Web Exclusive - Ask Amy

Published in the June/July 2013 issue.

Photo by Nathan Sayers

Next fall I’m moving to a new city to dance, and I’ll be living completely on my own for the first time. What are some cheap, healthy meals that serve one person? —Savannah

Cooking on a budget is easier than you might think. Meat can sometimes be costly, but there are plenty of less expensive protein options, like beans or tofu, that can serve as great substitutes a few nights a week. Tofu vegetable stir-fry over brown rice is one of my fast, budget-friendly favorites. Pasta is another cheap and easy option that presents endless possibilities—try this great recipe with white beans and kale. Preparing meals to scale and freezing the leftovers, as opposed to decreasing measurements to serve one, can help save time—it doesn’t take any longer to cook, but you now have three or four dinners ready to go.

If you want to keep cooking to a minimum, try buying a whole rotisserie chicken, usually between five and seven dollars. You can easily get three to four meals out of it: sliced chicken with roasted potatoes and green beans one night, an entrée-sized chicken salad the next, chicken burritos another day, a chicken sandwich for lunch and so on.

Here’s a tip for grocery shopping on a budget: the more work required of you, the less expensive the item. For instance, consider buying bone-in chicken breasts, which are generally a few dollars cheaper than boneless, skinless ones. Pre-washed, bagged salad lettuce is another example—you can save a lot of money by buying a head of lettuce and washing it yourself! The same holds true for breakfast: A carton of eggs or large container of oatmeal goes a lot farther and costs several dollars less than a box of cereal—you just need to spend a little extra time cooking.