Reader Question: Frugal Meals for One?

im wondering

Here’s a question that a reader of Simply Frugal would love some help with:

I am a single person, trying to live frugally.  I have it down in every other area of my life, but when it comes to meal planning and buying food, I seem to waste a lot.  How do you eat healthy and frugally when you are single?

Can you help her out with some awesome suggestions?


  1. Your crock-pot , freezer & microwave become your best friends. with a little organisation and planning you can shop the sales and have single serve meals available. Lack of variety and emotional eating are a big temptation. Also consider creating or attaching yourself to a group of like minded individuals. Maybe a church/synagogue where you can have regular potluck style gatherings or create your own to exchange leftovers. the sky is the limit once your start imagining. Good luck!

  2. I make my own t.v. Dinners, I do a major cook on a day off and invested in those Corning ware French white containers, they stack very nicely in the freezer, I label them with masking tape with date and contents, they were an investment but I have had them for years and I do not like freezing in plastic,

  3. Norma Nielson says:

    Buy ‘club packs’ and freeze in smaller portions. I have a ziploc bag in my freezer with individually wrapped chicken breasts and tupperware containers with 1# of ground beef. each. I buy a bag of 6 bagels, split them in half and invert so they stay easily separable before freezing . When I open a can of black beans, I use one serving and freeze two smaller ones in little rubbermaid cartons. When I buy a bag of tortillas, I insert a piece of waxed paper (sometimes leftover from cereal boxes LOL) in between each piece of flatbread and then freeze.

    You get the idea. I’ve thrown out way too much over the years until these ideas were spawned one at a time. I still have no great solution for lettuce, however.

  4. I’m single, too, so I understand! Here are some things I’ve learnd along the way:

    1. Watch grocery store flyers closely for deals. You learn quickly what is a good price and what isn’t, and you can take advantage of sales. I will buy big packages of chicken breasts when on a great deal, and divide them into 2 breast packages. I’ve bought good quality freezer bags from Home Hardware, that have a hand-pump vacuum seal system to help prevent freezer burn. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but even when I ate more than I do now, I would still waste meat by it getting freezer burn. Using these special freezer bags has cut that down astronomically.

    2. Embrace stews, chilis, stirfries, and soups to use up bits of vegetables, especially those that are getting a bit soft or less desirable. It sounds boring and repetitive, but using different beans, spices, flavorings, and sauces really varies the dishes (and I’m saying that as someone who gets really tired of eating the same thing several days in a row). And if I’m tired of a certain meal or need to cook again to use up more ingredients (or I know that I have a busy time coming up that I may not have much time to cook) I’ll divide up the leftovers into individual servings and freeze them.

    3. Beans and lentils are fabulous and cheap. I never used to be a big fan, but I love Indian food which uses a lot of beans and lentils and I’ve grown to love them. They also freeze wonderfully. Buy them dry (which is a ton cheaper than canned, and you can control the sodium content). I soak the beans overnight and then cook in my slow cooker. I freeze them in two cup portions (the amount that’s in one can of beans).

    4. Make your own stock – again, very easy to do, much cheaper, and you can control the sodium. I have several freezer bags on the go in my freezer where I stick bits of chicken (I always trim that big vessel out of chicken breasts before I pack them in individual bags; I also put any other trimmed bits, both cooked and raw, and chicken bones when I buy a rotisserie chicken), bits of beef, and all my trimmings from vegetables. When the bags get full, I make stock! I throw the meat bits in a big roasting pan with several carrots, onions, and celery (or some from my vegetalbe bag!) and roast at a high temperature until caramelized, then throw in a pot, cover with water, and boil for several hours covered. Mmmm… fresh stock. I then package it in freezer bags and lay the freezer bags flat in my freezer so they take up little space.

    5. A lot of major cities have “Good Food Boxes” or similar programs. These are programs that provide affordable produce, much of which is local. They are open to everyone (ie., you don’t need to prove that you are below a certain income level). The one I use here in Saskatoon is provided every 2 weeks. You don’t get any say over what comes in the boxes, so you can’t be fussy, but if you have several friends that also get involved, you can trade amongst yourselves! The boxes come in various sizes and are usually a great value.

    6. Get a small free-standing freezer! I bought mine when I lived in a place that had the world’s smallest freezer in the fridge – I literally could only fit a loaf of bread and one ice cube tray. Now I couldn’t imagine not having it – it makes eating for one a lot more doable. I keep a little wipe-off board next to my freezer to help keep track of what’s in there (I also do this for the produce I have in my fridge) – that way, I don’t forget what’s in there and nothing spoils.

  5. Here are a couple of very cheap and quick meals for one.
    1. Boil up a package of ramen noodles (try to find baked noodles instead of fried) in hot water. Add whatever veggies you want in the pot. Add an egg (it will boil in the water). Then drain the noodles or use the broth with your own seasonings instead of the salty package that comes with the noodles. Or, if you don’t want a soup, just add soy sauce or sesame oil or hoisin and hot sauce to the noodles and mix up. It’s quite a healthy meal…..noodles, veggies and protein (the egg).

    2. Boil a bowful of pasta, preferably whole wheat. Then there are several options for the ‘sauce’: extra virgin olive oil and grated cheese of your choice; pesto and cheese; sun dried tomatoes in oil with cheese (there are large jars of sun dried tomatoes at Costco for around 9.00 and they go a long way); use a jar of good tomatoe sauce and freeze the rest in small amount. You could also add other things to your pasta like beans (freeze the remaining beans for later); left over meat. Olives and cheese (even blue cheese) and a bit of olive oil is also very tasty. Your meal will be ready in the time that it takes to boil the pasta. If you have leftover pasta (a good thing), you can toss the noodles with a can of salmon, lettuce, other veggies and a bit of oil and vinegar and you have a good salad. Basically you can add alot of really inexpensive things to pasta and it is a good, cheap meal.

    Have fun….eating for one or two or a whole bunch doesn’t have to be expensive if you try to cook from scratch…use the basics instead of prepared foods. Much of the world lives on a starch and a bit of protein and veggies without all the sugar and fat and processed stuff we consume here.


  6. Cook a meal and freeze the extra portions for another day 🙂

  7. Not sure if it is particularly helpful, but it sure is timely. I came accross this article in the Edmonton Journal today and thought I would share

  8. Also, for meatless tips check out the “Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a day” blog by Melody Polakow. She has a great method for prepping and cooking frugally. She’s interesting, too! (even if you’re not a vegetarian as such.)

  9. Make a large batch of each meal and freeze the left overs.

  10. Look into a Collective Kitchen in your area – not all areas have them, sometimes they can be hard to find. If you’re not sure what it is, it’s basically a group of people who meet once a month to cook several meals which are freezer friendly. Often, an agency of some sort kind of sponsors it (provide the place to cook – a community hall, church kitchen, etc) and covers half the cost of food. They are a great way to keep food costs down and to have some food that just needs to be reheated on hand, because the ingredients are purchased in bulk/larger quantities and the finished meals are split between all the participants it really keeps the costs down while providing healthy ready made meals.

    Another thing I do is I shop for my produce (that I don’t grow) at a produce only store, better prices and selection. For my bread, I buy the ‘short dated’ bread for really cheap from my local McGavin’s bread store, and quite often I can find coupons as well, so I’ll get up to 15 loaves of bread/buns/pita bread/bagels/etc. for about $`12 or less.

  11. buy vegetables which you can combine in different dishes then you can eat them separate and in a shared dish makes that you use the leftovers

  12. Hi, being single and trying to live frugally is one of the best things you can do. When I was a single parent (my daughter was under a year old so it was just me eating “real food), the first thing you should do, get a slow cooker. It can be big or small (if it’s big, you can make more and freeze it for later), it makes the cheapest cuts of meat fall apart in your mouth. Secondly, try to plan your meals for the week, (or least plan dinners). Third, try to only shop the outside aisles of the store and stick to the basics. When I used to grocery shop, I would stick to fruits, vegetables, cheap or reduced price meat, and there is nothing wrong with buying store brands. Most of the time, they are just as good, or better than the national brand. Eat meat only a few times a week, even though I’m married and have a family now, we still only eat meat 3 times a week. Google is also a great source of frugal recipes, and slow cooker recipes, and recipes for one. Also, see if you can get some your friends together and form a collective kitchen. You all cook a meal that is cheap and healthy, and you divide it into portions, and each person gets five meals for the cost of one. I do this with my friends, and it’s a great money saver, and we all get to try something new. Good luck on your frugal adventures!

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