From: Desarae H.
I’ve found many websites about saving money and being frugal, but most of them are focused on families. I am a single working female and for me to buy in bulk or make large quantities of recipes doesn’t work. It’s just not practical for single people. Do you have any advice about how to be frugal as a single person?
Saving On Groceries When You’re Single
Readers frequently ask about saving money on groceries when you’re single. First, let me address buying and cooking in bulk. In our Groceries on a Dime e books, one of the main points I make is that there are many different ways to save money on groceries. We tend to grab on to one aspect of saving and sometimes think of that as the only way, whether it is couponing, buying in bulk, finding clearances or something else. All of these are great ways of saving but none of them is the one “right” way.
In different seasons, circumstances and places that I have lived in my life, I have had to change my way of saving over and over. Sometimes I used all of the things I mentioned and sometimes I used totally different ones. I had to be adaptable and be willing to change my way of thinking about savings, but even though some ofthe specific strategies are different, saving money on groceries when you’re single isn’t that much different than saving for a family.
I have never done much buying and cooking in bulk but my daughter does. I save as much if not more than she does without buying in bulk. (This was true when I had kids at home and when I was single.) She still saves a lot, she just does it in different ways. (Note from Tawra: We do buy some “junk” and convenience food so I could cut another $50 to $75 per month if I wanted to, but we choose to have those things.)
I go into more detail about warehouse and bulk shopping in our Groceries on a Dime e books. Before you buy in bulk, consider whether or not you will use everything you buy or you might not really be saving at all. Here is an example:
I bought a 30 oz. jar of mayonnaise for $3.00. $1.00 for each 10 oz. There was a 10 oz. jar for $1.10. I bought the large jar because it would be $.30 cheaper.
Before it spoiled, I only used a third of the jar (a dollar’s worth) and I had to throw the rest away. I would have saved $1.90 if I had just bought the small jar instead of spending the extra money on the large jar, trying to save $.30. I know it doesn’t work that way for everything but it does on some things. If you find yourself regularly throwing away certain things like this you might consider buying smaller sizes in the future.
Saving money on groceries for singles is really no different than saving for families. You can still buy clearance items, use coupons, shop at discount grocery stores like Aldi and shop at dollar stores.
Be careful. Many of us use “Our situation is different” as an excuse for not saving. We say things like “I can’t eat healthy and save. I live in such and such a place so I can’t save. I have teens, I am single…” Not everyone who says this has a problem but it is a problem for some people. We all have unique life situations to deal with so we need to find what will work best for us in our individual situations but it is possible to save in any life situation.
The main problem I have found with being single is leftovers and having to eat the same thing for several meals to use it all. Here are some things that might help with that.
One thing that has been a life saver for me is a vacuum sealer. They are expensive but I received mine for my birthday one year and I love it. If I find meat on sale (in larger packages, too), I vacuum seal it and it lasts forever. I vacuum seal cookie dough, veggies and all kinds of other things. I especially like to cook hamburger (meatballs, patties, and ground beef) and vacuum seal individual sized packages to pop out of the freezer when I don’t feel good or when I’m in a hurry. I even put ice cubes in a bag, vacuum seal it, let it melt, refreeze it and use it in my cooler to keep things cold. I love it.
I eat out more than I would if I had a family at home. I know that sounds like it is going against everything that I teach but here’s why I do it. When I advise against eating out, I’m usually writing for families. Eating out is usually much more of an expense for families but since I am single I can go to someplace like Wendy’s and order a chicken sandwich and a glass of water for $.99. That really does end up being cheaper than if I had gone out and bought the buns, lettuce, chicken, and mayonnaise for it for just a single person. I don’t do this every night but I do once or twice a week.
Since you work, one of your greatest savings on food would be taking your lunch to work. Be careful about using the vending machines, snack bars, buying pop or bottled water, etc.
Just like families, you can watch for clearance items. I buy milk on clearance, pour half of it into a pitcher and put the other half in the freezer. If I find I am not using my milk fast enough I will make a batch of custard, pudding or something else that will help me use it faster.
I also eat a lot of things like soups. With one chicken thigh, I can make enough soup for several meals. Then I freeze part of it and eat part of it.
Here is a sample of things I might eat as a single person:
Cereal (1 box) $2.50
Coffee (1/2 large container) $3.00
Fruit or juice ($.20 a meal) $6.00
Eggs (1 dozen) $1.00
Bread (1 loaf) $1.00
Milk (1/2 gallon) $1.70
Total- (1 month) $15.20
2 free meals from dinner leftovers (below)
Peanut Butter sandwich with fruit (2 days)
Cottage Cheese with canned fruit (2 days)
Peanut butter $.20
Cottage cheese $.80
Cheese with crackers $.90
Carrot Sticks $.15
Fruit (canned) $.15
Total – 1 week of lunches = $2.30 or 1 month = $9.20
Spaghetti (2 meals)
Chicken soup (3 meals) $1.50
Casserole (4-5 meals)
Tomato soup $.50
Total – 1 week of dinners = $4.50, 1 month = $18.00
Total Meals 1 month = $42.40
I usually spent $50-$60 a month on groceries so I spend the extra $18-$28 on things like snacks (cookies, donuts, and popcorn), spices, condiments and little extras.
The prices I listed did not include coupons, Aldi prices, Wal-Mart prices, warehouse deals, bulk prices, or clearance specials. I just listed my regular grocery store prices from their store ads. Can you imagine how much more I could save if I did use all of those things? I might be able to shave $1o or more off of the amount and I usually spend. I just want to show that with just a little planning and being careful you don’t have to spend that much.
Here’s something you might make a note of that is true for everyone. I spent $15.20 on breakfast items and $9.00 of that was on coffee and juice and other items to drink. When I say that 1/3 or more of everyone’s grocery bills pay for drink items, I wasn’t joking. It really does.
Watch your money. So many people are interested in saving money on groceries when you’re single hoping to help with their income but as you can see I don’t spend that much of my income on groceries. If you are having problems living within your means you may have to look in other areas of your spending, too, to see if you could save more or to see if you are wasting it somehow.