Grocery shopping for one can be a tricky game to play: You need to make sure you're not overbuying food, but you also want to have meals you're excited about.
Many recipes yield a serving for multiple people, so you need to plan for leftovers when cooking for one. That makes buying fresh produce especially challenging, since you don’t want to end up tossing out spoiled fruits and vegetables week after week.
Tips for Smart Food Shopping as a Solo Chef
Although it may be tempting to constantly order takeout as a single, eating at home can help you save you money and develop healthier eating habits. Here’s how to shop smartly.
Consider Frozen Or Canned Produce
Frozen and canned foods should be your new best friends when shopping for one. They are beneficial because they stay good for a while, so you don't have to eat them right away. There are now more healthy frozen food choices than ever before, making it easier to create a balanced diet without worrying about food going bad. Canned food can also be a healthy option, but make sure to check sodium and added sugar levels. Still make an effort to buy fresh produce, but remember that frozen and canned are always options.
Freeze or Can Your Extra Produce
Instead of tossing spoiled food items, plan ahead by thinking of ways you can make them last longer. You can freeze or can many fruits and vegetables. For example, chop up your bananas and strawberries that are about to expire and freeze them to use in a smoothie some other time.
Learn Serving Sizes
When cooking for one, you may find yourself cooking more food than you can eat. Look for recipes that are intended for only one or two people. Likewise, when choosing a frozen entree, avoid choosing the family size unless you plan on eating it as leftovers later in the week.
Plan for Leftovers
If you enjoy leftovers, plan to buy food and cook in bulk once or twice a week. Meal prepping is a great way to save time throughout the week and lower the number of times you need to cook. It also is a way you can use up certain food items that are close to their expiration date and avoid wasting money and food. When meal prepping, make sure that you are making meals that keep well. Choose recipes that you can eat cold or are microwave friendly.
Stock Up on Long-lasting Pantry Items
Buy long-lasting pantry items in bulk so you always have a backup for when your perishables are running low. Pasta, rice, grains, soups and canned food stay good for a long time. Stores may also have special deals on these food items when you buy them in bulk.
Make a Grocery List
Before shopping for one person, it's smart to make a list of what you have in your pantry and fridge so you can prevent yourself from buying more of something you already have. Try to get creative with the ingredients you already have. For example, if you already have rice and spices, all you would need to buy is some olive oil and vegetables to make a delicious stir-fry.
Find Food Items You Enjoy Eating
You're more likely to finish food that you actually enjoy eating. Rather than buying something that will sit in the back of your fridge, untouched, choose foods that you know you're more likely to eat. Of course, it's good to try new things, but if you notice you tend to toss a certain item often, it may be time to officially leave it out of your grocery cart.
Shop on a Full Stomach
Shopping on an empty stomach can lead to making unhealthy choices based on cravings. It can also cause you to overbuy food. Before going to the grocery store, eat a light meal. This way you aren't making choices out of hunger, but you're also not so full that food looks entirely unappetizing to you.
Avoid Prepared Foods
Reaching for the prepared roast chicken may be tempting, but keep in mind that you will have to eat the entire thing in a few days in order to avoid wasted food. Unless you are hosting others, it's best to stay away from the prepared foods in the deli section of the grocery store. Although these foods tend to be very tasty, they also are more expensive than simply preparing the food yourself.
Make Food To Share
If you want to try a more ambitious recipe, you could always make it to share. For example, if you enjoy baking but don't want to eat a full pan of brownies, you could give the rest to family or friends. You could also suggest having a potluck at work. Then, everyone can make something to share and enjoy many different kinds of dishes.
How Often Should a Single Person Grocery Shop?
As a single shopper, you may need to go on different types of shopping trips.
You may want to go on a bigger trip once a month to stock up on nonperishable items and then go shopping weekly or biweekly to buy fresh food. Going on smaller trips more frequently can help you plan meals better and cut down on food waste.
How often you go is really up to your personal preferences and wellness goals. If you want more fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, you will need to go more frequently. If you are happy living off frozen food and non-perishables, then you can stretch out the time between grocery runs.
When planning your shopping trips, make sure you always have healthy food items in stock.
Budgeting Groceries for One Person
When creating your grocery budget, keep in mind that certain trips are going to be more expensive.
When you need to buy non-food items such as shampoo, laundry detergent, paper towels and napkins, your bill can add up quickly. Try to keep track of how often you go through these items to help you plan ahead for more expensive trips.
Make sure to also take note of how much you spend on food each month. Consider that you may spend more on food during certain times of the year: For example, you may find yourself hosting cookouts in warmer months. Likewise, the holidays can make your grocery bill add up fast.
With a little practice, shopping for one can become quite simple. Take some time to think about your health and financial goals before your next grocery shopping trip. Make a note of what food you enjoy and what you tend to throw out each week.
In time, you will learn how to make meals that are both nutritious and leave little food waste.
Like this article? You’ll love our weekly newsletter
sign up here!
**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.