Published on August 11, 2022

Cooking For One Or Two

By Beth Cecil for Mind & Body

Owensboro Health Healthpark dietitian

My husband and I were "empty-nesters" for exactly one semester in the fall of 2019.   Then COVID-19 hit, and my grown-up kids came back home. It became obvious during this time that we needed to make significant adjustments in grocery shopping, menu planning and meal preparation.

Today, many people who live alone, including those who have successfully maintained that empty nest, find it more difficult to cook for just one or two. Challenges can include coming up with meal ideas or a menu, sticking to a grocery budget, lacking the motivation and joy of cooking and dealing with the redundancy of leftovers. The good news is that some simple things can be done to make cooking for one or two as easy as pie.

The key is making a plan which will also save time and money. Grab your calendar, notepad, pen or pencil, favorite simple recipes and the sales circular. Plan your menu around sale items, thinking about which days you will cook and when you may eat out. Don't forget to plan for any leftovers you may have.

Not sure what to cook? Not a problem. Trade recipes with family members or friends, check out a cookbook from the library or search for recipes online. There are quick and easy recipes at the USDA Mixing Bowl website, and

Not a big fan of cooking? That is OK, too. Dinner meals can be as simple as chicken or shrimp stir fry with brown rice, baked fish with oven potatoes and steamed vegetables, a veggie burger with baked fries and a salad, tacos, soup and a sandwich, homemade pizza loaded with your favorite vegetables or spaghetti with meat sauce.   

Grocery shopping doesn't have to be dreadful either. Once you have your menu planned, make your list, head to the store or place your pick-up or delivery order online.   Don’t forget your coupons. Include staples such as low-fat frozen meals and low sodium soups on hand to eat on the days you don’t have time or energy to cook. Individual tuna packets and crackers, bagged salads and rotisserie chicken are also options when time is limited.

And when you do feel like cooking, make extra and freeze it. Below are some recipes. Enjoy!

Meatball Veggie Soup Recipe


  •  1 pound frozen small meatballs
  • 24 oz jar of pasta sauce (about 2.5 cups)
  • 1 pound of carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 pound of green beans, ends cut off and chopped
  • 1 large zucchini, ends cut off and chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced (one cup)
  • 4 cups chicken broth

Use 2 gallon-sized plastic freezer bags and split the ingredients above into the two freezer bags. Remove as much air as possible, seal, label and freeze.

When ready to cook, thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Add to crockpot and cook for 8 hours on “low” setting.

Microwave Breakfast Scramble


  • Diced ham
  • Diced bell pepper
  • Diced onion
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 large eggs

Pour desired amount of ham, bell pepper, onion, and cheese into a ceramic mug. Add eggs and stir to combine. Loosely cover the mug with a paper towel or another microwave-safe object and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. Stir the contents of the mug and microwave for 15 seconds more. Stir again and continue to microwave for 15 second intervals, stirring after each, until the eggs are mostly set, but still moist. Serve immediately.

Teriyaki chicken with stir fry vegetables


  • Chicken breast
  • Frozen stir fry vegetables
  • Pam spray
  • Low sodium teriyaki sauce
  • Spices: pepper, garlic powder

Spray nonstick pan with pam spray and turn to medium heat. Cut chicken breast into small strips and add to pan. Cook strips by heating on both sides. Internal temperature should reach 165 degrees F.

Once chicken strips are cooked, add frozen stir fry vegetables, small amount of low sodium teriyaki sauce, and additional spices. Cook until hot, stirring occasionally. Serve with brown rice if desired.

About Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health is a nonprofit health system with a mission to heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities it serves in Kentucky and Indiana. The system includes Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, nationally recognized for design, architecture and engineering; Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital; Owensboro Health Twin Lakes Medical Center; the Owensboro Health Medical Group comprised of over 200 providers at more than 20 locations; three outpatient Healthplex facilities, a certified medical fitness facility, the Healthpark; a surgical weight loss center and program, and the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center.

On average each year, we have 16,000 inpatient admissions, deliver 2,000 babies and provide the region’s only Level III NICU. Owensboro Health physicians perform nearly 24,000 surgical procedures, including nearly 200 open-heart surgeries. Our physicians and staff have 70,000 Emergency Department visits, more than a million outpatient visits annually. Visit our home page for more information.