In this post I am going to try and solve all your problems if you are budgeting groceries for one person. Its not an easy task and I’ve done my best to provide valuable processes and resources for you to look at.
Groceries, at times, seem to be the bane of my budget. Costs overrun, grocery trips are too large and I can never seem to get into a rhythm.
Being the engineer that I am I always do my best to put a system or process together and groceries seem to be one of the more challenging tasks I’ve tackled in the personal finance space. I’ve done other things like looking at different ways to budget, worked on my finances with my spouse and even dug into retirement accounts a bit.
For today’s post lets focus on budgeting groceries for one person.
Budgeting groceries for one person: how much is too much?
If you are anything like me, the first question I had was roughly how much should I be spending? Am I living too lavishly or am I doing ok. Everyone’s situation is different but I think its always a good idea to have some context for our spending.
Several times a year the USDA puts out some ranges for people to consider based on your gender, age and number of people in your household. Here is the data I reviewed. Below is a quick summary for those looking for tips on budgeting groceries for one person.
As you can see the range for a single person household is $165-$368 per month. You can see that this is the range for males or females all the way from the thrifty plan to the liberal plan.
Breaking this down to a weekly basis means a weekly grocery trip should be anywhere from $40 – $90. If you are within that range I’d take that as a sign that you are right on track. If you are way above that it may be a good idea to look to trim down on your costs.
Regardless of where you are at, there may be some ways for you to optimize your spending to get the same level of quality but spend less. Lets dive in.
3 Key tools to consider
Depending on your mastery level of cooking this section may or may not be relevant. However, I’ve identified a few tools to use around the kitchen that, if mastered, could really help you out when it comes to food prep.
The three that I believe could be help are the crock pot, instant pot and grill. Each of these are pretty straight forward, allow a lot of flexibility and could provide more than enough meals for an individual.
4 tips to Planning a grocery trip
The cornerstone of all of this is to actually go on a grocery trip and not overspend. I’m a big proponent of implementing systems in one’s life and believe that enough systems aren’t implemented in this area. Here are four quick tips to make the most out of your weekly grocery trip.
Utilize an app
There are so many apps out there made to be utilized as a todo list or even ones specific for grocery lists. I think this is the biggest opportunity to save time shopping and make save you money.
My favorite todo list app, todoist, would be perfect for something like this. They allow the ability to make a template and reuse that template anytime you want. In this scenario you could make a template grocery list and use this as the starting point each week.
Make a list
While it may seem straightforward always use a list. Always know exactly what you want and why you want it. Its too easy to walk through the store and pile stuff in your cart. Without a list you may even see the weekly deals and just start buying all of it. Always go in with a plan.
A good way to make a list is to do some research ahead of time. You may stumble across a site like this with some cheap meal prep recipes.
Make one trip per week maximum
Speaking from experience I can tell you that multiple grocery trips per week can kill the budget. I have a small family but the math still adds up. When budgeting groceries for one person its imperative to make no more than one trip per week. I bet you could make 1-2 bigger trips per month then simply buy produce and dairy items in smaller trips each week.
I’ve mentioned previously how buying groceries is the way to go. I stand behind this 100%. The only reason I’d allow an except is specifically when budgeting groceries for one person. If you are someone that doesn’t get tempted by deals and sticks specifically to your list, you should be alright.
Yes you will get charged to have someone else get your groceries for you. I still think its worth it.
5 Ways to Cut down food costs
In any area of life your habits are what make or break you. Wake up every day and workout? You will probably be in good shape over the course of your life. Read every night before bed? You are probably going to be well read. The same goes for your food bill.
While its not necessary to do all of these things, it doesn’t hurt. At the very least I’d be aware of the habits you are forming and what they are costing you. Because you are budgeting groceries for one person each of these would have a proportionally larger impact on your food budget. Here are 5 quick ways to cut down on food costs.
Make your coffee at home
Depending on your job situation this may be given. Regardless I think its one to think about. The cost of buying coffee every morning before work could be $40+ over the course of the month. While not a huge dollar amount that may be a half a week of groceries.
Pack your lunch to work
This is one that I stand by wholeheartedly. Packing your lunch to work can save a tremendous amount of money. The other advantage is that you will probably eat significantly healthier.
Watch how often you go out
When budgeting groceries for one person it would be very easy to just throw in the towel a few nights a week and order in. While that may not be bad in small doses it could very easily get out of hand. Not only will it cost you more but you also won’t be eating as well.
Keep an eye on alcohol costs
This goes hand in hand with eating out but you get the idea. Alcohol can get costly very quickly.
Avoid Costco and Sams Club
I know what you are thinking, am I crazy? I’ve never had a good experience with either of these stores. Don’t get me wrong, they offer great service and some great prices. The problem is they offer great service, great prices and an amazing selection. I’ve walked in there too many times looking for a few items and drop hundreds of dollars.
When you are budgeting groceries for one person and your monthly grocery bill is a couple hundred dollars a single trip to Costco can cost an entire month’s worth of groceries.
One last tip and wrapping it up
My one last tip before letting you go is what to do with extra food. While its hard budgeting groceries for one person I think its even more difficult to cook for one. You are bound to have extra food. Either eat it the next day or, better yet, freeze it and have it as another meal.
I hope you enjoyed the post. Budgeting groceries for one person isn’t easy but I hope I’ve pointed out a thing or two to make life a little easier.