Suddenly Frugal When You're Single

February 3, 2009
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I love it when readers of this blog write to me and suggest topics I should cover as a way of offering another perspective. Such as the recent post about how to save on heating bills. Because not everyone who reads this blog owns a home, readers wanted similar advice that renters would find applicable. So I ended up writing this additional blog posting on keeping your heating bills cool when you rent.

Then there’s the issue of food shopping. As a married mother of two, I look through my suddenly frugal meal-planning lens in a decidedly family way. But I’ve come to realize that, like the readers who rent instead of own, there are readers who are not married or who don’t have kids. And they deserve to have posts that address their living situations in a relevant way.

That’s why I’m thrilled that single homeowner Jen A. Miller, author of The Jersey Shore: Atlantic City to Cape May and the Down the Shore with Jen Blog, offered to write this guest post on meal planning from the single perspective. (You’ll recall that last year Jen offered advice on how to save money on a Jersey Shore vacation–advice I put to good use when we emptied our change jar in search of spending money, and then headed to Wildwood, New Jersey last summer.)

Here’s Jen’s meal-planning and money-saving advice when shopping for one (or 1 1/2–Jen has a dog):

* Learn the shelf life of foods. For example, I’m still eating apples that I bought from an NJ farmer in November, and they’re still good. Same thing with carrots — I buy them in bulk from Wegmans in the winter, and they last for a long time if stored properly. I also buy potatoes, onions and garlic in bulk, and most single people wouldn’t think they could save that way by being aware that these foods, when stored properly, last a long time. I know a lot of single people who think club packs or large sizes won’t work for them, but they can if you buy the right things. (FYI, I plan on doing a cold storage cellar next year, too. My row home is where the coal shute used to be for the block, so I have a room in my basement for it. It’s perfect. Just have to make sure it’s sealed off completely from critters.)

* Be careful when using coupons or going for 2/1 deals. Yes, they look like savings, but not if you’re never going to get to the second item before it expires. It’s cheaper to just buy one (I made a slip up a few weeks ago and did a 2/1 with orange juice — I’ll never get to that second one in time). But forĀ  things like paper products, nuts, dried fruit — I’m all over it.

* Cooking in new and different ways. Halving recipes is big, too, and doing it properly. I also swap cooking duties with a single friend who lives a few blocks from me. I make dinner one week, she makes it the next.

* At the same time don’t overcook. I have a crock pot but don’t use it as much as I thought I would. The trouble is I’ll make something and then not want to eat the same thing for dinner 5 nights in a row. Same thing with overcooking. It’s a good idea, but my tastebuds get bored if it had to eat chili all week. That comes back to halving recipes properly, too, and buying a smaller crock pot. I even have cookbooks with 1 or 2 servings recipes. I got them as gifts, and they’re big money savers.

* Use bean dishes to spice up your meals.
I also make a lot of bean dishes, which I know is something that everyone could do to save money. However, the good thing about bean dishes is that you can can refrigerate them and then mix up the spices when reheating and have a different dish, or stuff them into a pepper and have something completely different.

* Shop locally and regularly. It’s much easier and cheaper to eat as a singleton when the Collingswood Farmer’s Market is operating (May – November). I food shopped once a week, and made whatever was in season. Of course, that’s true for everybody, but I thought it worked great for someone who’s solo. I could buy as little or as much as I wanted.

Do you have additional ideas on how to meal-plan and save money when you’re shopping for numero uno only?

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7 Responses to Suddenly Frugal When You're Single

  1. Elaine Bloom on February 8, 2009 at 4:59 am

    I just thought of this. Have you tried blanching things you want to freeze? It might keep them from turning brown. I do blanch the rhubarb. Not the berries or things like onions or mushrooms or carrots.

  2. leahingram on February 6, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Elaine:

    Great. Thanks for the tips.

    Leah

  3. Elaine Bloom on February 6, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    I have never tried freezing herbs so I don’t have a clue.

    Among the fruits that freeze well are berries, such as blueberries and strawberries. Spread them on a cookie sheet and when they are frozen put them in zippered plastic bags. Rhubarb also freezes well though not everyone likes it. I think cherries do but I don’t have the patience to take out the pits.

    Among the vegetables that do fine are peppers, mushrooms, carrots and chopped onions. I don’t like celery so I never tried that.

  4. Elaine Bloom on February 4, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Interesting, but I live in an apartment where there is no good way to store fruits and vegetables for a longer period. It’s very hot in winter, there have been insect problems, etc.

    What you can do with some fresh foods is to freeze them and store them that way.

    I second the commentor who said to freeze cooked foods. I do big batches in the crockpot of certain items (like chili) and freeze in individual servings.

    The coupon thing is good for non-perishable items and canned goods. Then you can really stock up. But coupons are very worthwhile anyway if you use them for sale items and get double coupons. You can save a lot.

  5. Debbie on February 3, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Even as a singleton, I would make big meals and freeze the leftovers in one meal portions or swap out one of your dishes for someone elses. Get a cooking group and you can make a big pot of stew and everyone can bring something and take a portion home with them and have different meals for the rest of the week. I HATE to cook for only me, so I could show off by cooking for a group and still have different food to eat.

  6. Daisy on February 3, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    The bean dish advice works for me, too – even though I’m cooking for a family. Great post!

  7. leahingram on February 4, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    I’ve yet to figure out how you can freeze fruits and vegetables without them turning brown. Same with herbs. Any advice?

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