Shopping for one person – 12 of Your Questions Answered

Shopping for one person. It should be easy, right? Then why is it so hard? Let’s get to the bottom of it with answers to 12 grocery shopping questions!

Shopping for one person
Shopping for one person

Shopping for one person may seem easy in theory. After all, it’s just you, right? And you know what you like, right? Right?

Then why does it seem so hard once you get behind the wheel of that shopping cart?

You know like chicken but the choices seem overwhelming. Whole chicken? Half? Wing, thigh, breast, ground, bone in, bone out? With rice or potatoes, stuffed, in a salad, on a sandwich? Hot? Cold? Gravy? No? Do you even have the stuff at home to make any of these dishes?

Relax for a few minutes while I do my best to get 12 most common of
your questions answered.

How Do I Buy Groceries For One Person?

How Do I Buy Groceries For One Person?
How Do I Buy Groceries For One Person?

What is a basic grocery list?

This is what I would consider to be a basic list of thing you will want in your kitchen:

  • Meat, poultry, seafood and tofu
  • Grains such as pasta, oatmeal, flour
  • Cooking oils and butter
  • Dairy such as milk, yogurt and cheese or nut based alternatives
  • Garlic
  • Fresh and/or frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Canned tomatoes and/or sauce (no preservatives added)
  • Dried fruits such as raisins and cranberries
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chicken or vegetable stock/cubes (no preservatives added)
  • Honey
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Sugar

Exactly what you decide to get is up to you but use this as a general guideline. Buy only those things you like to eat and know how to use/prepare (unless you’re trying a new recipe, which I encourage wholeheartedly).

Condiments and spices can be expensive to buy all at once so I suggest that you buy them as you go along. In other words, only buy the condiments and spices you will need for this weeks (or months) meal plan. Eventually, you will find that you have a supply of everything you need!

How Can I Simplify Grocery Shopping?

How Can I Simplify Grocery Shopping?
How Can I Simplify Grocery Shopping?

How Will I Know What To Buy?

Make a list. The easiest way to make sure you have a complete list when you hit the market is to make a meal plan for the period for which you’re shopping and list everything you’ll need for that plan (that you don’t already have).

Keep it running. Keep the list on your fridge (or your phone) and immediately add to it when you notice you’re low on something.

Check your budget. If it looks like you’re shopping is going to cost more than you had allotted, go back through your list to decide what you can put off until the next trip.

Organize your shopping list. Set up your list in the order you’ll be walking the store. Clump all your produce together, for example, and your meats. When you get to the aisle section of the store, try to group things together that would be in the same section such as condiments, spices, baking supplies, etc.

For more information on this subject, check out my article, “Shopping For One Person”.

How Often Should I Grocery Shop?

This is a completely personal choice and varies wildly. Much of it depends on a person’s access to a grocery store and how much he/she enjoys or can afford to shop. I have a friend who shops for her food daily (“How would I know what I want to eat tomorrow?”), while another views her bi-weekly curbside pickup as a blessing (because she never has to step foot in a grocery store ever again). Some will shop monthly due to fixed income schedules. The average person goes to the grocery store 1-2 times per week, which is how my schedule looks, but this decision is totally up to you.

When Is The Best Time To Go Food Shopping?

Early mornings before 9:00 am or evenings after 7:00 pm are typically the times that stores are the least crowded. The busiest time of day 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm due to school release and people getting out of work

How do I grocery shop on a budget?

How Do I Grocery Shop On A Budget?
How Do I Grocery Shop On A Budget?

 How much does food cost per month for one person?

The USDA publishes a monthly food plan which indicates that it costs between $165 and $345 a month to purchase a healthy variety of food for one person.

How much does the average person spend on groceries?

The amount varies wildly depending on gender, income, expenses, household size and the ratio of home cooking to pre-made, take out and restaurant dining. It’s important to have a food budget that coincides with your income and expenses.

How Do I Budget For Groceries?

In general, most people spend an average of 6% of their income on groceries and another 5% on pre-made, takeout or dining out. You can use this as a general guideline to see where you stack up against “the norm” but the amount you budget should reflect your eating habits as well as your ability to cover your other expenses.

If you’re concerned that you spend too much on groceries, try keeping your receipts for a month or two to track what you purchase, where and when. Are you spending too much money on items that could be scaled back? Are you making poor choices on certain days or times (for example after a long day at work?) Are you paying extra by buying single items at the convenience store each morning when those might be less expensive if bought ahead at the supermarket in larger packages?

What Can I Do If I Have No Money For Food?

What Can I Do If I Have No Money For Food?
What Can I Do If I Have No Money For Food?

Food pantries are a fabulous resource, whether you use them on a regular basis or just for those “lean times” caused by things like unexpected car repairs or reduced work hours. In many instances, it’s not necessary to prove income or need. Click here to find a list of food pantries in your area.

How Do I Eat Healthy On A Tight Budget?

Please read my article “How To Eat Well On A Budget” for some thoughts on how to get by when times are tough!

What are the cheapest meals to make at home?

Here is a list of the foods that will give you the most bang for your buck. Tasty, nutritious and inexpensive, these foods can be your safety net on those weeks when you check just isn’t stretching as far as you’d like it to!

  • Eggs
  • Rice
  • Dried or canned beans, lentils, chickpeas
  • Pasta
  • Peanut butter
  • Oatmeal
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Potatoes
  • Canned tuna and salmon
  • Fresh Carrots
  • Fresh Onions
  • Bananas
  • Chicken or pork (look for sale prices!)
  • Yogurt
  • Cottage cheese

What often happens when I’m in a spot is that I will find myself with a few random food items but I’ll have no way to tie them together into a meal. When that happens, I’ll do a recipe search on my computer. Seriously, just type in “tuna, rice, tomato” and see what comes up. I guarantee you have more options than you think you do!

Another thing to remember is that, once you get your supply built up, spices and condiments go a long way in jazzing up a couple of simple items. I have a number of recipes on this site that consist of just a few key ingredients paired with spices or condiments! Pork pie filling, Korean beef marinade and General Tso’s chicken are just a few examples.

Go Forth And Conquer

Go Forth And Conquer
Go Forth And Conquer

I hope these tips will help you put your next shopping trip in perspective. Now go forth and get some groceries! And please comment below if you have any tips you’d like to share.

All my best




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10 Replies to “Shopping for one person – 12 of Your Questions Answered”

  1. I felt very grateful to find your page. I have been asking the same question to myself and I hardly think of any solutions. Due to Covid-19, now I am only allowed to visit the supermarket to shop for my groceries. And I am living alone. I cooked for myself almost every day. Sometimes I am out of ideas about what to buy and what to cook. There is a certain item I can’t buy and keep them in my fridge for too long. And if possible I try to avoid going to supermarket too often. Some of my questions have been found on your page. Thank you. 

    1. This crisis has been a challenge for all of us in many different ways and going to the store is not the least of them.  I’ve that simply making a meal plan and then a shopping list is the best way to get in and out of the store quickly and make fewer trips.  Stay safe, Ethan,

  2. I have gone to the market several times without listing out items I intend to buy and it always ends up in one of two ways. Either I over buy or I under buy which means I end up not buying most of the items I originally intended to buy. It is a disaster and it makes my life kinda complicated. It is really easy. Before going to the market make a list of what you plan to get and the exact money you plan on spending. This would make things a lot easier. Trust me I know.

    1. We’ve all been the victim of “list free shopping”!  It’s incredibly frustrating to get home and find that I’ve forgotten so many things!  Thank you for your comments, Manuel and please make sure to stop by again and let me know how you’re doing.

  3. Heloo, such a nice article and website. Well done.

    I have been a victim of those who will go shopping and spend hours there or even end up more than enough cash. Sometimes it’s really confusing on deciding on what to shop for especially when you are already at the mall or market. I think where I was always missing it was me not making a list whenever I am going shopping and also setting a budget. Thanks for this post it’s going to serve as a guide to my shopping.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Sheddy, and I’m happy I could help.  Please stop by and let me know how things are going!

  4. A really helpful article that could also help if there are only two of you to feed. I like the idea of just buying the condiments that you need for the month, rather than trying to stock up on everything at once. At least condiments don’t go off and keep for a long time.

    I also prefer going shopping in the morning as I hate standing in queues. I am also going to try your tip on putting the food you do have into the search engines to check what recipes do come up. I never realized that you could do this.

    What is a food pantry? I haven’t heard of that concept here in South Africa.

    1. Thank you for your comments!  A food pantry (sometimes called a food bank) distributes donated food to those in need.  In my area, they are usually opened one day a week or one day a month.  People can come and receive an allotment of food and household goods.

  5. I find it very interesting
    that there are actually some ways to improve the shopping experience,
    and that of course also means having some knowledge of what
    you are planning to buy and laying out a budget before beginning
    to buy anything, as grocery stores are made to maximize profits
    and that sometimes means trying to make artificial demand
    on something that you don’t even need. I found this
    the article most interesting and it surprised me how easy it is
    to save more money on grocery lists, while I do know 
    most of the tips on how to save money I found some
    new information that you wrote interesting as well.

    Excellent job! 

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