Eating Solo? 7 Ways to Save Money on Food

July 07, 2016
7 ways to save money eating alone

When you’re living solo, meeting the delivery minimum is a real struggle—the kind of struggle that results in ordering a side dish you’re probably not going to end up touching and enough plasticware to host a low-budget dinner party. Grocery shopping for one comes with similar pitfalls. Of course, you want your meals for the week to have variety. But are you really going to eat an entire bunch of bananas or head of cabbage before it goes bad?

Feeding yourself—and only yourself —shouldn’t be this hard, but sometimes it can be. We asked a few experts for their take on how to game the system. Here’s how to shop and order for one. You’re welcome, wallet.

Grow it at home
Recipes that call for fresh herbs usually only require a tablespoon or two. Unfortunately, a bunch of basil or parsley is going to set you back $5 or so, and it’ll probably go bad before you’re able to use it all. If you’re looking for herbs like rosemary or thyme, plan on shelling out even more.

Tracy Memoli, founder of Suite & Savory, says one way to avoid these costs altogether is to grow your own. “It’s always a great idea to start your own garden,” she says. “Depending on the space, you can start with fresh herbs, and if you have a bigger space you can grow your own fruits and veggies. This is a huge money-saver if you have the space to grow your own. The savings adds up!”

Bulk up
You’re probably thinking, How would I save money by buying lots of things I don’t need right now? But Samantha Santos of Wholeshare says jumping on a sale, even when you’re not in immediate need of an item, will end up saving you money in the long run. “If you notice that one of your household staples goes on sale, stock up,” she says. “Essentials like oatmeal, grains, beans, spices, dried fruits, nuts and nut butters all make great bulk buying choices because they hold well in the pantry.”

Freeze groceries you didn’t use
If you were lured in by a sale on a jumbo package of chicken breasts, or a week of impromptu happy hours thwarted your best-laid plans to experiment with broccoli rabe, Memoli says that freezing your leftover groceries is not only fair game, but also a smart money-saving idea. “Consider your freezer your new best friend,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to freeze extra meat, produce, breads and seafood for later use.”

Base your grocery list on your social calendar
Speaking of happy hours, if you know that your upcoming week includes your co-worker’s birthday lunch and celebration tapas for your friend’s engagement and Restaurant Week dinner with your old college roommate, Stacy Goldberg, CEO and Founder of Savorfull, suggests planning accordingly before hitting the grocery store.” Look at your week ahead and work around your social calendar,” she says. “Don’t buy more food than you need for meals for the week.”

Join a food buying club
One way to bring down the cost of grocery shopping is to join a food buying club in your area, says Santos. “Buying clubs are a great way to get healthy food at wholesale prices,” she explains. “Here’s how it works: Households get together and order their food directly from wholesale food distributors and farmers. Because the club all orders together, everyone increases their purchasing power so wholesalers and farmers will deliver directly to the club. Not only does the community get access to great food, they get it at wholesale prices.” Basically, it’s your own farm-to-table grocery operation at an affordable price. Sign me up!

Use side dishes to your advantage
If you’re ordering dinner for one and you’re just shy of meeting that delivery minimum, one way to increase the cost of your order without wasting money is to identify something on the menu that you’d be able to use in a recipe later on that week. For example, is there a side of brown rice you could order now and use later to make a stir fry? A side of ginger that would work for the Asian-inspired stew you’ve been wanting to cook? Rather than waste money on a dish that will go to waste or that you don’t need, find something on the menu that can supplement your meal plan for the week.

Give your delivery person an extra tip
If there’s really nothing else that you need, but the thought of actually getting up and cooking after a long day is just too much to handle, you can also meet the delivery minimum by upping your tip on the delivery app, which is likely still cheaper than adding another dish to your order. Seriously, delivery people are some of the hardest working folks out there, bringing your food rain or shine, up fifth-floor walk ups and even during blizzards. And let’s be real, you know you’re not ever going to finish that third roll of sushi you’re considering.

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