Grocery Shopping for 1Grocery shopping for one can be tricky. When the only person you have to satisfy with your grocery list is you, it's easy to buy impulsively or buy too much. And on the flip side, how many times have you tried to just buy the bare essentials-only to find yourself having to make daily trips back to the market?
I was always an over-buyer, which resulted in a lot of wasted food (and wasted money). In fact, I'm still surprised that, now that I'm shopping for two, I spend basically the same amount as I did when I was shopping just for myself. (I also buy the same amount of ice cream, but that's a different issue.) But with some careful planning, it is possible to shop solo in a way that's both economical and less wasteful. The big secret: You should spend just about as much time preparing for your shopping trip as you do in the store.
Here's your plan of action to get in and out of the supermarket, and come home with the right amount of food for just you.
1. First, Shop at HomeTo avoid wasting what you already have, or buying something that you don't need, go through your kitchen and determine what's about to go bad and needs to be eaten now. Avoid the "out of sight, out of mind" trap by keeping the foods that tend to go rotten the fastest-milk, cheese, vegetables-front and center where they can't be forgotten about. Closette has some awesome suggestions for making sure you eat more (and waste less) of what you already have.
2. Make a List (and Have a Snack)Don't just scribble together a list hurriedly on your way to the store. Instead, take 10 minutes to think about what you want to eat for the week (making sure to include your need-to-eat items) and then go through your cabinets and fridge and figure out what you don't already have. I like to categorize my list by store aisle-it not only makes the actual shopping part easier, it allows me to visualize what I'm getting. Then, have a snack (I know, twist your arm): Going to the grocery store hungry is a sure recipe for throwing your carefully constructed list to the wind.
3. Know the TrapsThe grocery store is set up intentionally to encourage over-buying and impulse purchases, but there are a couple ways to avoid those traps. First, shop with a basket, not a cart-you can only carry so much, right? Then, don't be tempted by those "buy more, save more" deals-they're not for you. While buying in bulk may appear to be saving you money in the long run, that's simply not the case when you end up tossing most of it in the trash. That said, in many grocery stores, "10 for $10" also means you can buy five for $5 or even one for $1-and those are deals you should definitely take advantage of.
4. Snag the Fresh StuffThe fresher the food is when you buy it, the more time you have to eat it before it goes bad. Keep in mind that the store is stocked with the least fresh items towards the front, so don't hesitate to reach all the way into the back to get that gallon of milk with the latest expiration date, or grab those bananas from the bottom of the stack.
5. Avoid Pre-Packaged ItemsIf you're finding that the pre-packaged turkey you bought is going bad before you can finish it all, buy it at the deli instead. That way, you can control how much you're getting and avoid ending up with too much. The butcher, the bulk aisle, or any part of the grocery store that lets you choose the quantity you buy is the best place to shop.
6. Keep it FreshKnowing how to maximize the shelf life of your food is a great skill for the solo shopper. The website Still Tasty is a great tool-type in any food item and it'll tell you the best ways to keep it fresh, and how long it can go before you need to toss it. If there's anything you won't be able to eat before it goes bad, you can always freeze it to extend its shelf life. Short of this helpful do-not-freeze list, you can stick pretty much anything in the freezer.
7. Skip the Store AltogetherIf you don't have a ton of time or hate grocery shopping, try doing it online (Peapod is surprisingly affordable). This is a great way to avoid the tempting aromas and strategically placed impulse items and just shop for what you need. Best of all, you can save your grocery lists on the site, so if you buy the same stuff every week, your shopping can be done in literally minutes. With just a little bit of planning, you can easily get into a groove of grocery shopping for just you-and save some money and waste less food, too.
Tell us! What are your strategies for shopping for one?
This article was originally published on The Daily Muse. For more shopping and saving secrets, check out:
7 Smart Ways to Save More on Groceries
9 Ways to Seriously Slash Your Expenses
4 Financial Mistakes to Avoid in Your 20s
About the Author: Laura Drucker grew up in Chicago, Illinois and currently lives in Miami, Florida with her boyfriend and their awesome puppy. She is a proud law school dropout, and the editor of Tails Pet Media Group, Inc.