We all know eating healthy can come at a very high cost. And living alone has increasingly taught me that. Not only do I have a the small budget of a recent grad, but I have a small capacity to eat all my groceries before they inevitably go bad and turn into wasted money. For a while, I didn’t think I could eat healthy and frugal at the same time.
How To Eat Healthy and Frugal When you Live Alone
Luckily, I think I’m finally beginning to master the art of not over or under-buying groceries for my dinners for one without sacrificing nutrition, and you can too! Here’s how I’m shopping frugal, and eating healthy:
1. Make a grocery list
This probably seems like an overly-simple tip, but I don’t think enough of us do this! Whether on paper or in the Notes app in your phone, you should make a grocery list. For me, this keeps me on track and helps reduce over-spending when I get a little too excited in snack aisle.
2. Choose the right store for you
Yes, the store you choose to stop at does impact your ability to eat healthy and frugal! You should decide where to shop based on the best deals being offered, any useful loyalty programs, and the location. There’s no point in spending an excessive amount on bus fare to get to a store when there’s one in walking distance.
3. Buy your protein in bulk
Doing this has made such a big difference for my grocery bill. I tend to lean towards chicken and eggs as my main protein sources. And while eggs are cheap, chicken is typically not. I try to seek out larger packs of chicken, preferably on sale, and divide the pieces into freezer bags.
I cook whatever I want for the week and the rest I freeze and thaw when I’m ready to cook them. This gets me more meals for my money than buying a small portion every other week!
4. Limit the fresh produce you buy
Despite what you might think, you can eat healthy and frugal while limiting your fresh produce budget. The issue with fresh produce when you live alone is how quickly it goes bad. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it, just be sure to only purchases what you know you’ll eat.
For me, this is usually some bell peppers to cook with and small container of cherry tomatoes to snack on! Along with that you can stock up on frozen fruits and veggies! I like to buy a club pack of frozen fruit which makes me enough smoothies for a month at least.
5. Don’t be afraid of discount produce
Sometimes you can find some good stuff in the discount produce section! If you’re able to use it fairly quickly, this is a great, cheap way to shop for fruits and veggies.
6. Meal prep
Meal prepping is a great time-saver that I’m always happy about on busy work days when I only have energy left to re-heat food. It also saves me from ordering delivery fries when I’m lazy. Divvying up my weekly meals also acts as a good reference when I am trying to budget accordingly.
7. Go plant-based for part of the week
I’m not a big meat-eater overall, so going plant-based is actually how I live most of the week! There are many misconceptions about eating plant-based, but it tends to be cheaper than you’d think. I love using oat milk instead of dairy in my coffee, it lasts longer in the fridge than dairy, and with just using a splash every day I have to buy it less often!
One of my favourite cheap vegan meals that I’d recommend trying is a chickpea pasta salad. Start with a can of chickpeas, your favourite veggies (you can even use frozen!), and your favourite pasta. You can dress it up with whatever’s in your cupboards.
8. Stock a snack cupboard
My snack cupboard is essential to me. I love having things on hand that I can just grab when I’m hungry. If you stock your snacks up on occasion, you should be able to make them last a while and focus on eating perishables first. This prevents me from over-spending when I want snacks!
9. Set a dine-out/delivery budget
You can eat healthy and frugal and still dine out! You just have to be mindful of your spending and account for it in your budget. If I don’t have a set a limit, I tend to go overboard. And no, you don’t have to order a salad to maintain your healthy eating. It’s healthy to treat yourself!
My healthy and frugal grocery budget
When I created my budget, I ensured a had $120/month dedicated to groceries. Living alone in Toronto as a new grad means a modest income and monthly rent that makes me cringe. Here’s a sample of some groceries I’d pick up on my bi-weekly shopping trip. This should come to around $55-$60; being pre-stocked with the basics and snacks helps.
- 2 cans of chickpeas
- Bell peppers
- Cherry tomatoes
- Oat milk
- Orange juice
Without a budget, I don’t think I’d be eating healthy or frugal!
Seriously, this is why setting my budget came before I tackled any of these other ways to save on my groceries. I’m glad that I took that first step. Because now I’ve gotten into the rhythm of buying just enough food for me without wasting anything!
I know that just because you live alone doesn’t mean we’ll have similar taste or appetite, but I hope that these tips prove themselves useful when you’re planning out your next meals.
It’s taken time for me to find ways to ensure I’m eating healthy and not over-spending or wasting food, but now that I have I’ll never go back to my old ways! And both my wallet and body are very happy about this.