Eating for Life

Eating and cooking for one

Mary Lou Hannsz is a fan of the muffin pan. "One meat loaf is a lot of meat loaf when you're by yourself," she says during a "Cooking for One" class offered by the Clay County Public Health Center and University Extension.

For the one-third of all senior adults who live alone, the muffin pan is just the right size for mini meat loaves, puddings and desserts, cupcakes and muffins. "Cooking for one doesn't have to be a drag," Hannsz says. "It can be fun. But it will take planning, just like cooking for 20."

Scaling down recipes designed for four or more can be difficult for someone who cooks for one. It often takes experimentation to find recipes that work well.

Choose recipes that have quantities that are easy to divide to make the math easier.

Add seasonings a little at a time and taste as you go.

Use smaller dishes and pans.

To halve three eggs, use two and decrease the liquid by 2 to 3 tablespoons.

Shop with a friend: Share a head of lettuce, a carton of eggs or a bottle or herbs or spices. Avoid pre-packaged, individual-serving grocery items, which tend to be more expensive.

Check doneness of halved recipes five to 10 minutes before the recipe's suggested time and keep notes of what works and what doesn't.

Buy frozen vegetables in bags; remove what you need and return the rest to the freezer.

Keep nonfat dry milk and canned evaporated milk for cooking to add extra calcium to meals.

Buy larger quantities: The key to economical grocery shopping for one or two is to buy large-size quantities, repack into individual serving sizes and freeze the remainder.

Look for foods that store well and can be bought in large quantities such as cereal, pasta, dried fruits, dried beans and whole grains like rice, oats and barley. Other foods such as bread, grated cheese, dried milk and ground coffee may be stored in the freezer for a long time.

Always have fresh fruits and vegetables on hand that will keep for a long time, such as cabbage, carrots, celery, potatoes, apples, citrus fruits and pears. Shop farmers' markets. If you buy fruits and vegetables in season they will be less expensive.

Stock the kitchen pantry with preserved foods that have a long shelf life but pack a punch: consider dried mushrooms, Dijon mustard, capers, chili oil, flavored vinegars and oils.