We all have a stockpile of food in our homes. It’s probably more than we need. We’ve all gone to the store, bought things only to find when we get home that we already had it. Or we see something interesting, buy it and then never use it. Or there was a great sale and we stocked up only to forget about that great bargain taking up space in the freezer. A great way the thin out your stockpile and to save money is to have a no-spend grocery month.
What is a no-spend grocery month?
For a month (or a couple weeks if a month is inconceivable) you do not buy any groceries other that milk, eggs and produce. Instead you will eat almost exclusively from your cupboards, pantry, fridge and freezer.
Here’s how it works:
- Start by going through all your cupboards and organizing what’s in there. Group together all like-items and take an inventory of what you have. Similarly go through your refrigerator and freezer. Create an inventory of what you have. Don’t reflexively throw away “expired” food. You are literally throwing away money. Check these guidelines here and here. Here’s the short answer for whether food is bad: Those “sell by” dates are there to protect the reputation of the food. They have very little to do with food safety. If you’re worried whether food is still OK to eat, just smell it.
- Now sit down with your inventory and create a meal plan for the next two weeks or month. You will creatively prepare meals from your stock. Build menus around the ingredients you already have on hand. Start by using up anything perishable (fresh fruit and vegetables) and use boxes and cans that are about to expire. Get creative. You can go through your cookbooks or google different ingredients to find new recipes. Create new menu items for your repertoire.
- When you run out of milk and eggs you can go to the store to replenish but that’s all. If you run out of all fruits and vegetables (fresh, canned and frozen) then you can replenish. However you should only buy what will fill the “holes” in your meal plan created in step 2.
- Continue as long as you can. No one will starve to death or be hospitalized for malnutrition.
- At the end of the month take your fridge apart and clean it. Put back what’s left and resupply – reasonably. I’m not suggesting that your cupboards should be bare and the fridge empty. You should have a well-stocked pantry so you can throw a few meals together. You should have supplies of food you purchased on sale and that you eat regularly. See this article: How to save money grocery shopping.
What will you accomplish? Why do it?
- You will save money by eating up what you already have and not grocery shopping for a month.
- You’ll get a handle on what you have in stock so you can shop more wisely in the future.
- You will understand what your family really eats and know what not to buy in the future.
- You will understand how much you really spend on groceries every month (and reduce your budget going forward).
- You will save time since you won’t be spending the 2-5 or more hours a week driving to the store, shopping, unloading and putting away all the groceries. Times four weeks.
- Your kitchen will be organized.
Get your family on board. Most people report after a no-spend month that they are shocked by how much they spend on groceries when they look at how much money is left in their bank account at the end of the no-spend month. You can start slow. Try a week or two. Once you get the hang of it – keep it up. You may want to do it every six month’s or annually going forward!