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Grocery Shopping for Just One or Two

Money saving tips on how to buy for a small family.

Nashville, Ark. - One of the major challenges adults face when their children leave home is learning to

cook or buy food for just one or two people in their family instead of four or more. One of the reasons for this challenge may be that most of our food packaging is made for four or more servings. In today’s tough economic times, no one wants to buy more food than they can eat before it goes bad.

            Another reason grocery shopping may be a challenge is that many adults, especially older adults, find many reasons for eating by themselves a challenge. Having no one to cook for is one of the major challenges, which leads to not eating a well-balanced diet.

            To help meet these challenges there are some tips and tricks to buying food in smaller packages and eating healthier. The first step is to learn how much to buy for one or two so that food is not wasted. Here are some general guidelines for purchasing the appropriate amount to serve two people:

  • ½ to ¾ pound fresh vegetables, which includes mushrooms, green beans and potatoes
  • ½ to 1 pound of fresh leafy greens including spinach, lettuce and cabbage
  • 10-ounce package of frozen vegetables
  • ¼ pound or 3 to 4 ounces per person for fresh meats without the bone (ground meats, chicken breasts, and steaks)
  • Seafood is generally two to four servings per pound depending upon the edible portion, which includes shells.

Meats, baked goods and fresh produce pose the greatest difficulty in shopping for one or two. Meats are often packaged into family sizes. With today’s high prices, you may want to take advantage of lower costs on larger packages.

The freezer can be a great tool for people who only cook for one or two. Divide meat into smaller packages once you get home. Be sure to use a storage container designed especially for the freezer. Otherwise, you may not be happy with the look of your food when you take it out to cook it.

Don’t forget that bread freezes well too. Just divide a loaf and put the extras in the freezer. Grab a few slices when needed and allow to thaw. Bread thaws out quickly. You can also defrost it in the microwave or toast it.

Fresh produce is one of those foods that can generally be purchased in small amounts. However, some items such as lettuce can only be purchased whole so you may want to look at another option, such as sharing with a friend or purchasing the pre-packaged salad mixes.

No matter what size family you have; one, two or more, there are some very important rules to follow anytime you go to the grocery store.

Rule #1:  Make a shopping list based on your menus.

Rule #2: Organize your shopping list to follow the layout of the store. By following the layout of the store, you are less likely to spend time wandering the store and being tempted to purchase items not on your list.

Rule #3: Shop off hours. If possible, shop early in the morning, or late in the evenings. There will be less congestion in the aisles and fewer people at the checkouts. Also avoid high traffic days where a lot of people will be shopping. Usually Friday and Saturday are the busiest days.

Rule #4: Never shop when you are hungry. Studies have shown that hungry shoppers spend more than they planned. Plus, they spend more time exploring the aisles they do not normally frequent.

When you shop, keep the Dietary Guidelines in mind. To meet your daily needs and add variety and balance to your diet, select foods that will fit into the MyPlate meal plan. You can determine your exact needs by visiting the website or I’ll be glad to send you some information.

Some money saving tips that anyone can use are:

  • Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season; they’re cheaper. Shop at a farmers market, for the best and freshest produce.
  • Buy plain canned or plain frozen vegetables instead of those with added seasonings and sauces.
  • Buy cereals in large boxes and package your own for individual servings. Again, use the freezer to store these items. Even chips freeze well.
  • Check the meat counter for “price reduced” meat. The product will still have a few days left but the store marks it down. Then simply freeze or cook it that day.
  • Add your own seasonings and sauce to rice and pastas.
  • If possible, cut up meats and chicken yourself. This is usually the best deal. Compare unit prices or cost per serving to get the best price.
  • Use store brands if the quality is satisfactory for your needs. On many items there is little or no taste difference.

Shopping for one or two is always a challenge, but hopefully this information will make it a little bit easier. If you would like more information on cooking for one or two, contact me, Jean Ince, at the Howard County Extension Service at 870-845-7517 or e-mail me at or visit my office located on the second floor of the courthouse.

Recipe of the Week

Here is a recipe designed for just two servings. You might want to add this to your recipe collection.


  • ½ lb. lean ground beef

  • 2 Tablespoons chopped onion

  • 2 Tablespoons flour

  • Salt to taste

  • Dash of pepper

  • 1 cup skim milk

  • 1 (3 oz.) package low-fat cream cheese, cubed

  • 1 (2 oz.) jar sliced mushrooms, drained

  • 1 ½ cups (3 oz.) whole grain noodles, cooked & drained

  1.   Brown meat; drain.
  2. Add onion; cook until tender.
  3. Blend in flour and seasonings.
  4. Gradually add milk and cook, stirring constantly until thickened.
  5. Add cream cheese and mushrooms; stir over low heat until cream cheese is melted.
  6. Serve over hot noodles.
  7. Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.
  8. Yields: 2 servings



By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.