How to Budget for Food and Cut Down on Waste When Single

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Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

Welcome back to the collaboration between Mint and Brewing Happiness. I’m Haley, the girl behind Brewing Happiness – a blog about celebrating the small healthy choices we make in our lives, complete with recipes for everybody! I’m here to give you tips on living a healthy, happy life on a budget.

Today I’m going to give you my best tips for food budgeting as a single person. It can be harder to approach food budgeting, groceries especially, as a party of one, because there’s no one to help consume food before it goes bad. Never fear! I’ve got some good tips on how to avoid spoiled food and lower your overall expenditures.

Let’s start with the basics, how much should you be spending on food per month? This obviously differs per person, but a good marker is 10-15% of your monthly income after taxes. This is for groceries, eating out, alcohol, and coffee. So if you make $40,000 a year after taxes, your food budget would be between $333-$500 per month.

If you want to begin to trim down your spending, I suggest looking at alcohol and coffee first. Try making fancy coffee at home, instead of spending money out. Cut down the nights you drink to one (or two.) Then begin to look at your eating out/ordering-in habits. This can take up a large portion of your budget quickly if you aren’t careful. So become conscious of the unneeded spending in these categories, and trim them down as much as possible.

From there you can begin to focus on your weekly groceries. I always suggest stocking up your pantry with tons of dried grains, beans, legumes, as well as cans of chickpeas, beans, corn, tomatoes, etc. This might be a higher upfront cost, but down the road it will allow you to simply purchase produce week by week, instead of buying complete meals. Dried grains, beans and legumes will stay good in an airtight container for a year or longer, so you won’t have to worry about restocking often. Plus this way, you can just cook a small portion of each in order to feed one and not waste food.

Speaking of food waste, I find that to be one of the most challenging aspects of buying food for one. Produce can go back quickly if you aren’t paying attention, and you can feel like you are wasting food and money. I have four methods to help combat food waste, when you notice your food is looking less than stellar.

  • Freeze it. If produce starts to go bad, cut it up and freeze it to use later for soups, smoothies or sauces. I also suggest freezing things like bread, so that you never have to worry about it getting moldy and losing a whole loaf.
  • Blend it. Add less than stellar produce to your blender and make a smoothie or juice out of it instead of throwing it out. You can also do this with parts of produce you might normally discard, like beet greens and carrot tops.
  • Make soup or stock. That thyme that’s going bad and that half an onion in the back of your refrigerator will make a great soup or stock. Throw your extra produce (or even animal bones) into a pot and make a soup or broth that will help to preserve the food for longer. This way you get a new meal out of old produce.
  • Eat, kitchen-sink style. Throw all of your bits and bobs in a bowl with some lettuce or a grain from your pantry, add a sauce and voila – you have a new meal! This will help you get the full bang for your buck on everything you buy at the grocery.

With any food budget, there is always the internal struggle that comes at the end of each week or month. You’ve grown tired of everything in your refrigerator and pantry and you just want to give in and order food. This is when I highly suggest having or making a fun sauce to go on your meal. This always helps to change the flavor profile enough that I can avoid the temptation to order in.

My sauce suggestions are: Never-Fail Salad Dressing, Mango Basil Hot Sauce, Creamy “Peanut” Sauce, Easy and Healthy Teriyaki Sauce, Cilantro Lime Hemp Dressing, or Sweet Onion Dressing.

My final tip for singles is to treat yourself! Have a special night in with friends or buy yourself your favorite chocolate bar. Every budget needs some room for special treats.

And don’t forget about dates! Those are often food expenses too that you can’t forget to leave room for! If money is tight, I suggest reallocating your “treat yourself” fund toward this expense.

Eating for one shouldn’t be complicated or hard. Hopefully this article helped spark some ideas on how to make your budget work for you. There is no need to waste money or food just because you are one person!

Follow along!

Over the next few months I’ll be covering a variety of ways to be healthy on a budget. Keep an eye out for those and head over to Brewing Happiness for healthy recipe inspiration in the meantime!

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further