More on living single on the cheap…
Disclaimer: although my husband of 30 years has moved out, my 23 year old daughter still lives with me. I’m still purchasing most of the groceries for the two of us, but she handles her own personal expenses and gas, etc.
I’ve been doing all the shopping for groceries (well, for everything) since he moved out, and it’s been an eye-opener. He did most of the grocery shopping in the past, so I didn’t really know how much we were spending on stuff. Being newly single has forced me to reevaluate the way to do everything, and spending is certainly one area that was ready for examination. Here are some of my recent observations:
Grocery buying at a non-grocery store
I buy a lot of Crystal Light. A lot. We don’t drink much soda at home any more (too expensive, not good for you, and – most important – too heavy to shlep), but sometimes dinner needs something more than water. So I buy Crystal Light. It isn’t the cheapest, either. It is, however, less expensive than soda (and I don’t have to recycle cans or bottles). Friday I was at Jewel (my local grocery store – owned by Albertson’s) and bought a can for over $5.00. But they didn’t have the flavor I really like, so when I was at Target yesterday I wandered over to the grocery section. Not only did they have the flavor I like, but it was under $4.00. That’s a big savings, in my book. Especially since I’m at Target at least once a week. While I was there I checked out some of the other stuff I buy. Eggs were $2.30 for 18. Normally I buy 36 eggs at Sam’s Club for just over $4.00, so that was a little more than I normally spend, but the upside is that I wasn’t planning to go to Sam’s so the extra 30 cents was well worth it. And, it was still cheaper than buying eggs at Jewel.
Milk. Milk is expensive. Did the cows get a raise? I checked the price of milk out at Target. It was definitely cheaper than Jewel. Speaking of milk – I usually pop into the local 7-11 to buy milk – it’s almost always cheaper than the grocery store (and no long lines to buy it, either).
Bulk buying when you’re eating alone
Speaking of buying food at Sam’s Club – here’s my observation on that. If I can freeze it or eat it right away, it’s usually worth buying. But most everything comes in packaging that’s way too much for one, so I pass it up if it’s perishable. I almost always buy chicken breasts there. They have a package for around $11.00 that has 6 enormous breasts in it (I can’t quite picture the chicken from whence these breasts came, to be honest). I open the package immediately and freeze the breasts individually. One is enough for Allie and me for dinner. When she moves out next year I’ll still buy the chicken – I figure I can roast one breast and have some yummy leftovers for lunch the next day.
The importance of planning
Leftovers seem to be a huge problem for me. I’m still adjusting my cooking habits, so I end up having a lot of extra food. I also don’t have a huge love for leftovers – I hate eating the same thing days in a row. The problem is I love making soup, and every soup recipe seems to make way too much. I’ve decided to cut back a little on how often I make soup and freeze half immediately. I’m working on eating our way through the stuff that’s in the freezer right now so that I can store portion-sized soup containers to make it easy to pull them out. So far I’ve frozen lentil-barley soup and chicken tortilla soup.
Besides freezing, I’m also working on perfecting the planned leftovers method. In other words, planning on having leftovers to repurpose in another meal. A couple of weeks ago I roasted chicken breasts (try the McCormick’s Rotisserie Chicken seasoning – yum). It uses just as much cooking gas to roast two as it does one, so I made a couple. But that was way too much for Allie and me to eat at one meal, so I sliced the rest up and threw it in the fridge. The next night I took out a ready-made pizza crust, put barbeque sauce on it and covered it with the roasted chicken from the day before and some cheddar cheese. Oh – and some caramelized onions (a worthy addition to every meal, I must say). It was really good and cost next to nothing!
The next thing I’m going to try is making a large pot of oatmeal and keeping it in the fridge for breakfast microwaving. Check out Mark Bittman‘s blog post for tips on that.
One of the things I was most worried about when the STBXH moved out was that cooking for one would really cramp my style. I love to cook and make a nice meal, and I just didn’t know if it would be fun to do it for just me. I’m finding out that with some modifications it can be just as rewarding and affordable, too.