Saving Money Without Wasting Food: Bulk Buying for Singles
It’s always amazed me how many single people — and even couples — avoid purchasing food in bulk because they feel like they just won’t be able to use it up. The truth is that even those of us preparing easy meals for one (or two) can benefit from bulk buying and family-sized purchases just as a parent of five does. The secret lies in choosing the proper purchases to enjoy the greatest savings. (See also: 25 Frugal Items for Your Organic Vegan Grocery List)
Loose Frozen Items
I covered this somewhat in my article on single-serving freezer meals, but it’s certainly worth repeating. Family-sized bags of loose, frozen items can provide easy meals for one just as well as they can for a family of four. Since the items are separate in the bag, you only need to take out a single serving to heat in the oven, microwave, or pan. Basically, it’s the same simple plug-and-play type of menu busy moms have been using since frozen food was invented. You’re just scaling it down for a single person’s needs.
The trick is to purchase things like packaged veggie burgers, mixed frozen vegetables, or individually-breaded chicken tenders that are designed to be removed and eaten in per-person increments. As long as you’re leaning towards things that can be customized for your serving needs, there isn’t any reason why you shouldn’t be able to enjoy family-sized savings on anything from Tater Tots to frozen broccoli.
Convenient Canned Goods
There are a number of high-value, simple canned foods you can use with great flexibility once they’re present in your pantry. The trick to incorporating them into cheap and easy meals for one while still enjoying the savings that come along with bulk purchasing is simple. Choose ones that are small enough to make use of on your own, yet available by the case or family-sized multipack.
Whether you choose ones on the cruelty-free grocery list from PETA like Manwich or canned tomato sauce, or want to indulge in that large stack of tuna cans at the warehouse store is up to you. Some favorites my husband and I like to use when the other is away on business are Hormel vegetarian chili and fat free refried beans for vegan burritos and quesadillas.
The family-sized bag of kiwis might not be the best idea for a single shopper, but there’s certainly no harm in picking up one of those ten-pound bags of russets for $2.50 when they go on sale. Potatoes last a long time in the fridge and make for a hearty dinner when topped with things like baked beans, chili, or cheese sauce with scallions.
Several of the veggies on this survival-mode produce list are long-lasting and can be used to create a number of tasty and affordable meals for one. The trick here is to decide which items you like enough to eat frequently and stocking up like a large family would when they go on sale. You can never go wrong with sweet potato recipes in my opinion, but there are other options such as fresh garlic or onions that can be used to season a number of dishes.
Multi-purpose staple foods are a single person’s best friend. Those large tubs of organic baby spinach are one such example.
You might think you aren’t able to eat up an entire tub before it goes bad, but if you are serious about getting enough greens in your diet, the necessary recipe ideas will present themselves. Sure, spinach is great for salad, but that means you’ve got to eat all of it in its bulkiest form. What about wilting it as you toss it up with some pasta, sautéing it down to use as a pizza topping, or including some in your breakfast omelet? You can even whip some up in your smoothie if you’re so inclined.
Fresh items aren’t the single shopper’s only multi-purpose friend. Spice blends are also a great item for people who live alone to purchase in family-sized containers. If you’re a big Italian or Mexican food fan for example, why not save by purchasing taco seasoning or an Italian herb blend in a larger size? Chances are, you’ll use them up faster than you think.
Dry Pantry Staples
Basic dry pantry staples remain useable for quite some time. Since you only need to create recipes in a batch large enough to enjoy for dinner, or perhaps large enough to freeze a few servings ahead, all you need to do is scale your dishes appropriately. For example, I routinely use black-eyed peas in a simple crock pot vegetable soup that David and I both enjoy. If he’s out of town, I simply scale back the recipe. It’s just soup for crying out loud, not quiche. Scaling it back for one isn’t exactly rocket science.
Other ingredients you can use this way are lentils, macaroni, and cashews for stir fry dishes. Even ramen recipes can be enjoyed by solo diners who prefer shopping in bulk. Simply purchase a case of it at a time. It’s not like it’ll be going bad in your cupboard anytime soon.
As you can see, there are many easy meals for one that can be prepared with foods purchased in family-sized amounts. If I could boil this article down into one word for you to keep in mind as you shop, it would be scalability. Large pasta bakes and lasagnas won’t work for singles, but anything you can easily use to accommodate an extra guest will work just as well for feeding yourself.
What do you buy in bulk for your pantry or fridge?