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Prime Time | Diane Engel:

When you are used to cooking for a whole family, especially if it consists of growing boys, you cook big pots of chili, stew, soup, and the like. But when the children grow up, or you lose a spouse and your household turns into one or two people to cook for, it holds its own challenges. How do you make the same nutritious meals but on a smaller scale?

Buying smaller packaged food can be more expensive, but don’t assume that’s always the case. Check the price per ounce or unit. If you can buy a less expensive larger package, then you can save money by dividing it up into smaller portions for freezing or storage. This works well with meat like pork chops.  Portion-sized bags are made just for dividing up food into portions to make it handier for one person. They are found in the zipper bag aisle.

If you have a friend who is in the same situation as yourself, you can use the buddy system by taking turns cooking larger meals and sharing. This could also save on your grocery bill and eliminate an overabundance of leftovers. You could also gain a dinner partner.

If you want to make a recipe but it makes too much, brush up on your math and fraction skills and divide the ingredients in half or fourths. Most cell phones have an application that converts measurements, which can be used to reduce your recipes.

If you love making a big pan of lasagna but hate having a big pan of leftovers and eating it for days, try cutting it up and putting portions into plastic wrap or storage containers and freeze. You can take out one at a time and warm it up in the microwave. This keeps for months and will taste good for a meal when you don’t feel like cooking. This works well for other meals and baked goods, too.

If you find a sale on celery, green, red or yellow peppers, or mushrooms, buy some for freezing. Cut up and wash the celery. Sauté in some oil or steam until soft, cool and freeze in a zipper bag. When needed, take out what you need and return to the freezer. The mushrooms can be cut up and frozen raw. Do not wash; just brush off first. The peppers can be cut up, removing the seeds and placed into a zipper bag for freezing. Freezing them on a cookie sheet will prevent pieces from sticking together. Again taking out only what you need and returning to the freezer. This offers the versatility of only using what you need, saving you money by getting it on sale, better nutrition, and more variety for your recipes.

Another item that works well to freeze for later is bananas. You can mash up enough bananas for a recipe of banana bread and put into a freezer container and freeze. When you want to make bread later, thaw the bananas and put into the recipe.  This saves those bananas that might otherwise go to waste if you can’t eat them fast enough or if you don’t have time to make the bread at the moment.

One last tip, to keep your pot of coffee fresh all day, try putting it into an insulated beverage container instead of leaving it in the coffeemaker.

Billie Bauer enjoys a Mardi Gras party at the Senior Activity Center, which will host this year’s party today.

Mardi Gras Party

The Senior Activity Center would like to invite the public to a Mardi Gras Party today  from 1-3 p.m. We will be having treats, music, beads and fun. All ages are welcome to come celebrate Mardi Gras with us. This is a free event.

The Senior Center is located at 216 3rd Street NW, Bemidji. If you have any questions, you can call 751-8836.

DIANE ENGEL is the executive director of the Senior Activity Center.