14 November 2015 thumb A Handy Guide to Savvy Shopping for one

Cooking for one requires some creative buying and storing techniques. With careful planning and a handy freezer a single sole can be tasty, nutritious and economical. Many sections of the store allow for the personalized needs of a single shopper. Farm markets allow individuals to negotiate with sellers to get the best fit product. While major bargain shopping doesn’t always work the same as it does for families, singles can think ahead a bit further to reap the benefits of grocery deals.  

Shopping foundations; menu plan and grocery list.

To start, any savvy grocery shopper should make a meal plan and grocery list.  For individuals, some health sites like SparkPeople allow for individual menu planning with the goal of maintaining, losing or gaining weight set by sound parameters. Those who prefer their own dishes and foods should start by sitting down with the weekly ads for the grocery store they shop at. The protein of the meal tends to be the most expensive, so planning menu items around whats on sale for meats and fish helps to keep costs down. Busy schedules call for cook ahead options; they are all still available to single diners. When cutting down slow cooker recipes allow for 1-2 servings. Extras make a fast and easy lunch option to take to work.

Good bulk dishes, such as lasagna, enchiladas and that childhood favorite casserole can be prepped full size (maybe half sized in the case of some lasagnas), pre-cooked then parceled out into generous single servings. Two or three can be put in the fridge for that week, and others can be cut packaged and frozen for later that month. Because salad is so versatile, its a great way to fill in meals.

The grocery list is an important part of any shopping trip. When shopping for one, that list becomes a contract to ward off over-buying or impulse buying which will wreck the best financial and dietary plans. 

Grocery sections; finding small portions in the mass market.

If there is one thing America seems to adore, it is buying in bulk. Planning meals for one becomes an effort to prevent waste. Fortunately the grocery basics can all be procured with minimal waste simply by searching for a different area of the store. Start with bread for example. If sandwiches or rolls are on the menu, go to the bakery where one can usually select a single roll from the bins next to the other baked goods. If its for later that week or next week, the freezer section usually has great bags of dinner rolls that allow one to bake a single serving at a time. Lunch meats have the same sort of set up.  The deli section of most stores will sell as little (or as much) of a lunch meat as is desired.  If one ham sandwich is all that is needed, two to three ounces of sliced deli ham should do the trick. 

When looking in the dairy section, try gazing up or down. The smaller portions of such items as sour cream and cottage cheese tend to get shoved in these locations. Cheese tends to be a hard item to parse down.  While one can buy one or two slices from the deli, another great smaller serving option are cheese sticks. Companies produce many more varieties now than the string cheese of the 1980’s. their sealed single serve packing allows them to last much longer than sliced bricks.  Shredded cheese can be frozen. Just re-seal the zip bag or transfer it to a freezer zip lock bag. 

Vegetables and fruits are the easiest to buy for a single person. Most stores have great single pick item bins designed to provide variety for salads. In the pre-cut section, containers with celery and carrot sticks provide crunchy snack veggies and double as additives for a small stew recipe. Even grapes or cherries, often presented in large zip bags do not need to be bought en-masse. Simply use a produce bag and select however many of the fruits is desired. 

Grains are not generally a problem for single shoppers. Dried goods store well, and can usually be bought in four serving containers. Potatoes might prove a difficulty.  However most grocery stores offer single choice russet potatoes or bulk sale red skin potatoes.

Meat proves to be the most difficult to parse out. The trick is to plan meals ahead.  Buying family packs of fresh chicken on the weekend and grilling three quarters of it will allow for cooked chicken to be incorporated into meals throughout the week, either as an additive to pasta dishes or in Mexican fajitas and tacos. Fish should be bought in small portions fresh, or flash frozen and single parceled. Ground meat can be purchased fresh, then parceled out into serving sizes with the use of a keen eye, or a kitchen scale. Items like hamburgers tend to work better with fresh meat, but most entrees that use burger work fine with frozen.  zip lock freezer bags or freezer paper should be available in any kitchen.  for fresher cuts, approach the meat counter. Butchers will work with reasonable customer requests, cutting down portions or point in the direction of a dual use cut of beef or pork. Bacon is notoriously easy to single serve freeze. Lay out bacon strips on top of a lined (preferably plastic wrap) cookie sheet. Open the bacon, lay the strips out separately. Cover with another piece of plastic wrap, and stick the sheet in the freezer for an hour or two. Then fold up the bacon still in the plastic wrap and tuck into a freezer bag to ward off freezer burn.

Farm markets; great for any size kitchen.

One of the most economical choices any shopper can make is to go to their local farm market. Many dealers are happy to sell small portions, or single items, and many farmers make up variety packs intended for households of one or two. Fruits and vegis aren’t the only items sold at larger markets, which attract organic meat sellers, and artisan breads and baked goods. These hot spots of food culture also allow a shopper to focus on whats fresh, and fresh lasts longer. Besides fresh, they provide local food, cutting down shipping costs and up mark costs created by middle man vendors. 

Coupons, dollar sales and bulk sales – how to make them work.

One of the most frustrating parts about shifting from shopping with people to shopping for oneself is the opportunities to take part in sales and use coupons. Most coupons and sales require bulk buys to reap the benefits. Ten for ten sales are easily negotiable, as they usually offer several fresher items and several useful items that may be bought in bulk and stored for later, or used as donations to food pantries. Bulk sales of other items and coupons that require multiple purchases require a bit more contemplation. Group shopping with friends for these items might help, allowing for two or three people to split that giant group of fruit cups, or parcel out the six pounds of ground beef. They could also provide some great cooking nights. Other options include portion freezing, or cooking dishes ahead and freezing extra pre-cooked portions. These home made microwave or oven meals turn into TV dinners for the work weary. 

It does not matter what cuisine or taste one has, shopping for one can be economical and exciting. Aiming for single serve items, items where the buyer chooses the quantity and going to the farm market are all great ways to get smaller portions of delicious food. Pre-planning meals helps keep costs down. Cooking larger meals and portioning them out for later helps cut the cooking time and costs. portioning and freezing meats when they are on sale helps cut down the over all cost of meals as well. If possible work with friends to exploit larger sales and turn meal time into group entertainment. The ritual of eating improves the taste, regardless of who is sitting down at the table.