Page 1 of 2Ever 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.