My New Challenge: Once A Month Grocery Shopping

Drum roll, please! I have challenged myself to wait 28 days before my next grocery shopping trip. That’s right! I want to test the waters of once-a-month grocery shopping.

Over the years, I’ve stretched the amount of time between grocery visits and found that it really does save me money. However, even for me, an entire month is a mighty long wait.

Granted, the current prevalence of COVID-19 has a lot to to with my decision. Since my husband has heart failure, we have actually been shopping only at stores which offer curbside pick up. I haven’t physically set foot in a store at least a month.

However, since we are avoiding as much contact as possible (and even though infection is now spreading at a lower rate), it makes good sense to simply stay put for 30 days and wait out the worst of the virus storm.

After making my big announcement on Facebook, an Under the Median reader responded with a great question.

“You are AMAZING! We’ve only got six, but the frig is bare after 10 days. Making my Aldi run today. How in the world do you have fresh veg and fruit a month in? (and we have only one vegetarian.)”

I thought it might be helpful to share my answer to her question and give you my game plan. I’ll keep you updated on how we are doing and if the kids are staging a coup by day 18.

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The current state of our food affairs.

  1. I have a full freezer and a full pantry, having stocked up on those items several weeks ago.
  2. I just spent $240 on food from SAMS and GFS, purchasing as much fresh produce as I dared. I don’t want to waste a thing. (Our family’s 3 percent maximum food waste rule is still in full force). So, I also focused on buying several large bags of frozen vegetables, to help blunt the impact on my diet when we run out of salad greens.
  3. Our weekly CSA boxes begin a month from today. This gives me a goal date and also means that we will be receiving a bushel basket of fresh produce every week for 24 weeks, starting in the middle of May.
  4. I have a system for tracking, planning, and cooking food, allowing me to know exactly what I have on hand and how long it will last.

Heading into the next few weeks, here is my master game plan for lasting for at least four weeks without stepping foot outside my home for food.

1) Use more perishable veggies and fruits first.

When planning for a long space between grocery store runs, you must view your perishables just like the store does – more or less, you are dating them for freshness.

For instance, fresh spinach will be used before a head of cabbage, because cabbage will last a lot longer. Fruit is consumed in order of longevity. Bananas get eaten before oranges and oranges before apples.

Watch our YouTube tutorial on using, storing, and extending the shelf life of produce.

2) Know your inventory.

Pantry and freezer inventory forms are available in our subscriber-only media library. Sign up here.

Fresh food: Your fresh food may run out before your 30 days is over. That’s okay. Don’t panic. I’ll show you how to combine items from your freezer and pantry to insure you can feed your family for an entire month.

Frozen food: Your freezer can be the mother-load of ingredients for family meals. However, like most things, unless you have it organized and inventoried, you will not be able to tell exactly what is inside its frozen depths. As you inventory, be sure to indicate how many of each item you have on hand and the size package. This can save you time and energy later. If you see “frozen corn” on the list, you will want to know if it’s a 1-pound bag or a 5-pound bag. That makes a huge difference in your menu plans.

For step-by-step freezer tips, check out our YouTube freezer video.

Shelf stable food: Having a plan for organizing your pantry. It is imperative that you have a system for knowing exactly what is on the shelves. I organize my pantry in sections, just like a store. I can tell you in about five minutes exactly what I have on hand – and exactly what needs to go on my grocery list.

For an in-depth tour of my pantry, check out our YouTube pantry video.

3) Limit between meal snacking.

I know this isn’t popular with kids. But, my family knows to ask before they snack. The last thing in the world anyone wants is to open the fridge at 5pm only to find that the leftovers I was saving to add to rice for supper are all gone and we are up a creek without a paddle (and hungry!)

Instead, having a list of “free snacking” items is a really good idea. For instance, my children know they can always pop popcorn in the air popper and add toppings of their choice. The popcorn isn’t reserved and is a free choice snacking product in our home.

Here are some easy and inexpensive snack ideas:

  • popcorn
  • a piece of bread or a tortilla with peanut butter
  • museli or granola
  • hummus and raw veggies (SO easy to make from scratch!)
  • ants on a log
  • homemade muffins (Just be sure you limit the quantity)
  • frozen fruit smoothie
  • homemade popsicle
  • homemade trail mix (we use a Cheerios knock-off, raisins, nuts, and a handful of chocolate chips)

4) Physically count ingredients.

Be aware of how many days of fresh fruit you have available before switching to applesauce, frozen and canned fruit. Similarly, I know that I have:

  • 10 sweet potatoes
  • 15 stalks of celery
  • 10 onions

When menu planning, I will track my use of each available ingredient, so that I know I will not run out too soon.

5) Menu plan.

Menu-planning is truly the only way to know how long your stash of food is going to last. As you so through the month, this list may change slightly when you use more or less of ingredients, a meal that you thought would last two nights winds up being a new family favorite and they clean the casserole dish the first night, or your garden finally starts producing edibles.

However, the peace of mind from having a framework cannot be understated. Once you know that your basic food needs are met for the next few weeks, you can emotionally move on to more pressing needs, like getting your children’s schoolwork completed before July.

2 thoughts on “My New Challenge: Once A Month Grocery Shopping”

  1. This is absolutely doable – I’ve shopped that way my entire life (and I’m a Boomer, so that’s saying something). It’s all I’ve ever known. I grew up in a military family of 7 hearty appetites. My amazing mother shopped at the commissary once a month (or longer!) We had a pantry with both a large freezer and fridge (in addition to the huge fridge/freezer upstairs in the kitchen). Meat, bread, ice cream & milk were frozen, as were mom-prepared casseroles etc. My mother cooked every single meal except for the RARE bucket of chicken or trip to McDonalds and school lunches for kids in elementary school. We ate healthy, balanced meals and none of us had food or weight issues.

    Once I was on my own I didn’t have a freezer or a large refrigerator, but I still shopped monthly. Not only is it budget friendly, it’s an amazing time management tool. Now that I am a Senior on a fixed, extremely limited income I can’t really afford to shop any other way. I prepare every single meal for myself and I have rarely done a “proper” meal plan. I enjoy being creative in the kitchen and I have a ton of herbs & spices I understand how to use to vary the menu.

    In the past decade or so I also discovered that I must eat gluten free which is an additional challenge to my cooking creativity, but all the more important to save wherever possible to be able to afford GF flours etc. I jokingly say I don’t even waste ice! I found you guys on YouTube and I’m hoping I can pick up a few tips & tricks to stretch my budget even further. Thanks for sharing.


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