By Lee Johnston ~
Except for state occasions, get-togethers, and holidays, most of us seniors are now cooking for two, some even for one. As seniors, we’re usually eating less at each meal, and sometimes we even just “graze” on what’s handy. Whereas, for example, we would once eat a whole chicken breast each, we’re now fileting it into two, perhaps even three portions, leaving one for a snack. Where we once had the whole “heart attack on a plate,” the full Sunday breakfast of eggs, bacon, home fries, toast, butter, jam, and all the fixings, we now are satisfied with just two strips of bacon, eggs, and an English muffin.
There are many cookbooks and websites with recipes for two, but they are meant for much younger, larger appetites. Paring down those recipes, or any good recipe, is a matter of using your cooking skills and your imagination.
If you find yourselves eating out regularly because you’re stumped for what to have, it’s time to save money in more ways than one. Few things are good left over, and you don’t want to have mystery meals fermenting in the back of your refrigerator. If you’re stumped for ideas, make up a suggested dish menu for each day of the week, perhaps Monday, pork chops or chicken; Tuesday, pasta, pizza or something else Italian; Wednesday, beef; Thursday, soup; Friday, seafood; and so on. This menu idea works well for breakfast, too.
Unless it’s spaghetti sauce, soups or stews, or baked goods that you can freeze, try not to cook for any more than two. Take advantage of sales, and individually portion, bag, and freeze things like chicken breasts, pork chops, bacon, sausages, and other single-serving meats. Buy bagged, not boxed, frozen shrimp, vegetables, and fruits, where you can seal the bag for the next time. Buy prepared specialty items like those from Trader Joe’s that serve just two.
Develop your own list of things to keep on hand in the freezer, in the refrigerator, and in the pantry. Get a plastic bin for each freezer shelf to keep track of meats, baked goods, veggies, soups, and such. To get the best of what you freeze, be sure to package each type of item properly. Get inventive and challenge yourself to come up with a great meal with what you have in stock. Try to rethink your old favorites that now serve too many. Be creative in thinking of what you can substitute with what you have on hand for what a recipe might call for.
Don’t open a can or jar of anything you won’t use for one meal. Don’t buy large containers of broth or bouillon; instead, use Knorr or Maggi bouillon tablets. Where a big batch recipe calls for a can of condensed soup, like cream of chicken, you can substitute a small batch of béchamel sauce, flavored with bouillon. Try the variety of Progresso soups that are canned for two, and add a teaspoon or more to taste, of balsamic or apple cider vinegar, or sherry to keep from having to add salt. Adding your own toppings, tangy things like shredded cheese, chopped fresh tomato, or a dollop of sour cream or yogurt, can make any soup more interesting. Some crackers, a salad perhaps, and you’re set.
Think ahead just a bit. If you’re cooking bacon, do up a few extra slices to crumble on your soup. If you’re making soft-boiled eggs for breakfast, put a few extra in the pot to hard boil for lunches and snacks.
When you hit on a great recipe for two, write it down. Challenge yourself to be creative, save money, and satisfy your senior appetite.
Lee Johnston is a resident of Sun City Carolina Lakes as well as an editor and featured writer of Living @ SCCL magazine.