Nutrition Articles

Smart Shopping Tips for Small Households

11 Ways to Save Money and Stop Food Waste

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Ever notice how the grocery shopping experience seems specifically designed to entice us to buy more? With all of the family-size packaging, buy-one-get-one sales and better deals for bigger quantities, food shopping can be particularly challenging for small households. Those of us who live alone or with one other person often end up buying and cooking more than necessary. The result? We either throw food away or get tired of eating leftovers for three days straight.
 
How can singles and couples manage their grocery purchases so they don’t buy more than they need? Here are a dozen ways to downsize your food shopping—and your food waste.
 
Have a plan.
It’s common advice, but taking the time each week to create a meal plan will help you shop more sensibly. When you’re cooking for one or two, it’s helpful to think of smart ways to reuse key ingredients. For example, tonight’s grilled steak dinner could easily become tomorrow night’s hearty steak salad. What’s more, having a menu plan will keep you from overbuying while you shop.
 
Cook from scratch.
Frozen, boxed and prepared foods from the grocery store commonly serve four people or more. If you’re a household of one or two, you end up paying for twice the food you need. Instead of using packaged foods, cook from scratch. You can easily scale down most recipes to serve one or two people (and shop accordingly).
 
Be careful with the coupons.
We’re all about saving money on groceries, but coupons typically entice us to purchase more than we need—or, to purchase items we wouldn't normally buy. If you’re going to use coupons for food items, stick to pantry staples that won't go bad. Stock up and store them until you need them.
 
Accept the pricing tradeoff.
Larger package sizes are typically a better deal. You’ll spend more per ounce or per unit by buying smaller quantities. However, consider the alternative: purchasing more than you need and throwing away food you tire of or don’t use. Look for half-quantities or smaller package sizes: choose six eggs instead of a dozen, half loaves of bread, half-gallons of milk, and pints of ice cream instead of gallons (probably a good idea  anyway).
 
Shop the bulk food section.
Many larger groceries and most specialty stores have aisles stocked with bulk bins of items like grains, beans and nuts. The bulk food aisle is the single-shopper’s best friend, because you can scoop out and purchase only what you need. Purchase dry goods like oats, pastas, nuts and spices from the bulk section. Sample specialty items like cookies and cereals by buying just a single serving, to be sure you like the taste, then, buy these in small quantities from the bulk bins rather than in too-big-for-your-household packages.
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About The Author

Bryn Mooth Bryn Mooth
Bryn Mooth is an independent copywriter and journalist focused on food, wellness and design; she's also a Master Gardener and enthusiastic green thumb. She shares seasonal recipes, kitchen techniques, healthy eating tips and food wisdom on her blog writes4food.com.

Member Comments

  • I buy bags of frozen vegetables without the seasonings and take out only what I need.

    Starches seem to take the longest time when cooking for 1, so on the weekend, I like to bake a pot of whole grain rice in the oven. I put a baker and a couple yams beside the pot. let it all bake for about 45 minutes. I can also bake a casserole if I feel ambitious. On top of the stove I can boil up some hard boiled eggs. I baggie up the rice into 1/2 cup portions and put in the freezer. Potatoes go in plastic containers in the fridge. I date the eggs with a permanent marker and put back in the egg carton. I can eat just the egg whites for quick protein or add whole eggs to a salad or make a quick egg salad sandwich. - 3/23/2014 12:58:05 AM
  • I buy bags of frozen vegetables without the seasonings and take out only what I need.

    Starches seem to take the longest time when cooking for 1, so on the weekend, I like to bake a pot of whole grain rice in the oven. I put some bakers and yams beside the pot. let it all bake for about 45 minutes. I can also bake a casserole if I feel ambitious. On top of the stove I can boil up some hard boiled eggs. I baggie up the rice into 1/2 cup portions and put in the freezer. Potatoes go in plastic containers in the fridge. I date the eggs with a permanent marker and put back in the egg carton. I can eat just the egg whites for quick protein or add whole eggs to a salad or make a quick egg salad sandwich. - 3/23/2014 12:54:54 AM
  • A lot of this I do already, but I never thought to freeze soup starter ingredients. I ALWAYS end up wasting celery. I can chop it and keep it in the freezer! Thanks for the good idea. - 3/22/2014 6:25:49 PM
  • CAROLCLINE
    good comments just myself and husband I do shop, and so does he because he has alwayls been cook even when our children growing with a garden married 50 dec 2013, so we have experienced. a lot of knowledge about shopping. wish we had that garden again. - 1/12/2014 10:25:41 PM
  • I thought buying the big tub of yogurt would be more cost efficient, but I was wrong! There are four servings and they usually cost $6-7. The same brand 4 pack of individual yogurts cost $4. And I always thought individual packaging cost more! - 11/21/2013 12:53:19 AM
  • TRAYERG
    I buy the large tube of ground chuck (8 lbs), especially when it's on sale, and cut them into 1 or 2 lb. sections. I put them in zip loc bags and freeze them so that I can pull them out and defrost just the amount I need I need accordingly. I have shared custody so I don't have the kids with me all the time and this helps for the days that I only have to cook for my husband and myself. - 6/23/2013 12:36:13 AM
  • No butcher where I live, however, the stores do carry under 1lb cuts of meat. I usually buy the $2-$4 cuts of pork or beef and buy the larger size of hamburger as that freezes up nice after being cooked. I break down chicken when I go home, as the smaller sizes are generally expensive. I put the chicken in separate freezer bags. There are no 1/2 sizes of eggs in the stores either, it's all a dozen or larger. The one area I buy builk is toilet paper, paper towels and soup. As for lettuce, there isn't much choice there either, so I tend to buy bag lettuce unless the other is on sale. - 6/19/2013 7:11:53 PM
  • NAILGIRL920
    I buy a whole chicken (pasture raised... I only eat chickens that walked, flew, and saw sunlight... No antibiotics... Etc...) and I roast it for a couple hours on 250 degrees. After I take it out of the oven, I take all the meat off when it's cool enough to handle. One breast is dinner that day, the other goes in the fridge for day after next, and all of the dark meat comes off the bone and goes into ziploc bags in the freezer for soups, pastas, salads, stirfrys, whatever! When I have time, I use the carcass and drippings to make homemade chicken broth that I store in the freezer. That's a LOT of mileage out of a $10 chicken!! :) - 6/19/2013 3:22:04 AM
  • I am one of a couple-now retired-and it does seem I am always buying too much. My thinking seems to go along the lines of stocking up. In reality that is not necessary. The grocery store will be there. - 6/18/2013 9:31:20 PM
  • Share with friend or family - 6/18/2013 9:52:44 AM
  • Excellent suggestions! - 6/18/2013 7:46:23 AM
  • When I grocery shop, I make sure it's early enough in the day, so I'm not too tired when I get back from shopping. Then before putting items away in cupboards, refrigerator and freezer, I separate the items in single servings. Cutting up steaks, chicken and ground beef does take time, but living alone and retired, time I have. Been diong this for years...makes for less grocery trips too. - 6/18/2013 5:04:05 AM
  • Some of m y best shopping is done at restaurants. You have to be just as picky about food there as in the grocery.

    Honey Baked Hams has a great sandwich lunch special, one special ( sandwich, salad/2 dressings, pint of 1 side, and drink in bottle = $6) can easily feed two, and the meat is enough for three good servings. They say it's 1/3 lb., but I know it's really more.

    In a regular restaurant, have them pack up half of what you want for another day, either breakfast/lunch/d
    inner. Mimi's Cafe has nut bread in the bread basket, eat the bread, get a refill, and use the nut bread for breakfast the next am. Richard Simmons says pack it up at the start of the meal. You won't eat too large a portion, and won't be tempted to.

    Take stevia in packets and Walden Farms 0-cal salad dressing in your purse. What good is an upscale purse if you can't let it help you? - 6/18/2013 3:44:28 AM
  • Leftovers... freezer... and juicing are my tips. I save so much by bringing leftovers for lunch everyday at work, and not having to buy out on evenings when we need to eat quick and go somewhere after work. Produce never goes to waste when you have a juicer and you use it! - 1/22/2013 12:15:03 PM
  • A tip based on what we do - cook a larger amount and put into containers to either take to work for lunch the next day or freeze for lunches later. - 1/10/2013 9:10:09 PM

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