At first, it seems like cooking for one person would be cheaper and easier than preparing group meals every night. You don’t have to buy as many ingredients, it doesn’t take as much time and you don’t have to worry about everybody else’s preferences.

The catch is that cooking for one can be wasteful. Ingredients spoil after using them in one recipe; you can’t eat the leftovers fast enough.

It’s like you’re constantly racing your refrigerator to get the most out of your groceries.

But if you’re not preparing your own meals, you’re either eating too many processed foods or you’re spending too much money eating out. There’s no secret to singles cooking, just smart planning.

Here are some tips to help guide you:

Chart it out

It sounds tedious, but meal plans really will help you stay on budget and on a healthy diet.

When I started drafting one e very week, I noticed how many groceries I was buying and hardly ever using.

It also helped me figure out exactly when I needed to cook and when I needed to eat leftovers. You generally shouldn’t eat most leftovers after four days, so I try to plan around that.

If you really want to maximize the lifespan of your groceries, come up with a plan that uses the most perishable items first.

For example, my meals at the beginning of the week usually involve salads, sandwiches and fruit while my weekends consist of pastas, grains and nuts.

Eat seasonally

Produce that’s in season is cheaper for the simple reason that there is more of it to go around.

Luckily, October brings a host of delicious fruits and veggies such as apples, winter squash and kale.

You’ll find good prices on regionally grown produce at farmers markets, local stores such as the Vegetable Bin on East Bay Street and Boone Hall Farms Market in Mount Pleasant, or at any number of roadside stands like those populating Johns Island.

Befriend the freezer

Some foods can’t be preserved before they spoil, but you can always freeze items such as fish, meat, soups and most produce.

Sometimes, it’s more sensible to buy these items already frozen.

My freezer stays pretty stocked with frozen broccoli, corn, and frozen fruit for smoothies.

But frozen meals can get expensive, so I like to make my own pizza or soups and throw them in the freezer for a quick meal to take to work.

Do homework

Always check your Sunday newspaper for coupons. It takes only about five minutes to go through and clip them, and you can redeem them at almost every grocery store.

Also, get online and search for easy and cheap recipes. You’ll be surprised at how many ways you can make simple meals healthy and interesting for less than $5 a serving.

Reach Abigail Darlington at charlestonsavvyshopper @postandcourier.com.