10 tips for saving money when grocery shopping for one person

These tricks will save your produce (and money) from going to waste. Justin Sullivan/Getty
  • Grocery shopping for one can be surprisingly difficult.
  • Shopping for one takes lots of planning.
  • You might have to reconfigure large recipes and pick produce that won’t go bad.
  • You shouldn’t shop when hungry.

While grocery shopping for yourself (and only for yourself) sounds like a simple endeavour, anyone who’s tried this task can attest to its surprising level of difficulty. Between re-configuring large-format recipes, wading through overpriced pre-packaged options, and picking produce that won’t go bad before you have the chance to use it, shopping for one requires a lot of planning and precision.

But with these 10 tips, you’ll have the info you need for a solo grocery excursion that limits both product waste and wasted money.

Never shop while hungry.

You might be tempted into overspending. Andrew 鐘/Flickr

This rule applies to any grocery-shopping situation, but it’s especially relevant when you’re interested in sticking to a single-income budget and avoiding unnecessary purchases. Shopping while hungry inevitably leads to overspending (because everything looks so good when your stomach is empty!), and when your outing concludes, you’ll find yourself unpacking groceries that you honestly didn’t need to buy.

To prevent this frustrating outcome, grab a snack before heading to the store, which lets you maintain your focus and stick to a clear and manageable grocery list.

Take inventory of what you already have in your kitchen before going to the store.

Make sure you know what you already have at home. Miroslav Pesek/Shutterstock.com

See if this sounds familiar: you head to the grocery store, pick up a bunch of items you’ll need to prepare a gourmet feast that evening, return home to put your loot in the pantry … only to discover that you already have a half-full bag of sugar and a canister of faro gathering dust at the back of the cabinet.

We’ve all been there, but if you want to save those valuable bucks, take a moment before heading to the store to look through the ingredients you already have and discover what’s still usable, what needs to be replaced, and what you need to stock up on.

Shop with specific recipes in mind.

Know exactly what you need. jfiess/Flickr

It’s common to head off to the grocery store with best-laid plans (i.e. a shopping list) firmly in place, only to lapse into chaos once you’re faced with daily specials and coupon-boosted deals. But if you design your lists around specific recipes, you’ll have a clear goal in mind, which makes it easier to adhere to the guidelines you’ve established.

Try completing your grocery shopping online.

Prime Now and Instacart allows you to do your grocery shopping from home. iStock

Thanks to platforms like Instacart and Amazon Prime, online grocery shopping is incredibly popular these days. If you’re shopping for yourself, using the internet to get the job done can save you plenty of time, energy, and money.

The ability to specifically customise quantities keeps you from spending more than you need, and you’ll do less impulse-buying if you’re not physically faced with delicious temptations.

Take advantage of bulk items whenever possible.

With bulk you can get the exact quantity you need. Shutterstock / James Mattil

If your grocery store offers nuts, granola, and grains in pour-your-own bulk containers, you’ll be able to get exactly the quantity you need without weighing yourself (and your budget) down with superfluous ingredients.

The prices for generic bulk goods are typically lower, since you’re not paying for branding, and the items themselves are typically fresher and higher-quality than the pre-packaged stuff.

If you’re buying cold cuts or bacon, head straight for the butcher counter.

You can ask for the exact amount you want. Julie Zeveloff/Business Insider

Many grocery stores offer pre-wrapped packages of bacon and cold cuts, and the small amount of saved time provided by these items gets quickly canceled out by the higher prices. Plus, you’ll inevitably wind up with more bacon or sliced turkey than you as a solo chef really need.

Rather than making a beeline for the refrigerated section of the store, queue up at the butcher counter, where you can order exactly as many rashers of bacon or ounces of meat that you require. And because the butcher will freshly carve your requested meat, you’ll know that you’re getting the freshest version.

Never buy pre-chopped fruits or veggies.

Pre chopper fruit will cost more. Flickr/aryaziai

Yes, chopping produce requires a solid time investment. But the pre-cut fruits and vegetables available at the grocery store cost quite a bit more than their uncut equivalents, and slicing your own produce provides you with the exact amount you need at a much lower price. Plus, whole fruits will stay fresh longer than cut fruits.

Avoid pre-made supermarket dishes and frozen meals.

Frozen food is more expensive and less good for you. Shutterstock

The convenience of pre-prepared meals can easily lure you into shelling out the big bucks for them, but more often than not, you’ll be bringing home a dish with questionable nutritional value and a less-appealing taste than you may have expected.

Save some cash by researching easy and healthy recipes and buying the less-expensive ingredients required to make them yourself.

Remember that CSAs are rarely worthwhile for solo members.

You’ll likely get more fruit and vegetables than you can use. Sean Gallup/ Getty Images

Community supported agriculture programs, also known as CSAs, are fantastic options for larger households who want to support local farmers and experiment with seasonal produce. However, if you’re just shopping for yourself, the CSA haul will likely load you up with more fruits and veggies than you can use.

Rather than signing up for an (often pricey) CSA membership, swing by your local farmer’s market to buy super-fresh produce in quantities that you can handle.

Invest in freezer-safe plastic containers.

You can save the rest of what you make for another meal. Joe Belanger/Shutterstock

If you’re responsible for feeding only yourself, your freezer should become your new best friend. Most recipes are designed to serve 4 people, and recalculating ingredient amounts to prepare a single serving ends up being more trouble than it’s worth.

Rather than stretching your out-of-practice mathematical muscles, you can prepare a larger dish and freeze the spare servings, setting yourself up for tasty pre-prepared meals ready to go for your next crazy busy work week. Grab some high-quality food containers and put that freezer to work.

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