Money. Time. Health concerns. There are many reasons why someone would want to grocery shop less often. For me, the desire to switch to once-a-month grocery shopping came after my battle with breast cancer. I realized that life was just too short to spend so much of my time at the grocery store! No matter your motivation, I wanted to compile a list of tips to help YOU with your goal to grocery shop less often.
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Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone switches to once-a-month grocery shopping. It’s DEFINITELY not for everyone. However, the purpose of this article is to help you go longer between grocery trips. Whether that’s two weeks, or even one week, I hope that these tips will help you grocery shop less often.
So today, I am going to share the “Four P’s” of grocery shopping less often, with specific (and actionable!) tips in each category:
PATIENCE & PERSISTENCE
I hate to say it, but planning ahead is going to be your biggest tool in grocery shopping less often. The work begins before you ever set foot in the grocery store!
Set a Target – Yes, actually have a target date so that you know how many days you will be shopping for. If you do several small trips to the grocery store per week, I would suggest shooting for one week as a target so it’s not such a shock to the system. If you already shop once a week, try shopping for two weeks at a time.
Meal Plan – Once you know how many days you’ll be shopping for, then it’s time to figure out what you’ll be EATING. When I began shopping for a month at a time, it was pretty overwhelming. Then, I discovered Plan to Eat and have been using that to create massive shopping lists in no time at all. (For real…take the time to go check out my review of Plan to Eat and why it’s so awesome. You’ll love it!)
Keep a Running List – As you run out of staples, write them down on a shopping list. You can keep a physical list, or have Alexa keep track of it for you. No matter your method, this will help you remember those staples that typically have you running to the store mid-week.
Check Your Staples – Even though you have a running list, there will always be something that doesn’t get written down. So, before you go to the store, check the staples in your kitchen, as well as non-food items like shampoo, toilet paper, aluminum foil, etc.
Follow the “One in Reserve” Rule – Get in the habit of having one item in use and one (or more) in reserve. Then, when you open the item you have in reserve, write it on your shopping list so that you can replenish your back-up. This will prevent you from having to rush to the store because you ran out of ketchup!
Clean Out the Fridge – Before you go to the store, be sure to clear out your fridge of anything old! As fruits and veggies decay, they can release ethylene, which will speed up the ripening process for the produce you bring home.
Which leads me to the next “P”…
Now that you have all of your groceries purchased, it’s time to make them LAST! The number one question that I receive when people find out that I grocery shop once a month is: “But what about milk and produce??”
There are a lot of “hacks” about how to preserve groceries and, frankly, a lot of them have never worked for me. So I’m going to share the best grocery preservation tips that I’ve tested out first-hand. I’m sure there will be some common tips missing, but I don’t like sharing tips that haven’t been successful for me:
Check Dates – Before you even get your groceries home, you can help further the cause of preservation. The easiest way to do this is to check the dates and choose the packages that are furthest from expiration (unless you plan on freezing them…more on that in a minute).
Buy produce from busier stores or wholesalers – I have found that my produce lasts MUCH longer when I purchase it from a store that has to restock frequently. I also feel like my Costco produce lasts much longer than typical grocery store produce.
Ditch the fruit basket – That tabletop fruit basket is helping your fruit ripen more quickly. If you keep your oranges and apples in the fridge, they will last MUCH longer (upwards of a month). This is one of the areas where you can see all sorts of opinions, so just try out different food storage methods to see where your produce lasts the longest.
Substitute frozen for fresh – For the most part, frozen fruits and veggies are nutritionally equivalent to fresh. In some cases, when you are grocery shopping less often, the frozen veggies will actually have MORE nutrients than the fresh veggies that have been hanging out in your fridge for a while. With that in mind, look for recipes that work well with frozen fruits and veggies. When we are running low on fresh fruit, one of our favorite meals is crepes with thawed berries from the freezer!
Freeze Staples – Speaking of the freezer…make use of that precious space! You can freeze meat, bread, and milk to help it last longer. Again, there are a bazillion opinions about how to store these items in the freezer, so experiment with what works best for you.
Skip Pre-Cut – Unless you plan to eat them right away, the pre-cut fruits and veggies do not last nearly as long as whole produce that you cut yourself.
Make Freezer Meals – Another way to preserve your food is to make full recipes and freeze them for later. That way, you won’t have to worry about the fresh ingredients going bad before you make the recipe.
Save Space – When you grocery shop less often, you’ll notice that it takes a lot of space to store all of this food. One of my best space-saving tips for food preservation is to stop buying multiple forms of a given food. For example, rather than having a jar of relish, a jar of hamburger dill chips, AND a jar of snacking pickles in the fridge, I just buy a jar of pickles and slice them up myself for whatever we need. I also stopped buying baby carrots for the family to snack on; I just buy a big (inexpensive) bag of whole carrots and slice them up for recipes and snacks. Whole carrots last longer and my family thinks they taste better.
Switch to Shelf-Stable – This tip isn’t for everyone, but if you REALLY want to grocery shop less often and your family doesn’t like previously-frozen milk, consider using shelf-stable milk (like almond milk or powdered milk). Even refrigerated (and unopened) almond milk lasts much longer than cow milk, so that’s an option as well.
Stock “From-Scratch” Ingredients – Ingredients (flour, yeast, sugar, eggs, etc.) last longer than prepared foods, so stock up on them! You can make foods as you need them, rather than worrying about them lasting in your fridge or pantry.
But yes, I know cooking from scratch takes a little more time, which leads me to the final two “Ps”…
PATIENCE & PERSISTENCE
It definitely takes some patience and persistence to just stay the heck out of the grocery store. Here are some of my tips for making do with what you have:
Stagger Snacks – I don’t know about you, but at our house there is a crazy phenomenon that once a food product is opened, it vanishes. This is especially true with snack foods! So the first thing that I do when I get home from the store is stash most of the snacks. Then I only put one box of each type of item (crackers, granola bars, etc.) in the cupboard. If we finish it during the week, I won’t pull out a new box until the beginning of the next week. This ensures that we have enough of a given item to last until our next shopping trip.
Drink Water – One of the hardest parts of grocery shopping less often is CRAVINGS. When we’re running low on convenient snacks, I find that I crave things a lot. I’ve learned to drink water with every craving, which gives my body time to decide if it really NEEDS whatever snack I’m craving. Honestly, most of the time my body just needed water.
Make Your Own Mixes – Consider making your own spice mixes rather than buying them from the store. For one, they taste better! They also don’t have sneaky ingredients. Most of all, getting into the habit of making them yourself means you no longer feel stumped when you want to make tacos but don’t have a seasoning packet. Check out this post for one of my favorite all-purpose seasoning mixes.
Embrace Substitutions – I’m not gonna lie…I typically follow recipes with EXACTNESS so this was hard for me to do at first. But, if you read the comment section of any recipe online, you’ll see comment after comment of substitutions that people made to the recipe. Sometimes these substitutions are due to preferences or dietary restrictions, but often you’ll see that people substituted ingredients because they just didn’t have something on hand. Look at these comments for inspiration! The more you experiment with substitutions, the more comfortable you will be with trying them when you’re in a pinch. You can even grab a substitution magnet for your fridge like this one.
Spend More Time in the Kitchen – If you are familiar with the premise of my blog, you’ll know that this sounds counterintuitive to my goal of helping parents save minutes and savor moments.
When it comes to savoring moments, I think you’ll be more likely to make a happy memory with your kids by donning matching aprons and baking bread in the kitchen than running to the store for a loaf. The purpose of this particular article is to help you find ways to grocery shop less often, and cooking more items from scratch is one way that you can accomplish that goal. Yes, it takes more time, but you’ll also have more opportunities to make happy memories with your kids because you’ll be home more (even if it’s in the kitchen).
What is your best tip for grocery shopping less often? Leave your favorite in the comments below!