For many, cooking large meals for the family was done out of necessity while the kids were at home. You probably got pretty good at it and enjoyed it.

Now that it’s just mom and dad at home, the chef of the family is tired of cooking. It seems harder to cook a whole meal just for one or two people.

Going out is not always economical or healthy. The grocery store buffet and single-serve frozen meals are full of salts and sugars.

As we age, it is even more important to eat healthfully and keep extra weight off. Keeping the weight off lessens the aches in the back and knees. Eating heart healthy is very important. Cooking smarter – not harder – is the way to go.

Here are some tips that might help:

  • Crock-pot and slow cooker meals are great if you’re on the go all day. Label and freeze leftovers in single-portion containers.
  • Cook your old favorites – like meatloaf – and freeze single portions. Double wrap in plastic wrap and use over the next six months.
  • Make a large batch of mashed potatoes and enjoy a portion of them with your meatloaf from the freezer. Then, turn leftovers into soup.

Make a light chicken stock (or better, homemade vegetable stock; see below) and thin the mashed potatoes to a soup texture. Using mashed potatoes to thicken and flavor soup is much more healthful than using heavy cream or sodium-dense packaged stock.

Add your favorite vegetables to make cream of broccoli, corn, or cauliflower soup. Date and freeze your variety of soups in single-portion containers.

  • While fresh, in-season vegetables are always a healthier choice, sometimes that is impractical. When you cannot get to the farmers market or the produce doesn’t look appealing at the grocery store, use frozen veggies rather than canned. Canned veggies have unwanted salt.
  • Wrap unused celery tightly in aluminum foil. It will stay fresh for weeks.
  • Cut off of your expensive bell pepper only what you need, leaving the rest of the pepper intact. Place leftover pepper in a zippered plastic bag filled with air. It will stay fresh for weeks.
  • When you’ve used as much of the celery and peppers – and other vegetables as well – as you want, clean and use the stems and pieces to make your own stock.

Toss celery roots and tops, pepper stems, carrot tops, ends of onions, mushroom stems and a bay leaf into a pot of water and simmer for a couple of hours. When it cools, store in fridge or freezer to use as needed.

  • Use fresh lemon juice to flavor your dinner instead of salt. Use the zest in salads or vegetable dishes. Lemon juice freezes well.

Tony Makar is the owner of Gourmet on Wheels, a healthy meal delivery service that serves Bluffton, Hilton Head and Beaufort.