When I was single I really wasn’t a huge fan of going to the grocery store without a grocery list.
I don’t know what it was but if I didn’t plan my shops I felt like I was wasting more time than I needed to.
Not many single men want to hang out at the grocery store although 10 years later I don’t mind it that much.
Most of my single friends at the time would rather eat at a fast-food restaurant or buy already prepared meals which never really excited me.
I had my own house at the age of 21 which means I had a kitchen so I had no excuse to be spending money eating out all the time.
Over the years I’ve come to learn so much about grocery shopping that leaving the house without a list is like shopping without cash or credit cards.
I’ve also learned how much I should buy and what types of foods work best for the healthy meal ideas I was creating.
I was an avid traveller when I lived in the UK so everywhere I travelled I bought a cookbook. I made it my mission to cook recipes from the cookbook every week if even just one. Over time I managed to learn how to cook for one person but I also enjoyed leftovers.
I recently received and email from a guy who is single and he sent me this: (Just for the record, It’s Mr.CBB, lol.
I’m a single guy on my way to University and I am renting a room in a house where I have cooking privileges. How do I go about grocery shopping and buying food?
I feel like an idiot asking my friends because they might laugh at me so I found your blog and thought maybe you could help. I don’t really know how to cook but I don’t have the cash to be blowing on food out with my friends at restaurants.
I have 4 years of school to complete and I really want to get this under control because grocery shopping is not my favourite thing in the world to do, if you know what I mean.
When I read this question from Craig I realized that I haven’t really touched on grocery shopping and the single life. I have always been a frugal guy especially when I was back home because I was paying down my mortgage and I wanted to be debt free early like we are today.
Going out for food with my buddies was far and few because I kept myself busy working and if they asked I would just decline. I had no yearning to spend money eating out and in the UK it’s not cheap to eat at restaurants. Even my wife can tell you that the prices were shocking to her when she was visiting me.
Before I met my wife I would shop about 2-3 times a week only because in the UK most of us have a refrigerator the size of a beer fridge.
You can’t store much inside of it but I taught myself how to grocery shop and buy only the groceries I needed for that week. Some of the best recipes I have ever created was when I was single.
My single life at the grocery store
Just because I was single and living on one income didn’t mean I had to exclusively shop at the local Dollar Store either. I was able to eat very healthy on a limited budget because I chose to invest time into what I ate.
I was a huge fan of tortellini because it was cheap but also nutritious. I didn’t make homemade tortellini but I was able to create beautiful pasta sauces. I was always experimenting and that’s how my passion for food grew over the years.
I would typically grocery shop on a Monday so I would have food for a day or two and again on Wednesday and maybe Friday if I needed more food. I would plan my grocery list so that I was making enough meals that would last me even if I had to put them in the freezer.
I always took a hot meal to work and I still do today. I’m not the sandwich type guy and probably never will be. When I was a single guy I aimed to spend about $40 a week on groceries so $160 a month.
Remember I wasn’t documenting and budgeting my money back then like I do today, I was simply frugal on a mission to spend less.
My monthly grocery funds seemed to be reasonable given grocery prices are much higher in the UK than in Canada. At least that’s the way I left remembering it although my parents say it’s not getting any cheaper. I was never a fan of wasting food so it was important for me to plan everything.
I was also using something similar to the Canadian version of the Neilsen home scanner << (Sign up if you live in Canada) which saved me more money although we called the scanner something different.
It was pretty much the same thing and that’s how I scored my new refrigerator just before I sold my house which worked out great because I had just renovated my entire kitchen. Just because you are single doesn’t mean you can’t save money like a couple or family would.
Coupons were hardly around so I never really bothered with them unless I saw one that I knew I would use. The coupon craze never happened in the UK like it did in Canada and America. My parents at times wished it had especially after they had seen how much we picked up for free or near free.
Shopping for the single person
Today I’m going to run down all the tips I can think of to help our single guy Craig get into the grocery store as fast as he can and home in the kitchen creating meals for one person…himself!
Before I start chatting below If I might direct you to my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide to read some of the most popular grocery post on Canadian Budget Binder I think it will certainly give you a head-start.
Grocery shopping is not scary nor is it difficult but with some learning and experience you will become a professional grocery shopper in no time.
First things first, you need to know How much your grocery budget should be?
If you aren’t already using a budget you can download our budget for free and it’s not just for your groceries it’s for all your expenses which when I was a student or single I wished I had used.
My Single Life Grocery List
I love to eat and I am a big fan of eating lots of vegetables, grains, beans and proteins so stocking up on my favourites each week was easy.
Below is a typical grocery list over the period of a month that I would put together to make some of my favourite meals along with a stocked pantry which I will talk more about below.
- Tinned tomatoes
- Fresh Ginger
- Spring Onions
- Tomato paste
- Sesame oil
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Greek Yogurt
- Sweet Potato
- White Wine (In the UK you can buy this at the Supermarket)
- Coconut milk
- Turkey or Ham for salads
- Chicken or turkey breast
- Beef Roast
- Flank steak (great for stir-fry)
- Mince beef, chicken or turkey
- Sausages, Pork, turkey or beef
- Pork chops
- Chicken cubes
- Soy Sauce
- Green Peppers
- Green beans
- Bok Choy
- Dry beans – Kidney, Black beans, Peas, Chick Peas
Keep in mind I didn’t necessarily buy in bulk either. It really would depend on expiry dates if any and whether I would be able to eat the product before it went off. Now that I am married we love buying the bigger packages because it’s cheaper for our grocery budget.
Learning how to cook
If you really want to learn cooking skills the best place is to make mistakes in the kitchen but taking a cooking class won’t hurt either.
Many Loblaws stores that have a kitchen upstairs often hold cooking classes that you can get involved in for minimal cost. Each store has a monthly calendar you can search to see what classes are available so contact your local store for more details.
Also, have a look online to see if there are any local free cooking classes at the community college or other companies you may be able to get involved in.
Another way you can build up your cooking skills is watching YouTube videos or what helps us is by watching The Food Network. There are so many cooking tips you can learn simply by watching and documenting what you see then putting yourself to work in the kitchen.
You won’t ever learn to cook if you don’t first make mistakes,
so don’t be shy get in the kitchen and see what healthy meals you can create on your own.
Cookbooks and Recipes
Another great way to learn about cooking is by reading a cookbook although with the internet so readily available you can get into more detail with online videos.
The cookbook seems like ancient history to most people since the boom of the internet and food blogs but chefs continue to write them.
Don’t dismiss reading a cookbook though because there really is lots of great info inside them and many with photos. I have a nice cookbook stash at home.
Even Pinterest is taking the world by storm and a great way to source recipes with photos.
If you don’t have any recipes in mind that you want to learn about cooking starting thinking about food and do a recipe search. I’m betting you will find all sorts of easy recipes that you would like to eat and create yourself.
Cooking for one doesn’t have to be difficult as long as you know what you want to eat. I think too many people complicate cooking when all you really need are basic cooking skills.
Buying the right cooking tools
Once you have your recipes you have to make sure that you have the proper tools to cook with. If you need a crock-pot, frying pans, spatulas, forks, knives, pots, strainers, a grater etc. buy them.
Now, don’t run out and buy all this stuff brand new because if you are single or a student like Craig you might not want to spend hundreds or even thousands to kit your cooking space with all the right tools.
Have a look at Value Village for second-hand items or even online at Kijiji or at garage sales this summer. Make sure to inspect what you are buying as you don’t want frying pans that are all scratched.
You’ll also be amazed what people will sell for cheap and keep your eyes open for those freebies because some people will just give you their old stuff, especially if they’ve upgraded and bought new.
When you find out the tools that you really love and use on a consistent basis over time you can replace them with quality items that will last you a long time. The last thing you want to be doing is spending $800 on a pot and pan set if you don’t need to.
Your tools are your weapons in the kitchen and without them it’s hard to create your meals.
You might think it’s corny for a man to meal plan and prep meals but the woman of your dreams might be over the moon excited to watch you do your thing and create a romantic dinner.
Until then you are still single so once you’ve sorted out your favourite recipes pick a few recipes that will get you by for the week. This will ensure you have variety but you aren’t cooking more than you need to.
If you plan to go out with the boys for wings on Saturday night there’s one meal or an entire days meals gone if you aren’t hope. Plan for that the best you can so you don’t over-shop.
Stocking the Pantry
If your pantry is bare you will need to stock it with grocery staples. Once you start to buy the essentials it will make creating your grocery list easier. You will also want to keep your pantry organized because this will help you when creating your grocery list for future shops.
Most people dread filling the pantry but if you keep your eyes open for sales this can easily be done. Besides all you need to do is write what you recipes call for and any other products you want and buy them as you go along each week.
A stocked pantry may include pasta, spices, condiments, beans, oils, peanut butter, jelly, cooking spray, chicken cubes etc.
Creating a Grocery List
We like to print our free grocery list and then fill it in before we head to the grocery store. Once we know the meals we will be cooking we look in the flyers to see if any of the products are on sale.
Some people like to look at the flyers first then create their meal plan around what is on sale to fit their budget which is what we do. Most times when I would shop I would look to see if there were any reduced products that I could use in my meals and replace something on my list.
If I did find something it was great because it meant more savings for me. Sometimes I would even find exact foods on my grocery list reduced which worked out great. Keep your eyes open for products the grocery store wants to move out fast as they are near expiry.
By now you should already know how much you can spend so the rest should be a piece of cake. When you are in the grocery store remember the perimeter of the store is your friend. Once you head down the aisles it can get very tempting so stick to your grocery list as best you can.
Don’t get overwhelmed if you mess up, we all do. No one is perfect but we try harder the next time or we make up the overspend the following month so the expenses even out in our budget at the end of the year.
Where to Grocery Shop
I never really had any grocery shops near me when I lived in the UK so I had to make a trip into the city to shop at the grocery stores that weren’t so pricey. We have shops comparable to Metro and Sobeys back home which can run your grocery bill pretty high if you’re not careful.
Don’t be afraid to price match if the store allows it or even get rain checks if they are out of stock on a product that is on sale. Money is money so be smart when you shop so you reap the rewards even if it is for a future grocery shop.
When you cook meals you are eating for life. It’s not about shoving unhealthy food down your mouth it’s about healthy living and preparing meals that motivate you to cook. If you aren’t pushing yourself to take care of your health you will never become a smart shopper.
What other tips can you share for Craig and the single shopper? Are there other pantry staples you would add to the list?
April grocery game challenge posts
If you missed any grocery game posts for the month I will post the line-up for the month each week here in this section for you.
Join in the Grocery Game Challenge fun and post your grocery shop in the comment section of each blog post… here are the GGC rules!
- How to save money when buying meat- The Grocery Game Challenge #1 Apr 6-12,2015
- How to save money on fresh produce – Fruits and Vegetables- The Grocery Game Challenge #2 April 13-18, 2015
Grocery Saving Tips
Click, Save and Print. It’s that easy!
Free Money Saving Downloads are awesome lists that were created to get us on track to work towards reaching our budgeting goals and now we are sharing them with you.
I hope you take the time to get back on track and start the savings process in your grocery budget today.
Get organized with a FREE freezer inventory, meal plan, shopping list, price comparison list and much more all for FREE. CLICK HERE to download all the free lists and even our family budget spreadsheet for FREE.
NEW!! You can now download the FREE Canadian Budget Binder Budget Spreadsheet in Excel…Grab it while you can… It’s FREE! We use it to budget and in large part a reason we could pay our mortgage off in 5 years, check it out!
Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide
If you are new here and haven’t had a chance to read past posts grab yourself a beverage, sit down, relax and enjoy some educational reading material on ways to save money in your grocery budget.
If you missed a Grocery Game Challenge post some of the most popular posts are listed below or you can now find the posts listed on their own page called The Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide.
If you know a topic that should be discussed send me an email.
2015 Grocery shop results
If you are a foodie like I am you will enjoy going through my Free Recipe Index where recipes from CBB Home Chef Nicola Don and myself are shared every Sunday on the blog. Check it out!
Yearly grocery budget for two 2015: $2820
(The above total does not include the stockpile budget of $240 per year or $25 per month.
- 2 x Neilson Milk $3.97
- 2 x Tubs of Kale $4.99-pink sticker 50% off
- 2 x D’Italiano Bread Sale $2.99 each-pink sticker 50%
- 2 x Extra Old Cheddar $9.40 and $9.78- pink sticker 50% off
- Chicken Breasts $2.58 reduced (not sure of reg price)
- 2 x Manns Snap Peas $3.79 each-pink sticker 50% off
- Franks Red Hot Sauce $7.69
- PC Lemon Greek Yogurt 0% fat $4.29-pink sticker 50% off
- French Rib Roast $8.26 reg $20.37
- 6 x packs of ground pork $2.06, $2.04, $1.99, $1.96, $1.92, $2.63 (Reg: $7.28, $6.48, $7.07, $6.93, $6.68, $7.94)
- 1 x Halal Chicken Thighs $3.48 reg $7.01
- 5 x Chicken Breast strips $4.36, $4.01, $3.77, $3.69, $3.53 ($14.54, $15.50, $14.54, $16.67, $13.58)
- 6 x Turkey Breast strips $3.03, $4.16, $3.99, $4.22, $3.99, $3.73 ($9.67, $13.26, $11.92, $12.72, $13.67, $12.52, $13.58.
- 2 x Friulano cheese 500g Reg $9.99 sale $6.99 – pink sticker 50% off
Meat Savings Regular Price $183.30 we paid $66.82.
Total out-of-pocket $lots>>> $118.35- $8.05 stockpile $110.30
Points Overview (add any other sections you need to show us your savings)
- Total Grocery Budget for the Month: $235.00
- Total Grocery Budget with any carry-overs $235.00
- Total Gift Cards used to date: $0
- Total Rewards Points redeemed this week: $0
- Total Rewards Points used to date: $20.00
- PC Points Plus Earned to date: 63742
- Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP) to date $0
Coupon Apps (add any other apps you use to save money)
- Snap Groupon to date: $1.50
- Zweet to date: $1.50
- Cart Smart to date: $0
- Checkout51 to date: $1.50
GROCERY SHOP THIS WEEK (add any other sections you need to show expenses and savings)
- Total to spend this month $213.47 ($26.53 overage from March applied)
- Stockpile budget 2015 ($25.00): (Jan/Feb) $50.00 +$0 (Mar)+$16.94
- Stockpile budget used this month: $25.00
- Total coupons used this week: $0
- Total coupons used to date: $13.00
- Total in-store discounts this week: $150.17
- Total in-store discounts to date: $379.57
- Total spent this week: $110.30
- Total spent so far this month: $244.39
- Total over/Under spend this shop: $over
- Total over/Under spend for the month: -$30.92
- Total left to spend for the month:- $30.92
- Total Spent To Date 2015: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $166.49+ Feb $261.51+ Mar $231.02 + April $244.39
Weekly Overview (your final thoughts)
I know we went over this month and I really did think we had it in the bag BUT we couldn’t pass up this meat deal. The meat was reduced at Zehrs by up to 75 %.
We are well stocked for at least part of the summer which is great. The savings were huge for us. We will work hard in May to catch up and hopefully no more sales will tempt us and we may have to use PC points if we need to shop again this month.
Canadian Coupons Found This Week
Last week we found quite a few coupons so check last weeks GGC post if you missed reading it as I’ve scanned in all the great coupons found in Ontario stores right now.
Here are some great places you can find Canadian Coupons!
Frequently Asked Questions
- Grocery Game Challenge RULES: Read the rules first and if you have any questions email me or comment on this post with your question and someone will answer you as soon as possible.
- Do I have to be Canadian to post my Grocery Shop?: No, you don’t have to be Canadian to post your shops only to win a monthly prize. We have fans who post their grocery shop who live all over the world.
- When does the Grocery Game close each month?: The Grocery Game Challenge closes at midnight of the last Sunday of the last post for the month but you will still get a ballot when you post your shops even if they are late but I encourage you to stay on schedule. It’s a proven fact the minute we stop doing something that is scheduled that we end up forgetting to do it all together. Don’t let that be you! You can post your shops all month-long.
- Does your Grocery Budget include health and beauty and laundry products?:
YesNo, our Grocery Budget includes such items as shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap, fabric softener, dish soap etc. As of 2014-2015 we no longer include such items in our grocery budget so we can see actual food numbers at the end of the year so we can plan accordingly for our budget. We don’t mind stockpiling items that won’t be affected by expiry dates or have long expiry dates but not so much food any more. It’s just one way to help cut your budget to save money.
- Canadian Coupons: Where can I find Canadian Coupons?: Here are your latest Checkout 51 offers that you can use to help you save money in the Grocery Game Challenge. There are many great Canadian Couponing websites online that share weekly coupon match-ups so you can plan your grocery list.
- What is an FPC?: An FPC is a free product coupon which means you can get a free product as described on the coupon.
- What is GGC?– The Grocery Game Challenge of course!
- How Do I Know what stores accept coupons?: If you are not sure it’s always best to call the store and ask.
- How Do I Grocery Shop?: I can tell you about grocery shopping and what we do in terms of shopping to save money and how it works for us. There are no wrong or right answers, just smart choices.
Over time you will gradually learn where you should and shouldn’t go in the grocery store or at least how to say no, I’m on a budget I need to buy this or that.
You may also substitute items in order to stick to your grocery budget to make it work. Nobody is perfect, heck we struggle with this part of our budget like many people do.
This is why the grocery game challenge was created to not only show you that we are like everyone else but to bring us all together to work as a team to get our budgets on track.
If you have just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2015 get ready to dive deep into your grocery budget and learn just where you are spending, how much you are spending and what you are saving.
Feel free to read all the above posts that I linked to above which I feel are relevant to learning about the grocery budget and grocery shopping in general. If you are brave and want to learn everything I know about grocery shopping in Canada check out my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide! It’s FREE!
You’ve made a wise decision to take control of your grocery budget now show me your shops and let’s get saving!
Welcome to The Grocery Game Challenge 2015!
Join in and become money savers and take control of your grocery budget.
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