When single cook Steven Anlian goes to the supermarket this week, here's what his shopping cart will most likely contain: olives, toilet paper, milk, pickles, Pepto-Bismol, paper towels, baby powder, deodorant and aspirin.
First and foremost, said Anlian, a 32-year-old architect, he "needs to sustain his hygiene." Then he concentrates on snack foods, namely the pickles and olives. To Anlian, shopping is simply "a necessity."
On the other hand, Tom Neale, a single 38-year-old policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service, plans menus, prepares a shopping list and says he enjoys marketing because it gives him a sense of accomplishment. "It's satisfying -- almost like mowing the lawn or doing your laundry," said Neale.
The male shopper. Over the past few years, he's become a hot topic of analysis for market researchers and food companies. Showing up in the grocery aisles in increasing numbers, men now account for 42 percent of our food shopping dollars, according to a 1985 survey done by the Campbell Soup Co. and People Magazine.
And he's learning fast. Recent research -- such as the Campbell/People survey, a University of Southern California food industry management study and the Food Marketing Institute's report on trends -- indicates that the stereotypes about the differences between male and female shoppers have become myths, reported Progressive Grocer magazine in its May issue. For example, men and women are equally as prone to purchase on impulse, use lists or cents-off coupons and purchase national brands, the magazine concluded.
But when it comes to the habits of single male shoppers, the research is not so clear. While these surveys have included single men, their percentage has generally not been large enough to draw any distinct conclusions.
Other surveys, however, have dealt specifically with single men. A 1985 report by Lempert Advertising in Belleville, N.J., indicated that single men do not care much about economizing in the supermarket and that their brand loyalty is one of convenience: They buy the highest quality product and keep purchasing it if they like it, not having the time or motivation to try the alternatives.
Similarly, Langer Associates, a New York consumer research firm, found that since single men generally have more disposable income than single women (especially those single women with children), time matters more than money.
Yet whatever all the surveys proport, "single men are by no means monolithic," said Peter Francese, president of the American Demographic Institute in Ithaca, N.Y. With all the demographic, economic and cultural fragmentation among U.S. shoppers nowadays, "you can't make generalizations," Francese said.
If interviews with a handful of Washington's single male cooks are any indication, Francese's conclusion is right on target; the variations among shopping behaviors are numerous.
One single 42-year-old financial analyst said he "wings it" in the market, never making a list. He rarely makes impulse purchases, is brand loyal and although he is not on a fixed budget, he almost always uses coupons, a habit he picked up from his mother.
Neale said he will compare prices within a store although he never uses coupons. Anlian said he's strictly brand loyal and is very particular with the few products he does purchase. For instance, he sees "no need" for American cheese slices to be individually wrapped; he wants them "cheek to cheek."
But these variations are not necessarily representative of single men. In fact, differences in shopping behavior may be "more due to life style than sex," said Odonna Mathews, vice president of consumer affairs for Giant Food. In other words, the fact of being single may be a more important determinant of supermarket behavior than whether the shopper is male or female. The stereotypes just don't fit anymore.
Kathy Parker, a single 30-year-old attorney, said she doesn't make a shopping list, never uses coupons and eats out a few times a week. She has even started buying ultrahigh pasteurized milk so that she doesn't have to shop for it as often, adding that many men she knows are "far more domestic" than she.
In addition, age may be an important determinant of a single's shopping behavior. According to Francese, the median age of men who live alone is 41. The median age of women who live alone is 66. Those men -- particularly the three million under the age of 35 -- probably haven't lived long enough to develop the same shopping habits as the women, Francese said.
By the same token, a single man between the ages of 45 and 64 may not have the same shopping behavior as a "baby boomer" single man between the ages of 25 and 34, said Francese.
Men who are single for the first time at age 40 or so -- after a divorce, for instance, said Judith Langer of Langer Associates -- may feel more uncomfortable in the supermarket than a younger man who is less traditional or an older man who has always been single.
Work status may also be a more important equalizer than sex or age. According to FMI's 1986 trends report, shopping habits between men and working women are more similar than the habits between working women and nonworking women. For example, 32 percent of men and 35 percent of working women said that they looked for specials in the paper before they shopped, while 50 percent of nonworking women did so. Thirty percent of nonworking women compare prices at supermarkets, while 22 percent of men and 21 percent of working women do so.
Whatever your sex, marital status, age or cultural background, it seems like lots of shoppers these days want to get in and out of the supermarket quickly and in and out of the kitchen quickly.
Here are some simple sauces that are fast to prepare and that can be mixed and matched to add spark to any dish -- from a plate of pasta to a potato or a piece of chicken. PECAN SAUCE (1 serving)
1 teaspoon butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped pecans (substitute walnuts, cashews or almonds)
In a small saucepan, melt butter. Add lemon juice and stir, cooking until just heated. Add nuts and stir. Mix with steamed vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower, spread over fish before baking or toss with cooked pasta. VANILLA-SPIKED CURRY SAUCE (1 to 2 servings)
1/4 cup yogurt or sour cream or a combination of both
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Serve as a cold dipping sauce alongside poached, baked or broiled chicken. This sauce can be refrigerated and used later in the week. MARSALA MUSHROOM SAUCE (1 serving) 1 teaspoon butter
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
1/3 cup marsala, port or madeira
Saute' a burger, steak, veal or lamb chop in a small skillet. Remove meat and keep warm. Drain fat (but not brown bits) from pan and add butter. Melt over low heat. Add mushrooms and saute' over low heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Raise heat to medium high and add wine, scraping up brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Boil until liquid is reduced by about half and is somewhat syrupy, about 5 minutes. Serve over meat. GARLIC-CHILI PEPPER SAUCE (1 serving)
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Freshly grated black pepper
Heat oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Add garlic and cook until light brown, about 2 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and black pepper and stir. Toss with cooked pasta or vegetables such as boiled new potatoes. PLUM TOMATO AND RED PEPPER SAUCE (2 to 3 servings)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
15-ounce can plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped and undrained
1/4 teaspoon each oregano and basil
Freshly grated black pepper
3 ounces roasted red peppers
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and saute' until soft, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, spices and peppers and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes. Serve over baked fish, chicken, pasta or vegetables. This sauce can also be refrigerated and reheated.