Tips For Quick, Easy Weeknight Meals For Two, And 6 Recipes to Try

Grocery shopping for two people

Verywell / Zoe Hansen

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Whether you’re just married, newly an empty nester, or moving in with a roommate, there are any number of reasons you might be cooking for two. And while “dinner for two” may sound like the stuff of romantic dates, it’s not always so enchanting to grocery shop and cook for just two people. In fact, especially if you’re used to cooking for a crowd (or just yourself), two-person meal prep can involve a major learning curve.

If you’re feeling stumped about how to feed yourself and one other, read on. We’re tackling the challenges of cooking for two with helpful cooking tips and shopping hacks, then sharing six recipes to get you started.

Challenges of Shopping and Cooking For Two

It’s possible, of course, to find recipes intended for just you and your plus-one, but the majority of mealtime main course recipes are scaled for four people. This means that, to make many foods, you’ll need to get comfortable with measurement conversions, as well as finagle a way to downsize recipes to the right cooking and baking equipment. For multi-serving dishes, like lasagna, casseroles, or breads, this can be especially tricky.

Additionally, with the large size of many grocery staples, you may find it difficult to get through them before they go bad. Wasted food—and therefore, wasted money—are a common problem for smaller households.

And when it’s just two of you eating, your partner has more veto power over mealtime choices than if they were one voice among many. If your tastes differ from theirs, it can easily turn into a head-to-head over what to have for dinner.

Effectively Shopping and Cooking For Two

Although cooking for two takes some effort to get just right, these five tips can help streamline the process:

Invest in Cookbooks For Two

One easy and effective strategy for two-person cooking is to establish a rotation of go-to recipes. Perhaps you invest in a few well-reviewed cookbooks that feature recipes for two, or follow blogs or social media accounts that focus on couples’ cooking. These can provide you with an arsenal of reliable meals that won’t require tinkering.

Learn Measurement Conversions

No matter how many excellent two-person recipes you amass, you’ll still encounter some that require a bit of math. Here’s where getting familiar with measurement conversions is a must. It’s smart to memorize factoids like how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon and how many cups are in a quart—or keep a conversion sheet handy somewhere in your kitchen.

Equip Your Kitchen For Two

A kitchen stocked with family-sized baking dishes and large pots and pans isn’t very conducive to smaller-batch cooking. Rather than trying to make do with the wrong supplies, downsize your kitchen materials to fit a party of two. Smaller loaf pans, casserole dishes, muffin tins, and other cookware go a long way toward creating appropriate portions for you and a partner.

Lean on Non-Perishables

If it’s a challenge for you and your partner to get through fresh foods before they spoil, try stocking up on non-perishables with a long shelf life. Though you might be leery of the nutritional value of canned or frozen foods, diligent label reading will tell you which brands are high in additives, and which have a nutrient profile you’re comfortable with.

Freeze, Freeze, Freeze

Sometimes, making a larger-batch recipe is unavoidable. But this doesn’t have to mean wasting excess food! A surprising number of foods can be stashed in the freezer for later use. Pasta dishes, soups, chilis, and baked goods can all freeze well for months. When you've made a bigger recipe, divvy it up into freezer-safe containers and turn your freezer into a treasure trove of future meals.

Quick, Easy Meals For Two

Get breakfast, lunch, or dinner for two on the table in a flash with these six quick and easy recipes.

Cinnamon Roll Oatmeal

You and a partner can get a sweet start to your day with this cinnamon roll oatmeal. Despite its indulgent name, this cinnamon-y mix of oats and skim milk is flavored with maple syrup and contains just 4 grams of fat. Instead of swirling frosting on top, you’ll finish off your bowl with a creamy sweetened Greek yogurt.

Roasted Za’atar Chicken Thighs

Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice mixture that includes sesame seeds, black pepper, salt, thyme, sumac, and other savory spices. It makes a delightful rub in these roasted za’atar chicken thighs—a simple but flavorful weeknight meal for two. Serve with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable for a balanced comfort food dinner.  

Chicken Caesar Salad With Homemade Creamy Dressing

Skip the restaurant version and whip up a satisfying Caesar salad at home. This chicken Caesar salad with homemade creamy dressing for two is surprisingly low in carbs and sodium, since its croutons are made with whole wheat bread and its dressing has no added salt. The best part: it takes just 20 minutes to prepare.

Spinach Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

Spaghetti “aglio e olio” (garlic and oil in Italian) might be hard to pronounce, but it’s definitely not hard to cook! With just six ingredients and a total cook time of just 15 minutes, this traditional Italian dish proves that simple is sometimes best. Our version gets a boost of iron—not to mention pleasing green color—from a large handful of spinach. Use whole wheat spaghetti to add even more fiber and nutrients.

Garbanzo Grain Bowl With Green Tahini Sauce

This two-serving recipe for garbanzo grain bowls with tahini sauce puts non-perishables to delicious, nutritious use. Raid your pantry for a can of chickpeas, a quarter-cup of quinoa, and a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds, then add fresh items like sweet potato, garlic, parsley, and cilantro. It’s a whole foods mashup that blends the best of fresh and shelf-stable ingredients.

Anti-Inflammatory Honey-Mustard Herbed Salmon

An elegant dinner for two in just 13 minutes? Who could resist? This anti-inflammatory honey mustard herbed salmon is a snap to prepare. An herbed olive oil-based dressing combines forces with salmon for a main course bursting with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Bake for just 8 minutes and enjoy over a bed of grains or greens.

By Sarah Garone, NDTR
Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a freelance health and wellness writer who runs a food blog.