Here's one thing no one tells you about when you're moving out on your own: how expensive it is cooking for one. Everyone can tell you to prepare for higher rent and utilities, but no one ever brings up how difficult cooking for yourself can be. Between budgeting for groceries and leftover fatigue, it's complicated.
Here's how to cook for one without making your budget hating you.
Find meals you like
This is the more important step. Research go-to recipes that will let you get the most out of them. No need for ramen noodles here! If you like Chinese, find recipes that will allow you to make a bulk meal for the whole week that you can recycle so you don't get sick of it. Here's a good roundup of all those recipe videos that have become so inescapable. That can help get you started.
Buy non-perishable food items
Stick to items that have a longer shelf life, so you don't have to worry about wasting food. Sweet potatoes, eggs, squash, beans and lentils all last a bit, and there's really a lot of recipes that allow you to incorporate those simple ingredients into. And bonus: Those are all very healthy, so you don't have to stress about putting bad ingredients into your body! Win win for everyone.
BOOK RECOMENDATION: "Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day" is both a cookbook and primer on how to shop wisely and cook for yourself.
Be wary of frozen meals
It's important to remember that buying frozen meals from the supermarket is rarely a good idea. While it may seem like a timesave, froze meals are usually not as healthy or budget-friendly as you think.
Have you ever eaten a frozen meal and felt satisfied? Me neither. I usually end up hitting up the unhealthy vending machine after eating a frozen lunch.
If you're going down the frozen route, make a real meal like lasagna that's made out of actual ingredients and not full of sodium. Then freeze it in meal-size portions yourself.
But do buy frozen produce
If you don't think you can swing eating all the fresh produce one week, buy frozen produce for much cheaper. It's usually not any less healthy and can save you major dollars compared to fresh produce. Nothing can replace the real thing, but your budget will appreciate the difference.
Pay attention to sales and coupons
You can also save a lot of time and money by planning your diet around sales. Subscribe to your local grocery store's email service or direct newsletters. Bonus points if you clip coupons! If a certain item, like frozen produce or poultry, is on sale, stock up while the gettin' is good to avoid paying a premium down the line.
Plan your shopping trips
These tips are all great, but if you don't prepare for your shopping trip, it's basically worthless. You have to be strong once you're at the grocery store. Vow not to go down aisles you know will make you buy impulsively. Cutting sweets, junk food and other impulse buys from your diet is hard, we know, but these items break your budget. Make a list and vow to stick to it no matter what.
We all have to learn the hard way about cooking for one. But knowing your personal habits is key to preventing waste.
Be strong, get comfortable with leftovers, and prep those meals! Do you have any tips about dining for one? Tweet us your thoughts to @moneymix!
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