Before you put the local pizza joint on speed dial, here are 6 tips on preparing quick, healthy, and satisfying meals for two right in your own kitchen.
Next: Tip 1. Know Your Market » [pagebreak]
1. Know your market. Patronize the supermarket with a friendly meat and fish counter, where you can buy two chicken breasts or salmon fillets instead of prewrapped “family size” packages. Likewise, a supermarket offering loose produce will allow you to buy one zucchini or just enough green beans for your recipes for two—not bags of produce that will wilt or rot before you get a chance to use them.
Next: Tip 2. Be Picky » [pagebreak]
2. Be picky. Ripe fruits and vegetables cook faster and add much more flavor than their immature counterparts. But how do you tell what’s ripe? There is, in fact, one cardinal rule for almost all fruits and vegetables: if it doesn’t smell like anything, it won’t taste like anything. Forgo the smell-less (and thus, tasteless) stuff and go for what’s ripe, fresh and ready to cook. The same goes for meat and fish. Ask the person behind the counter if you can smell before you buy. Fish and shellfish should smell like blue ocean at high tide on a spring morning, never like the tidal flats on an August afternoon. Meat should smell clean and bright, not like copper, soured yogurt or runny cheese.
Next: Tip 3. Think Small » [pagebreak]
3. Think small. Large packages may seem economical, but the small can will supply you with just enough for tonight’s chili without any leftovers. Small cans of broth, small containers of yogurt, small packages of cheeses... these all have a place in the kitchen when you’re cooking for two. You may find the supermarket’s salad bar to be your salvation: it’s just the place to get a handful of diced onion or celery. The price per pound may be higher than if you bought the whole vegetable, but you’ll have exactly what you need for fast & healthy recipes for two, with no waste.
Next: Tip 4. Buy Precut Fruits and Veggies » [pagebreak]
4. Buy time-saving, waste-minimizing precut or frozen fruits and vegetables. Prewashed salad mixes might cost more than whole heads, but you often end up with less waste and more variety; and if you find a market that sells the greens from a bulk bin, you won’t have any leftovers wilting in the vegetable drawer of the fridge. Likewise, if your choice is between a whole head of broccoli and bulk or frozen florets, you may want to choose the latter, and just use what you need when you need it. Of course, you wouldn’t use frozen vegetables in a recipe that showcases fresh ones, but you can take them right from the freezer to your skillet for any cooked dish.
5. A note about convenience foods: New convenience items are appearing with great regularity these days. We like containers of peeled garlic cloves, refrigerated jars of chopped ginger, and those newly available tubes of pureed herbs. When shopping for two, a smart buy might be packages of mixed fresh herbs—sold variously as “poultry seasoning,” “soup seasoning” or “Italian seasoning.” Frozen and pan-ready mushrooms, onions, peppers and other ingredients can make speedy cooking a reality.
Next: Tip 6. Be Pantry Smart » [pagebreak]
6. Be pantry smart. A full cupboard helps you avoid the there’s-nothing-to-eat-so-let’s-go-out moment. Of course, you needn’t run out and buy this list before you start; it’s just a handy list of things that will keep for months on end. Always plan on restocking essential pantry items when they run low.