Cut down on waste and save money with these easy and fun tips. 

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Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where assistant nutrition editor and registered dietitian, Jessica Ball, keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two, and make earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.

I had roommates for a long time, including a stint living in a house with 10 of my teammates in college. Sharing spaces and meals with some of my best friends helped me create favorite memories that I will never forget. While I loved having roommates and am a social creature, I absolutely love living alone. My apartment is like my sanctuary when I need to recharge, and having autonomy in the kitchen (especially the fridge!) is pretty much the best thing ever. However, I've learned a lot about cooking for one and managing my kitchen. Here are five mistakes I've learned to avoid over my time living solo. 

1. You plan a dinner for every night 

We all know it too well: you can have the best intentions for making delicious meals, but things happen. That's life. Even if I want to cook every night, it usually ends up being more like four or five days per week instead of seven. This leaves me some room for leftovers, takeout and spontaneity with plans, especially now that we might be having some last-minute social outings again. It also helps me cut down on waste, so I don't have unused ingredients at the end of the week. 

2. You don't date your foods

Expiration dates aren't always consistent or the best indicator of whether a food has gone bad (I'm a firm believer in using your senses). That said, it can be hard to keep track of things, especially if they aren't dated. I always make a point to go through my fridge once a week. Even if I don't completely empty it out, it helps me see if there is anything I forgot about or need to use ASAP. Not only does this prevent me from wasting food, but also it saves me money when I can plan ahead to use ingredients I already have.  

3. You have duplicate appliances or tools

If you live alone, it's likely that space in your kitchen (and apartment in general) is at a premium. Trust me, I know how that goes. When you are short on space, there is no reason to keep more than one of any appliance or tool. Choose your favorite to keep and donate, gift or sell what you don't need. This will help you make room for other tools you inevitably decide you need in the future… or maybe you have more self control than I do. 

woman's hands washing a pot in the sink
Credit: Getty Images / Capelle.r

4. You skip the dishes

I get it, you don't have any roommates. You can do whatever you want. No one will know. Though the "I'll do it later" mentality with dishes can be really attractive, don't fall victim to it. I have made this mistake one too many times and ended up with a million fruit flies in my sink. Not to mention, it's the worst when you need a specific tool or knife and it's all the bottom of a smelly, saturated pile of dishes. Instead of procrastinating to the point of no return, just take five minutes and do the dishes right away (or at least before you go to bed). You will thank me later. 

5. You always eat alone

Even though I live alone, it is rare that I eat dinner alone. I usually share my evening meal with my partner, and generally love having people over. Hosting feels like a great excuse to make something fun that is bigger than I normally would, without having to worry about having a lot of leftovers. I love to share food with people, and it is so important to have communal meals for our mental and physical health. Of course hosting every night is not realistic, but be intentional about sharing a meal with others at least once a week.