Healthy Eating Tips for Singles: 5 Ideas to Help Your Waistline and Your Wallet

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Editor's Note: Cooking for one can be tricky! It's even more challenging to eat healthy on a budget when the world (and the grocery store) seems to cater to couples and families instead of singles. So what's a healthy eater to do? Coach Nicole recently asked her good friend Lauren (that's her in the picture to the left), a single gal who loves to cook and eat healthy herself, to share some of her best tips for eating healthy when you live alone. Maybe the other singles out there can learn some good tips from this list!

By Lauren J. Finefrock

Cooking for one can be tremendous challenge that many feel isn't always worth the effort. You don't have anyone there to support you, except yourself, and no one to appreciate the fruits of your labors in the kitchen. So what's the point? Well, as with any challenge in life, if you break it down into pieces, you will find that what you thought was a mountain in front of you is in actuality just a small hill. I love to cook for myself, have friends over for dinner and try new recipes. But it can be challenging since I live alone and don't NEED a lot of food in the house. To prevent waste, save money, and stick to a healthy diet, here are the strategies that I've put into place.

  1. Always make a list before you go to the grocery store.
    One of the things I have been doing lately is buying more sale items that freeze well. I used to come home each week wondering how on earth I spent so much money at the grocery store for ONE PERSON for ONE WEEK! After a few large, unexplained bills, I decided to really pay attention to what I was buying. I know this is cliché, but planning your meals and making a shopping list really does help, especially when cooking for one. Plan out the meals you would like to cook for the week, thinking of creative ways to use a few key ingredients in multiple meals so that food doesn't go to waste. When planning, allow yourself enough for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and healthy snacks for the week. This way, you will avoid putting items into your basket that you don't need or won't be able to use up before spoiling.

  2. Ditch the frozen diet meals.
    As a single person, one of the easiest things to do is to pick up a single-serving frozen meal for lunch or dinner. That's not a bad idea and can allow for a lot of variety, but look carefully at what you're buying. Even many of the ones marketed as good-for-you can be high in sodium and additives, and low in healthy things like whole grains and veggies. If you have room in your freezer for frozen meals, then you have room to make your own frozen entrees. I will pair a protein (chicken, turkey, or other healthy cuts of meat) with a vegetable (broccoli, asparagus, green beans, etc.) and a healthy starch (sweet potatoes, brown rice), then add my favorite seasonings and freeze lunch size portions in Tupperware. This way, I can pull out my lunch the night before I want it and heat it in the microwave. I can also use my DIY frozen meals as quick dinners, too.

  3. Opt for single servings of tempting treats.
    Let’s face it: Grocery store items are not exactly geared towards single people. I mean, do you really need a quart of ice cream tempting you all week long when all you wanted was a small taste? Probably not! Yes, larger packages can sometimes be more economical, but when we're talking about sweets and other junk foods, singles might be better served by "paying more" for single serving items so that they don't have to finish off a whole bag of chips, cookies, or candy themselves. If there is a particular food item that you know you will not be able to resist, simply do not buy it. For me, peanut butter, candy, and cheese fall into this category. If I must “splurge” on my vices, I will always buy a single serving package, knowing full well that I will have to pay more per serving for the convenience of the single serving. However, I waste less food this way and thing that in the end, I'm actually getting a better deal by not filling my body with too much of these "sometimes" foods.

  4. Think again before splurging on "good deals" in large quantities.
    Are you really going to drink that full gallon of milk in a week? What about that large bunch of bananas, or that economy sized jar of applesauce? If you can't eat it before it goes bad or don't have room to freeze it, downsize. After a couple of weeks of paying closer attention to your grocery shopping, you should be able to gauge your eating habits well enough to know what you can consume in a week. Still have things on the verge of going bad? Look up recipes on the Internet that incorporate those items before you toss them. For example, I recently had over-ripened bananas, blueberries that were starting to wrinkle, and sour cream that was getting closer and closer to its expiration date. What did I do? I made blueberry banana nut bread, and it was delicious! It can also be frozen for later or given as a impromptu give to a friend, neighbor or co-worker if you are worried about making too many treats with your on-the-fence foods.

  5. Call on your freezer.
    As a single person, your freezer is your best friend in the kitchen. It will help you avoid throwing good food in the trash and take advantage of good deals at the supermarket. There are a few items I will freeze the minute I bring them home from the store. The first item to the freezer is my bread. Personally, I do not even want to entertain the thought of one person eating an entire loaf of bread before it starts to get those disgusting green mold spots on it. Bread freezes very well and thaws out to room temperature in no time. Another given food group to go straight to the freezer is any meat that I purchase (unless I absolutely know that it will be used that day or the following day). Instead of leaving that chicken in its container of three, I will separate it into individual serving pieces before freezing it. This gives me the option to cook one serving if I do not feel like waiting hours for the whole package to defrost. Many fresh fruits and vegetables also store well, as do leftovers from dinner—pasta, the other half of that jar of pasta sauce, casseroles, soups, pizza and more.
The bottom line for single cooks is to be smart and realistic about your food purchases and consumption. Just because you are cooking for one does not make it an excuse to sacrifice your health or your hard-earned dollars.

Do you (or have you) live and cook for one? What are your best tips for saving money, reducing waste and eating healthy as a single person?

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ELSCO55 12/13/2020
Thanks Report
JAMER123 7/6/2020
A food saver to vacuum pack foods going to the freezer is almost a necessity even for 2 people. I do buy on sale items and family packages for a savings and then the freezer gets packages meant for 2. Good for singles as well. Report
KITTYHAWK1949 6/27/2020
thanks. I do love frozen veggies to help me cook meals Report
ELRIDDICK 4/13/2020
Thanks for sharing Report
Thank you Report
When I was singke, in college & right after I did minimal cooking. However I began to pick up more complex recipes. Cooking isn't that difficult or time consuming. I had friends & roommates in the same boat do we bought in family sized amounts then split the food. Later when I was working, a couple of my coworkers & I shared meals. We took turns cooking then brought foods to work, either sharing lunches or exchanging dishes for dinners.
I'm also a big advocate for owning an extra freezer. My aunt's sister was widowed & had one on her patio of the apt just to take advantage of sales & meal prep.
I buy dried soup mixes or separate ingredients then add leftover meat to get a few hearty entrees from them. Check out Manischewitz long packets w/ dried legumes, barley, noodles, veggies & seasoning. You are water, other protein if desired & let simmer. Soup is always great w/ half sandwich, salad, quesadilla, etc as part of a great meal, or a cup on its own. Report
When I was singke, in college & right after I did minimal cooking. However I began to pick up more complex recipes. Cooking isn't that difficult or time consuming. I had friends & roommates in the same boat do we bought in family sized amounts then split the food. Later when I was working, a couple of my coworkers & I shared meals. We took turns cooking then brought foods to work, either sharing lunches or exchanging dishes for dinners.
I'm also a big advocate for owning an extra freezer. My aunt's sister was widowed & had one on her patio of the apt just to take advantage of sales & Report
I see tons of people here that hate to cook, I see cooking and cooking well as a survival skill, just like laundry or house cleaning, it has to be done, I cook not just because I love to cook, but because I like well prepared meals. The flip side is that I am not fond of leftovers, meat that has been reheated tastes awful, poultry had a tinny taste that ruins the meal, the worst is leftover turkey. I often take out a piece of chicken and divide it up for several meals that I plan to cook, leg and thigh portions are divided with the leg roasted, the thigh cut in half and made into a couple of meals, noting that I raise most of my own protein, and my chickens are usually processed when 10-14 lbs dressed weight, then cut up and packaged various ways. Many meals I make are not recipes as such, just things I have made for years and can make for one. There are a lot of interesting cooking for one cookbooks out there, and quite a few websites with recipes for one, although I have noticed their one would often be at least two meals for me. Report
thank you Report
I HATE to cook. There were a lot of great ideas in this article and people's comments. I can see making a large batch and freezing leftovers would be smart. But I have a very small freezer and I would still have to cook!

Thanks for the great article! :) Report
good ideas Report
Thanks... Report
I've learned that because I live alone doesn't mean my meals have to be boring and dull and I also don't have to eat out of the refrigerator any longer. Report
I cook for one and sometimes I do get the meals. I also I will do planned leftovers or make something in the slow cooker and freeze it in little containers Report
I cook for one. I plan and purchase one family-size new meal a week. Then I prepare the meal, do the clean up, eat a portion, and freeze the other portions in portion-sized servings. During the week, I thaw and eat one portion from previous week's recipes. This way I always have FAST but HEALTHY foods to eat without a ton of work every day. Report
My fav tip for bananas is to slice them and put them in a snack size baggy. They freeze well without changing color, and they are ready to pop into a smoothy or whatever. Report
I do the strategies given above. I do buy in bulk to save $. And I do batchcook to save time. I may buy a whole pork loin and slice it with the electric knife when I get home into boneless pork chops, and I may buy family pkgs of chicken breast, ground beef, etc and freeze them in individual portions. I may buy a family-sized roast or whole chicken and roast them in the crockpot. I use frozen veggies alot, especially frozen broccoli, kale, collards, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower; also look for the individually frozen single servings of salmon, halibut, trout etc in major supermarkets and Trader Joes. The 16oz tubs of organic salad greens from Safeway is a staple in my fridge, makes MANY salads for only $6 - much Much less than a dollar per salad. This makes healthy dinners EASY - when you get home throw a sweet potato in the toaster oven, while it's baking take a lean meat from the crockpot, add a frozen green heated on the stove top, and while the potato is cooking, slice up a cuke, tomato, or your choice of fresh veggie onto the salad. Set the table, turn on music, light a candle, get out Tupperware to put the rest of the crock pot contents into after dinner, and Give Thanks.

Leftovers are God's gift for lunches, as far as I'm concerned. If you have a menu plan for last meal, you only have to come up with a breakfast & fix dinner. Use your indentured servants like the crockpot, rice cooker, toaster oven, bread maker to make the components of your meals, and use the freezer for bulk meat and bulk frozen veggie buys.

To prevent waste, use the freezer and make a menu plan.

Get good at Planned Overs: pick a couple days to cook something major, then use it for reinvented meals on alternating days. Example of menu plan:
Sunday pot roast
Monday roasted chicken
ea day thereafter alternate leftovers of ea, using your own ideas & preferences:
Tuesday broccoli beef over brown rice
Wednesday chicken salad
Thursday French Dip au Jus sandwiches
Friday chicken fajitas, enchiladas, burritos, tacos or quesadillas
Saturday BBQ crockpot beef, baked beans and coleslaw
Sunday chicken veggie soup (boil the carcass in crockpot, strain out the bones, add veggies) Report
I am single and have just joined, am impressed with the amount of information available. I grow my own vegetables and enjoy fresh most of the year and always divide my meat meals into single servings, it,s so easy to just get out a serving and not to have to fight with a frozen lump. I keep frozen veges in the freezer to make up what is not in season so I can have variety, I feel it is well worth it to cook for myself then I know exactly what I am eating and fresh doesn't have additives or preservatives Report
Like a few others who posted, I don't like to cook. Never have. When I was kid, my mom tried to get me to help her in the kitchen; but I would rather be outside helping my dad tinker with the car or something else. As an adult, I cook mainly because I have to. Whenever I do cook (which is more often than it used to be), I will usually make extra and use for lunch the next day or freeze it. Lately, though, I will also make enough for my boss to have lunch the next day. Recently, I discovered that I use him as a reason to make myself cook when it would be easier to grab fast food or just snack away. Report
I have to agree with CATHWREN. There some really good ideas here. But mostly for those who love to cook. I to hate to cook. I don't just dislike it I HATE it. If it takes more than 5 mins it is just not going to happen.
Part of this is because I am single. Part of it is that I am a recovering stress eater. Nothing about food is enjoyable. It is something I have to have in my life. When stressed I stuff food down to push down the emotions. It doesn't matter what. Or if I am full. I do not snack, I don't have cravings.
Cooking is something I get no joy from so the simpler the better. And no I really can't make myself to care. I am doing better. But frozen meals are a a positive, I pick the healthier versions, add more veggies or protein at times. I buy foods that are already prepared, IE veggies already cut up. Don't buy a lot of fresh as the go bad to soon so have a lot of frozen.
Would have loved to see more of a discussion on the lack of recipes for singles. Report
These tips are great if you like to cook but I loathe it. I've tried crockpotting meals that I can freeze leftovers of but haven't found a crockpot meal other than chili that I like. Mostly, I just grill a piece of chicken and microwave a veggie to go with it. Report
I like to dice ham into quarter-inch cubes and store them in the freezer for omelets, baked potatoes, or recipes. I store a cup in each bag, and it's ready to make a pasta salad or crustless quiche. Sometimes I get a pound of bacon, cut the slices fine and fry it until it is crisp. I wring it out in a paper towel to get all the fat out, then store in a container in the freezer. A pinch of bacon crumbles adds a lot of flavor to eggs or a salad, and they last for a long time. Report
Although the article offers several useful suggestions. I have found that some vegetables and many startches (i.e. potatoes, sweet potatoes) do not defrost well. Also, for more variety in meal choices - I prefer to freeze individual servings of each portion of my meals, rather than the same boring meals. Instead of making several containers that contain the same protein and sides, I like to mix it up. Try freezing your side dishes (veggies, etc.) of choice in seperate smaller containers, and then each of your proteins (meats, main dishes) in different small containers. This way one night you can have chicken with seasoned broccoli, and the next you can have the same chicken with sauteed edamame and peppers, and so on! This way you are guaranteed not to get bored with your meals, the variety never ends! Report
I have gout and am finding it very difficult to cook the foods I need to eat, so many of my former favourites are now not allowed. help please. Report
Great artical. I'm 72 years old and have been alone for 15 years now. When I was young and had a family I did all the right things. Now I'm on a restricted sodium diet so I read labels and eat mostly Healthy Choice dinners. sometimes I have breakfast it is usually cereal. I don't buy junk food as long as it isn't in the house I'm not tempted to eat it. If it is I put it in an unusual place that I don't usually look for things and forget about it. So only company grandkids,greatgrand, and children eat them. Report
Just becoming single myself this past year I struggle with this and have read everyone's suggestions, written them down and plan on incorporating these into my new found lifestyle. Thanks for the great tips everyone. Report
I'm cooking for two, not one, but have some of the same problems with waste. I've taken to cooking and freezing meat in two-serving portions. I also keep the freezer stocked with frozen (low sodium!) vegetables. Report
When my son was in high school, I would make recipes for 4, 2 for him one for me and one for the next days lunch. It was hard to go to cooking for one, but I fixed this by cooking the same amount, One serving for dinner, 1 for lunch and 2 for the freezer for nights when I did not want to cook. I could always eat a healthy meal even if I did not want to cook. I felt in control of what I ate on those nights when I did not want to cook. Report
great Report
Good article! Iusually cook for 2, but follow alot of the same methods- especially freezing meat in portions. Also I find planning recipies and lunches for the week really helps, as ill choose recipies based on other things im buying, already have, or leftovers form teh last week! and it DEFINATLEY saves me money, because I also have the time to look at what I already have- I dont buy extra store cupboard goods for example because I cant remember if I already have it. My Fiance did the shopping last week without me or a list- and spent £20 extra than normal! Report
Whether cooking for one or more, my favorite soup is one I make from leftovers. I keep a large container in my freezer and scrape leftover meat, potatoes, veggies, gravy, pasta, etc., into it. When it is full, I put it in a stockpot or slow-cooker and add broth, seasonings or whatever I have handy. Can be a stew or soup -- possiblities are endless and really tastes great. Report
I love making soup. I leave a quart to eat in the frig, freeze some and give a quart or two away to people who are ill or are in a tough spot. Report
I love cooking. When I cook I usually try to stay at no more than 4 servings in the recipe. Then I freeze 2 servings in separate containers and refrigerate one for another day. Report
These are very good tips. I'm another who likes to make a big batch of something on the weekend & eat it throughout the week.

Two packaging concerns & how I deal with them:
1. I am dismayed by the amount of plastic & paper we consume & throw away with processed foods. Individual portions are terrible in this regard. For me that's a reason to avoid them as much as possible. I invested in a yogurt maker last year & make my own yogurt instead of buying it in cups (except for an occasional small container to start a new batch when the culture seems to be petering out). I make dessert only for company or potlucks. And things that are irresistible I just don't buy.

2. Microwave reheating in BPA plastic containers (including Tupperware) is iffy, so I researched some alternatives for the lunch food I tote to the office. I sometimes use non-BPA plastic containers but mainly Pyrex & similar bowls with tightly fitting lids. Report
Love all the great tips! I'm single and have all the same worries about waste etc. I'm a big fan of allrecipes and my crockpot. I like to cook at least one "large" meal per week - I portion it out immediately (or else I tend to run amok) and put half the servings in the freezer and half in the fridge, I use the green bags on fresh produce and am a big fan of frozen fruit (for my smoothies) and frozen veggies my fave right now are Brussels sprouts - I steam a cup with a little water,dill, salt and pepper and a spritz of non-fat cooking spray in my little pampered chef steamer - yummmm Report
I make a pot of soup on the weekend and then I have a quick, healthy dinner ready to heat up quick. If I get tired of eating it I just put what's left in the freezer in single servings. That way I have a few different choices. Lorraine Report
Great article, Lauren! I became suddenly single while writing a cookbook for my grandson and a second one on keeping a frugal kitchen. The next one, of course, will be cooking for one or two. My freezers and collection of freezer containers have become my best friends - besides my dog. Your tips are golden. Report
As a single person, I love my freezer as well. I also portion out meats and freeze them. I oftentimes cut them up and cook them first so they take less time to cook (I skip the thawing altogether). I remove my grapes from the vine immediately and do other things to simplify grabbing those items so I actually eat them. Especially with the grapes, I will avoid the extra work in favor of quicker to grab items and end up wasting the entire bag. I also like to cook up half a box of pasta at a time, tupperware it up, and use it for my dinners at school. Throw in some of that chicken I cut and cooked up and some mozzarella cheese and I have a yummy entree. Report
Couldn't live without my freezer. Too many ripe bananas are perfect for freezing for future smoothies. Applesauce is great in baking instead of fats/oils. I freeze cooked rice in small portions to zap later with a stir-fry. I don't like to cook, but will cook large batches & freeze portions so I can just grab. I'll bake an entire family pack of skinless/boneless chicken at once so I can just add a piece to a salad, soup, pasta, or as quick protein later Report
I'm not much of a leftover person. I like my food fresh. When I buy meat, I separate it into individual servings before freezing. Then I can take out one piece, whip up a salad and a nice side dish, and I'm eating like a queen!

I try to only buy what's on sale. Then you always have something different. I use the sale papers to plan my menus for the week.

Since I only eat fresh, I only have to shop the outside of the store. I save tons of time too. Report
My husband was gone in the military and I had to deal with myself. I ate at the cafeteria at the hospital and did very little cooking for myself as I don't like to cook. BUT, I do CLEAN up when I do. Report
I am trying to plan my weekly menus more consistently, and find putting the receipts on the refrigerator and noting the price of items that go bad and have to be tossed helps me adjust my spending.
It's also a good idea to compost. Report
Great advice! I am 47, single with no kids, so I have been cooking for myself for years.
I already follow these tips. I have friends who are also single that think it's not worth it to cook for just one, but I tell them they are wrong! A single person deserves to enjoy healthy, home cooked food as much as someone with a family does. Report
I'm getting better at separating and freezing smaller portions of meat as soon as I get home with groceries. I also have set up my leftover center so I can measure and freeze portions of leftovers to use for lunch and quick meals when nothing is planned. What I have the most trouble with is convincing myself to buy the individual portions at extra cost. I still feel guilty doing that. Report
This is good advice even for us empty nesters! Thanks! Report
Freezing is my best friend. And I just love those green bags for fresh fruits and veggies. When the veggies start to go I either cook them up and freeze them (I love sauteed mushrooms with chicken or steak) or just cut and freeze (I even slice my zuchinni and freeze them...they do get a bit mushy but not any different than frozen squash). I make sure that when I get the lettuce and other veggies home I dry them trim them and put them in green bags. I always separate my meats into individual sized portions. I too will freeze leftovers for future lunches or dinners. If I buy fresh salsa I use it for breakfast (on scrambled eggs), in rice as a fat free altenative that adds flavor, color and nutrients, on chicken or in chili...I even freeze it when it gets close to the expriation date for use at a later date. Report
One more point, just because you are alone does not mean you have to eat fast food!!! You can make good food FAST Report
My mother used to cook for her mother's nursing home (22 patients and 5 family members) then went to cooking for 2 when she got married. Did she ever have a challenge. The only freezers then were the little itty bitty ones in the middle of the top shelf of the fridge. She got very creative quickly.

Sure glad there are different sizes of freezers now. I make the most of them (at times) by making large meals and then freezing for a quick lunch or dinner if I happen to be alone that night. Gotta love the microwave, too! Report