How to Grocery Shop Once a Month

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There are many advantages to grocery shopping just once a month! It saves time, money, and helps us be more prepared for emergencies.

Do you feel like you’re at the grocery store all.the.time?

Do you ever wonder if the more often you grocery shop, the more money you spend? (hint: you do. All those impulse purchases add up!)

Every week, you:

  • make your list of what you need that week
  • grab your shopping bags and whatever else you need
  • drive to the grocery store
  • try to find a parking spot
  • work your way through the grocery store while trying not to bump into people or have cart rage
  • pick up a bunch of things that were not on your list
  • get to the checkout
  • pay the giant bill
  • load the car
  • drive home
  • put everything away
  • collapse in a heap of exhaustion over something that should not be that tiring

One day, I woke up and realized it did not have to be this way. 

There was really no reason I had to do this every single week. 

I now shop just once a month for my family of 5, and you can, too!

Imagine how many hours of your life you could get back if you could skip this weekly chore!

Here are just some of the benefits of monthly grocery shopping

  • save time
  • save money
  • increase preparedness
  • less stress
  • more organized
  • more productive at home
  • become more resourceful

How to Transition from Weekly to Monthly Grocery Shopping

I have 3 children, and have been a stay at home mom since they were born. I realized very early on how much time and energy it took to round up the children and head to the grocery store. Not to mention how difficult it was to stay focused on the task at hand, while also keeping the kids close, listening to their endless chatter, and sometimes meltdowns. All while trying to stay focused on my list and trying not to go over budget!

I quickly learned to make my list in the order the items appeared in the grocery store, so we could at least get through it without having to backtrack.

Although I used to enjoy grocery shopping solo (pre-kids), it quickly became my LEAST favourite chore.

I learned to do it only once a week so that I could get it done and over with. We’d have a week’s worth of ingredients for our favourite meals, snacks etc., and then the next week I would go out and do it all over again.

After doing weekly shopping for awhile, I figured out there were certain things I didn’t necessarily need to buy on a weekly basis. Some items were shelf-stable, and would last much longer! I had a habit of waiting until I was low on these items (or out entirely), and then adding them to our shopping list for that week.

At some point I had a bit of an epiphany, and realized that with better planning, I could front load some of these items at the beginning of the month, and then the other 3 weeks I could get away with a shorter list and a quicker shopping trip!

This idea was very appealing to me, so I began doing a larger shop at the beginning of the month, followed by weekly trips for produce and fresh items, or for things I simply had forgotten to purchase at the beginning of the month.

I admit the larger trips were exhausting, especially if I had the kids in tow, but I had great satisfaction in knowing that the BIG shop for the month was done, and I could just zip out for quick trips the rest of the month.

And because I had planned better for my monthly shopping trip, I wasn’t running out of staple items throughout the month.

This method of shopping was MUCH more efficient than just waiting until I ran out of things and then adding them to the weekly list. I also started to feel more on top of my household, and if you have small children at home, you know what a feat it is to feel more in control of something!

Plus, I knew I had a month’s worth of shelf-stable items on hand, and wasn’t constantly stressing about suddenly realizing we are out of dish soap.

Using the Pantry Method for Once a Month Shopping

Around this time, I started reading other blogs who were talking about doing all their shopping once a month.

I mean, was that even possible??

And how organized would you have to be to pull something like that off?

Plus, our family REALLY liked fresh fruit and produce, so how would that work?

However, I was intrigued enough to give it a try!

By this point, my kids were a little older, and I had recently become a single mom, so the more time and money I could save, the better. I no longer had the option of leaving the kids with someone while I ran out to grab something I forgot, so I needed to be even more efficient!

I learned the value of Pantry Shopping – that is, having all our core, basic staples on hand at all times (rather than just buying what I thought I would need for that month). So, instead of planning out my meals and shopping from that, I began checking my pantry to see what staples I was getting low on, and adding those to my monthly list.

The greatest value of shopping this way, is that even without meal planning, you always have everything on hand to make all of your favourite recipes (with the exception of fresh produce, which I will get to in a minute).

How to Buy Produce when Grocery Shopping Once a Month

“But…. what about produce?!” is usually the first question I get asked when I mention that we only shop once a month.

This was one of the trickier aspects to figure out, but there are several workarounds.

My kids have always been fruit hounds, and there was no way I could keep a month’s worth of fruit in the house, or they would simply eat it all in the first week!

Plus we like to eat seasonally as much as possible, so I didn’t want to miss out on certain types of produce because I was trying to only shop once a month.

So for produce, we do a bit of a combination of strategies:

Fruit

  • Eat the more perishable fruits (berries, grapes, etc) at the beginning of the month (or, in the car on the way home from the farmer’s market was more likely the case).
  • Save the hardier fruits for later in the month (apples, oranges, pears)
  • Bananas can be bought at the beginning of the month, and whatever doesn’t get eaten before they start to turn, get put in the freezer and used later in the month for smoothies, or for baking
  • Keep our freezer stocked with frozen fruit for smoothies
  • Make a mid-month stop at the grocery store to pick up a bit more fruit or other perishables that don’t make it through the whole month
  • Swing by local farmer’s markets or farm stands to pick up something local and juicy!

Some strawberries we picked at a local you-pick farm

Veggies

  • For veggies, we used a similar strategy to fruit, eating up the more tender things early on (ie – lettuce) and saving the hardier veggies for later in the month (cabbage, root veggies, potatoes, etc)
  • A quick stop at a local farmer’s market was a great way to re-supply our veggies mid-month if needed
  • We also started a small vegetable garden, which we have expanded over time, and we now grow the majority of our own produce.
  • We preserve what we don’t eat fresh, so we have home grown produce on our shelves all winter

During the growing season, I simply head out to the garden to see what veggies we are having for supper. It forces me to be a little bit creative because I’m cooking based on what’s ripe and ready! Having a pantry that is always stocked with staples means I can pretty much make whatever I want.

By combining these strategies, for the most part I only go to actual grocery stores once a month for all of our pantry staples, and for fruit that we can’t purchase locally (like avocados, bananas, oranges etc). The bulk of our produce comes from local farmer’s markets and our garden.

Of course, do what works best for your family. You can pick and choose from any of these strategies based on what works for you. Some people prefer the hybrid approach, where you stock all your non-perishables once a month, but make a quick weekly stop for fresh produce.

Whatever works best for you is what you should do! Over time you can try to stretch yourself by seeing if you can go an entire month without stepping foot in a grocery store.

Online Grocery Shopping/Grocery Pick-Up

I confess, when I first heard of online grocery shopping, I thought it was silly. I mean, how lazy have we become that we can’t even bother to get out of our vehicle to go get our groceries?

Well, I’m now eating my words.

Although we source the vast majority of our produce from our backyard, and local growers, there are obviously things we still need to buy at the actual grocery store.

And buying a month’s worth of food and household products for a family of 5 would likely require 2 shopping carts, and a whole lot of time and patience.

Not to mention, I’d constantly be wondering if I had forgotten something.

With online grocery shopping, I simply have an open order in my online shopping cart, and I add to it throughout the entire month. I treat it like a grocery list. Any time I notice we’re getting low on something, I add it to the cart.

It also has this very convenient feature where it reminds you of what you bought last month.

Since we typically replace the same products over and over again, this makes it so easy to just re-add the same items we bought last month.

It’s so easy to keep track of the budget, because everything we add or subtract shows up in the total.

Before we finalize the order, I take one last trip through our basement ‘grocery store‘ to see if there is anything else we need, and then I finalize the order.

There are many items I only buy when they’re on sale, so I don’t buy them every month, but maybe only every 3-4 months. So I keep a close eye on sale prices so I know if it’s time to stock up on that particular item. (I have a Trello Board I use to keep track of my pantry inventory and sale prices).

I then schedule our order to pick up on our errand day, and all I have to do when I get to the store, is pull into a designated parking spot, dial a phone number, and they bring it out to my vehicle, and load it all in the back of my truck for me.

I mean, can you even remember a time when you got service like that from a grocery store? (I remember they used to do this for you when I was a kid, but now they don’t even bag your groceries for you).

All this is to say, that online grocery shopping makes monthly grocery shopping a breeze!!!

And although it took a certain worldwide event before I started using this handy feature, I now will never go back to regular grocery shopping.

Transition from Once a Month Shopping to Bulk Shopping

Shopping once a month is what helped me transition to Bulk Shopping.

Once I had learned how to keep my pantry stocked, and shop from my pantry, I realized that I could save even more money by buying certain staples in the largest package possible, or stocking up on certain items when they went on sale.

Rather than just buying a small quantity of something to get me through the month, it was much cheaper to buy certain things in the largest quantity possible.

For instance:

  • Apples are cheaper when bought by the bushel
  • I buy potatoes in a 50 lb bag at the farmer’s market
  • I buy a half bushel of onions at a time, and they store well
  • My natural dish soap is cheaper when bought by the gallon (I now buy cases of gallon jugs)
  • Organic popcorn could be bought in a 25 lb bag, and if stored properly, will last my family an entire year
  • Rice is half the price when purchased in large quantities, and also stores well
  • We buy Redmond’s Real Salt in bulk from Amazon
  • I watch for sales, and when something we normally purchase comes on sale, I purchase enough to last our family until it comes on sale again. (This takes a little bit of tracking to learn sale cycles). I use a free app called Trello to help track our inventory and sales cycles.
  • We buy a year’s worth of meat at once, from local farmers. This helps to support our local farmers, plus we are getting a discount for buying a whole or part animal at once.

Using Bulk Shopping, we have slowly transitioned from monthly shopping, to basically focusing on maintaining a 6-12 month pantry at all times.

This wasn’t my goal initially, but transitioning to monthly shopping helped me realize how much time and money I was saving, and how much more efficient I was with managing my home. Then by adding in bulk buying and sale shopping, I moved toward long-term food storage.

You can read my blog post on how we currently do food storage here:

Emergency Food Storage for Beginners

We still grocery shop just once a month, but now with more of a long-term focus. As you start stocking up on individual items, you’ll realize that you don’t have to buy them every month, so each month you can buy something else in bulk.

Over time, the overall cost of feeding your family goes down because you are only buying things when they are in bulk, on sale, or in season (and of course, preserving those seasonal foods for eating in the winter).

Here are the pickles we preserved last year. By purchasing pickling cucumbers in bulk while they’re in season, we can make a year’s worth of pickles all at once, and never have to buy them from the grocery store. Eventually I hope to grow enough pickling cucumbers that I will no longer need to buy them.

Click here for our crunchy dill pickle recipe.

Grocery Shopping Once a Month Increases Preparedness

Preparedness is very important to our family. I think the past two years might have been a significant wake-up call for those who didn’t normally plan ahead. Many people learned just our fragile our supply chain is, and that we are far too dependent on it.

I’ve blogged before about ways to reduce our dependence on the ‘Just in Time’ delivery system.

Many people grocery shop every couple of days, just picking up what they want to eat for dinner that night, and perhaps for lunch the next day. These people rarely keep a stocked pantry, and for that reason would be at much higher risk if something was to render them unable to go to the grocery store for a few days.

Whether it’s illness, an injury, bad weather, or supply chain disruptions – there are many reasons why we shouldn’t be so reliant on grocery stores.

Shopping once a week makes you slightly more resilient, because if something happens shortly after your weekly grocery shopping trip, then at least you know you have, at minimum, a few days worth of food on hand.

However, if it was the end of the week and you were due for a shopping trip when something happened, you no longer have that buffer.

Grocery shopping once a month increases your resiliency even more. Now you have an entire month’s worth of groceries on hand at least at the beginning of the month. As the month wears on, you will have less, of course, but you can see how you are now more resilient than the weekly shopper, or the every couple of days shopper.

As you shift into bulk/yearly shopping, you are REALLY maximizing your resilience. Depending on where you are in your sales cycle/bulk buying/produce preserving, you will likely have a minimum of 3-4 months worth of food on hand at any given time. And of course you’ll have a wide variety of items to choose from, and will be able to throw together a meal very quickly and easily.

How to Organize Once a Month Shopping

If you want to switch to Once a Month Shopping, organization is key! Because now you won’t be running out every couple of days because you forgot something. You’ll have to be sure you’re buying enough food to last your family a whole month.

This takes some planning!

You’ll need to know exactly what you have, and if it’s enough to last until next month.

I spent a long time looking for an app, or a spreadsheet, or SOMETHING that would allow me to input what my family buys regularly, how much it costs, and to keep track of how much we have on hand.

Since I couldn’t find anything that did exactly what I wanted, I made my own, using Trello.

Trello is a free app that I use to organize pretty much every aspect of my life and home. It’s so versatile and easy to customize, I absolutely love it.

So I built my own Trello Pantry Inventory & Price list.

It’s an all-in-one pantry/freezer inventory, price list, and shopping list. It makes our monthly shopping trip a breeze, because I can just take my phone right into our pantry and update our inventory. Then when I sit down at the computer to do my grocery order, I just look at my phone to check my list.

You can grab a copy of my Trello Pantry Inventory & Price List template here.

Benefits of Once a Month Grocery Shopping

As you can see, there are many benefits of once a month grocery shopping!

It saves you time, energy, money, and helps your family be more prepared for emergencies.

You can also see how transitioning to once a month shopping helps you move toward bulk shopping, where you can begin building a 6-12 month emergency pantry for your family.

In these uncertain times we’re living in, it would be prudent for all of us to begin creating our own little grocery stores in our homes, shopping from our pantries with items we purchased at the lowest possible price.

Does your family shop just once a month? Is it something you’re considering? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Other Blog Posts You Might Enjoy:

How to Meal Plan Using Trello

Emergency Food Storage for Beginners

How to be More Self-Reliant in Uncertain Times

Silver for Financial Preparedness

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