Eating for One on a Budget

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.

Plan ahead to save time and money!
What’s For Dinner? Plan ahead to save time and money!

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.

Convenience foods are often more expensive and less healthy
Convenience foods are often more expensive and less healthy.

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!

Enjoy Leftovers

Put away leftovers to enjoy later!
Put away leftovers to enjoy later!

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.

Do you have ideas for eating on a budget? I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts in the comments below.

6 thoughts on “Eating for One on a Budget

  1. Years ago, eating for myself on a budget was all about planning the meals in advance. I used to make chillies, curries, casseroles etc and freeze them down in Tupperware boxes remembering to label them prior to freezing otherwise it’s a guessing game – ha!

    Preparing proper wholesome meals is so much cheaper than selecting convenience quick meals plus the health benefits far outweigh the ready meals due to the lack of additives.

    When you cook a meal for 4 people and divide it into 4 meals, the cost works out very competitive I found. The only problem like you mention however is making sure you have freezer room as Tupperware tubs do take up quite a bit of room.
    What’s your favourite meal on a budget?

    1. Tupperware comes in so handy when you want to freeze leftovers. It can make the cost go down dramatically on meals if you make them in larger quantities and can freeze it for later like you have been able to do. It’s also a lot healthier! My favorite budget meal is making chili in a crockpot because it’s really easy to freeze and reheat in individual portions. Crockpots come in so handy for cheap, easy, healthy meals. Thanks for your comment Simon! ~Jen

  2. Great Ideas. If to be honest I never thought about the freezer as something we should consider when we are thinking about saving money. Do you recommend to change the freezer we have? To sell the old one and buy a new electric friendly new freezer? Is it that cruel?

    1. I think having a good size freezer is a great way to save money on your food budget. It provides you a way to save food before it goes bad to use at a later date. Most things will last 3-12 months more in the freezer. Sometimes you do comprise the quality of the food, but I think it’s a great way to save money! 

      I know a lot of frugal people, especially with larger families, that have invested in a stand alone freezer to be able to purchase food in bulk quantities and freeze it. You may have to determine if it is a good expense for your situation. Hope that helps. Thanks for your comment! ~Jen

  3. You make some really good points here in regards to saving money on food. Many of these tips are the same for single, duo, or mulit-person households. We can all spend less on groceries if we make a menu plan around what’s in season or on special. Prepare food in advance to either make a quick meal or freeze. Buying in bulk and putting into the appropriate size meals for your household. My daughter is a vegetarian and my son a carnivore so I often freeze things in separate portions to account for the different requirements within the household. My mum has a tiny slow cooker that is suitable for making meals for just one person and she loves it – these are a great investment for single people. I have the huge one to fill the “walking stomach” – my teenage son.

    1. Hi Megan – That’s a great idea to freeze meals separately to fit the different requirements of your family. It definitely helps save money when you have meals ready-to-eat instead of ordering take out all the time. I love the idea of a tiny slow cooker too. That would be great to make meals for one person – a great investment indeed! Thanks for sharing! ~Jen

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