For when you're flying solo
Food for One
by Pam Hutzler
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Eating for One
According to Census.gov, in 2014, 34 million people lived alone. With family-sized food packages and recipes geared to multiple servings, the food budget may be a difficult area to manage for those flying solo. If you are one of the 34 million, there's hope.
Before you decide to throw in the towel because you just can't eat the same tuna casserole for the fourth night in a row, read on to discover new ways to make cooking food for one a breeze. You will be surprised how easy it can be to vary those same old "singles" meals while saving yourself some money.
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Planning and Shopping
As any frugal grocery shopper knows, planning is key to saving money. First, you should know what you have on hand in your pantry, freezer, and sitting in your refrigerator as leftovers. This is good starting point in making a meal plan. Taking the time to peruse your grocery store's sale ads online before heading to the store will also prove to be a smart money-saving measure. Once you have a plan and a list, it's time to head to the store.
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Yes, You Can Buy Big
Don't be afraid to buy in bulk if the food items are easily frozen or have an extended shelf life. Just be sure to break down and repackage the four-pound roast that was on sale into manageable portions as soon as you get home. That way, it'll be quick and easy to throw the small piece of roast, a couple potatoes, and a few carrots into a small slow cooker for a delicious, easy meal for one. (You do have a small slow cooker, don't you? If not, you may want to get one. A quality slow cooker is a frugal cook's best friend.)
Also, remember that canned goods and staples bought in bulk don't need to be stored in the kitchen. Consider using space under a bed, behind a door, or on a closet shelf, but keep a master list in your kitchen, so you always know what you have on hand.
Perishable items like fresh fruits and vegetables and milk are the exception and should not be bought in large quantities. You're not saving money if you have to throw spoiled food away. Therefore, buying only what you know you'll eat is best when it comes to perishable foods.
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Food for One at Work and On the Go
Single people are notoriously "on the go," but store-bought, single-serving snacks and fast food are less than desirable to a frugal single. An easy, smart solution is to go ahead and buy the cheaper big bag of your favorite snack. When you get home from the store, simply repackage your snack of choice in single-serving portions. Then when you're heading out the door or packing tomorrow's lunch, you can quickly grab a bag or two and be on your merry way.
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Food for One Creatively Done
You probably have other single friends, and it's not a stretch to think they are probably faced with some of the same cooking-for-one issues. So, why not spice it up and make it a celebration of food? Supper clubs are a fun way to get together with others to make a meal. Feel free to recruit members from your gym, church, or work. At your first get-together, you'll need to come up with your club's basic structure. Will you rotate houses and have potlucks? Or will you cook all or some of each meal together? When all is said and done, you'll enjoy a great meal, possibly get to know new people, and spend a little time socializing with like-minded people.
Another option is to organize a dinner swap with a few other people. For example, four singles can each make a meal that serves four people. After dividing the meal into four portions, one can be held back to be eaten by you and the other three portions can be delivered to your group members. This can be done daily, but in the interest of time, it may better as a weekend activity. It couldn't be easier. You'll end up with four nights of delicious, ready-when-you-are meals.
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Got to Love Your Leftovers
Food waste is a budget-buster for most people, and leftovers present a unique challenge to singles. Nobody wants to eat the same thing night after night until it's gone. The good news is you have options! Go ahead and make a full size casserole, but then package up the leftovers like DIY TV dinners and freeze them to have at a later time.
Maybe you opened a can of peas and can't eat them all or possibly you grilled two chicken breast halves but could only eat one. That's okay. Just start a "soup container" in your freezer and add your leftover meat and poultry, veggies, potatoes, and rice. When you have enough ingredients to make a pot of soup, you're in business. Just add some broth and let it simmer away. With the pot of soup, you can eat your fill and then freeze the rest in single portions to eat on cold winter nights. Better yet, use your pot of soup for your dinner swap. Pair it with a salad and some crusty bread, and you'll have a delicious meal that all will enjoy.
Another option is to make freezer meals. Take a serving sized portion of every item from tonight's dinner (meat, potato, veggie, etc.) and put it on a paper plate. Wrap the plate in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer. Keeping an inventory of available meals on the freezer door is an added bonus!
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