by Kevin Sun
Figuring out a single person grocery budget that’s good for your wallet and stomach can be tricky. While there are plenty of grocery shopping tips that work for any household, living alone has its own quirks. So how much should a single person budget for groceries? The average cost of food per month for one person in Canada used to range from $225-$250, but can be much higher now due to rising living costs. Here are 5 tips to help keep that cost down when you’re by yourself:
1. Waste Less Food by Buying the Food You Like
Living with others often involves compromise, and this could include buying food you don’t like. But when you’re living alone and your groceries are just for you, you can buy exactly what you want (keeping a healthy and budget-conscious diet in mind, of course). This helps you get the most value out of your money. After all, you’ll enjoy what you like more, and will be less likely to have waste left over. You can also more easily experiment with your grocery list when you feel like tasting something different. For a fun challenge, try replacing one or two meals you eat every month with a cheaper or same-cost alternative. If you don’t like it, just go back!
2. Buy Groceries in Bulk When Shopping for One
Think that bulk grocery shopping is something only families can do? Think again! Taking advantage of big package deals is one of the best ways to save money on groceries. Of course, neither your stomach nor food budget will match a family of 4, but a monthly bulk buy could end up lasting you several months. Even without much space, a single person can still stock up on non-perishable foods like rice and pasta, canned and dried goods, nuts and seeds, sugar and spices, snacks and more snacks, etc. If you have a freezer, you can also bulk buy meats and veggies and separate them into smaller portions to freeze. Just remember that bigger packages don’t always cost less. Always double-check the math to confirm that buying something in bulk will actually end up saving you money.
3. Get a Grocery Shopping Buddy to Save on Bulk Buys
Just because you live alone doesn’t mean you have to grocery shop alone. By teaming up with a friend of family member who lives close by, you could bulk buy more perishable items you both want and split the cost as well as the product. This saves money and can also be a fun bonding experience. Just make sure you’re helping each other spend less, not pushing yourselves to spend more. Instead of shopping together, you could also take turns buying groceries and “delivering” them to each other, saving time, energy, and cash!
4. Save On Delivery Costs by Ordering Extra
Speaking of delivery, so long as you account for it in your budget, there’s nothing wrong with ordering restaurant food to your door. However, in a single person household, this can be less cost-effective due to costs outside of the food itself. Popular apps like DoorDash and UberEats impose small order fees that charge you extra when you buy less, which can often be the case when you just want one meal for yourself. Rather than go for more expensive items to avoid the fee, consider ordering enough food for two meals and then saving the leftovers for later. You can also save on the delivery costs of additional orders this way. For example, if you like to eat takeout twice a week, then instead of making 2 separate orders, make a single order that will last for 2 meals. Some foods like curry can taste even better the next day!
5. Keep Your Grocery Budget Stable
Without anyone watching what you do or don’t do at home, it’s easier to make impulsive choices like skipping a lunch, shopping without a plan, or eating ice cream for breakfast. But this isn’t just bad for your body – it’s dangerous for your budget as well. Without a steady routine and grocery shopping plan, you might go slightly under your budget one month and blow way past it in another. Some deviation might be inevitable if you work irregular shifts, but try as best as possible to stick to the meal plan you set for yourself. Rather than risk overspending, keep a consistent range for how much groceries per week or month you need. Remember that you can use grocery money for future weeks in one bulk shopping trip if that will cover your food for the weeks you’re drawing money from.
The average food budget for a single person is between $250 and $300 a month, but that’s just a guideline. If you can buy meals at a discount or visit family and eat with them, you might be able to spend less. Figure out the budget that works for you. If needed, have regular check-ins with a friend or family member so that you’re still accountable to someone else even when you’re living by yourself.
How to Get Help with Building a Single Person Budget that Includes Enough Money for Groceries
With the costs of food, housing, and other living expenses rising, it’s not easy to stay on top of you finances when you’re just by yourself. But living alone doesn’t mean you have to build your budget alone. If you’re having trouble making a single person budget that lets you experience the lifestyle you want while still working towards your financial goals, consider booking a free and confidential appointment with a non-profit credit counselling agency in your area. A professional counsellor can help you find solutions for your challenges and make a clear plan to overcome them.