This 10-Item Grocery List for One Will Last You All Week

Limiting your list to a mere 10 items may sound challenging, but it will actually make your shopping and meal prepping easier.

Hand holding shopping list and basket in grocery store aisle. Woman reading paper, shelf in the background. Lady buying groceries in supermarket.
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From traveling on the subway to walking multiple blocks to climbing six flights of stairs, I carried all of my groceries through New York City for the five years I lived there. Because shopping required quite a bit of effort, I did one major haul each week and tried to stretch my groceries until the next trip. Of course, the added challenge was that what I bought had to be light enough to lug home. I look back on the experience as a crash course in writing a smart and efficient grocery list.

Wherever you live, sticking to a short grocery list will pay off when you're solo cooking, saving you time, money, and even food waste. You can still make your favorite meals, but you may even find yourself getting more creative in the kitchen. Here's how to build a grocery list for one person with just 10 items.

Plan Your Meals Before You Shop

The most important part of writing a good grocery list is to always plan out your meals in advance. With a general plan for the week, your shopping will be faster and more direct. By planning, you will reduce mindlessly picking up items or browsing the aisles only to realize you forgot an ingredient as soon as you get home.

Choose a favorite or easy meal you like to make as a jumping-off point for what protein or starches you need. From there, build a list by adding a grocery item from each major food category in the list below. By the end of the week, get creative and repurpose ingredients rather than heading out to the store again until you absolutely have to.

Build a List Around Basic Categories

Writing a 10-item grocery list takes a two-pronged approach: variety and planning. Having an item on your list from nearly every section of the store diversifies your groceries and creates more options as the week goes on.

Here's an example of categories you may want to shop for. The idea is to choose one item per category, but don't stress about following the format. If you need to change a few categories to fit your needs or add an additional item or two, go for it!

Example 10-Item Grocery List for One:

  1. Fruit: bananas, berries, or mangoes
  2. Vegetable to eat raw: avocados, mixed greens, or cucumber
  3. Vegetable to cook: Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, or cauliflower
  4. Protein: chicken, beef, fish, tofu, or eggs
  5. Starch: pasta, quinoa, or rice
  6. Legume: chickpeas, black beans, or lentils
  7. Dairy product: milk, yogurt, or cheese
  8. Breakfast item: oats, cereal, or granola
  9. Pantry staple: jarred sauce, spices, or herbs
  10. Wildcard: tortillas, bread, or chicken stock

Remember, this is your list. If you don't eat a lot of dairy, for example, replace that product with a jar of nut butter, an additional fruit or vegetable, or something else. The "wildcard" category is to think ahead about what item would come in handy. Also, note that you may have a significant amount of some items left after a week, like rice and mustard, giving you more variety to work with later on.

So, let's talk through how to bring this list to life. For breakfast, some of your options include cereal, yogurt with granola, fruit, scrambled eggs, or toast. Maybe you only buy one or two of these breakfast options one week, but you can switch up what you eat the next. For lunch and dinner, start by cooking a protein, a vegetable, and a starch. Beans can stretch these foods even further.

Remember, You Can Repurpose Your Groceries

As the week goes on, it's all about getting creative with what you have. Smoothies, baked oatmeal, and overnight oats are breakfast options that use up aging fruit. An omelet or a frittata can help you get rid of produce. A tortilla lets you repurpose proteins, beans, rice, and vegetables as a burrito. A can of tuna becomes tuna salad, which can top salads, turn into tuna melts, or fill tuna casserole. A soup, chili, or stir-fry can easily clear the refrigerator or pantry.


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