Cooking for Two

I did a post a few years ago on 'cooking for one'.

I had seen a cook book entitled 'Cooking for One or Two'.  At the time I wrote:

"Cooking for one is exactly as different from cooking for two as it is from cooking for 4 or cooking for 12."

One cannot make something that feeds 'one or two'.  It's either the right amount for one person or it's the right amount for two persons.

Can't be both.

Of course, one could write all the recipes for one person and then say to double it for two.

But, then, one could say triple it for three, quadruple it for four, etc., in which case the title could read 'Cooking for One or Eleven'.

Cooking the right amount of food for any number of people is a challenge.

In my post on Earth Day, I suggested that reducing the protions of food served in restaurants – and at home, could be good for the health of both humans and the environment.

One of my readers commented on the difficulty of cooking for two after a habit of cooking for many.

Might I just say 'Been there, done that!'

The biggest challenge most of us face when cooking for 'only two' is that it never looks like enough food.

We end up making just a little bit more, which doesn't get eaten and ends up in the fridge for days or, worse, does get eaten and ends up on the hips forever.

Here is my guide for cooking for two – yes, it involves measuring and / or weighing.  Invest in a scale, it will save you lots of money in the long run.

Meat – when served as a stand alone main course      12oz (350gr)
Meat – when used in a dish – stir-fry, pasta, etc.        8 – 10oz (250 – 300gr)

Fish -  when served as a main course                       14oz (400gr)
Seafood – when served as a main course                   10oz (300gr)
Seafood – when used in a dish – stir-fry, pasta, etc.     8oz (250gr)


1/2 head broccoli
12 – 18 Brussels sprouts
1/3 head cabbage
3 medium carrots
1/3 head cauliflower
8 – 10oz (250 – 300gr) green beans, asparagus, zucchini, squash, etc.
potatoes 10oz (300gr) – 2 about the size of a small fist


small, bite-size pasta – farfalle, penne, rigatoni:  1 – 1 1/4 cup depending on density… 1 cup of farfalle but 1 1/4 cup or rigatoni  Weight is 3.5oz (100gr)

very small pasta – orzo, small macaroni: 1/2 cup  Weight is 3oz (90gr)

long pasta – spaghetti, linguini, etc:  weight is 3.5oz (100gr)

couscous: 1/2 cup Weight is 3oz (90gr)


rice – basmati, brown, Arborio, 1/2 cup  weight is 3oz (90gr)
     Except for main dish risotto, which has less meat and vegetables, I use 2/3 cup (4oz, 115gr)

quinoa, 1/2 cup  weight is 3.5oz (100gr)

polenta, 1/4 cup  weight is 1.5oz (45gr)

barley, quick-cooking, 2/3 cup  weight is 3oz (90gr)

Now I will qualify all this by saying that this is how I cook for us.  We are relatively active adults and these are the quantities I use for our main meal, which happens to be in the evening (about 11pm, actually, but we all have our bad habits…. We've never gotten over the Spanish influence).

We do, on occasion, have a bit leftover, but not very often.  The meal is divided 3/5th's for mon mari and 2/5th for me. 

One last, but very, very important item:

All of the recipes on my blog and my website are for two.  Some of the recipes make enough for two meals for two – or will serve four, but that's just good planning.

And there are a few, mainly the pizzas and quiches, that almost always have a bit left – but sometimes, one has to make a little more just to make the recipe work and /or fill the baking dish. Lasagnes are always for 2 meals.

Pasta for two?

Pasta with Ham and Asparagus

Pasta Ham and Asparagus

Pasta salad for two?

Turkey and Green Bean Pasta Salad

Salad Turkey and Green Bean

Or just a nice salad for two?

Healthier Taco Salad

Healthy Taco Salad

Risotto is always good…. – here's one to use the leftover lamb from Easter Dinner

Risotto with Lamb and Fava Beans

Risotto with Lamb and Fava Beans

Stir-Fries are great for cleaning out the fridge – for two, of course

Stir-Fried Chicken and Broccoli on Barley

Chicken broccoli on Barley

Puff Pastry Pizza is perfect for two:

Puff Pastry Pizza with Feta and Chorizo

Pizza Feta and Chorizo

And one for the barbecue grill:

Grilled Pork Chops with Spinach and White Bean Salad

Pork Chops with Spinach

Happy cooking for two!

Or more – you can multiply, can't you? 

11 thoughts on “Cooking for Two”

  1. Thank you for these portion recommendations, Kate. I have in the past struggled to not ovecook for two, then leaving the extras in the fridge to be doled out day after grueling day, making us feel like characters in a schoolhouse in Oliver Twist. And this:
    “about 11pm, actually”
    I will be posting on the fridge. It really is the normal time to eat (well, 2200, perhaps) and I finally “got it” on a holiday to Crete long ago. The climate here suits eating late as in Greece (or Spain, apparently).

  2. Wow, 11:00 p.m.? I can’t even keep my eyes open past 10! I too have had difficulty cooking for two – I am used to cooking for 8 – the worst for me is potatoes. After all these years, I still cook too much. Great post…it might help me to do better portion control…I wish!

  3. I loved reading this and have learned from you about cooking portions. I do have to add that what stood out most in your posting is that you eat dinner at 11 p.m. At that time of night, I am usually at least one hour into a deep sleep. In fact, when we go to France, we have a lot of trouble adjusting to the 8 p.m. dinner hour. That is why we usually eat out at noon and eat in our gite in the evening…early evening. Thanks for sharing.

  4. It’s always a good reminder – the portions. Since I live by myself, I so okay…until I cook for the blog. Then I am eating the meal for days (which is okay by me!) 🙂
    11PM…holy moly! I try not to eat past 7, but many times it becomes 8 since I get home late.

  5. I am out cold way before 11pm as I get up just after 5 most mornings !! I cook for 4 though only 2 of us live here as many days at around lunchtime my son appears. Funny how he always picks that time slot to visit and the leftovers seem to vanish at roughly then too !!

  6. Eating habits in Spain are changing though… ten years ago you couldn’t have anything but tapas until 10 pm but nowadays, even here in rural Andalucia folks start their dinner at 9.30 or even 9 pm, especially in the wintermonths… The warm meal served at lunchtime remains the main meal of the day though, especially when eating at home (followed by a nice siesta!). The late meals in restaurants consist more of dishes ‘para picar’. When eating at home, we usually skip the late dinner and only eat a sandwich, some fruit and yoghurt around 8 pm in winter, 9 pm in summer.

  7. I have always had trouble making meals for two people. I normally just plan a 4 person meal and then freeze the extra or eat as leftovers for lunch the new few days. It is always nice to have a good lunch all ready for you in the morning. I agree though we would all be better off making small portions at home and especially in restaurants.

  8. Tikipundit, we start cooking at 2200…. When most people in the US are thinking dinner I’m thinking late lunch. I really like the more relaxed lifestyle eating late allows…. Besides, there’s always so much to do… In southern Spain, restaurants open at 2300 – for the early eaters.
    Ina, so… If you ate later, you could stay up later LOL
    Susan, we always worked long hours so eating late was just a habit – dinner was too important to skip.
    Chris, cooking for one – and the blog, yep, did that when the hubs was in hospital for weeks. I eat even later, then – so much to do!
    Chuck, you’re welcome… took me a long time to get myself to actually do it!
    manningroad, sons are good at that… I think it’s ingrained. We’re not up until 7:00 – later in winter because it’s dark until 9:00 – hate that.
    Richelle, we never do big lunches – too hard to get back to work in the afternoon afterwards LOL. Sorry to hear that about Spain, I really enjoy that lifestyle. I remember making dinner reservations in Madrid for midnight.
    Emily, the quantities just don’t look right for 2… I used to make more leftovers, but I usually only want fruit and yogurt for lunch, so that didn’t work…

  9. My sisters and I recently made “dinner-for-one”s galore to put into my Mum’s freezer so she could easily get dinner for herself in no time at all. Freezers are so handy…
    What we did was make the amount of dinner we would normally make for a family of six and then divided it into single portions; each portion went into the freezer (clearly marked with the date and contents). Our only error was in knowing that “one portion” for an elderly lady is much much smaller than “one portion” for hogs like we are. (Mum said that she was often eating leftovers from the previous night for lunch the next day.)

  10. I really enjoy your blog. I’m sure you will relate to a remark my granddaughter made to her busy mother when
    she was just a tot “We’re always in a hurry and we’re always late”.
    I’m more casual. I admire the simplicity of your recipes. I’m 84, a widow of 18 months. I don’t eat beef or pork,
    and I love leftovers, garlic, fruit, vegetaqbles…. I live in a suite in my daughter’s home. Yesterday I told her “I’m
    writing a cookbook. Working title”DROP EVERYTHING”.

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