The amount of single in people over 16 in the US is over 50%. However, it seems like 95% of the recipes you find are geared towards families since they serve between 4-8 people. This creates a complex problem for single people trying to manage a food budget by cooking at home and not wasting food. So what is a single person to do?
If you are eating for one, but also want to stick to a budget, you need to learn a few tips to eat well and keep your costs down. As a single person myself, and also being somewhat frugal, I’ve developed some ways to make good food at home while also sticking to a budget.
Planning is key to saving money.
Both singles and families need to plan ahead if they want to save money at the grocery store. First, know what you have already – check your fridge, freezer and pantry. Second, review grocery store sale ads each week to know what is on sale. Finally, plan your meals for the week and make a list of the items you need.
Your freezer is your friend.
Go ahead and buy large quantities, you can usually freeze the most of the perishable stuff you can’t eat right away. Even though I’m single and buying only for myself, my freezer can fill up quickly, so make sure your freezer can hold what you buy.
When you buy something in bulk that can be frozen, breakdown the bulk items and repackage them for your freezer. I like to put things in single serving Ziploc bags or Tupperware, so they then can easily be taken out and defrosted one at a time. If you take them time to freeze your purchases, you will save money and prevent waste. Be cautious about buying perishable items that don’t freeze well like some fruit, vegetables, and dairy or it could end up costing you more due to waste.
Skip the convenience foods.
Single-serve snacks and meals can not only be more expensive, they can also be unhealthy. Instead, try making your own. It’s easy to make your own single-serving snacks by putting each serving in Ziploc bags. It will only take a few minutes to make several snack bags, and you can throw them in your car, purse, and lunch. Additionally, you make single-serve meals from leftovers. If you plan the meals you make and know you can freeze leftovers, it prevents food waste, saves you time when you want a quick meal, and of course, saves you money.
Be Creative If You’re Social
My social friends enjoy getting together for dinner, but you can also save some money if you are creative and don’t mind going against the norm. Potlucks are a great way to get together with friends in a casual environment where everyone can bring their own dish. Some people buy stuff for potlucks, other people make the food they bring. It’s a great way to try new foods and you can generally create your own budget. I’m always amazed at how much some people spend on their dishes for potlucks – it’s easy to go overboard to impress others, so mind your budget!
Another fun way to be social with friends is to do a dinner swap where each person takes a turn making dinner for everyone. This is a fun way to be creative when you are keeping to a budget – planning ahead is key!
I can’t stress the importance of not wasting food. I know not everyone likes leftovers, some people even find them revolting, but if you want to make an effort to not waste food and save money, you need to learn to enjoy leftovers. If you want to make a full size recipe, repackage leftovers in single serve containers to take for lunch or reheat for dinner. You can also be creative and use leftover meats and veggies in soups, sandwiches or wraps. Or you can use leftover rice or chinese food in a stir-fry the next day.
One-person meals can be challenging, but if you plan and are willing to be creative and do a little planning ahead, it can be a while lot easier to eat for one on a budget.