Monday, June 15, 2009

Grocery Shopping for One

In contrast to last week's guest Amy Menell, a working mum shopping and cooking for a family of 6 to 7, this week I'm featuring empty-nester Cindy Lawrence.

Cindy has two boys, who as of this year are both in college, which means for the first time in 25 years Cindy is living on her own.

As soon as Cindy's younger son went off to college, she turned his bedroom, with its separate entrance to the house, into a yoga therapy room.

She took the dust cover off the living-room sofa -- because Andrew had taken Lucy, his shedding dog with him, and then she turned the other spare bedroom into her home office.

On any given day her home is hardly empty, rather, it's bustling with the coming and goings of her yoga clients, her myriad women friends, her mother and her brother and his family, and her sons, who still pop by on weekends and holidays with their girlfriends and at last count, three dogs.

Nevertheless, despite that her home is Grand Central to family, friends and clients, Cindy is more often than not shopping & cooking for just one these days -- herself -- and therein lays a challenge, particularly when for so many years she shopped and cooked in quantity.

Though in my professional-chef days I was ordering food and cooking for as few as four or as many as a 1000 people, today I don't cook professionally. In fact, I cook just for myself mostly, which means I've become an expert in shopping and cooking on a budget for one.

With the above in mind, paring back and shopping for one at the grocery store is the theme this week.

And when I met Cindy over a salad-bar lunch at Whole Foods, she had a number of things to say about what that's like for her.
  1. 1. Because I have the time to enjoy the aesthetic of a store like WFs, I'm more likely to drop in several times a week and pick up what I need instead of doing one enormous shop for the kids and me at one of the big-box stores.
  2. So I don't go over budget shopping several times a week, I leave my wallet in the car and just take in a $20 bill. That way I have enough money on hand to pick up just what I need, i.e. I look at what's on sale, like a protein item and some fresh produce and buy only that.
  3. These days I'm more likely to buy made-up items like boxed soups, a frozen entree or food from the salad bar and use these items as meal starters.
  4. If I shop only once a week, buying quite a bit, so the food I've bought doesn't deteriorate before I eat it, I freeze stuff.
  5. Because I'm simplifying my life and my diet, if I'm getting a head of lettuce, I'm not going to get a lot of other greens just for me. I don't want to end up throwing stuff out and wasting food.
  6. For a single person, I don't feel weird getting my lunch or dinner and sitting in WFs cafe and eating amongst the other single people; it saves me cooking and cleaning up and it costs no more to buy a meal than it would buying the food and cooking it at home.
  7. I used to go out weekly to eat with a girlfriend but I'm reluctant to pay $25 or more for lunch these days. But you can't beat $6 for a WFs salad-bar lunch!
  8. I can now buy myself treats, like small, on-sale gourmet containers of ice-cream (pic below) instead of the huge tubs I used to buy for the boys, which I then never got to eat because they demolished it so quickly.
  9. I feel like I've come full circle, back to the more simplified life I had during my college days when I went looking for great meal deals just for me.
Tomorrow, I'll talk a bit more about what Cindy bought after our lunch, and what she tends to buy when she grocery shops for herself.

Like Amy, Cindy is incredibly comfortable in the kitchen, cooking fabulous family-style meals, so this week, I'll also post some simple and delicious meals she can make for one, versus a tribe.

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