The single serving portion of a banana or an apple is a sort of comfort food to those of us who often eat solo. It is there for us, ready to eat, with no waste or left overs. The perfection of a piece of fruit seems the ideal place to start talking about eating and food shopping solo. Pared with a protein bar or one of my favorite nut and seed mixes, I can justify it as a quick, no-cook complete breakfast or sometimes lunch. This seemingly simple choice can be a springboard to more options and help form some guide posts for shopping and preparing food for one.
When I shop for bananas, I’ll look for single bananas or pull apart a larger bunch. I buy two that are ready to eat which for me are quite yellow and starting to get spotty, one for tomorrow and one for the next day. Then I’ll buy a few that are slightly green so they will be ready to eat in a few days. With this strategic choice, I don’t have to worry about wasting food, often a concern when shopping solo. Bananas are sold individually, rather than pre-packaged in large portions, ideal for solo shoppers. This will continue to be one of our shopping guides: buying things that can be bought in bulk or individually, thus in the needed amount and not way too much.
Expand your repertoire to kiwis or pears or peaches. We see most fruit all the time fruit in large full service grocers but, of course, fruit is best in season. Look for peaches at their freshest or oranges at their peak. They will often be featured on display and on sale when they are at their best. Buy two or three pieces.
Talk to the folks who staff the produce section at your grocer or fruit market. They can tell you not only what is in season and at its peak flavor but they can also tell you how long things can be stored for and how to store them properly. If the grapes are only sold in large family sized bags, but are sold by the pound, you can split that large bag. The grocery industry is realizing the rapid growth of single households and the number of solo diners, but the staffs at the store level need to be reminded who their customers are.
Whole fruit can be added to other meals as well. My mother used to serve us sliced peaches on toast, slathered with butter. So simple, yet it felt like eating the simplest of bakery because the peaches are warmed from the toasty bread.
Slices or chunks of apple (or orange or peach, for that matter) can be added to your green salad, say with spinach, cucumber and a balsamic vinaigrette or bleu cheese dressing. Add some nuts or sunflower seeds for crunch.
A simple Waldorf salad can be made with chunks of apple, mayonnaise, celery and some of the dried fruit and nuts you likely have from your quick, healthy snack mixes. I enjoy dried cranberries and walnuts stirred in. While you are buying your fruit, look for the pre-cut cartons of vegetables in the produce section, grab a container of carrot and celery sticks, ideal since it is unlikely that I would use a whole head of celery, even though it has a decent shelf life stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. I’m sure many of us are friendly with carrots and hummus and peanut butter and celery as simple snacks. Chop a few of those celery sticks into your Waldorf salad.
If you are making the green salad or the Waldorf salad for your lunch the next day, you will want to remember that fruit like apples and pears will brown when they are cut so toss them in a slightly acidic water mixture, which means adding a bit of lemon juice or vinegar to water. Apple cider vinegar is a good item to have in your pantry. Combine a capful, a tablespoon, into a cup of water. Toss your cut apples into this water, and then drain off.
It’s also worth mentioning the nutritional benefits of whole fruit. Many of us rely way too much on juices, where, yes we get the vitamins but miss the beneficial fiber from the whole fruit. And many of us drink juice in way too big of a portion size. An eight ounce glass is reasonable but a 16-32 bottle of juice becomes way too much sugar at one time, even in the form of natural fruit sugars.
The perfection of whole fruit reminds us that single serving eating can be obtainable and touch all of our guide posts for healthful eating, avoiding food waste, and increasing variety and our confidence in our choices.