Shopping For One

Whether it’s moving into a college dorm or getting your first apartment, becoming more independent can mean a number of things. For me it meant scheduling my own doctor appointments, coming to terms with the fact that sometimes my room is too messy, and of course, the dreaded act of shopping for groceries.

When I was a freshman in college, I absolutely hated going grocery shopping. Carrying heavy bags, weaving through crowded stores, and lugging the whole thing back on the subway is rough on the soul. Unfortunately, being a vegetarian with no meal plan at my school, I had no choice but to figure out the best way to go about shopping for one.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way:

Put down the fruit and step away
I’m a big fan of fruits. Natural sugar and a decent amount of nutrients make fruit an awesome snack, no one is denying that. However, I’ve learned that when I’m at the grocery store my eyes can be bigger than my stomach. I used to get all of my favorite fruits in abundance almost every time I went grocery shopping.

Coupled with my somewhat irrational worry that I’ll eat my groceries too fast, my fruit used to go bad before I even got a chance to enjoy it. I’d say pick three types of fruit you want that week and stop there. If you want more mid-week, you can always stop off and buy some. Also: frozen fruit is great for smoothies and lasts super long!

Avoid cans
This may not apply to every can, but in my experience, when food products come packaged in this manner, the timer starts the moment you open the can. I used to buy lentils, beans, and chickpeas in cans and unless I ate the entire can within a few days I had to throw the remainder out.

There are a lot of products that come in cans solely for convenience and actually are available in their raw and natural form as well. Take chickpeas for example. Many supermarkets and health food stores sell chickpeas by the bag in their dry, raw form. This makes it easier to just take out however many chickpeas you actually want to have and store the rest for months at a time.

Look up recipes
While grocery shopping, it’s easy to get more than you need if you don’t have a list and some meals in mind for the week. Looking up a few recipes and making an ingredient list prior to arriving at the store can make your trip faster, more focused, and more efficient.

I, for example, try to choose a few recipes in which some of the ingredients overlap. If I’m making a salad with spinach leaves, strawberries, almonds and avocado for example, I make sure that I have plenty of almond milk to make smoothies using the rest of the fruit, and a meal that would taste good accompanied by some avocado.

Avoid impulse buys
Grocery stores are set up intentionally to encourage over-buying and impulse purchases and this goes deeper than the chocolate by the register. While pre-packaged things are convenient, they also tend to be overly easy to snack on. When I used to get the occasional bag of chips or box of cookies, more often than not these were the first things I started to snack on when I got home from grocery shopping.

With no cooking required it’s hard to not be tempted by such snacks. The same goes for frozen dinners and bags of crinkled fries. While the thought of being able to pop your dinner in the oven and have it ready within the hour seems like a life hack, these products are usually loaded with preservatives and sodium. Every once in a while probably isn’t too bad, but sticking to natural foods is always healthier than the opposite.

Feature photo courtesy of anokarina.