How to Start Cooking for One
As you all know, I started this website because I was finding that cooking at home, especially when cooking just for one, was expensive. In my mind, you should cook at home for two reasons: first, to make your food more cost-effective, and second, to know exactly what is going into your food. It seemed like every recipe out there is written for anywhere from four to ten people, and very rarely was I able to use up the produce I bought every week, even if I was able to scale back recipes.
I also know it can be really hard to get started cooking at home, even if you really like it. Every recipe calls for a seemingly never-ending list of ingredients and you end up leaving the grocery store with a significantly lighter wallet, which undermines the first reason you're cooking at home, right? Stocking a pantry and spice cabinet is no small feat and should be done over time.
So, here's what we're going to do: I'm going to give you a full month's worth of eating including six dinners per week plus a few lunches from leftovers as well as your normal purchases such as cereal, fruit, yogurt, or the like. We're going to start out with a monthly budget of $200 for food, leaving you only to pay for one dinner out per week.
There are a few key promises I'm going to make you here:
1) I'm going to assume that the only ingredients you have in your house are butter, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
2) Each week, we will buy only a few items that are "investment" purchases, meaning a new spice or two that may cost $5, but will translate into a cost of mere pennies per meal.
3) I'll give you the weekly cost of food as well as the per meal price, as they're not the same. Just like your investment purchases, buying a protein in bulk may be cheaper and cost you more up front, but work out to a very minimal cost per meal.
Don't be alarmed. Look at the total month's cost of food: It's only $157.70. That leaves you with over 40 bucks to buy things like yogurt, cereal, and sandwich fixings for breakfast and lunch. Keep in mind that you are building up your pantry and that these investments will make a huge difference. Just look at the price per meal cost. Also, depending on your appetite, you will definitely have leftovers that will take the place of spending money on lunch.
Let's Get Started!
Total Cost of Groceries: $45.56
Total Cost of Meals: $24.24
- Day One: Chicken Lettuce Wraps, total per meal cost: $5.89
- Day Two: Spring Vegetable Frittata, total per meal cost: $2.21
- Day Three: Grilled Vegetable Skewer Salad, total per meal cost: $2.65
- Day Four: Pea and Mint Soup, total per meal cost: $3.22
- Day Five: Skirt Steak with Fresh Favas, total per meal cost: $5.33
- Day Six: Chicken, Spring Vegetable and Egg Drop Soup, total per meal cost: $3.75
Total Cost of Groceries: $35.38
Total Cost of Meals: $23.90
- Day One: Skirt Steak with Grilled Mexican Corn, total per meal cost: $7.59
- Day Two: Asparagus and Bleu Cheese Soup, total per meal cost: $3.41
- Day Three: Eggs Two Ways, total per meal cost: $1.74
- Day Four: Chicken with Citrus-Glazed Carrots, total per meal cost: $2.24
- Day Five: Baked Tilapia with Pesto, total per meal cost: $6.14
- Day Six: Uptown Ramen Noodles, total per meal cost: $2.78
Total Cost of Groceries: $39.60
Total Cost of Meals: $23.17
- Day One: Shrimp with Spanish Quinoa, total per meal cost: $5.03
- Day Two: Red Pepper and Carrot Soup, total per meal cost: $2.19
- Day Three: Tempura Fish with Raita, total per meal cost: $5.57
- Day Four: Stuffed Red Pepper, total per meal cost: $3.85
- Day Five: Mediterranean Pork Chop with Cous Cous, total per meal cost: $5.01
- Day Six: Spiced and Braised Kidney Beans, total per meal cost: $1.52
Total Cost of Groceries: $37.26
Total Cost of Meals: $25.67
- Day One: Poached Salmon with Fennel, total per meal cost: $5.61
- Day Two: Ceviche Salad, total per meal cost: $5.51
- Day Three: Mediterranean Steak with Salad, total per meal cost: $6.10
- Day Four: Fennel, Apple and Shallot Bruschetta, total per meal cost: $3.55
- Day Five: Pasta Carbonara, total per meal cost: $1.91
- Day Six: Sausage, Mushroom and Noodle Soup, total per meal cost: $2.99