Welcome to 101 Cooking for Two. I hope you will find my Guide to Cooking for Two – A Helpful Guide to Cooking for Smaller Households helpful. No matter the size of your smaller household, we have designed this guide to help you be successful with your everyday cooking.
Hi guy, welcome to my online Cooking for Two Guide. While most bloggers want to publish a book or at least entice you with a small PDF cookbook to signup for their mailing list or something, I’m not going to do that.
I will try to bring together practical suggestions and helpful advice for you. Realize that these are my (educated) opinions of what can help you get started and succeed at providing for yourself and your smaller households.
This is going to be online only for a few reasons.
- I consider books/PDFs as static, and I want a dynamic manual that will be progressively more useful. I don’t want a bunch of older versions out there.
- I want to make this as complete as possible, and that is many more months of work. So check back frequently. Large additions/changes will be announced on the front page of this blog. Those will go out automatically to email subscribers.
- I just want it that way.
The Three “Rules” to This Guide
1) There will NOT be affiliate links within this guide.
There are lots of recommendations for things I think will be useful for your kitchen. I will frequently provide a link to my Cooking for Two Shop were the links are an affiliate and you will find the products I use or recommend.
You do not need to buy it through my shop. It is there for your convince and reference to see what I use and recommend.
2) I will provide what I think will benefit most smaller households.
Your needs may well be different. If something works for you, do not trash it for my recommendations.
3) While I will try to keep costs in mind, I will suggest more expensive things like good pans at times.
History of this guide – You can skip this part.
I have started this project several times in the past. I got overwhelmed in the scope of the whole thing and my other commitments.
The residual of one of those attempts is live on the blog at my Kitchen Cheat Sheet page which is being incorporated here.
Another part was an Amazon Store with recommended products. You don’t see it here, do you? It never worked out, Amazon does not even do that now, and I just couldn’t get my heart into it.
I didn’t want just a list of products. I what to talk about what and why. That was much more than the Amazon store can do anyway.
To do this how I want, there will be lots of little “chunks.” We need to talk about how to shop for smaller households. We need to talk about pots and pans. We need to talk about a pantry.
My plan, for now, is three basic parts: shopping, hardware (pots, pans, knives, etc.) and the pantry. More to come.
The Index to the Cooking for Two Guide
Welcome to the INDEX. This is a work in progress so pending links are labeled as such.
SOME LINKS WILL TAKE YOU TO ANOTHER PAGE ON THIS SITE. No links lead to other sites.
Kitchen Pantry– Spices and things to have on hand.
Storage– Mostly Pending
- Equipment-containers, refrigerators, and freezers
- FDA Food Storage Recommendations Chart
Cheat Sheets – since you can’t have everything. Lots of handy substitutes and facts that are hard to find all in one place.
The Cooking for Two Shop – My shop of recommended products – does contain affiliate links.
Shopping Tips for Smaller Households
When you are cooking for one, two or other smaller households, you need to be careful when shopping or you can waste a lot of money and still not get what you want or need. Let’s learn a few points to help you.
Pick Your Market
Your local grocery store may be your enemy or your friend. There are some structural issues in how they are designed and run that is against what you need when shopping. They are a business after all.
- They route you through the store and arrange the isles to help you buy more than you need. You may need to work to overcome this.
- They price in multiples. Three for a dollar will usually be 34 cents for one in most stores (not all), But buy one, get one free is probably not good for most of us.
- They package larger quantities cheaper.
So, by their structure, they make it hard to shop without waste.
You will not change this but if you have options, pick the store that is best for you. Don’t be afraid to use more than one market but remember your time has value and traveling 10 miles to save a few dollars may not make sense.
So accept that you may pay a bit more for a potato, but it is better than paying a bit more and wasting a lot more. Not real savings.
The Produce Section
Most stores route you through this area first, So I’m starting there.
This is perhaps the biggest “your mileage may vary” area of our discussion. A lot of what you will find depends on the store chain and the produce manager. Again things you can not affect.
Look for bulk sold produce so you can buy just what you need. I tend to buy my baking potatoes this way. In the long run, it is cheaper and better for me.
Sometimes you will find smaller packaging or bulk products in the organic section. I’m not getting into the organic vs. non-organic discussion, but you may pay a bit more to have less waste and a fresh product.
Don’t forget the local farmers market which will always be a good choice.
This seems to be the next section you are routed through. I love this department. You can generally buy exactly what you want from a real human. So old school.
Double bonus point if your deli has a salad bar they generally put the best things out to entice people to buy. Load up with things like chopped pepper or onions, strawberries, chicken or ham, and if all else fails, buy a salad.
The Meat Department
The next major department in our route through the local market. Almost as good as the deli but you need to press the button for help and to do that you need to during the day.
They will let you buy a half-pound of hamburger or cut up a pork loin for you. You will love these people. Always say thank you for the help, it will make their day.
It is easy to be carried away here. Take into consideration what you can use and your storage capacity.
The Frozen Food Department
Frozen fruits and vegetables can be a mainstay of your cooking strategy. You can take out the amount you need for a meal.
Frozen meat, shrimp and fish are also great finds here. And pick up a pint of ice cream while you are there.
If you are lucky enough to have this, you can buy only what you need of come common stables usually at a lower cost per weight.
Large markets, natural food, and health food stores may have these sections.
Those cans and packages. Most will have use by dates. I usually watch those since that is safe. Realize that many of the dates don’t have a lot of meaning so a Google search will answer a lot of questions.
I try to only buy a month or so of these things, but you need to balance convenience and cost along with your storage capacity.
Products: Kitchen Hardware You Need
How do you equip a kitchen for a smaller household? Here are my suggestions for the equipment that you will find useful.
Pots and Pans
Accurate thermometers are a must for accurate cooking. As they say, knowledge is power. A good thermometer will take you from an OK cook to an excellent cook.
I love my Thermapen, but it is expensive. A cheaper thermometer will be a bit slower but will still be fine. A good thermometer (like the Thermapen) will outlast a cheaper thermometer many times over and save you lots of money in the long term. Both will prevent the heartache of improperly prepared meat.
To grill well, you need to know the surface temperature of the grill. See A Beginners Guide to Grill Temperature on a Gas Grill . Don’t spend a lot on this since they discolor and don’t last long.
An oven thermometer should occasionally be used to check the accuracy of your cooking. The oven is one of the most common inaccuracies people have with cooking.
Good knives are a must. Dull cheap knives are much more likely to injure you and will make your cooking experience frustrating. There are many excellent brands.
I hate to say something like “you get what you pay for” but it is somewhat true in knives. The major brands will have multiple lines so you can have a good name but a cheap knife.
Taking about knife brands is like talking about car brands. Mine is the best, and yours is not. Our edge is better than theirs. It goes on and on.
You don’t need a high priced ceramic or top of the line knife to do a good job. I don’t need a Ferrari. But a nice Ford will do the job.
Get good knives and keep them sharp.
What knives do you need? I use a lot of knives. Here is what I use but you need a chef, paring and serrated knife.
- A good chef knife – I like a 10-12 inch chef. I have three, a
Victorinox 12 Inch, a Misen 10 inch, and WÜSTHOF 10 inch. You only really need one. I use the Victorinox mostly which are frequently top-rated by Cooks Illustrated and relatively cheap.
- A Paring Knife
- A Serrated Knife – I use a 12 and a 6 inch
- A Carving Knife – I have one, and when you need it, you really need it but not used much.
I also have a set of 6 non-serrated steak knives I use a lot like bigger paring knives.
You can spend a lot of money here but will that $200 electric pressure cooker or the $500 stand mixer change your daily cooking. No, they won’t.
We are talking about what you need for your everyday kitchen. I only have two suggestions.
First, an electric hand mixer. So handy and will save you a lot of work. You can get one for under $20 that will last for years.
The second electronic tool is a crockpot. I have three, but one will do. If you are truly cooking for 1 or 2 people, then a 3-4 qt crockpot will take care of most of your needs. A 6-7 qt crockpot is more versatile.
I don’t recommend really small crockpot. You will spend all day cooking two servings. You want the leftovers.
Pots and Pans
The copper bottom stuff you grew up with will NOT do.
Modern cookware will conduct heat much better. I now use mostly All-Clad, but Calphalon and many others make excellent products.
Now go to William-Sonoma website and sign up for the mailing list. The daily emails are good but about once per month, they have an unbelievable deal.
Lastly, you must have some cast iron. It is cheap and lasts for generations. I like Lodge if your mother won’t give you hers.
- Fry Pans: Non-stick 8, 10 and 12-inch models.
- Sauce Pans – A small 1 1/2 to 2 quart and a 3-4 quart. Again good non-stick.
- A Dutch Oven – 6 quart
- Cast Iron Skillet – 10 inch is fine for 1-2 people usually. 12 inch is more versatile.
You may not be baking a cake, but you still need some things here. We are talking about using your oven. It may be for chicken or something else. But a few simple tools will may the oven your best friend.
I love Corning Ware. It’s cheap and great for both the oven and storage. Buy a set that meets your needs.
The second thing will be a few sheet pans. The “half” sheet pan is 11.5X16.5 inches which is big. You may or may not want this size. I use my “quarter” size a lot. I suggest two of each.
Sheet pans are “generic” things so get them anywhere. But restaurant supply stores are great “toy shops” – cheap and good quality.
I do think you should have a baking rack or two to fit your sheet pans. Be sure you get “oven-safe” and not just cooling racks. But they can be used as cooling racks if needed.
If you are doing some baking, then a couple of pans are needed. These can also double for cooking meats and other things: a full-size cake pan, a nine inch round or square cake pan and a loaf pan. I favor non-stick here.
A couple of pie pans also will be useful.
This is the “kitchen junk” section. Things you just need available. Your mother has multiples of these and may share. Or a trip to that restaurant supply store I mentioned before.
I find Oxo and CDN are reliable brands for most of these things. In no particular order.
- Wooden Spoons
- Spatulas – metal, rubber and for nonstick cookware
- Slotted spoon
- Measuring cups and spoons – Double this up you are going to do much in the kitchen.
- 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup
- Scrub brush – Think baked potato
- Vegetable peeler
- Garlic press
- Can opener
- Mixing bowl set
- Oven pads
- Rolling pin
- Salad Spinner
- Potato masher
- Meat hammer
Having a well-stocked pantry can make cooking much easier and more enjoyable.
Here is my basic pantry list. Of course, it is your pantry, not mine so stock what you need for the dishes you enjoy. But it is a good starting point.
Refrigerator / Freezer Supplies
- Milk or soymilk – Keep dried milk if rarely used.
- Butter or substitute
- Sour cream
- Parmesan cheese
- Sharp Cheddar cheese
- Mozzarella cheese
- Lemon juice
- Salad dressing
- Frozen vegetables- your favorites
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Canola or other vegetable oil
- PAM spray
- Vinegar: cider, Others (optional): balsamic, red-wine, white-wine, rice
- Reduced-sodium soy sauce
- Worcestershire sauce
- Peanut butter
- Dried pasta: spaghetti, penna flat noodles, etc
- Onions – do not store near potatoes
- Fresh garlic
- Flour: All-purpose flour and others if you want
- Sugar: Granular, powdered, and brown sugar
- Bread crumbs: plain and Panko
- Nuts: I like to keep walnuts, Pecans, and almonds
- Pure maple syrup
- Cocoa powder
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
Spices and Seasonings
I like to buy the majority of my spices at Penzey’s, a large chain spice specialty stores. They also have an online service. I find their spices the freshest and also cheaper than your local market.
Try to store spices in a cool dark spot. I date the jar when opened and replace ground spices in about a year and whole spices in about two years.
1 teaspoon table salt = 1 1/4 teaspoon Morton kosher salt = 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- Kosher salt
- Table salt
- Black pepper or peppercorns
- Allspice ground
- Bay leaves
- Cayenne pepper
- Chili powder
- Cinnamon ground
- Cloves ground
- Cumin ground
- Curry powder
- Ginger ground
- Italian seasoning mix
- Mustard dried
- Nutmeg ground
- Red pepper crushed
- Seasoning Salt – Lawry’s or similar
- Canned tomatoes – whole, crushed and diced
- Tomato paste
- Tomato sauce
- Broth: Reduced-sodium chicken, beef and/or vegetable
- Canned beans: great northern beans, black beans, red kidney beans
- Chunk light tuna
Most of this section is PENDING
Other Pages You May Find Interesting
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