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How to Grocery Shop for One

By David

November 29, 2023

It’s not hard to learn how to grocery shop for one, but you might be surprised by the ways it’s different from shopping for a whole family or even just two people. You’ll want to plan recipes that make the most of ingredients, get smart about meal prepping and think creatively about what to do with leftovers. Check out our tips for grocery shopping for one below, including how to make your groceries last longer and some grocery list ideas for just one person.

Arguably the most important grocery shopping tip we can offer is to download Fetch, and use the app every time you’re putting together your shopping list. You’ll earn points on all your grocery store visits, and those points can be redeemed for free gift cards that will help you save money on future trips to the supermarket.

Text reading, "Turn your groceries into gift cards -- get the app"

How much are groceries for one person?

The average cost of groceries for one person will depend on where you shop, how often you order take out, the kinds of meals you eat and much more. The USDA recommends the average cost of groceries for one person will range from about $200 to about $400 per month. Your budget might run a bit higher if you’re focusing on healthier foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables.

We want to be clear: this is a grocery budget. Your total food budget will be higher, and if you’re serious about budgeting, remember to snap your receipts in the Fetch app. Snapped receipts turn into points which turn into gift cards to some of your favorite places (including gift cards for Kroger or Whole Foods for your next grocery run).

Image of grocery store with text reading, "The average cost of groceries for one person will range from about $200 to $400 per month."

Tips for grocery shopping for one

Grocery shopping for one sounds like it should be simple, but it can make some things more complicated. If you’re living alone, you might need to make more chili than you’d want to use all of the beans you buy, for instance. Or you may need to scale a recipe back if you know you don’t like the leftovers much. 

These are our basics when grocery shopping for one:

  1. Plan your recipes before making your grocery list.
  2. If you’re on a budget, try planning your recipes based on the weekly ad.
  3. Make your list and stick to it (we have a simple grocery list to start with below).
  4. Buy smaller portions of perishable foods, like a quart of milk instead of a gallon.
  5. Buy staple ingredients in bulk to save money and to keep your grocery list short.
  6. Limit those impulse buys.
  7. Make more frequent, smaller shopping trips.

That last tip is key. If you shop for groceries once a week, your bill will seem more manageable and you can keep fresh produce on hand for your recipes instead of throwing out wilted lettuce or slimy spinach.

Simple grocery list for one person

Your personal grocery list for one person won’t be the exact same as your neighbor’s, but you’ll likely have quite a bit in common. Here’s where you should start when learning how to grocery shop for one person; this grocery list for one person has just 9 categories to write down:

  1. Pantry staples (spices, pasta, sauces)
  2. Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt)
  3. Protein (chicken, beef, tofu)
  4. Legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts)
  5. Raw vegetables (salad, baby carrots, avocado)
  6. Cooking vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts)
  7. Fruits (apples, oranges, berries)
  8. Breakfast (cereal, oats, granola)
  9. Bread (buns, bread, tortillas)

If you start with these grocery list ideas for one, you can then make them more specific as you choose your recipes or just use them as a general guide while you shop.

Sample grocery shopping list for one person

How to make your groceries last longer

Whether you’re grocery shopping for one or ten, it pays to be smart about what groceries you buy, when you buy them, and how much you’re buying. Unless you’re shopping for shelf-stable foods like rice or canned soup, there’s a very real risk of your food going bad.

  • Grocery shopping for one often means choosing between buying too much of an ingredient you need or not buying it at all.
  • Larger households risk running out of staple foods unless they buy in bulk, and then you’re left in a similar place as a solo shopper.

If you’re making your grocery lists right, you’re only buying what you need, but what can you do if you still find yourself throwing out spoiled food? 

  • Store your groceries at the right temperatures
  • Treat the “use by” date is more of a “best by” date
  • Keep your bread covered
  • Buy frozen fruits/veggies
  • Plan recipes designed to use the groceries you already have

Start your grocery list in the Fetch app

The key to grocery shopping for one is preparedness, and that goes double if you’re looking to save money on groceries. You don’t need a new app to plan your grocery shopping, though. Make your list in the Fetch app, and you’ll be able to quickly and easily spot chances for extra points, putting you closer to your next gift card.

Bag of groceries with text reading, "Grocery shopping on a budget for one"

Topics: Food and Drink, Shopping Lists



David Fairbanks is a writer, science educator and Chicagoan fueled by coffee. He's written about everything from Ferraris to handcrafted pet urns to Superman, and he genuinely loves loyalty/rewards programs.