How Can A Single Person Save Money On Food? (Your Advice)

Sometimes the best ways to save depends on the number of people involved. That is the question that a single reader has about the cost of food:

I’m single male and I keep reading that it’s less expensive to cook your own food. I would love to save money, but I find that it is almost always cheaper to buy prepared food. What am I doing wrong and am I missing something? Is the advice only meant for those with families and not for a single person living on his own? What is the best way for somebody who is single to save money while still preparing nutritionally balanced meals?

For someone who isn’t cooking for a number of people, it is certainly more difficult to save money on a per meal basis than someone cooking for a family. What advice would you give to singles living on their own that want to save money and are prepared meals an option for saving money for people in this situation?

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20 Responses to How Can A Single Person Save Money On Food? (Your Advice)

  1. Michael says:

    It depends on how much you crave variety. The best thing is to cook dinner for 2 at night, then have leftovers for lunch.
    Also, you can grill several types of meat at one time, then eat it over several days. Frozen vegetables can be cooked easily in single servings. Pasta with sauce from a jar and some meat is easy to make as well.

  2. I think my first question would be “what are you currently paying for food?”, because a plan to cut costs from 10 bucks of take out every day would look a little different from giving up a freezer full of lean cuisines you picked up for $1.50 each.

    Regardless, we’re big shills for bulk cooking. For instance, chili usually freezes well (particularly if you make a bean-free version), and if you bulk it up by serving over rice, and maybe put some cheese on top, one batch can be portioned up into 12 or more servings that you can freeze individually in zippy bags for your future microwavable convenience. My favorite brew works out to about 50 cents a bowl.

    Anyway, reader, we’d be more than happy to “sit” down and discuss cheap eats with you in depth, if you’d like. Just stop by my website and drop Dani or I an email, and we’ll be happy to help you with meal planning, recipe stalking, cooking tips, or whatever else you need.

  3. kenny says:

    It can be cheaper to eat with prepared food if you are making each meal individually. If you are willing to eat the same meals several times over the course of a week, you can save buy making extra servings.

    I don’t think you’re missing anything. You should give make up some meals of your favorite food in bulk and see how that goes. If it works out well, you’ll save some money and if it doesn’t, you can go back to how you were buying before.

  4. Teri Newton says:

    I have to say the trouble with cooking for 1 (or 2) is generally in the leftovers. I would look for recipes/cookbooks geared with smaller/less servings. Also, freezing meals would be your friend. Make freezer-friendly meals and keep enough out for dinner and a little leftovers, and freeze the rest for later. I find before kids we would eat a meal all week long. It could sure be cheap, but boring. Now with kids everyone talks about double batches and freezing meals to save time. I think freezing could be a great strategy for single adults who like home cooking but don’t want to eat the same meal all week.

  5. darlene says:

    If you’re making single meals and going after nutrition, learn to cook with in season foods. Let these foods determine your meal rather than a recipe and you can save a lot.

  6. dan says:

    If you want to eat unhealthily, you can save a bundle, but I wouldn’t recommend it. What are you spending on food each month?

  7. robertl says:

    I spend about $250 a month on food.

  8. robertl says:

    I should mention that includes lunch out with co-worker / friends which I don’t want to give up.

  9. Debbie says:

    I like to cook recipes for four and eat one at a time. I agree with Teri that packing the other three in individual serving containers and sticking them in the freezer may help slow down your eating of leftovers.

    At the very least, you could buy things that are okay to eat a lot of, such as vegetables, and then eat out less.

    You could look for a store where you can buy things in bulk–not the kind where you buy enough for an army, but the kind where you take out what you want from a bin. You can get things like spices, flour, pasta, nuts, etc. Then you can buy just what you need for a recipe. You can even bring a measuring spoon or measuring cup with you. And it’s always cheaper to buy spices this way than in jars, and often cheaper for the other items, too.

    Maybe you can think of some complicated way to keep yourself out of the fridge–an old roommate of mine had a similar problem with money, so she would use her savings to buy savings bonds back when you could get the paper bonds in your hands (can you still do that?). They were a real pain in the neck to cash, plus she liked looking at them and watching the stack grow, so she didn’t want to spend them. You know yourself better than we do, but if you can think of a trick to keeping yourself out of the leftovers when you don’t think you should be having them, that might be what you need. Add a lock to your fridge? Save them at a friend’s house? Write, with magnetic letters on your fridge, “Would you rather have what’s in this fridge or be at a better weight?” Make yourself do ten push-ups in the kitchen and say, “It is now time for my next meal,” before opening the fridge. Or make yourself drink a whole glass of water. Or allow yourself only one bite at a time, which you have to put on a plate and bring out to the dining room and say grace over. Hey, whatever works, right?


    If it’s usually cheaper for you to buy prepared food, I would like to know what that prepared food is, please.

  10. A Marino says:

    I would say that my biggest money saver would be to cook a normal amount for a large family. For instance, a large pot of spaghetti sauce, chili, lasagna, eggplant parmigian, and even beans will freeze well. I have cooked beans and kale casserole with my crock pot and have frozen the rest. It’s best to freeze the amount of servings that you want in (seal-a-meal) bags. I take them out of the freezer the night before and I just have to reheat them. And yes, sometimes you can take it to lunch with you.

    I also like taking a couple pounds of meat and turning it into different dishes each day. I will buy a Beef Chuck and cook it with vegetables for one day, make soup out of it the next day, and a couple of days later, shred the meat, add tomato sauce with onions, peppers, and seasonings and serve it on top of rice.

    Using coupons is a great way to save money too. Buy one Get One Free. You can use a coupon for buying one and you still get the other free.

  11. A Marino says:

    I also wanted to add that you can go meatless for one or two days a week and that helps alot. You can take grilled chicken that is left over from a previous day and cut it up in chunks and add it to your salad for a complete meal. I also use a Ragu Sauce (meatless), salad, and garlic rolls for a simple meal. If I have sauce left over, I will add it to a fish dish as the sauce. And yes, scrambled eggs with different vegetables is a great dinner as one of the posters suggested.

  12. robertl says:

    Freezing may be an option since it will make it harder for me to snack on. I don’t use coupons. They are never for the foods I buy. I have never understood how people are able to save so much with them, but that is another topic.

    Are there certain foods that are better for freezing or can anything be frozen. I’ve never frozen food I’ve made before.

  13. A Marino says:

    I have a seal-a-meal machine and the bags are much stronger and I tend to use them for items like fish that don’t hold up well. I use the zip locks as well. I make my own ground chuck patties and stack them in either 2 or 3 and put wax paper in between and store a whole bunch in a gallon size bag. I also freeze hot dogs, bacon, butter, a loaf of bread (double bagged). Sometimes, I have used 2 bags depending on what it is.

  14. Some great meals you can make large doses of that freeze (and subsequently nuke) beautifully in individual portions:

    mac & cheese (homemade)
    sloppy joes (meat and sauce – freeze buns separately)

    pretty much anything freezes well except: sour cream, fresh mushrooms, lettuces, eggs, pasta (if not in a casserole), cooked potatoes.

  15. viola says:

    My questions first of all would be, What are you buying? What are you cooking? What are you eating? How creative are you in the kitchen? Do you enjoy cooking? But most of all, I like to know how much a week you are spending and how much you would like to spend/save?

    I am a very good, versatile cook with lots of experience (I brought up 5 children). I do everything fresh and Organic and even that isn’t more expensive once you know “how” to go shopping. I do not use Microwawe ovens or food either.

    To me it does not make any difference if I cook for 7, 5, or just myself and even if the meals are cooked individually.

    I don’t agree with your comment about ready made meals being cheaper. They are ‘crap’, have NO nutritional value and are FAR to expensive!!

  16. tossforfree says:

    Eat healthy for under $2.00 a meal and never eat the same meal twice in a week or use a microwave to reheat something. I did it for 3 years while I was in college. It is possible if u tend to avoid expensive steaks and don’t mind preparing meals everyday. I enjoyed cooking so it wasn’t a big deal. With my cooking experience gained from this 4 years of cooking my wife loves anything I make. It took me the first year to figure out what I could make for under $2.00 a meal. How did I do it? First of all you have figure out what types of foods you personally like. Then learn to prepare/cook the foods. After that figure out how to cut costs. I love rice, beans, bread, pasta, fruits, veggies, chicken, salads, soups, etc. I dislike desserts and onions so for me I had a very large selection of foods to work with and I loved learning how to cook. If you are like me then you’ll figure it out if u keep trying. It keep records of what you are spending and how much it cost u to make things. You’ll see where u are spending and naturally adjust meals to fit within your range. You should see what I can prepare for $5.00 a person per meal. As you are doing this you can quickly see what the food industry has so much competition. If fast food can make a meal for 2.00 plus tax so can you. Except yours will at least be healthy. Oh I went to school for Accounting. So this was largely do to my love of numbers.

  17. Cuckee says:

    In the process of saving on food, do not end up hurting your health. Success requires a lot of hard and smart work. And both of these require you to be very healthy. So keep track of your health meter in the same was as you are trying to keep your food costs

  18. JMBIndy says:

    The crockpot (slow cooker) can be a single person’s best friend. I’ll cook up a couple of different meat meals and freeze them into individual servings (chicken is my favorite). I’ll then cook up some rice or pasta of various flavors and then freeze them individually as well. This way you can mix up your meals when you feel like eating in, or grab a couple of packages to take to work.

    I especially enjoy using this method when I can get a good deal on meat at one of the warehouses.

    I should also mention that as a diabetic, this is a good way for me to watch what I’m eating and to control the portion. If you are concerned about your eating habits, this might be a good way to go.

    There is a series of books called “Fix It & Forget It”, available in general book stores. This series includes slow cooker recipes. I’ve got it and am please with the book.

    There’s my 2 cents worth. Good luck with whatever method helps you.

  19. C says:

    How did tossforfree “Eat healthy for under $2.00 a meal and never eat the same meal twice in a week or use a microwave to reheat something.”???

  20. patt says:

    Try cooking a large meal about once a week and freeze it in individual servings. Soon you will have an assortment of microwavable meals. If frezer space is limited, use zip lock freezer bags and lay them flat until frozen. After freezing you can line them up like books. Remember to label and date all packages. I also make up deserts but I put them in the small freezer boxes. I put fruit filling into the container and top it of with cumbeled up baked pie crust, baked cobbler topping or apple crisp type topping. Cakes can be frozenjust wrapped in plastic but make sure the frosting is inside the two layers. Some times buying fresh fruit can be a problem for a single person. Try freezing spears of pinapple or melon wrappped in plastic, more tasty than a popsicle and just as refreshing. I’ve even froze grapes and strawberries on a squewer. Happy low cost, nutritious and delicious eating

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