Is it more frugal to cook for one or to buy from fast food dollar menus?
Frugal Cooking for One
TDS Reader Solutions
Solo Cooking and Dining on a Budget
Grocery Buying for One
Recipes and Resources for Making Smaller Meals
Frugal Shopping and Cooking for One
I am an older male, and because of constant price increases at grocery stores, I have started to pay attention to coupon sites like Groupon.com, etc. The problem is that even if I buy something on sale, often it may spoil before I can use it. Being a guy, I will admit that I often just want to go to the store and get what I need and be done with it.
Often I have found that eating at Burger King can save me money when I can get a Dollar Double Cheeseburger and a senior Drink for less than $2. Add another dollar for a slice of their apple pie. I know it is not that healthy, but try duplicating that at your local market.
I am not into veggies or fish, and for most of my life, it has always been milk, bread, meat and potatoes with desserts. Am I doomed to a life of fast food?
Just the Way You Like It
The great things about being single are that it's easy to have leftovers, you have a lot of refrigerator and freezer space, and you don't have to please anyone else but can eat just what you feel like. That makes frugal cooking for one much easier.
Milk - You may need to get only a half-gallon at a time so it won't spoil; you may find that different brands last you different amounts of time. I've also heard you can freeze milk, but haven't tried it and don't know if it changes the texture.
Bread - Bread lasts much longer in the refrigerator or freezer than on the counter. I've heard that a breadbox can help them last longer, too. When frozen, you can either toast the bread or make your sandwiches in the morning, so they will thaw by lunchtime. Or you can move a few slices from the freezer into the refrigerator each time you use up the bread in the refrigerator. You can also buy those ready-to-bake rolls and heat them up as needed for that fresh out-of-the-oven experience.
Meat, Potatoes, and Desserts - It's so much cheaper to make meals from scratch than to get them from fast-food places, and some things (such as whole grains and decent steak) are virtually impossible to get as fast food. For things that save well, make enough for a whole family and then eat one serving and pack the rest away in one-serving containers. Get recipes and hints from family members or friends or at potlucks. You can put some leftovers in the freezer, but leave one serving in the refrigerator. Heating up leftovers is much faster than going to a fast food place and waiting in line there. And you can make things just the way you like them.
Vegetables and Fruit - When you make your own foods, you can mix in vegetables without having to taste them. Grate some zucchini or carrots into stews, spaghetti sauce, or quick breads. Add a can of pumpkin to a batch of chili. Chop up some frozen spinach to add to lasagna or soup. Throw some frozen fruit in the blender with milk and ice cream and a little sugar for a very tasty treat. Have sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes sometimes to get some Vitamin A.
At the very least, buy a 12-pack of soda and a bakery pie at the store (or a bakery!) and bring your double cheeseburgers home to eat.
Learn to Make Frugal Skillet Meals
I was single and cooked for myself until I turned 34. I remember shopping and looking for the smallest size package instead of the family-sized package.
I learned that meat can be divided and frozen in smaller portions. I also bought bags of frozen veggies. Pasta, rice and frozen potatoes (hash browns) were also favorite staples. I learned to make simple one skillet meals from these staples. For some help, look at Hamburger Helper and Skillet Helper one step meals and figure out how to make them with these staples. My favorite appliance was my West Bend 6" electric skillet.
Cooking for One That's Fresh, Healthy and Frugal
As a single working professional, I've found the most cost effective (and least time intensive) method for saving money on groceries is to tackle shopping and cooking one week at a time. I do all my grocery shopping one day a week at one store that has the overall lowest prices. The same or the next day I'll cook a week's worth of breakfast, dinner, and dessert (brown bag lunches are made each night). I don't have a family to cook for, and I'm quite content to eat the same thing for dinner every day for one week. Besides, I only make my favorites, so I know whatever I cook I'll enjoy. Breakfasts for me are usually muffins (I make them by the dozen and freeze in bags of four). Dinners consist of favorite entrees (for me vegetarian) that are based around what's on sale at the store that week, and desserts usually consist of something fruit-based or low fat.
If that doesn't offer enough variety for you, you could also do the same thing, but expand it to two or even three main dishes each week. It should still involve less cooking, less cleaning, and shopping for fewer ingredients than is required when you have to generate something new and different each day. It's also much healthier and less expensive than eating out. I've been doing this for about three years now (averaging about $35 to $40 a week for groceries), and it's been nice to be able to eat food I know is fresh, healthy, and frugal.
Shop smart with great cash back offers on your favorite brands at your favorite grocers.
Better than coupons. Join Ibotta today.
The Other Side of the Coin
I am an old woman and find it about impossible to cook for one. I, also, end up throwing a lot away. Seems to me that having fast food, sandwiches, and salads is the way to go. There's no cooking and no mess, and best of all, it's cheap. My neighbor works at a fast food place, and I have her bring me something to eat every day.
Freezer Meals on the Quick
When I was living single, I didn't want to sacrifice taste for cheap, fast foods, fearing that the purchases I made would spoil before I had a chance to eat them. When I'd cook, either from scratch using a recipe or even packaged meals, I'd separate out portions into those plastic storage containers with compartments to keep the dishes separate and then freeze them. It saved money, and when there were days I was hungry and needed something fast, I could just pop it into the microwave.
Split with Friends
My friend and I split such things as bags of potatoes, oranges, etc.
Take the Next Step:
- Get cash back on the groceries you buy. Checkout 51 can show you how!
- Continue to look for new ways to trim food costs. Visit our food & groceries section each week to get tips for keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket.
- Join those who 'live better...for less' - Subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, a weekly look at how to stretch both your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!
Share your thoughts about this article with the editor.
Food, gas and other prices keep rising while my family's income remains stagnant and I worry we are heading for debt trouble. Tell us: Yes, I think we are heading for debt trouble and could use some help! or No, we're not in debt trouble but I like finding new ways to help keep my family finances on track!