How to Grocery Shop Once a Month… Part 2: Waste Little

2 Apr

Yesterday’s installment, in case you missed it: 1. Shop Thoughtfully

2. Waste little

This is the fun part! You’ve already grocery shopped. Now, how do you make it last an entire month?

Waste is where your grocery bill gets eaten up the most. You might need 1/4 c. of chopped bell peppers for a recipe on Tuesday and by Saturday, you haven’t used the rest of the pepper so you have to throw it out. Sound familiar?

Wasting as little as possible doesn’t mean saving the last bite of peas or the few slices of chicken left on your plate every night to be reheated the next day. It means planning out your recipes in an order that is conducive to using what you have available.

For example:

– Leftover rolls or biscuits can be used as bread for sandwiches the next day. You can also freeze most breads or let it dry out and make French toast, croutons, or bread crumbs. I reinvented leftover garlic cheddar biscuits, as pictured in Easy Salmon,  in my recipe for Chili and Cheddar Biscuits.

– Tortillas can be used in a million different ways. I made Gringa Tostadas and reused the tortillas to make Enchilada Pie . Use tortillas to make quesadillas, tacos, or wrap up your favorite sandwich ingredients. Use them instead of pizza dough for a quick lunch or dinner. You can also make baked tortilla chips by cutting the tortillas into triangles, brushing them lightly with olive oil, sprinkling with salt or other spices, and baking them in the oven.

– I used sweet potatoes as a side dish to my mom’s Jerk Chicken and again in  Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas.

– Leftover black beans and corn from BBQ Chicken Pizza were used to make  Gringa Tostada. They are also delicious as a salad topper! Just toss black beans, corn, chopped tomato, shredded cheddar, crushed tortilla chips, and jalapeños with a little lite ranch dressing and lettuce. DELISH!

– Frozen peas, whole wheat pastas, and frozen boneless skinless chicken are great to have handy. I used peas, noodles, and chicken in both recipes for Chicken, Pesto, and Peas Pasta and Stir Fry. The three together also works well with Alfredo or sun-dried tomato sauce.

– French fried onions were used in both Crispy Onion Baked Chicken and in John Wayne Burgers. You can also crush them up to use in place of croutons on a salad.

As you can see, your recipes for the month should snowball into each other.

If you go through the recipes in my blog, you can see the progression of foods used over and over again in new and inventive ways.


In order to waste as little as possible, buy your meat and portion it out as soon as you get home from the grocery store. I normally wrap up two portions (since it is just my husband and I at home) in plastic wrap and then put each wrapped bundle in a zip-loc freezer bag. Make sure you label the zip-loc bags with the type of meat inside and the date you bagged it so you aren’t left with a mystery bag way in the back of your freezer. Squeeze as much air as you can out of each bag before sealing and stacking in the freezer.

– This tip is straight from my mom and really helps maximize your freezer space. Freeze hamburger meat in individual zip-loc bags and smoosh it down flat so that, once frozen, it can be easily stacked or stood up against the freezer wall.

This also cuts down on thawing time. This flat bag will thaw on he counter in no time!

Try this with EVERYTHING! As you can see, I’ve even done it with individual servings (well, enough for two…) of pizza and pasta sauce. Don’t forget to label these guys, either.


Try and use your produce wisely.

-If you only use part of an onion, you have two choices. You can either cut off the hunk you need and keep the rest intact, skin and all, wrapped in tin foil in the fridge or you can dice up the whole thing and freeze what you don’t use. Tin foil will help keep the onion fresh and won’t allow the stinky onion smell to escape into your produce bin.

-Freeze your leftovers if they are about to spoil.

-Keep fruits and veggies with their original skin and seeds for as long as possible. They will stay fresher longer. For example, avocado doesn’t last long once it’s opened but if you save the seed and store the leftovers and seed together, it will keep much longer than without. Also, don’t cut into anything unless you are ready to use it. Pineapple doesn’t need to be cut immediately after purchase. It can hang out on the counter or in the fridge for a week or two and still be delicious once you decide to slice it up.

Always keep a back up reserve in your pantry for those last few days of the month. You might never need them, but occasionally you will and you will be so glad you had them stashed. Items I always keep handy:
– A can or two of Rotel tomatoes
– A few extra cans of vegetables, like beans
– A can of cream of mushroom soup
– A jar of pasta sauce
– Instant brown rice

Ok, one more tip. ALWAYS keep a notepad and pen near the fridge and pantry. The very second you run out of something, WRITE IT DOWN! You will inevitably forget it on your next grocery trip and be so disappointed if you don’t. Remember, organization is the key…

Do you think you’re going to try it?????

Grocery shopping once a month can be a lot of fun. Buying enough food can be the tricky part. You must be aware of the foods you eat most often. If you buy too much of something you rarely use, you are inevitably going to be throwing away rotten food, which is pretty much the same thing as throwing away money. But then again, if you buy too little, you may find yourself needing to go back to the grocery store, which defeats the entire purpose.

At my house, we go through a lot of jalapeños, tortillas, orange juice, peanut butter, chicken, and eggs. So those are the items I buy the most.

It might take you a few months to figure it all out and to stock up on staples like soy sauce, sriraccha, or Worcestershire but it will be well worth it in the end.

Don’t be shy. You are going to have a grocery cart FULL of groceries and it is going to cost you $200-300+, depending on the size of your family and whether or not you are including other items in your trip, such as laundry detergent, napkins, straws, zip-loc bags, etc. The cost may shock you the first time you do it, but if you sit down and add up all of the mini trips you’ve been taking to the store, the cost will probably be a little bit less. Less is good, right?

I hope you try it and it works for you. Try and stay flexible and creative! If not, there is always Google. Just type in the ingredients you need to use and see if there is a recipe out there that sounds good. This website, My Fridge Food,  is awesome! It has a feature where you type in ingredients you have on hand and it generates a list of recipes based on those ingredients. Give it a try!!!

Eventually, you will be improvising and creating delicious, one of a kind dishes that you and your family will love in the time you would normally be wasting at the store.

A few more connections:

BBQ sauce:
John Wayne BBQ Burgers
BBQ Pineapple Luau Pizza
BBQ Chicken Pizza

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas
Enchilada Pie
Gringa Tostada
Steak Fajitas
St. Patrick’s Day Rueben Quesadillas

Loaded Hash Browns
BBQ Pineapple Luau Pizza
Breakfast Sandwich
Potato Soup
Ham and Cheese Tart with Homemade Honey Mustard

Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Roasted Ranch Potatoes
Loaded Hash Browns
Potato Soup
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

Frozen Vegetables:
Thai Peanut Noodles
Stir Fry
Thin Crust Pizza
Chicken, Pesto, and Peas Pasta

Ground Beef:
Black and Bleu Sliders
John Wayne BBQ Burger
H.B.’s Lasagna

Enchilada Pie
Jerk Chicken
Chicken, Pesto, and Peas Pasta
Thai Peanut Noodles
Stir Fry
BBQ Chicken Pizza
Crispy Onion Baked Chicken
BBQ Pineapple Luau Chicken


4 Responses to “How to Grocery Shop Once a Month… Part 2: Waste Little”

  1. Tricia April 3, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

    Hey Sunny! Caleb discovered your blog today and told me to read it immediately. We’re on a bi-month grocery schedule but I think I may try out the once a month shopping extravaganza in May! Thanks for all the info.

    • Sunny April 3, 2011 at 9:26 pm #

      Hey Tricia!!! I hope you find a recipe, tip, or two you can use! I hope y’all are both doing well.

  2. April 7, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    You are amazing. Looking forward to your book!

    • Sunny April 7, 2011 at 10:39 am #

      Ha! Thank you very much. I would LOVE to write a book! That would be so much fun.

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