Learning to Grocery Shop for One

You’ve moved into your new apartment and think you are all settled in until you look in the empty fridge and realize it is time to go grocery shopping. At first I thought this will be  easy; it’s not like I haven’t been to a grocery store before. But then I realized I am shopping for one person and not my dad’s typical fill up of two carts for our eight person family.

After messing up multiple times during my first month here in DC, here are now my newly-learned golden rules for grocery shopping for one person:

1. Don’t go shopping when you are hungry. Everything in the store seems to be exactly what you are craving, until you get to the counter and realize you have enough food to feed a small army and you wiped out your wallet.

2. Shop around. Don’t just buy all your groceries from one store. I was told that Whole Foods was expensive until I went in and realized that I can find deals and their produce (which may be a dollar more) tastes way better than  Giant or Safeway selections. I buy my staples like milk, bread and eggs from a supermarket. But produce (it doesn’t have to be organic) from Whole Foods. Everything else in between my staples and produce, comes from the store with the cheapest price! (Also two words: Trader Joe’s. If you have a Trader Joe’s nearby, shop there. I love that place.)

3. This may seem obvious but get a store card, read your store ads, and print out coupons! I use this app called Checkout51. Each week they offer different deals on various grocery items. You take a picture of your receipt and upload it to the app. If you bought one of the listed grocery items you can redeem money. Once you get to $20.00 you can request the money to be sent to you in a check. So, your actually get paid to shop.

4. Go grocery shopping every week. This seems obsessive but if you don’t you’ll be wasting food and your money because produce spoils. I can only buy so much at a time that I can eat it all before it goes bad. Staple items like milk, eggs and bread don’t have to be bought every week but fresh produce has to be. I spend about $40-$50 a week and I find that I don’t waste a thing.

5. Use Amazon Pantry for your “house items” such as paper towels, toilet paper, and all cleaning supplies. Nothing is easier than getting these items shipped directly to your door step. Amazon Pantry ships these items to you in two days with great deals. You will be stocked for awhile and Amazon reminds you when you might have to purchase them again!

grocery shop for one6. And.. My “just because” rule. Try to shop locally and BYOB (bring your own bags). I try to go to the farmers market every Sunday to pick up some fresh veggies or fruit. In DC, stores actually charge you an extra $.05 to use plastic bags. Most people wouldn’t care to add that on their bill, but it is the thought behind the charge, not the nickel. Reusable bags are also sturdier than the plastic ones, so no bag breaks!

Although these rules seem like common sense you will realize grocery shopping for one is a lot of trial and error. Once you get it down, though, you feel so accomplished. So shop on, everyone!

My next task is figuring out how to actually cook the items I buy…

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Author My First Apartment

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Mary Adams has been a small town girl her whole life, but now she is taking her engineering degree to Washington, D.C. She enjoys craft beer and running. Her real dream is to own her own brewery called Tastefully Offensive.

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Comments (3)

  1. Avatar meechierosemond

    I don’t really agree with some of the tips here. Even most of these are above my means. For me, to really save money on food, I could never shop at Whole Foods or online like that. I get most of my staples from the 99c store. Things like pastas, dried beans, etc. Anything non perishable. As far as eggs and milk, Aldi usually has great deals, and Walmart’s not to bad for that kind of stuff either. When it comes to meats, I go to the asian market’s in-store butcher. Freshly cut meat and bigger portions for cents on the dollar. Most people with first apartments have extremely tight budget. Shopping for toilet paper on Amazon (which is not cheaper at alllllll) is not good advice.

    • Admin Admin

      Hi Meechierosemond,
      Thanks for you feedback and excellent suggestions (staples at 99c store, meat at Asian markets!) for low cost grocery resources. Unfortunately, many of our readers who live in major metros, such as New York City, do not have a Walmart or Aldi available and the local supermarkets tend to have really exorbitant prices. (They have to make up for their high rent in pricing, so be prepared for $5.99 lb of butter and $5 OJ.) If you live in those type of areas, it may actually be cheaper to buy your paper goods and other staples from Amazon.

  2. Avatar John Donovan

    Buying only what you can eat in the next few days is a great way to keep a steady stream of fresh produce in your diet, as well as watching your budget. How many times have you bought in bulk but thrown half of it away? That doesn’t get you any kind of deal in the long run.