Grocery Shopping for One

By Fabiana Santana

groceryshoppingWhen it’s for shoes, it’s an art form. When it’s for spaghetti, not so much.

Grocery shopping for one can be a challenging task. There’s the physical damage to consider– getting your food crushed by a supersized cart being driven by little Johnny   – but more importantly, the stress of figuring out what and how to buy food that won’t your kitchen into a nice shade of mold.

Throwing out food is not the only concern many single serving shoppers have. The cost of buying in small amounts can be high. Bulk shopping in warehouse size outlets may have worked for the Brady Bunch, but not for the rest of the population. Things like bread and milk are a must, right? But they are costly and they do turn fast. And then you have to ask yourself, where are you going to put five pounds of flour, let alone ever use that?!

Fear not, single ladies! It can be done and on a budget!

And you’ll be eating healthier in no time, too.

Here are a few tips for shopping for one:

1. Don’t forget the farmers.

Some benefits to shopping for one are obvious. The fresh produce for instance. Duh, it’s self-serve! So you can easily portion out what you need. Local farmers markets are a great place to pick up produce that is usually better quality than the supermarkets for reasonable prices. And besides, no one will give you the sad face for buying just one apple here.

2. Planning makes perfect.

Plan your meals, if you can. Now, it is not suggested that you write out a daily menu, but take a look at the workweek. Are you sure to have a hectic week working late and are really interested in quick meals when you get home, or do you plan on eating out three nights? Think about what you need. That way, you don’t buy excess.

3. Use a grocery list and prioritize.

Nothing is worse than walking around blindly trying to remember if you are actually out of salt or was it sugar? Know what you need. And if organic is important to you, write it down. If your goal is to eat less carbs or more fiber, make a note of it.   Chances are you will actually eat what is in your house if you know you went the extra step to select it.

4. Explore.

You’ve heard it’s dangerous to shop on a full stomach, right? Well it is also dangerous to shop in a hurry. You will wind up grabbing and going and not really thinking about what you are buying. There are 20 kinds of soy sauce on the market. Take time to see what is available, and what the stuff is made of.

5. Talk to the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker – if there is one.

And the fish monger, too.  Ask them what is freshest, just in, on sale. Most will accommodate your need to size things down and will happily cut and package things into single servings for you.

6. Buy in bulk.

Yeah, I know: I poo-poo’d this idea earlier. But if you happen to be the lucky owner of a large freezer, then the Ziploc can be your new best friend. Family packs are a great way to save money on items you eat a lot. Especially freezable items. Freezable items on sale?! Fuggetaboutit!  When you get home portion out the chicken breasts, turkey burgers, thighs, steaks, whatever and separate them into Ziploc bags. Write the date on the bag and store them in the freezer.

Now you shopped once and you can eat lots of times (at least for the next 4 months). Saves time and money! But you have to commit to this discipline, if you can’t and are the kind of person who doesn’t mind going back to the market every time your craving for arroz con pollo hits, then …

A Few Staples

– Dried pasta or rice. In just 10 minutes you can have dinner ready.

– Can of good whole plum or crushed tomatoes. Not jarred sauce. Canned tomatoes. The San Marzano variety is really the best kind (used by a lot of restaurants, too). However they can be a bit pricy.  Cento makes a great produce, as does Tutto Rosso. You are looking for crushed tomatoes or whole, plum peeled tomatoes. These tomatoes are canned at their ripest so they are perfect to use for a delicious, quick marinara sauce (recipe below) and are tastier and healthier than the prepared sauces. Those shouldn’t even be on the market.

– Frozen fruits and vegetables.  Like the tomatoes, these are frozen at their peak. Small bags of mixed veggies, peas, strawberries and more are all available in supermarkets and are usually on sale. You can throw a few tablespoons of peas into your pasta for added nutrition, or defrost some berries for a quick dessert.  Just be keen not to buy the preglazed, sugared, buttered up varieties. And canned tuna. Great for a snack or to throw in to salads and pastas for instant protein.

Quick Marinara Sauce – for One, Again and Again

1-tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 pinch of crushed red pepper

1 32-ounce can of crushed or plum tomatoes

2 tbs. fresh or dried parsley or basil

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a pot over low heat. When glistening, add the garlic and cook until aromatic and just golden. Add the crushed red pepper. Then add the tomatoes. If they are the plum tomatoes, scoop them out by the handful, crushing the tomatoes over the pot with your hand. Add the herbs. Increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, then reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Season to taste.

This sauce recipe is enough to coat a pound of pasta, so it’s a perfect quick dinner party recipe. It will keep in the fridge for up to a week in good, sealed Tupperware containers (like the ones you get your soup in when you order in Chinese food) and in the freezer for up to a month.

This one recipe can turn into a whole bunch of meals. Add some vegetables and olives for a quick puttanesca. Add a few tablespoons of cream and a handful of mushrooms for a luscious pink sauce.  For a creamy tomato soup, heat ½ cup of tomato sauce with ½ cup of chicken broth. Or, add ¼ cup of shredded cheddar cheese and if you want a bit of spice, a pinch of cayenne pepper.  Mix together in the blender and enjoy.

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