In a world of warehouse clubs and big-box stores, it’s increasingly hard for folks cooking for two to find items in the sizes they need. Here’s a list of the shopping strategies and useful products to keep in mind when planning healthy meals for two.
In the Produce Section
* Packages of fresh mixed herbs, often labeled “poultry seasoning,” “seafood blend” and “soup and stew blend,” combine sprigs of several fresh herbs in one package. Check the label for which herbs best fit your needs for the upcoming week.(See Tips for Two for storage tips and additional uses for leftover fresh herbs.)
* Six-ounce bags of greens, such as spinach, arugula, watercress and mixed salad greens, are perfect for serving a pair.
* Consider tubes of pureed herbs, like Gourmet Gardens brand, which store well in your refrigerator or freezer. This way you won’t end up wasting nearly an entire bunch of herbs if you only need a few sprigs.
* Small, individual vegetables, particularly onions, are often easier to find in the organic section.
* Fresh prepackaged mixed stir-fry vegetables are good for two.
* Large supermarkets often carry washed, precut fruits and vegetables so you can buy just the amount you need.
* Avoid waste, use the salad bar! A full container of cherry tomatoes or a whole bag of shredded cabbage may be an impractical purchase, so select just what you need at the salad bar.
In the Meat & Seafood Departments
* Identify markets with good butcher and/or seafood counters, where you can order exactly the amount of meat, chicken, fish or seafood you need. If your local supermarket only sells prepackaged meats that are more than you’ll use right away, wrap the extras tightly and freeze them. A vacuum sealer is a great way to ensure the quality of frozen food.
* The 6- or 7-ounce cans and pouches of tuna, salmon, sardines and crab are perfect for two.
* If you need shrimp, buy peeled frozen tail-on shrimp. These are usually sold in 2-pound bags but you can take out what you need when you need it without having to defrost the whole amount. Some supermarkets also have bulk freezer bins of shrimp.
* A 2-pound bag of mussels yields about 6 ounces cooked meat, the appropriate portion for two diners.
In the Aisles
* One 14-ounce can of broth works well when making soups for two. When you only need part of a can of broth for a recipe, freeze the rest of the can to add to sauces and soups at a later date or try using a low-sodium bouillon, such as Herb-Ox. (See Tips for Two.)
* The 7- and 8-ounce cans of beets, chickpeas and regular and no-salt-added tomato sauce are just the right size and handy to have on hand for dinner.
* Small drink boxes of 100% juice are convenient for making sauces and salad dressings, without a lot of extra juice left over.
* Dried herb blends, such as herbes de Provence and Italian seasoning, cut down on the number of spice jars in your cupboard.
* Utilize bulk bins, most often found in the natural-foods section of your supermarket or at natural-foods stores, to buy just the right amount of grains, nuts and dried fruits.
* Substitute whole-wheat pita breads for a large ball of dough when making pizza. It’s quicker, and you won’t be tempted to eat more than your share. Leftover pitas freeze well too.
* Fruits and vegetables individually quick-frozen (IQF) before being bagged allow you to take out exactly what you need to defrost, keeping the rest of the bag frozen.
In the Dairy Section
* Butter stores safely in your freezer for up to 6 months.
* Many markets have precut cheeses in smaller portions in the specialty cheese section. Or try a specialty cheese shop if there’s one in your area. Use a vacuum sealer to store larger portions of cheese.
* Buy smaller servings of dairy products—pints of milk, 6- and 8-ounce containers of yogurt, 4-ounce containers of cottage cheese and 3-ounce blocks of cream cheese.
* See more Just Enough for Two Tips