Single? Here’s How to Save Money on Groceries for One Person

A woman grocery shops.
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When it comes to shopping for groceries for one person, saving money can seem like a daunting task.

Grocery store portions of items like meat or lettuce are often too large for just one person and so many recipes are meant to feed a family of four or more. Between having to throw out expired food or overbuying unneeded ingredients, sometimes it can feel like the single person is throwing away money in the kitchen.

Single? Here’s How to Save Money on Groceries for One Person

So how can the single cook stay within their food budget without overbuying or throwing out food? We’re here to help.

We’ve got eight essential tips to not only keep your food budget in check, but to also help you save more on your grocery bill and create less food waste.

1. Before You Go Grocery Shopping, Meal Plan With Similar Ingredients

You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it again: Always grocery shop with a plan. (And don’t go hungry!)

Before you go shopping, meal plan, compare prices at your grocery stores to find the best savings and make a grocery list. It’s an essential way for everyone to stay within their food budget and prevent food waste.

But, what’s the best way to meal plan for one person? We’ve all been there: It’s day four of the same leftovers and it’s all too tempting to throw the rest out and order in.

Our advice to get the most bang for your buck: Choose two to three meals that use similar ingredients and then cut the recipe portion sizes in half. Not only will this keep you from overbuying ingredients, but it will also prevent food waste.

Looking for some delicious meals that’ll make leftovers you’ll actually want to eat?

For lunch, try something like this sundried tomato soup and this kale salad with pecorino. Both use tuscan kale, garlic, and pecorino or parmesan and are easy to make half portions of. Or for dinner, stretch pork and pineapple further by making half portions of this Pineapple Pork with Coconut Rice and Caramelized Pork Tacos with Pineapple Salsa.

Both recipes call for similar ingredients, but have completely different flavor profiles to keep you satisfied.

2. Use Your Freezer to Preserve Food

The freezer can be the single cook’s best friend and it can make planning meals much easier.

Not only are there tons of recipes that you can make and freeze as individual portions for easy reheating, but the freezer also allows you to buy inexpensive products in bulk.

Is there a sale on chicken breasts? Keep it cost effective and store a few packages in the freezer.

The freezer is also a good place to store fresh food items that are getting a little too ripe. For instance, if you notice your bananas are going bad, you can store them in a freezer bag for smoothies.

Just be sure to clearly label food with the contents and date frozen to avoid throwing out unknown items in the future.

Don’t sleep on frozen food, either. The frozen section in grocery stores are full of great products that can save you time and money. Grab some frozen vegetables for an easy stir fry or save time cooking by buying a bag of frozen rice or zucchini noodles. Frozen fruits are a great way to ensure you don’t waste expensive, fresh fruit and can go straight into your favorite smoothie or even a fruit cobbler.

3. Shop the Sales and Stock Your Pantry

If you’re trying to stay within your food budget, you’re probably pretty familiar with how to shop your favorite stores’ sales.

For instance, lots of stores have BOGOs — buy one, get one free deals — that change on a regular basis. Take advantage of these deals when you grocery shop.

Pantry ingredients like beans, lentils, pasta, pasta sauce, stock and canned items are not only cheap, but have incredibly long shelf lives, making them perfect for one-person households to keep on hand. Buying pantry essentials when they’re on sale and just store them until you need them will also help keep your food budget in tact. (But don’t forget to incorporate them in your meal planning.)

Need a quick and easy protein option, but don’t want to risk it going bad in the fridge? Canned fish like tuna and salmon are great to have on hand for easy recipes like tuna salad or salmon burgers. Pantry pastas are all the rage right now, so you can stock your cupboard with your favorite ingredients for a quick and easy dinner any night of the week.

What does an expiration date really mean? We've got what you need to know about those sell-by dates.

A woman takes her groceries out of her reusable bags.
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4. Use Food-Saving Hacks

Eating healthy, fresh food? One of the main plights of the single eater is not being able to finish fresh produce before it goes bad. Luckily, there are tons of hacks to keep food fresher for longer. Here are a few:

Store Your Lettuce With Paper Towels

Moisture is the enemy of greens, so to keep them from wilting, store loose greens in a glass or plastic, airtight container that is lined with paper towels. The proper air circulation and lack of moisture will help keep them fresh in the fridge. Wrap whole heads of lettuce in paper towels before placing them in the crisper drawer of your fridge.

Wash and Properly Store Your Herbs

Washing herbs and removing any bacteria when you get home from the store actually keeps them fresher for longer. Just be sure to pat them as dry as you can after! Place soft herbs like parsley, cilantro, and mint, in a jar with a little water at the bottom. Then, cover them with a clear plastic bag and put them in the fridge. For the ultimate shelf life, basil can be preserved with the same method, but should be placed on the countertop at room temperature. The fridge is the enemy of fresh basil. And for hard herbs like rosemary, sage and thyme, wrap them in a damp paper towel before placing them in the fridge.

Store Mushrooms in a Paper Bag

Keeping mushrooms in their plastic containers will cause them to rot faster. Transfer them to a paper bag before placing them in the fridge to help them last longer.

Submerge Ripe Avocados in Water

Avocados are one of the trickiest foods to keep fresh but, luckily there is a hack to help. Once ripe, store whole or halved avocados in water in the fridge. This will slow the ripening process and keep your avocados green for longer.

Pro Tip

Did you know you should keep whole tomatoes on the countertop and out of the fridge? This will help them to taste fresher and keep their flavor.

5. Invest in Food-Saving Tools

Good, airtight food storage is a must for the single cook. Not only does it help you preserve meals for longer, but many are stackable and allow you to create more room in your fridge or freezer.

Cooking for one and unsure how much pasta to measure out for one portion? Using a kitchen scale is a great tool so that you don’t cook too much and waste food.

And if you need food-saving backup in addition to our tips above, there are tons of food saving products for you to try.

Does your cilantro keep going bad in just a few days’ time? The herb saver is here to help. Investing in a vacuum sealer can also be a great way to properly preserve the food you buy in bulk before putting it in the freezer.

Not sure what you need to help preserve your food? Think about which items in your fridge tend to spoil first and find the right product to help you save your dinner and your wallet.

Pro Tip

Want to open a bottle of wine, but only want one glass? Wine savers are a great way to preserve the bottle for longer.

6. Use a Meal Kit Service

Meal kit services are the perfect solution for the busy, single cook. Fresh groceries are shipped to your doorstep already portioned out for meals that feed 1-2. Plus, you don’t have to go grocery shopping as much, which saves time.

Pre-portioned spices are especially appreciated when only cooking for one — no need to buy an $8 bottle of a spice you may never use again. Eat one portion for dinner and save the other for lunch the next day.

Not sure which meal delivery service is right for you? Check out our rundown on the best, cheapest ones.

7. Use Coupons and Money-Saving Apps on Groceries

Food prices have ballooned and groceries are especially expensive these days, but luckily there are tons of ways to save in small ways on each trip to the store.

Credit Cards With Cashback on Groceries

These days there are tons of credit card options that offer cashback and there are some that offer extra cashback on groceries. The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express gives you 6% cashback on all groceries, while the Chase Freedom Flex is offering 5% back on groceries from January to March. Check out our rundown on the best cashback credit cards to find the one that works best for you.

A woman uses her phone while grocery shopping.
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Money Saving Apps

Did you know that there are a variety of ways to save at the grocery stores just by pulling out your phone? Are you an Amazon Prime member? Download the Whole Foods App to save on every grocery shopping trip. Or better yet, use one of our favorite money saving apps, Tada.

All you have to do is clip deals from your favorite stores and add them to your app’s virtual grocery list before you shop. You can also scan a receipt after shopping in-store. You’ll see your cash rewards in your account in just a few days, then you can redeem them for gift cards or transfer the balance straight into your PayPal account. 

It’s really that easy. Tada is completely free, so click here to get started and download the app today.

Coupon Sites

The days of cutting coupons out of the newspaper are in the past. These days, it is easier than ever to find coupons before going to the store. Before you head out for your weekly shop, check websites like, or The Krazy Coupon Lady to see if you can save money on anything on your grocery list. You’ll be surprised at how much you can save on your grocery budget.

Want to know our favorite sites for coupons? Read more here.

8. Eat Vegetarian

Eating vegetarian is a sure-fire way for anyone to save on food purchases at the grocery store, but can be especially useful for one-person households. Not only do hearty vegetarian leftovers last longer than their meaty counterparts, but vegetarian meals tend to be much less expensive to make.

Vegetarian proteins like tofu, beans, and lentils also have a significantly longer shelf life than meat does, allowing for more flexibility and less of a chance that you have to throw expired items away. Try substituting meat for tofu, mushrooms, or beans in your next meal and you’ll see how delicious and less expensive eating vegetarian can be.

Contributor Michele Becker is a Boston based writer who specializes in food, as well as Italian travel and history.