A few ideas for Cooking for One or Two

Myrna and I were visiting about how hard it can be to cook for just 1 or 2 people. We regularly cook for 2 and we don't like to eat leftovers for days.  I have a few ideas to share that work for me and give us more variety with less waste.   I hope a few of them will work for you too.


  • Smaller appliances can help – smaller coffeepots or one that makes 2-4 cups well or use a thermos for extra coffee
  • A good quality toaster oven like Cuisinart, Krups or Breville – I bake quick breads, muffins, cookies, pies, fish, chicken, chops, small casseroles, etc. in mine – they only take 5-10 minutes to preheat, as well as make toast.  You will use a toaster oven like this so much; it pays to invest in a good one that has good temperature control.  Look for them on sale.

Measuring Cups and Spoons:

Look for a measuring cup and spoon set that contains lots of sizes - this set ranges from 1/8 cup to 2 cups...and the spoons have a big variety - from 1/32 teaspoon on up.  These help you halve recipes without having to do so much math and cost less than $10.

top left, clockwise: 5 x 7" dish, 3/4 quart Corningware dish,
Pyrex 1 and 1 1/2 pint casseroles, 10 and 12 oz Corningware dishes
Pans and Dishes:

  • I’ve found a 5” x 7” shallow glass refrigerator dish holds half of an 8”x8” or 7”x11” recipe – or ¼ of a 13” x 9” recipe.  I have bought these dishes at both Walmart and Target.  I have several for baking casseroles.
  • I have several small 8” pie plates (old) that hold only 2 cups of filling – half of a usual pie plate.  Look for them at antique malls, etc.  I paid $1 each. Then I make a half recipe of filling and freeze the rest.
  • Make individual pies in custard cups or small metal individual pans
  • Buy several sizes of custard cups and ramekins for desserts and even things like corn custard, etc.  I have even made cornbread in greased custard cups.
  • 6 cup Bundt pans and loaf pans make half of tube or Bundt pan recipes (check the capacity of your loaf pan by measuring cups of water in it)
  • Corning ware makes several nice individual casserole dishes – 6, 10 and 12 ounces.
  • Old Pyrex casseroles that were originally intended as refrigerator dishes hold small portions.
  • You can buy 6 cup regular muffin pans and 12 cup mini muffin pans to halve a recipe
  • Buy several quart or quart and a half saucepans.
  • Buy an 8” cast iron frying pan – it will also bake a cornbread mix or an upside down cake with a Jiffy mix as well as sauté smaller portions of meat, poultry and eggs.  Mine holds about half of what my 10” fry pan holds – for casseroles too.


  • Split mixes like cake mixes, muffin mixes, pudding mixes  - Weigh the mix or measure the whole thing, divide in half and add half of the remaining ingredients.  You’ll only have to get this measurement once; then add it to a list so you’ll remember it.  For example, ½ of a 2 layer cake mix is about 1 ¾ cups, you need 2/3 cup water, ¼ cup oil and 1 egg to make a single layer or 6 cupcakes.
  • Buy single layer cake mixes like Jiffy.
  • Bake cupcakes instead of cake...easier to freeze for single portions later...frost them when you serve them.
  • Use a medium egg for half egg – buy medium eggs, use one for half an egg in most baking recipes.  I save the small farm eggs I get for this purpose.  A half egg is also 2 tablespoons of beaten egg.
  • Freeze cookie dough – either refrigerator dough in rolls, or drop cookies in scoops and freeze – bake from frozen, just a minute or two longer than the recipe, whenever you want.
  • Freeze finished cookies and bars – they will thaw while you make tea or coffee.
  • Freeze breads of all kinds – I usually slice first.
  • Freeze pie fillings in small portions, like pumpkin, fruit, etc. – bake later in small pie pans or custard cups (I use quart freezer bags stored flat).
  • Try fruit desserts like crisps and Betties instead of pies
  • Freeze pie crusts in individual sizes – about 5 ounces of pie crust works in the small pie pans – I freeze dough in patties this size, let thaw and roll out as usual.  You can also roll out, separate with 2 sheets of waxed paper and freeze flat on a paper plate in a plastic bag.
  • Toast leftover biscuits (top with butter, sugar and cinnamon), toast and butter cornbread leftovers in your toaster oven.  
  • Freeze extra waffles and French toast, toast one or two at a time.
  • Microwave frozen corn muffins 15-20 seconds and then toast them in your toaster oven until crisp...just like fresh baked!

  • Home can in small jars – meat, poultry, soups, soup vegetables, any vegetables, fruits in pints, 12 ounce or ½ pint jars.
  • Use thick white sauce– no need to have leftover cream soup.
  • If you freeze leftovers or small portions, keep track of them in plastic baskets in your freezer.  Check there first when meal planning.
  • Cook wild rice, regular rice, and dry beans in a larger quantity and freeze in small portions – I usually freeze in 1 cup portions to use in smaller recipes. 
  • Microwave a single potato and then toast it in your toaster oven to crisp up the skin. 
  • Freeze soups in one or two portions.
  • Freeze salsa or spaghetti sauce for cooked dishes – I get three 1 cup portions from a large purchased jar.
  • Freeze some parts of dishes – filled cheese shells instead of lasagna for example or freezer meat balls, cooked chicken, beef or pork, sliced or cubed (use in casseroles, sandwiches, stir fries, etc.)
  • Make patties and meatballs instead of loaves – they cook more quickly too.  Put extras in the freezer for another day, or try small loaves.
  • Freeze baked bacon – lay out on parchment or waxed paper, roll up and store in gallon bag – remove the slices you need and microwave.  To bake, place on a rack in a sheet pan at 400° for 20 minutes.
  • Try freezer mashed potatoes – freeze one or two servings in quart freezer bags, thaw, and cook in a large custard cup or small casserole in the microwave.
  • Make fresh salad dressings...no bottles languishing in the fridge.  Try Vinaigrette dressings or Creamy Dressings; they last several days.
  • Portion meat when purchased, package for 1 or two – at our grocery meat counter they will package them for you in small sizes.  You can use more packages if you have company - they often thaw more quickly too.
  • Package large bags of frozen items into portions, place in quart-sized bags and put the bags back into the large bag in the freezer...take out your pre portioned bag to use.
  • Use frozen vegetables in bag – shake out what you need

  • Myrna and I both have and like the Betty Crocker’s Dinner for Two Cook Book from 1958.  The portions were much smaller then, and the recipes are just right for one or two people – you can double them for company. Most magazine recipes for two today really serve 3 or 4 people.
  • Garden in pots – tomatoes, peppers, herbs, lettuce and spinach, etc. – smaller amounts
  • Garden in a couple small raised beds if you want enough for canning
  • Seeds last several years if stored carefully – only plant what you need.


  1. I have that pyrex dish you show with the blue cover. I love that thing! It's perfect for leftovers. I fill it up and my sons pop it in the microwave. Don't have to worry about BPA in plastic! I've trained the boys not to microwave in plastic, though, so even when something is stored in plastic, they transfer it to glass.

  2. These are really interesting ideas. I was just having a conversation with my mom yesterday about something similar. She was telling me she was tired of cooking for 1, and I was telling her that I have an issue with cooking for small numbers of people. Even with my family of 4 I cook enough to feed 12. Granted, with both of my kids being under age 5, it helps to have all those leftovers in the freezer for the days that I can't cook anything :-)

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