How To Shop When You’re Cooking For One

How To Shop When You’re Cooking For One

Buying food for one can be tricky. When the only person you have to satisfy with your grocery list is you, it’s easy to buy impulsively or buy too much. And on the flip side, how many times have you tried to just buy the bare essentials, only to find yourself having to make daily trips back to the supermarket?

Image remixed from artenot and Ayelet Keshet (Shutterstock).

But with some careful planning, it is possible to shop solo in a way that’s both economical and less wasteful. The big secret: You should spend just about as much time preparing for your shopping trip as you do in the store.

Here’s your plan of action to get in and out of the supermarket, and come home with the right amount of food for just you.

First, Shop At Home

To avoid wasting what you already have, or buying something that you don’t need, go through your kitchen and determine what’s about to go bad and needs to be eaten now. Avoid the “out of sight, out of mind” trap by keeping the foods that tend to go rotten the fastest — milk, cheese, vegetables — front and centre where they can’t be forgotten about. Closette has some awesome suggestions for making sure you eat more (and waste less) of what you already have.

Make A List (And Have A Snack)

Don’t just scribble together a list hurriedly on your way to the shops. Instead, take 10 minutes to think about what you want to eat for the week (making sure to include your need-to-eat items) and then go through your cabinets and fridge and figure out what you don’t already have. I like to categorise my list by store aisle — it not only makes the actual shopping part easier, it allows me to visualise what I’m getting.

Then, have a snack (I know, twist your arm). Going to the supermarket hungry is a sure recipe for throwing your carefully constructed list to the wind.

Know The Traps

The sueprmarket is set up intentionally to encourage over-buying and impulse purchases, but there are a couple of ways to avoid those traps. First, shop with a basket, not a trolley — you can only carry so much, right?

Don’t be tempted by those “buy more, save more” deals — they’re not for you. While buying in bulk may appear to be saving you money in the long run, that’s simply not the case when you end up tossing most of it in the trash.

Snag The Fresh Stuff

The fresher the food is when you buy it, the more time you have to eat it before it goes bad. Keep in mind that the store is stocked with the least fresh items towards the front, so don’t hesitate to reach all the way into the back to get that milk with the latest expiration date, or grab those bananas from the bottom of the stack.

Avoid Pre-Packaged Items

Buy meats and other items at the deli rather than pre-packaged. That way, you can control how much you’re getting and avoid ending up with too much.

Keep It Fresh

Knowing how to maximise the shelf life of your food is a great skill for the solo shopper. The website Still Tasty is a great tool — type in any food item and it will tell you the best ways to keep it fresh, and how long it can go before you need to toss it.

If there’s anything you won’t be able to eat before it goes bad, you can always freeze it to extend its shelf life. Short of this helpful do-not-freeze list, you can stick pretty much anything in the freezer.

Shop Online

If you don’t have a lot of time or hate food shopping, try doing it online This is a great way to avoid the tempting aromas and strategically placed impulse items and just shop for what you need. Best of all, you can save your shopping lists on the site, so if you buy the same stuff every week, your shopping can be done in literally minutes.

With just a little bit of planning, you can easily get into a groove of food shopping for just you — and save some money and waste less food, too.

7 Secrets When You’re Grocery Shopping for 1 [The Daily Muse]

Laura Drucker grew up in Chicago, Illinois and currently lives in Miami, Florida. She is a proud law school dropout, and the editor of Tails Pet Media Group.


  • In the last few months, I have made vegetable soup on Sunday, which gives me dinner (and sometimes breakfast) for a week, for less than $30. If you’re not concerned about variety, it’s cost effective.

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