Many of you don’t have an army to feed like I do but would still like good food storage recipes, just in smaller packages. If that describes you, this post offers some help! The frequent questions (about recipe downsizing) that people have been asking are: “When does it work?” “When does it not work?” and “Which recipes are best to use?”
The majority of this post’s ideas come to you thanks to Jennine Wardle, (check out her blog Off-Grid in Alaska), who, besides being an accomplished cook and living off the grid for the last four years, has done so cooking for two, just she and her husband. Once again, she comes to our rescue with some great considerations on this topic.
Adjusting food storage recipes to a smaller serving scale is yet another example of why a personalized plan is so important to have before going out and buying a lot of food, especially long term food! Whether you use these ideas to scale down the recipes here or elsewhere, these 10 tips should help you along the way.
10 Tips for Dividing Recipes
- Most *cooking* recipes can simply be multiplied and divided, although some spices and the amount of liquid & fats may need minor adjustments. This does NOT work for *baking* recipes. Cooking is an art, much more tolerant to changes; baking is a science, requires stricter adherence to get the proper chemical reactions.
- For reducing baking recipes, it’s usually best to find a smaller (normal) recipe and then attempt the ingredient substitutions from the larger food storage recipes. Either that, or make the whole recipe and save the extra for later. You can freeze most things as dough or finished product, but I’ve had success with vacuum sealing/canning the harder baked goods (like cookies).
- Most family-sized cooking recipes are enough for dinner and lunch the following day for a couple, and that’s what we normally do. For really big recipes (family of 8 kinds) we freeze the leftovers if I can’t divide the recipe. In some cases, it’s easier to make a big batch of something and then pressure can it in smaller portions rather than trying to make it in smaller sizes – I do this with my homemade chili and pasta sauces which are platoon-sized recipes.
- Using freeze-dried or dehydrated ingredients is a great way to reduce recipes. Freeze-dried volumes are normally the same after reconstituting, but dehydrated is usually closer to 1/3c = 1c after reconstituting. Reconstituting dehydrated veg nearly always works best with hot or boiling water. The only exceptions I’ve found are mushrooms, onions and bell peppers – these are also the ones that don’t expand as much. If you’re looking for more of an “instant” meal, splurge on the freeze-dried if you can find them. In addition to tomato dices, don’t forget tomato powder… this can be used to make anything from tomato paste to tomato-based soups.
- Nearly every fruit & veg on the market can be found in 8 oz “pony” cans (sometimes even 4 oz) if you look hard enough for them. I normally find them on Amazon (lots of Libby’s in smaller cans) and NetGrocer.com. Of course, in a decent-sized town you’d probably find the pony sizes in the larger supermarkets (look on the top or bottom shelves, they’re hidden sometimes). Another option is single-serve or travel-sized ingredients, try Minimus.biz, these work great for wet ingredients like dressing, condiments and such. Pony cans or travel sizes may be more expensive per ounce than the standard or bulk sizes, but it’s better than wasting a big can or doing mental gymnastics arranging your menu plans to use up the big ones before they go bad.
- I highly recommend repackaging any freeze-dried, dehydrated or powdered ingredient into smaller usable sizes. I normally use my FoodSaver to vacuum seal quarts or pints, either jars (with attachment) or bags. Using the bags allows you to put them back in the #10 can or bucket if that makes it easier for you to store and find them.
- Cut the recipes in half and not further than that. Go online and print yourself both a tsp and TBS conversion chart. By breaking the cups, etc. down by the smaller measures you’ll be able to more easily figure how much is “half”.
- Swap chicken bouillon and water for chicken broth (P.S.– Shirley J’s has one that is MSG free).
And finally, these last two (which were found thanks to about.com) but are still good to keep in mind for our purposes here:
- Unless you’re baking, recipes should be regarded more as guidelines than strict rules. If a recipe serves six and calls for two teaspoons of thyme, instead of dividing by three add 1/2 a teaspoon of thyme to the dish, taste, and add a pinch or two more if it needs it. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is (whether you’re cooking for two or twenty), to under-season and then taste and adjust.
- In general, when reducing a recipe you don’t shorten cooking times, but you may want to reduce the size of your cooking utensil. This is because the size of the pot can effect cooking times. Pour 1/2 a cup of stock in a ten-inch skillet over medium high heat and it will evaporate more quickly than it would in a six-inch skillet. Also, it’s worth investing in a couple of small baking dishes and casseroles because if you cut a recipe in half and try to bake it in too large a dish it can overcook, not cook enough, or dry out.