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Ohio State University Extension

Senior Series

Grocery Shopping for One or Two


With such a variety of foods to choose from when grocery shopping, it can be challenging to shop for one or two people. Many of the single-serving frozen foods and meals have been proven to have high nutrition content, plus they are convenient, taste good, and can be inexpensive if purchased when on sale. Take the time to read the ingredients to make sure nothing inside can cause problems for you, such as high sugar or salt content.

Learning how much to buy for one or two is helpful. There are many cookbooks designed for one or two, with recipes yielding only two servings rather than four or more. You may also want to take the time to rework your favorite recipes for smaller yields, unless it is a recipe that you like and it freezes well. You may want to invest in a vacuum sealer or use small plastic food storage bags to store single or double portions. With a vacuum sealer, foods last longer in your freezer, and you can purchase foods that are on sale and freeze them in portion sizes. Remember to label and date each item so it is easy to identify later.

Meal planning and creating shopping lists, according to the store layout, will help you economize at the grocery store. Spending as little time in the grocery store as possible and not shopping when you are tired, depressed, stressed, or hungry will also help you economize and stick with your list.

Clipping coupons will help save dollars, too. Many manufacturers have web sites, allowing you to go online for coupons. Buying non-food items at the grocery store can be more expensive than at other places such as discount stores.

Buying Vegetables for Two

(consider how many meals/side meals you would like to have for a week)

Artichokes2 each
Asparagus1 pound
Beans (green/wax)1/2–3/4 pound
Broccoli1 pound
Cabbage1/2 pound if served raw
Carrots1/2 pound
Celery1 small bunch if served raw
Greens (lettuces)1 pound*
Onions (medium)2
Peas1–1½ pounds
Sweet/White Potatoes3/4–1 pound
Tomatoes1 each

*Remember to check out the pre-packaged salads

Buying Meat for Two

(consider how many meals/side meals you would like to have for a week)

After checking prices, ask yourself if it would it be cheaper to buy meats on sale by the 1/2 pound or by the pound. If it’s cheaper by the pound, cut it down and freeze portion sizes. This process will work with most meats and allows you to plan ahead and save money.

Portions of Meats for Two
Chops2–4 (depends on size)
Ground Beef1/2–2/3 pound
Hot Dogs1/2 pound
Liver1/2 pound
Pot Roast2–3 pounds
Roasts3–4 pounds can make 2–3 meals
Sausage1/2–2/3 pound
Smoked Ham3/4-inch thick slice
Spareribs2 pounds

Meats, baked goods, and fresh produce pose the biggest difficulties in shopping for one or two. When a meat item is on sale, buy several pounds and either cook one or two portions the same day, or divide the rest into one-serving portions and use a vacuum sealer or plastic bags to freeze for later use. You can do the same thing with many bakery items, including breads or baked goods. Most freeze very well, thaw quickly, and can be defrosted in your microwave.

Pre-packaged salads can be purchased in smaller amounts that are cleaned and ready to eat. Some salads come with dressing included. Many stores now have a salad bar where you can buy just the amount you need. Fresh and bagged salads may be a little more expensive per pound but you will save in the long run because you will not be throwing out produce that has spoiled.

With a little planning and these hints in mind you can become a savvy small quantity shopper!

Remember to:

  1. Decide what meals you would like to have throughout your shopping cycle.
  2. Organize your shopping list according to the layout of your favorite store/s.
  3. Look for bargains and clip coupons.
  4. Don’t shop when you are hungry, tired, depressed, or stressed.
  5. Watch the register as you check out to make sure you are charged the correct price.
  6. Check out the frozen foods—it may cost you more to make a meal than to purchase one.
  7. Cook ahead and freeze what you can.

By taking the time to follow some shopping, buying, and storage techniques, the task of shopping for one or two will become less frustrating and less expensive.


Joye M. Bond, Cooking Solo, Nutrition Specialist, North Dakota State University. Retrieved from Internet 08/27/04 ( Shopping for One or Two.

Practical Kitchen (Cindy Sanchez). Retrieved from Internet 08/27/04 (

By taking the time to follow some shopping, buying, and
storage techniques, the task of shopping for one or two
will become less frustrating and less expensive.

Click here for the PDF version of this Fact Sheet.

Author: Deborah Weber, Ohio District 5 Area Agency on Aging, Inc.

All educational programs conducted by Ohio State University Extension are available to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, gender, age, disability or Vietnam-era veteran status.

Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Adm. and Director, OSU Extension.

TDD No. 800-589-8292 (Ohio only) or 614-292-6181

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