Cooking on budget....

Joined Feb 13, 2011
First off, I would like to just take a second, to say hello and tell you a little bit about myself. I'm 19 years old. I started culinary school, but had to take a break because of finacial hardship. I have worked in a couple of restaurants. My first cooking job, I worked under as a sous chef, at a small little bar and grill. My second cooking job I worked at a crappy little mom and pop style place that didn't make anything homemade. To me, it was an insult to cooking in general. Now, I work as a line cook in a very high class country club, under a well known chef and sous chef. But along with being a chef/cook, I am a model and have to keep my weight down, while being healthy.

But anyways, here is my problem. I am moving into my first (second if you consider the apartment I shared with my EX) apartment and I'm on a VERY tight budget. And have to figure out how to cook healthy for 1.

I am very use to just going into the grocery and dropping $100 a week on fresh produce and organic items and nice meat. But that just can't happen right now, not until I am making a little more money.

I need help finding recipes for ONE person (or something for two that can be easily frozen). I like a lot of chicken (which is good, because it's cheap) and I LOVE fresh produce: grapes, oranges, strawberries, lettuce, spinach, potatoes, ect.
Joined Feb 8, 2009
 Hi TL, Welcome to Cheftalk........I bought a bone in turkey breast for $1.60 a lb last week. I cut one half of the breast off the bone and made Turkey tenders, boiled the bones for broth for soup, I then roasted of the other breast on a bed of vegetables for a turkey dinner with, gravy, mashed potatoes and hot veg. I used left over scraps and broth for Turkey Pot Pie. For $12 I got

4 Turkey dinners

4 turkey Sandwiches

4 bowls of Soup

4 Turkey tenders Marinated then BBQ on the grill served with potato salad and baked beans and corn bread

4 turkey Pot Pies


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
Cooking healthy for 1 is the same as cooking healthy for a lot of people. The concepts are all the same.

Cooking healthy on a budget for 1 has some tricks to it though.

It's good that you like fresh produce. It's a good buy in season and healthy. But for budget reasons, you need to buy in season when it's at its peak for quality and nadir for price. So for the Winter time, you need to work more in storable vegetables and accent/garnish with the expensive out of season things if you use them at all.

Avoid fresh herbs at the store. Grow them yourself for much less and can be done year round indoors or out. Many dried herbs are excellent as well and worth exploring at this point in your life.

Learn to love legumes and cook them yourself. This will save money and they can be reused later in the week for other dishes.   Soups are particularly frugal and worth your time. You can study with only brief interruptions to add the next ingredient and let it simmer along. A pressure cooker is a great time saver for many legumes.

Meat becomes an accent rather than the focus of the meal, and more meals will be meatless. 

The saute is the elegant solution for cooking for one but it focuses on the more expensive tender cuts. Not a budget friendly thing. Braising is good for the cheaper cuts and again cooks while you study. But braises are BIG and you'll need a freezer and the discipline to use it to cook this way.

It's not really about recipes for one as learning to use the leftovers of larger cuts efficiently and avoiding expensive things  in the first place.
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Joined Feb 14, 2011
I would recommend buying a NuWave Oven Pro (search on Google) you will save lots of energy and have VERY+ tasty and healthy foods.
Joined Dec 9, 2010
Grow some herbs in a few pots. if you use them as regularly as me, it'll save you a lot in the long run. Whole chickens selling at only $0.50/lb are your friend. that's the protein of at least 4 meals for less than $5. After you eat that, you can make stock from the bones for the price of basic mirepoix.  Good stock means you can make good sauces on a pretty lean budget.  Egg and potatoes. Neither of those are expensive, but can make a delicious meal or side dish that really stick to your ribs.  I honestly believe a lot of the best food has its roots in old peasant life. I've had weeks that i've had $10 to spend on groceries, but still managed to feed myself better than average dishes. Poverty necessitates innovation. So may your lean budget make you a better chef! :)
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Joined Apr 3, 2010
Since I am not an organic or health food guru I won't go into that phase.

As far as budget  shop Walmart  I find them 15 to 25% less across the on average..  Don't shop a food club as half your money will be invested in food in your pantry. Store brands today cost less and unlike years ago are as good and in some cases better then name brands.

Buy 1 item that can be used for 2 or 3 other things or dishes .  There should be no waste, as one item recycles to the other. Sit down and plan the meals for 1 week at a time.When you shop use a list and stick to it, No impulse buying. Go shopping after you eat, not if you are hungry. Its been proven if hungry you buy more .Use coupons and watch sales.Good Luck
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Joined Feb 1, 2007
As with so many things, a lot of this depends on your available time. Trading time for money has always been important to budget-minded people.

If you don't already have one, I suggest investing in a small freezer. The one in your fridge just isn't large enough. Last time I looked, one of those mini-s was selling for around 200 bucks. A bunch of money, for sure. But it will let you take advantage of sales and quantity buys, and will soon have paid for itself.

As an example. We watch the sales, and, when chicken is a bargain, buy three largish birds. We then convert these to edible portions and stock-making pieces. By the time we're done, three birds costing $15-18 total, result in about 25 actual servings. In addition we have the stock. And those servings do not include the wings, which are saved up separately until there's enough for a meal.

We could not, however, accomplish this without a freezer.

You can apply this same concept to all sorts of ingredients.

If you have the time and inclination, canning and other food preservation methods can really help stretch those dollars. And many of us find it an enjoyable pastime as well.

Store brands today cost less and unlike years ago are as good and in some cases better then name brands.

The problem is that this is sometimes true. But just as often there is a quality difference, because the house brands use lower grade ingredients. If you need proof, go buy a bag of house-brand frozen peas, for instance, and a name brand like Green Giant. Pour both into a bowl. You'll actually see the difference.

IMO, the price difference is so small between them (nowadays we're often talking about a matter of pennies) that it becomes more expensive experimenting to find which house-brands make sense and which do not.

And, btw, while on this subject, stay away from canned goods as much as possible. They are the most expensive way of buying things, and, in general, are not nearly as good as frozen. Again, try comparing a can of peas with a bag of frozen to see what I'm saying.

Above all, do not succumb to the single-person trap. It's far too easy to convince yourself that cooking for one is too much trouble, and go the take-out route instead. That's a sure-fire way of spending too much on meals.
Joined Apr 3, 2010
Also beware Buy 1 get one free.or store coupon In some cases a real rip. Example last week Publix Hellmans coupon in flyer in local paper  $1.50 off  a 30 ounce jar Price on shelf in store I looked $5.89 so net is $4.39 > Went to Walmart next day for something . Went to look at Hellmans 30 ounce Price  $3.89 allday, everyday..  Kraft chunk cheddar buy 1 get 1 free  save 2.99  So its 2 for 2 99  or about 1.50 each  Walmart everyday 1.89  so at buy 1 get 1 free you saved  .39 on 1 but you were forced to lay out  2.99 for 2 . All this practice does is double the store sales volume . They make it up the following week by selling inventory at regular price and sales rebates. Manufacturers work with them.  Many sale items are come ons and subsitized by manufacturer. Also read how many ounces in package, there are many variations. Sometime it is better to buy 2 -  8 ounce cans of the product  then a 14 ounce can of same product (there are no more 16 ounce cans)

CAVIET  EMPTOR +++ Let the Buyer Beware
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Joined Aug 21, 2009
Think about how much money a week you can spend on food and plan your meals around that.  Yes I am old but back in the days before debit I had a fixed amount of cash in my wallet and i had to make sure I got enough stuff to feed my husband and myself for the week.  That lead me to looking through my cookbooks and planning a menu.  It was (and still is) loosely adhered to but it gave me something go on for the shopping list.  I carried a calculator and when I got near my budget I headed for the checkout.

You can save money in many ways and you don't have to resort to Kraft Dinner in the process if you are careful and look at what you can make.  Most recipes can be divided and you can easily make something that was intended for four into a one or two serving. is great in that there is a feature on their site for scaling recipes either up or down so please check that out and use it.

Hope this helps
Joined Dec 9, 2010
try to think of ways you may create leftovers or reserved parts of a dish that make a completely different dish. For example, whenever I make tomato sauce, I tend to make a braise or a stew which uses tomatoes, and reserve the liquid. This does two things really, it creates a wonderful meal from what might be lower quality cuts of meat, and second that reserved sauce (is not only better than any crap jar of ragu) but make really great pastas or soups.  Like I said earlier, whole chickens are $0.50/lb are a no brainer. Roast, braise, or smoke the whole thing and with the left overs you can make a pot-pie or (what i usually do) chicken lasagna.  Actually a combination of the two things I said. I'll braise an entire chicken, have chicken chasseur, and i'll have leftover sauce and chicken available for that chicken lasagna. Could just as easily do this with other meats
Joined Jan 8, 2010
I agree with KY, a freezer is the answer!

I can easily do without a microwave, but not without a freezer.

By the way, I've been cooking for 1 or 2 for plenty years. I basically work like a lot of people already described: Buy what is cheap (mmm let me rephrase: what is good value for money and what's in season).

Learn to use left overs. Not to eat the same dish over and over again, but you can make something else out of it again. For example: you make a nice pasta sauce to go with your spaghetti or whatever. The left-over sauce can be used for soup, or maybe for a pie, or a stew or......

Cooking for 1 can be very satisfying, can be very healthy and doesn't need to be expensive.

Just one disadvantage: if you don't like it, you can only blame yourself /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif
Joined Jan 27, 2011
Good question,

Try to buying cheaper purchases instead of expensive analogues.This will help you to save money.
Joined Jun 23, 2008
If you have ethnic markets or street markets where you live, check them out. For instance, in Philadelphia I do a lot of my shopping at the Italian Market where produce, especially, is cheap. It can be less than half as much as it is in the supermarkets. Meat and fish are also less costly. A couple of blocks away there are two ethnic Asian supermarkets which have a variety of produce and canned goods (some of which you will recognize, many you will not; but you can experiment) at quite reasonable prices.
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