The Art of Grocery Shopping … continued
Last week we published part one in our series, The Art of Grocery Shopping, a look at shopping for one. After compiling tips from fellow RELEVANT staff singles, we’ve organized several areas to focus on when buying food solo.
Breakfast and lunch foods …
Milk and eggs are staples and provide a quick healthy solution to the “What should I make for dinner?” question. Eggs are inexpensive, full of protein and serve as the ultimate designer food. They also come in handy when you’re trying to use up leftover vegetables in omelets. Check the expiration dates on both and plan to only buy what you will eat. If you are saving 20 cents per ounce by buying a gallon rather than a half-gallon, but throwing out half in the end, the savings are canceled.
Pay attention to unit prices that most stores post under the price. Unit prices break down how much each ounce or “unit” costs in each package. Energy bars and granola bars can be expensive, but are ideal for on-the-run meals, and if they end up helping to avoid the occasional desperate fast food stop, they pay for themselves. Sandwich fixings, soups and frozen dinners can be brought to work and will save money in the long run by replacing lunch out. With frozen dinners however, watch the sodium content. They will often have high levels of sodium.
If you are on a budget, avoiding eating lunches out at all costs. Some young professionals will have careers where networking and “doing lunch” with clients and coworkers will be crucial. For these individuals, it is important to decide what their budget can allow—but for most of us, eating lunch out is merely convenience. Try totaling up how much you spend at the end of the month on lunch outings alone, and you’ll probably be surprised at the large number.
Buying crackers and cheese, peanut butter and your favorite healthy snacks to keep at work will ward off any in-between-meal hunger.
Compare the ingredients of store brands with name brands. Most have similar if not identical ingredients. For those that are identical, opt for the store brand and save yourself from paying for the name-brand marketing.
Dinner like a pro …
Here’s where we get creative. If you’ve planned ahead for meals, you should have an idea of the items you are after and have no problem navigating the sections. Frozen single serve chicken or fish can be pulled out one at a time, making a full meal when you add your fresh produce as a side. In keeping with your budget, meat is expensive and doesn’t have to be an element of every dinner. Try alternating with beans and other high-protein foods. These are cheaper than meat and contain essential vitamins and nutrients.
Buying foods that work well together will help ensure that you have ingredients for quick food meals. Never buy salsa without something to dip in it—fresh salsa and dips go bad within a week of purchasing them, so plan to use them in that time.
Investing in a small crock-pot or rice cooker will widen the horizons and allow you to make complicated meals quicker and easier, but only if there is a commitment to using it.
Purchasing non-perishables and foods with a long shelf life at places like Costco or Sam’s Club where products are sold in bulk will be the most cost effective choice. Signing up for a store membership with one of these chains usually ends up saving you the membership fee several times over. Less perishable groceries include cereals, grains, rice, canned goods and frozen foods. This is also a good time to collaborate with friends and split bulk perishable items, because even for a pro it’s hard to finish a bag of 25 oranges or seven heads of romaine lettuce before the items turn colors.
All these tips are designed to help transform you from an aimless wanderer in the aisles of your local market to an informed and creative shopper, but are in no way comprehensive. Feel free to share your own tips and ideas in the comment section.