Join the Once-a-Month Shopping Challenge
By Daisy Luther
Here we are, fresh off a month of limited spending. If you joined the Stockpile Challenge, chances are that you have some extra money sitting around.
Here’s what I think you should do with it.
I think you should experiment with a shift to Once-a-Month Shopping.
What would happen if you only went shopping once a month?
Would you become more organized? Would you become more creative? Would you become more mindful of waste? Would you save a ton of money?
If you haven’t been buying groceries for the past month, you now have a much better idea of what your family actually eats – and how much of it you need.
This is the perfect time if you’ve participated in the previous challenge. Now, you have a pile of money, a newly emptied freezer, and some space on the shelves. It’s time to get down to business – the business of cutting your future grocery bills in HALF. But even if you didn’t participate, there’s a way to break things down and make it affordable to make this change.
You can adapt these to fit your family’s needs, of course, but here are our family’s guidelines to the Once-a-Month Shopping Challenge.
We are allowed one trip for each of our needs: groceries, animal supplies, and other supplies. These may all be undertaken on the same day, or they can be split up based on the way your family gets paid.
Spend some time checking out the sales at various stores in your area. We make a day of it, hitting a number of different grocery stores after checking the sale flyers online.
Supplies that can be obtained outside of regular retail environments are exempt. For example, if you barter with a neighbor, purchase some craft supplies at a yard sale, hit an off-season farmer’s market for local goods, or go get a bushel of apples directly from a local farmer, these things don’t count as “going to the store.” This is a way you can make up for a shortfall in your supplies while still abiding by the “no stores” rule. However, ordering a new item from Amazon or another online retailer would be considered cheating.
We’re allowing two meals out per month. This might be Chinese takeout, pizza delivery, or a restaurant meal. A meal out can break up the monotony and help you stick to your no-stores challenge. Based on your budget and your family’s habits, decide if, and how many, meals you’ll have out. For you, it might be once a week or once a month. If you have any special occasions coming up, work it into your plan.
Don’t hesitate to break the rules if it’s a matter of health or safety. Obviously, I don’t want to see your dog starve for a week because you underestimated the amount of dog food that you required for the month. Nor would I want someone to go without safety goggles at a new job until the end of the month. Adhere to the no-stores rule only if it makes sense.
If you have health reasons that require you to eat more fresh food, then by all means, calculate in a second shopping trip each month to pick up those items. My daughter who is dieting will require some extra veggies to munch on and we’ll be making another trip 2 weeks in to supply those needs. Always use common sense with these challenges.
How to get started
Plan a trip to each type of store that you use. If money is a problem, you can split these shopping trips up based on the way you get paid (weekly, bi-weekly, etc.)
- A trip to the grocery store
- A trip to a general merchandise store like Target or Wal-Mart
- A trip to the feed store/pet store if necessary for your family
With each trip, you’re going to predict what you need to run your household for an entire month. The February issue of the Cheapskate’s Guide to the Galaxy goes into much more detail about these shopping trips. (It’s only $5 per month and I guarantee you’ll save far more than that! Check it out HERE.)
There are all sorts of benefits to a once-a-month shopping regimen.
The financial benefits
As prices go up, it’s easy to spend a little here and spend a little there until you are shocked to discover that you have nothing left. The easiest way to prevent that might be to stay away from temptation. Going to do your shopping only one time in a month will help you stay away from those impulse purchases that always seem to hop into the cart. It will be easier to keep track of your spending if it’s all done in one large trip.
After we moved, we got into the habit of “just stopping to get one thing” several times per week. This has added up, and our grocery bill got out of control.
When you set yourself a monthly budget, it can be difficult to keep track if you run to the store all the time. But when you shop once a month, you can withdraw the cash you need to purchase your items and stay within your budget more easily. This will also encourage you to dip into your stockpiles for those additional items that you might need to get through the month.
When I did this a few years back, it made a massive difference in my grocery budget, and I think you’ll see the same results. After the first month, it’s far easier to shop this way because the money will be readily available when you haven’t shopped for several weeks.
The organizational benefits
If you know you only have one shot at getting all your supplies for the month, you’re going to be far more organized about that shopping trip.
You’ll be forced to calculate your needs in advance so that you can get everything you’ll require. You’ll need to consider things like special events that are coming up during the month (are you celebrating any birthdays or holidays?), guests who may be arriving, and outings for the kids that might require snacks or certain supplies. You’ll need to figure out at least a general meal plan, calculate how many eggs you eat, etc. You get the idea.
During the month, you can keep a list as you discover things you’d normally “run to the store” to pick up. This list can be fulfilled during the next monthly shopping trip, at which time you may discover you that you already found a satisfactory substitute for the missing product.
The creative benefits
When you shop on a monthly basis you’ll find that there are many ways to skin a theoretical cat. (Don’t skin a real cat. I like cats. A lot.)
If you run out of an item during the month, it’s time to put on your problem-solving hat and come up with a replacement that doesn’t come from the store. Maybe you can repurpose something you already have. Maybe you can create the item out of supplies you have on hand. Maybe you can find it at a yard sale, borrow it from a friend, barter for it, or simply live without it. Whatever way you find around the missing item, it’s sure to get your wheels turning.
The preparedness benefits
If you’re a prepper, now’s the time for you to really put a few things to the test. There’s nothing like once-a-month shopping to put the number of supplies you need to survive in perspective. Last month, all of us participating in the Stockpile Challenge had our eyes opened. Now is the time to continue the lessons.
This will also help you to see the holes in your preps when you discover that you only had enough of some vital element to last for 3 weeks instead of the infinite stockpile you thought you had. Learning to live without running to the store is much akin to a lockdown due to bad weather or civil unrest.
I found that when I focused on once-a-month shopping that I built a very nice backlog of supplies effortlessly. Oftentimes, I bought a bit too much of one item, but not to worry! That got added right to my stockpile. And whether you prep or not, the benefit of a well-stocked pantry cannot be overestimated.
For those who want to go advanced:
If you really want to go in-depth, be sure to subscribe to the Cheapskate’s Guide to the Galaxy. Find all the details here.
Are you with me?
We’ll do a thread in the Facebook group to keep ourselves accountable and weekly check-ins here on the website. (Go here to join if you’re into social media.) I can’t wait to get started! Are you going to join the February Once-a-Month-Shopping Challenge?
About the Author
Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, gun-toting blogger who writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, voluntaryism, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper. She is widely republished across alternative media and she curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site, PreppersDailyNews.com. Daisy is the best-selling author of 4 books and lives in the mountains of Virginia with her two daughters and an ever-growing menagerie. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.