Question: I find it difficult to save money at the grocery store. Everything seems to be geared toward families. And what is oriented towards singles, such as individual servings, etc., is more expensive than the bulky items. I know there is less cost involved in packaging and overhead with the family sized products, but I can’t get much variety in my meals because I’m hesitant to buy a quart of milk that will go bad before I have time to use it, or bags of salad that turn brown and the like. What do you suggest for us singles trying not to waste money at the grocery store? Can you extend the life of dairy products, breads (freezing them seems to make them stale/dry them out), salads, etc. so we can get more use out of them? Or are we doomed to waste money buying sizes we can’t use and buying individual servings that are more expensive?
Sherri’s Answer: Your question is timely given economy’s squeeze on all of our wallets; many singles struggle with the grocery issues you have identified. And while shopping and cooking for one may be difficult, with the right tips and tools both can become a lot easier and more affordable. I am hoping these four tips will help you become more savvy in and around the supermarket and your kitchen.
While super chains like Costco may offer valuable savings, the cost benefit of buying in bulk often presents a disadvantage to singles. The “more for less” model may be worth it for multiple person households, but for those eating for one it quickly turns into wasted dollars as perishables often expire before consumption. These days there are plenty of excellent new to the shelf single-serve items and meals to choose from, but be warned that you may pay extra for packaging. Try scaling back at the grocery store, it’s easier and in the end more affordable.
For starters, get coupons and store-loyalty cards. People who use them save more than 10 percent a year on groceries, or about $678, according to a poll conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. You can save even more money by combining coupons issued by stores and food manufacturers.
Also remember, products such as milk, juice and yogurt are always there for the picking in small unit containers. And instead of the family pack portions you find in the dairy or frozen food aisles, go fresh! You can always purchase a piece (or a few ounces) of chicken breast, steak, fish or cheese at the appropriate counter. Same goes for breads and baked goods. Instead of a whole loaf, pick up a roll or two of choice at the bakery. When it comes to fresh produce keep your eyes open for pre-cut fruits and vegetables that are individually packaged at the local level—not by the manufacturer—as manufacturer’s products tend to be pricier. Be sure to keep an eye out for store or generic brand products which tend to be equal in quality and less in cost. And for variety or one-time use of non-perishable items such as jams, sauces and dressings, Minimus.biz is also a great outlet!
When it comes to packaging and preserving foods, check out this helpful food guide. It lists smart food storage rules as well as the “shelf” life expectancy of hundreds of food items, in the pantry, fridge or freezer. Be sure too to take advantage of the bevy of portion friendly packing products from companies like zip lock and Prepara which are designed to make food preservation even simpler.
While most foods can safely be frozen, many people cringe at the thought of a defrosted meal. If you fall into this category, it’s easy to stretch servings so they last for several days by planning meals wisely and selecting recipes in advance Take ground beef as an example. There are so many ways it can be prepared—from hamburgers, meatballs, and meatloaf to tacos that your taste buds should always be satisfied while never having to contend with boring “leftovers.”
Last but not least, keep in mind that “splitting” is en vogue. So, if you want to eat and save like a family, try sharing groceries with a friend, neighbor or family member.
By Sherri Langburt for Intent