Okay…so you’re going to dive into Once-a-Month Shopping, but how do you get started?
I’ve lived in some pretty remote areas where running to the store for just a few things – or even once a week – is not really feasible, so I switched to once a month shopping. The following tips are things I learned in the process. In fact, I saved so much money that I continued shopping this way although I supplement with the farmer’s market or my own garden in good weather.
16 things you need to know about once-a-month shopping
- Make a menu plan before you go shopping. Even if you veer from the plan, you’ll still have the ingredients on hand to make full meals. I like to plan out 5 dinners per week and leave the other two (plus lunches) open for leftovers. I can cheerfully eat the same thing for breakfast every day, so that’s very easy to calculate.
- When planning, think about what the ingredients are. Plan to have meals with the freshest ingredients first, then the longer-lasting ingredients, then the shelf-stable or freezer ingredients. Examples below.
- Week 1: Foods that are quick to spoil, like salad greens, asparagus, green beans, broccoli, peppers, fresh berries, bananas, zucchini
- Week 2: Hardier produce like carrots, brussels sprouts, pears, oranges, cabbage, leeks
- Weeks 3 & 4: Now’s the time to switch to frozen fruits and vegetables. (You can also use canned or dehydrated. We absolutely love applesauce, for example, and that works well as our week-4 fruit.) Some things that will last well into the fourth week if properly stored are carrots, potatoes, winter squash, turnips, rutabagas, apples, and sweet potatoes.
- Head to the store. With these guidelines in mind, when you go to the grocery store, pick up enough fresh fruits and veggies to get you through a couple of weeks. Then, be sure that you have enough frozen, canned, or dehydrated products to see you through the last two weeks.
- Pick up enough dairy products for the month. If you have the space, you can easily freeze milk to be used later. The higher the percentage of milk fat, the more you may need to shake it up after it thaws. Cheese freezes well, but you should expect it to crumble instead of slicing when it thaws.
- Sour cream tips. It can be frozen if you are planning to use it in baking or cooking but isn’t very good if you intend to use it as a condiment. Instead of sour cream, try homemade plain yogurt. It tastes very similar and is quite simple to make yourself. (You can learn how in the next article.)
- Eggs will be fine for an entire month in the refrigerator. Think about how many eggs your family eats and stock up. If you don’t have enough refrigerator space, then you can freeze one egg per square in an ice cube tray, then move them into a freezer big when they’ve frozen solid.
- Keep your storage spaces in mind when you’re on your shopping trip. Both of our freezers have a bit of space after last month, and there’s some room in the fridge, but you want to be careful not to get more than you can cram in. Opt for shelf-stable options if you don’t have enough fridge and freezer space.
- Think about fresh greens. Start working on those solutions for fresh greens when you can’t go to the store: sprouting, a windowsill garden, a greenhouse, a hoop house.
- Think ahead about your month. Do you have any special occasions to prepare for? Any birthdays or school parties or potlucks or guests? You’ll want to have the right supplies on hand for any unusual events.
- It’s not just about food. Next, move on to things like toilet paper, laundry soap, dishwasher detergent, and bleach for the month. Keep supplies on hand to make your own if you run out. (Better yet, start off with the supplies and make your own to save money!)
- Remember health and beauty aids. Don’t forget about personal hygiene items like toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, deodorant, and female supplies. Better to get a bit too much than not enough!
- Get supplies for furry, finned, and feathered friends. How much do your pets and livestock need to get through the month in good health? Pick that up at the store and stash it away.
- Grab OTC meds. Do you have things like over-the-counter medications and special foods in case someone is under the weather? It’s best to stock up on these things ahead of time instead of waiting until you need them. Trust me, as a single mom, when I’m the one who is sick, it’s horrible to have to go to the store to pick up medication or ginger ale.
Are you ready to get started?
You’ll probably have some hiccups, but this will save you all sorts of money in the long run. Share any questions or suggestions you might have in the comments!