The fact that I only grocery shop once a month (minus an additional trip in between for bread, milk, and a banana or two) seems to be a hot topic. Everyone keeps asking me how I do it or they say it isn’t possible. Well, I’m here to tell you it IS possible. AND it is possible to save money while you’re doing it. You just have to be organized and conscious of what you are eating and when you eat it.
Grocery shopping once a month would be easy if you lived off of boxed, frozen, and pre-packaged meals. But filling up your body and the body of your family members with sodium laden ridiculousness will ultimately send you to an early grave… and that’s no good.
You might think this is a disorganized mess, and that is partly true. However, I know what’s in there and where it all is… I can not wait for the day when I have a REAL pantry! If I can grocery shop once a month with only this much space… there aren’t any real excuses.
So, this is how I do it… Hopefully you can take a tip or two and use them to cut down on your trips to the store, or your grocery bill, for that matter! I mean, seriously, who has the time, patience, or money to waste unnecessarily at the grocery store anyway?
When shopping once a month, there are 2 rules you must follow:
1. Shop Thoughtfully
2. Waste Little
1. Shop Thoughtfully
Shopping thoughtfully means you must be aware of the foods you are purchasing.
How long will what you’re purchasing stay fresh? If the answer is “not very long,” then you should plan on using these products before others. Don’t use potatoes as a side dish for dinner tonight if you have an eggplant that needs to be used. Conscious choices and being aware of your fridge and pantry inventory will inevitably make your groceries last longer.
When shopping in the produce section, look for what is in season; the fresher the produce, the longer it will last. In addition to what is the freshest, buy green bananas, citrus fruits, like Clementines, Cuties, or other varieties of oranges, apples, and carrots. These tend to last the longest in the fridge.
When choosing fruit, buy fruits that are in season and can sit on the counter or in the fridge for a week or two before cutting. Fruits such as cantaloupe, pineapple, and watermelon can last, if kept whole, until after you’ve run out of strawberries, bananas, or other quick to spoil varieties.
When purchasing vegetables, remember that certain vegetables are healthier if purchased frozen, while others simply maintain their nutritional value. Vegetables that are flash frozen at the peak of freshness (which suspends aging and nutrient loss) will contain more nutrients than vegetables picked before they are ripe, sent on a truck across the country, displayed at the store, and then taken home waiting to be enjoyed. If a veggie, or fruit for that matter, is out of season, why not buy it frozen? You’ll save on both prep time and money.
A few vegetables that contain more nutrients when flash frozen are:
Cabbage, radishes, and celery last a while in the fridge, while potatoes, garlic, and onions last a while in the pantry. Spinach lasts longer than lettuce and organic lettuce sold in plastic tubs lasts forever compared to bagged or loose lettuce.
Also, don’t spend money, unless you can, of course on organic produce if the produce has a thick, inedible skin.
When buying milk, consider how you will use it. Will it just be for cereal and baking or will you be making cream sauces and whipped cream? If you rarely use milk in sauces or soups, most of the time you can get away with using the same milk you use on your cereal. 2% milk lasts longer than whole milk and lactose free milk can last a month!
When it comes to cheese, the harder the cheese, the longer it will last. So when you purchase soft cheeses, such as Bleu, Ricotta, Cottage, or Feta, be aware that these cheeses should be used first. Cheeses such as Cheddar, Swiss, Colby, and Parmesan will last longer and can be saved for later in the month.
Always look at the expiration dates closely. You don’t have to be that crazy person who takes out 5 milk gallons to reach the 6th gallon in the back that expires 2 days later, but you should be aware of when everything expires. When putting your groceries in the fridge, put them in according to expiration date, with the latest date in the back. That way you don’t waste something that could have been consumed earlier. This is particularly helpful with yogurt containers.
Check the price per ounce on everything you purchase. Bigger isn’t always better. Some cereal boxes will cost less per ounce if you buy the smaller box. The same can be true for jams and jellies. $0.02 cents less an ounce might not sound like a lot of money but when you have a shopping cart that is completely full, it can really add up quickly.
Tortillas, especially corn, and pita bread lasts longer than sliced sandwich bread. Whole grain crackers are also great to have on hand. They keep well in the pantry and work great in place of bread with turkey and cheese or peanut butter and jelly when you are starting to run low on things.
Don’t buy anything if you aren’t sure how you are going to use it. Why would you buy a container of bread crumbs if you only know of one way to use them? You could just pulse a dry piece of bread in the blender instead.
Buy a variety of items so you don’t get bored with the same old thing. For example, instead of buying a box of 12 granola bars to last the month, buy 2 boxes of 6 in different flavors. (Stick to granola bars with real fruit and nuts, not fake flavors with added fiber and vitamins. Those bars are full of way more additives and ickness than you think.)
Purchase products that can be used in a multitude of ways. Jarred spreads or sauces, like a really good pesto or sun-dried tomato chutney, can be used on pasta, spread on sandwiches or wraps, or can even be used in place of pizza sauce.
I could go on… and on… but you get the point. Everything you put in your grocery cart should be accounted for.
How will you use it? When will you use it? Be strategic!
Stay tuned… tomorrow I am posting the 2nd installment: Waste Little.