Eating Healthier (and Cheaper!) For One

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Recently, I have discovered unfamiliar territory: eating for one. For most of my adult life, I have had to grocery shop for a family and cook for a family. So this change in habit has so far caused me two problems; I eat completely differently than I once did, and I am throwing away a lot of food.

mini Beef Wellington

Credit Image: qwrrty on Flickr

The first problem is that I find it easier (and cheaper) to buy pre-made convenience products. For example, it costs $2.49 to buy a frozen burrito, but if I bought the ingredients to make one, I would need to spend $2.99 on the bag of tortillas, $0.99 for the can of beans, $2.99 for a bag of cheese (or $5.00 for the block since I never buy bagged cheese, tastes terrible), $0.99 for an onion, plus a few extra dollars if I put in any fresh herbs. If I buy the ingredients, I would get about two to three burritos instead of one, but I only eat one at a time and don't like eating the same meal three days in a row.

The second problem is if I do buy the ingredients, I only use half and the other half gets tossed because it goes bad. I don't need an entire head of lettuce, or a full block of cheese, or three chicken breasts. After seeing these problems I've had, I realized that many others probably have these struggles, too, and are looking for solutions.

Because really, no one should be living on frozen entrees, we need fresh foods. So how do you eat healthy, fresh food without tossing half of it away and save money in the process?

I have come up with a few tips that have helped me learn to eat for one:

  • PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!If you plan out your weekly meals, choose meals that use similar ingredients but aren't the same meal. If you need to buy fresh herbs for a dish, think of different meals that use those herbs. You can do this for meat and vegetables, as well. For example, if you want to make a peanut chicken with noodles and broccoli, you could do something like this ...
  • Day 1: Peanut chicken w/ noodles and broccoli
  • Day 2: Broccoli soup w/ peanut butter, apples and crackers
  • Day 3: Chicken pot pie with broccoli (or a noodle casserole)
    • FREEZE leftovers.There are many dishes you can make that freeze well. For a description of foods and how to freeze them, click here (takes you to another site). You can try making burritos of your own and freezing them for later use. You can freeze rice, meat, and sauces. You can also freeze breads and bread products, as they freeze well. So if you like store-baked bread (like I did before going gluten-free), you can freeze half the loaf.
    • SEPARATE your foods when you buy them, keeping some fresh and some stored for later use. For example, if I buy a package of chicken (but know that I only want to eat it once or twice during the week), I separate each chicken breast into a freezer-safe container. As I need, I take out an individually wrapped chicken from the freezer.
    • AVOID BULK, if possible. You do not need to buy a bag of potatoes when there is only one or two of you. They go bad too fast. Buy an individual potato, or two, instead. Same for vegetables, fruit and even meat. Many stores will sell individual carrots, celery sticks and small heads of broccoli.
    • GO TO THE BUTCHER for your meat. Many grocery stores have butchery departments where you can get one chicken breast, one hamburger, 1 steak, etc. ... buy your meats this way instead of in the prewrapped packages. The cost per pound is typically the same, and you get fresh meat that doesn't need to be frozen.
    • DON'T BUY TOO MUCH FOOD THAT NEEDS REFRIGERATION. Mix fresh foods with things like pasta or canned sauces that can be stored for a long time.
    • DON'T COOK MORE THAN YOU EAT. If you only eat 1/4 of a box of pasta, don't cook 1/2. Measure out your food and know what you eat.
    • PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU TYPICALLY EAT. In other words, don't buy eggs, bacon, cereal, and oatmeal if you normally grab one egg and a banana for breakfast. Most people buy more food than they usually eat because of "impulse" shopping. Keep a list and stick to it.
    • CHOOSE SMALL, LOCAL STORES. Try to shop in smaller, locally-owned grocery stores instead of the big chains. Local grocery stores tend to sell smaller portions of fresh food items as well as have a good variety of individual foods rather than bulk (due to space and focus on local foods). You will also have less to choose from, meaning less impulse shopping.
     

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