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Prairie Fare: Increased Single-Person Households Promotes Changes
By: Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension - 01/27/2023

"What do you guys eat, anyway?" my older daughter remarked. "I don't have any leftovers to eat when I come home for lunch."

I thought about the pan of meatballs, bowl of mashed potatoes and container of white chili in the refrigerator. I guess she was not thrilled with her choices.

"Yes, we have leftovers in the fridge," I replied matter-of-factly.

Her "job" is to let our dogs outside at noon and grab a quick lunch.

Maybe my husband and I have become a lot better about cooking for two since we became empty nesters. Our refrigerator is not nearly as full as it used to be.

I guess we need to cook for three instead of two. A "little bird" shows up to our nest at noon every day.

We spent many years cooking for our family of five. We would cook enough to allow for leftovers to save some money on buying lunches for us adults.

I eat leftovers ("planned-overs") nearly every day for lunch.

I often have presented to adults about cooking for one or two. The U.S. number of single-person households has changed a lot in the past 60 years.

According to a report released in 2022, 37.9 million households were inhabited by one person. That equals 29% of households.

In 1960, single-person households comprised just 13% of all households.

Regardless of whether you are cooking for a household with one or eight, we all need variety in our diet to stay well-nourished. See for more information about nutrition and health.

Choose recipes that fit with your tastes and time requirements. You don't need to throw out your favorite family recipes. You can adapt many of them to fit your current household size.

Try these tips to help adjust your recipes:

- Choose recipes that are easy to divide mathematically. In recipes calling for three eggs, use two eggs and remove 2 to 4 tablespoons of liquid (if present) from the recipe.

- If a recipe calls for a can of beans or soup, and you would like to divide the recipe in half, use what you need and either refrigerate or freeze the remaining food. Label the container with the contents and date.

- Add seasonings gradually. Sometimes you may need to add more (or less) of the spice to reach the desired flavor.

- Check for doneness of halved recipes five to 10 minutes sooner than the original recipe.

- Family-sized packages can pose a challenge.

For example, if you are not sure what to do with the family-sized bags of bread, pull out some of the slices, leaving only what you can eat in a few days, and freeze the rest. If frozen seems "stale" to you, try toasting it or making grilled cheese sandwiches. Smaller portions of bread are available but they are not necessarily half the cost of the full-sized loaf.

These quick-and-easy tips can liven up your menus and use planned-overs to your advantage.

- Use planned-over macaroni to make pasta salad or quick casseroles. Add planned-over vegetables or meat.

- Make minipizzas by topping English muffins with planned-over spaghetti sauce, vegetables and shredded cheese.

- Add chopped onions, mushrooms, peppers and cooked meat to canned spaghetti sauce. Serve spaghetti sauce over noodles one day, then add kidney beans and chili seasoning for another meal.

- Top a microwave-baked potato with planned-over chili and cheese.

- Mix chopped yellow squash, green peas and grated carrots with a prepared rice mix.

- Spice up canned tomato soup by adding chopped green onion, celery and some garlic powder.

- Keep notes of what you like, so you can try it again.

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