Cooking for Two: 6 Simple Steps to Save You Time, Money, and Stress

Cooking for two: a couple in the kitchen

Cooking for two? It might sound simple enough, but sometimes it's easier to cook for a group of people than whip up something for two or (gasp) just yourself. Search online or thumb through a cookbook, and you'll find a plethora of recipes geared toward families of four or more without much consideration for dining duos.

To help solve your cooking-for-two quandary, we've come up with six helpful tips that will leave you and your plus-one with a satisfying meal any day or night of the week.

1. Divide and Conquer

Cooking for two: spaghetti and meat sauce

Since many recipes are skewed to four servings, simply divide the recipe in half, and you're well on your way to conquering your first culinary challenge. You'll also want to adjust the cooking time accordingly since you won't be making as much food.

Of course, not all recipes ignore hungry twosomes. We've rounded up some easy dinner recipes for two that range from Italian comfort food and Mexican favorites to meals worthy of a date night at home. Bonus: They can each be done in 30 minutes or less.

2. Use Smaller Cooking Appliances

Cooking for two: the Tovala Steam Oven

A great way to make cooking for two easier is using smaller appliances and cookware. No need for giant roasting pans, skillets, stock pots, or baking pans. Try a small bread loaf pan to make casseroles, lasagna, meatloaf, and oh yeah, bread. Use ramekins or four-cup muffin tins to whip up a small batch of desserts for two. Give your full-size oven a break and opt for a convenient, energy-efficient countertop like the Tovala Oven.

Not only is the Tovala perfectly sized for any kitchen—including a tiny-house kitchen—but it's also affordably priced from $249 to $349. Plus, because it's a steam convection oven, Tovala offers the best of both worlds: Steam keeps chicken breasts, pork chops, and other foods juicy and tender while convection heat provides the perfect amount of browning and crispiness every time.

Let's not forget Tovala will also toast your bread, bagels, and English muffins. Plus, it’ll reheat leftovers in a snap. And with an ever-expanding library of simple recipes at your disposal through the Tovala App, you'll never have to worry about planning your next meal.

3. Look for Loose Produce

Cooking for two: a grocery store produce section

Fresh produce can go bad quickly, and there's a good chance you don't need an entire bag of grapes, celery, carrots, or romaine hearts when cooking for two. To help minimize waste, opt for loose produce that you can pick in whatever quantities you want.

Only need two small zucchinis and one bell pepper for your Asian stir-fry? Not a problem. FYI, loose produce like potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, and garlic tend to last longer than other perishables (at least a few weeks), so it's fine if you want to buy larger quantities.

Tip: When you're looking for just a pinch of produce—say, a handful of peas and olives for your pasta dish, a couple of lettuce leaves to add to your chicken salad, or a few sliced mushrooms to amp up your grilled cheese sandwiches—simply head to the salad bar at your grocery store and take what you need. The cost-per-pound might be higher, but you'll save on waste, and there's a good chance you'll still end up spending less.

Need more inspiration? Check out these 9 healthy recipes for two that are better than takeout.

4. Don't Be Afraid of Canned Goods

Cooking for two: canned food on grocery store shelves

In an ideal world, you'd eat only the freshest food—just-picked apples from your backyard and eggs from your neighbor's chickens. But that's not reality, and there's nothing wrong with using food from a can or jar. Canned items like legumes and French-cut green beans can make a great side dish while canned tuna, chicken, or salmon are excellent options for a protein-packed main dish.

The added bonus is that unlike perishable food, canned goods can last years. They also come in handy on those days and nights when you need something fast but don't want to rely on takeout. Take a look at these easy meals for two that will work for lunch or dinner.

5. Your Freezer Is Your Friend

Cooking for two: steak on ice

While you should reduce the amount of perishable goods you purchase, you may actually want to stock up on certain frozen foods including seafood, meat, poultry, fruits, and veggies. Frozen food can be an excellent time-saver and money-saver when cooking for two. After all, you won't need to hit the supermarket to buy more food—it's already preserved in your freezer.

Simply take out whatever portion you need at the start of your day to begin thawing, and you'll have ingredients ready to go when dinnertime rolls around. Get more tasty time-saving options with these easy recipes for dinner that won't take you more than 20 minutes. Promise.

6. Load Up on Dried Goods

Cooking for two: jars of dried herbs and spices

Dried foods like quinoa, brown rice, and whole-grain pastas are ideal ingredients when cooking for two. Whether bagged or boxed, you can usually take out whatever amount you need and seal the rest for future use. Same goes for dried herbs and spices. Not only are they extremely convenient, but they also last much longer than fresh versions and impart just as much flavor.

In fact, because dried herbs are concentrated versions of fresh herbs, they offer more flavor—generally three times the potency. Spice things up with these 13 dinner ideas for two that are suited for a casual meal or romantic dinner celebration.

Two Times the Fun

Cooking for two: A couple prepares a Tovala meal

Whether you're empty-nesting or never had kids in the first place, finally made the leap to live together or simply need some culinary inspiration, cooking for two doesn't have to be a headache. Once you put these helpful tips and tricks to use, you can enjoy a great meal together that saves you time, money, and stress.

But to truly simplify your life, consider Tovala Meals. This incredible meal plan offers chef-driven dishes that you simply place in your Tovala Oven—up to two full meals at a time—and 20 minutes later, dinner (or lunch) is served. Now that sounds good any way you slice it.