Cooking for an Army of 2, or “How Do I Plan Meals Now That My Nest Is Empty?”

If your children have recently left the nest, you may be surprised at how full your fridge stays or how much lower your grocery bill is.  You may still be making meals to feed a family of four or five or a half dozen, and are not sure how to reduce the amounts you are cooking.  Here are some tips to make this transition and change some habits:

–    What are the snacks you used to stock for your kids that you and your spouse wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) eat?  This is a good time to re-evaluate how you are restocking your pantry and fridge; maybe your kids are coming back occasionally and you would still like to have some of their favorites, but could you do this by focusing on the non-perishables or shopping for them when you know they are coming?
–    Are there meals that you are still making that were favorites of the kids? Or easy to make or high volume, but not your spouse’s favorite?  Can you replace these with meals that your kids couldn’t quite stomach (for my kids, it was fish and spinach) but that you enjoy?  Maybe it’s time to dust off your favorite cookbooks and make some dishes for a grownup palate.
–    For meals that you and your spouse still enjoy, can you cut the volume down, or freeze the leftovers for another meal in the future?  There are websites that can help you with calculations for reducing recipes, including and
–    It may take some time to figure out how many fruits/vegetables are being consumed in your decreased household.  Maybe this is a great time to discuss produce preferences with your spouse.  I know that I struggled with buying too little (overcompensated!) and ended up running to the grocery store more than once/week until I had a better gauge of what we were eating each week for fruit and vegetables.
–    A few quick ideas for veggies and fruit that may be passing their prime:

  • Veggies – make a veggie soup; sauté and add to an omelet, stir-fry, or pasta sauce; dice them and combine them into a quiche; roast them in the oven in some olive oil/spices
  • Fruit – freeze them to use for smoothies; cook them down to make a sauce for ice cream or pound cake; dice them into salads.

With your kids out of the house, maybe you can actually afford to eat out once in awhile!  I would love to hear from you if you have any additional tips or tricks to retrain yourself to cook for less people, and happy planning.

Image: earl53/

About Melissa Belliard

Melissa is committed to helping her clients find the organizing system that works for them, with compassion and creativity. She has been helping her friends and family get organized for years, and loves decluttering closets and cabinets, especially for empty nesters and folks who are downsizing. Melissa brings her 16 years of experience as a Human Resources professional to her work, including compassionate listening, leadership, and creative problem-solving skills. Melissa is also a part-time massage therapist, and has raised two great kids. She loves being out in nature, listening to music and dancing, as well as bringing women together in community.

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