, dietitian-recommended menu options from your favorite restaurants. Starting in May of 2018, US-based restaurants with 20 or more locations will also be required to label calories for all standard menu items and provide additional nutrition information upon request so use this information to help guide your choices when eating out.

Lastly, to help keep portions in check whether you’re cooking for two or ten, remember the United States Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate guidance, below.


  • Make sure ½ your plate is vegetables and fruit.
  • Ensure ¼ of your plate is protein-rich foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, soy products, nuts, and seeds.
  • Fill ¼ of your plate with a grain (preferably whole grain) such as bread, pasta, oatmeal, cereal, tortilla, grits, or anything made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or another cereal grain.

Wondering what the right portion size of each food group is? The National Institute of Health has a handy resource to help you visualize what portion sizes for different food groups should look like.  

Are you already successfully cooking healthy meals for two? Leave your tips below!