Three Basic Meal Planning Tips for One Person on a Budget

Meal Planning for One

Meal planning is great for large families as well as for single people. My friend, Ruthy from the Percolate Kitchen, shares how meal planning for one person can help you eat healthier and save money.

Three Basic Meal Planning Tips for One Person on a Budget by Ruthy Kirwan

If you’re a single person cooking and trying to budget for yourself, you face a different set of problems than families or couples do. Unfortunately, most websites and articles that offer meal planning advice are for families or couples, not single people. Add to that the fact it feels as though most recipes are already written for appetites of two or more, and it can be tough to figure out a meal plan as a single person that doesn’t look like this:
Monday: Takeout
Tuesday: Takeout
Wednesday: Macaroni and cheese
Thursday: Scrambled eggs
Friday: Takeout

So what’s a single person to do? Luckily, I have a few handy tips up my sleeve that will help anyone who’s not in the position to feed an army (or even yourself and a spouse!) yet still wants to take a little bit of control over their meal planning schedule. This will ultimately save time, money, and reduce food waste.

First, let’s quickly touch on why you, a single person, should be meal planning in the first place!

Meal planning, especially when you’re single, may seem a little heavy handed. But a solid meal plan sets your week in motion like few other organization techniques can. Plus, the right meal plan can save you a ton of money. (side note: that’s my favorite part, ha!)

By deciding what you are going to cook before the week gets going, you effectively reduce your grocery bill and take away those last minute takeout orders. You also leave yourself a little wiggle room so that when you come home exhausted, feeling totally.freaking.over.it., you don’t see a mountain of ingredients needing to be cooked; you’ve already done the extra work for yourself.

I like to say that effective meal planning is like giving your future self a high five.

Three Handy Tips

So where do we begin? I have a basic list of three handy tips I always refer to with anyone who is starting out a meal plan, except I’ve tailored this list for single people. Read on!

Planning for One

Start small. Don’t go crazy and plan seven straight nights of a main course, side, salad and dessert. Let yourself ‘scale up’ your meal planning endeavors, building on your cooking schedule as you get used to planning.
I recommend sitting down on a Sunday and looking critically at your week. A good rule of thumb is to start planning just three nights of cooking, two nights of leftovers, one night of takeout, and one night where you kind of throw something together (Kraft mac and cheese night, anyone?) Additionally, don’t stress about the antiquated idea that every meal needs a main, starch, and a side. Just make a flavorful dish, trying to add in vegetables when you can.
By starting small, you won’t overwhelm yourself from the get go. That overwhelm is what causes most people to abandon meal planning. The idea here is to make the plan work for you! It’s not to make you work for the plan.

Leftover Love

Look at what you’ve got. This doesn’t mean just taking stock of your pantry and your fridge, although that’s important. Jenny touched on this in her first post of this series. What I mean is, look at your current state of leftovers.
Do you have a leftover spinach salad in the fridge from lunch at a cafe with your best friend last week? This can be the basis of a wilted spinach side dish you can serve nestled under quick baked chicken thighs. How about that beef stew your mother sent you home with months ago, the one you tossed straight into the freezer? Change it up from your typical leftover, and roll out a defrosted sheet of puff pastry on top of the stew, then bake. Now it’s a beef pot pie!
If you look at what you have from the angle that leftovers are a new meal already started, you can save yourself time and money as well as bypass the dreaded ‘leftover fatigue’.

Recipe Conversion

Lastly, as a single person, it’s a frustrating fact of life that so many recipes are written to feed 2-4 people. This can leave you with a ridiculous amount of food leftover, and one can only eat so much leftover baked ziti before calling in the Chinese delivery reinforcements. I have a handy recipe, weight and volume convertor for you, so you can easily slice and dice those bigger recipes and tailor them to your size.

That’s it! I hope this post was useful for you. Meal planning and cooking as a single person doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By putting just a few simple techniques in place, you can get yourself in charge of your kitchen, and enjoy the confidence that it can bring. If you have any questions or feedback, I’d love to hear it in the comments!

Continue reading other topics in the Meal Planning series.

4. Three Basic Meal Planning Tips for One Person on a Budget (Oh, that’s this one!)

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Meal Planning for One

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