Join the Once a Month Shopping Challenge

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By Daisy Luther

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?

That’s what I want to find out with the Once a Month Shopping Challenge

For the next 6 months, my family and I are doing one shopping trip per month of each type. So, the feed store, the grocery store, and a trip for general merchandise. (Since Christmas falls in here, we’ll make an exception by adding a couple of shopping outings for the holidays.)

Here are the benefits of once-a-month shopping:

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 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 is absolutely 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.

The organizational benefits

If you know you only have one shot at getting all of 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 that may be arriving, and outings for the kids that might require snacks or certain supplies.

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 only on a monthly basis you’ll find that there are many ways to skin a theoretical cat. 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 amount of supplies you need to survive in perspective. 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.

The “rules”

You can change these around to fit your family’s needs, of course, but following you can find 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.

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, 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.

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.

Who’s with me?

I’ll be inviting some of my blogger friends to participate in this and will post links to their stories about the challenge, so be looking for it!

Who is with me on this challenge? I’d love to hear your plans to limit your outings to the stores. What exemptions will be necessary for your situation? It’s a lot more fun to embark on a challenge like this when others join in! Let me know in the comments if you’re going to participate!

Picture of Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • Love this! What a fun, challenging way to put creativity and your preps to the test! Also, a great way to see just how much money we tend to waste making more frequent trips! Think I’m going to have to try this 😉

  • Daisy what a good way to test your preps! Any gaps or holes in your food / hygiene / medical preps should show up more quickly.

  • I have done this for years. It definitely saves money. I drifted out of the habit a couple of months ago and smacked my own hand this month. I save money out of each paycheck for the once a month trip. The only exceptions to that trip are medications and really good sales on pantry stock items. I originally only did it for groceries but this month I added on household stuff and clothes. It made for a long day but when it was over, in about 3 hours, I was done.

    One thing that really helps is to plan which stores you are going to and break your list down by store. I put them on a program in my phone and then pull up each store when I get there. Which stores I go to depends on which have sales/prices I need. Also plan your route so that you can hit them all quickly and efficiently. Make sure that large items (dog food, cat food, bulk foods) are gotten first so that it’s easy to put them on the bottom of the pile.

  • We moved from the Houston area to a small, small town about 6 years ago. There were two grocery stores here, now there is only one. It is VERY expensive.
    We go shopping about once every 3 weeks, but I rely on my preps, too.
    We’re older and lately my husband has had a few doctor’s appointments, so we combine those trips with shopping if we can.
    About this being a good way to test the preps – My husband eats oatmeal nearly every day for breakfast. I had several big boxes of the Old Fashioned kind, but there was a while that we couldn’t get to the store and I ran out. That was an eye opener. I thought I had enough oatmeal for several months!
    We try to do all the shopping at once and have a lunch out at the same time. The next town of any size is over 50 miles away, and there are very few places to eat here.
    When I tell people Wal-Mart is 108 miles round trip, they think I’ve lost my mind.
    We do buy a few things locally, like milk and ice cream, but that’s it.
    It can be a challenge since where we lived when we were working, we passed all kinds of stores everyday.

  • i’ve thought about attempting this type of challenge before… I want to join in, play along, but I want to do it “right”… Here’s my concern: what about fresh fruit that can’t be had at a farmers market….like bananas? We eat them daily. Do you bend the rules to suit your own family? I’d like to do it strickly by the rules….so if you have any ideas on how to make it work w/o compromising one’s diet lifestyle, I’d appreciate the input! Thanks for a great site. I always enjoy it.

    • Hi Robin! Unfortunately if you were to really shop only once per month, you’d be out of some fresh fruits within a week or so. Part of what this will show you is how reliant you are on the grocery store. Depending on your goals, you can absolutely adjust the parameters to work for your family.

      We love fresh fruit also, so this month we’ll be eating lots of local apples and pears instead of the stuff at the grocery store. We’ve further adapted by stocking up on frozen fruit, and I can fruit during the summer to be enjoyed later. 🙂 Don’t let this discourage you, though! You can change things around and personalize it for your family. I encourage you to give it a try with the different fruits and then if it isn’t working, make some changes. 🙂

      You can absolutely

    • Robin,

      The fresh fruit thing is a problem for us, too. I have canned quite a bit of in season fruit. Did you know you can can oranges, too? During the fall, we go to a local (well fairly local – about 80 miles round trip) to pick apples. I can them and dehydrate them for later.
      As for the bananas. Sometimes, if you are at the store early, you can get a bag of bananas for about $1.00. They have been culled from the previous day, but are usually still firm. In the last bag I got for $1.00 there were 50 bananas in it! I slice them and dehydrate them. They work great in cereal and as a snack, too.

        • No, I don’t use anything on them. I have when I first started dehydrating, but it is very time consuming and with the bananas, I need to get them going pretty quickly.
          I’ve used “Fruit Fresh” for soaking before, but decided against it because of some of the ingredients in it.
          On slicing bananas, find a knife you like and let the slices kind of stick to the blade, then you can scoop them off onto the dehydrator trays in multiples which saves time.

      • You can also peel and freeze bananas. Then when you feel like ice cream, either add almond (or peanut) butter or frozen fruit like strawberries and blueberries and just enough cream or whole milk to blend. Delicious and healthy. You can use whole fat powdered milk (like Peak) and water instead of fresh cream or whole milk.

  • A while back you did a challenge to cut back on grocery store items and this seems like a companion to it. Great idea that will save money if we stick to it. When I first moved out to the country it took me a while to get organized but because I live 15 minutes from the closest gas station, 45 minutes from the closest walmart and 65 minutes from the closest big box store I am a once a month shopper.

    I go when my son can come with me to handle the heavy stuff and it is usually a 6 or 7 hour event. We start off about 7:30 am heading to the furthest destination and work our way back. In the same day we hit the big box store for bulk items and gas for vehicles and extra containers; discount grocery store and farmer’s market for fresh items; the feed store for animal items; walmart for anything I can’t get at all the previous places and the big hardware store for building and maintenance supplies and small tank propane refills. The truck is filled to the brim inside and out and we usually have to put tie down straps on the back to keep everything in. By the time we get back to the homestead, unload the truck and get items in the refrigerator we are both exhausted.

    The following day is repackaging all the bulk items, vacuum sealing in manageable amounts, sealing product in buckets with gamma lids and getting things ready for root cellar storage.

    The only exception to once a month shopping is special sales; other wise I do without. Since I have been purchasing this way, I have saved about $300/month; AND I have been able to buy “extra” items to go toward my goal of 3 months supply on hand.

    I think as we keep the challenge going, we will all save money, gas and time. Great idea Daisy; have a wonderful day!

  • Oh man. This would be tough to stick to for me, but I have the opportunity for a clean slate with a new house here shortly. This is a great goal. I think I’ll have to give it a shot!

  • I would love to do this with you. Ok, I have to admit, I’m already doing the grocery part of it with a few exceptions. I do buy milk 2 or 3 times a month; we’re big milk users & while I keep some frozen it takes up a lot of room in the freezer & takes forever to thaw. Also, if I see a killer sale on something we use a lot I will stock up. But count me in; it will be fun doing it with others & learning from everyone’s experiences.

  • Daisy, I wouldn’t mind trying this again except for fresh milk. None of our neighbours have a milk cow anymore so the store is the only place. DH & I use more than a 4l. jug per week. I actually think I could go the entire 6 months without going shopping if I could top off the powdered milk & maybe a few other things before we start. Of course meds. are only available in one month doses so that would be a monthly trip. I will talk this over with DH & see what he says.

    When we were 1st married (50+ years ago) we lived in saw mill camps & then only shopped once a month. Lg. boxes powdered milk, eggs in 15 doz crates, canned fruit & veg. by the case, a lot of canned meat & a little fresh or frozen meat. No deep freeze then but we did have a propane frig that had a good size freezer for those days. DH bought power saw chain by the spool, files by the box etc. Today when we live only 8 miles from a sm. town it is easy to go in a couple times a week.

    • Canadagal – one thing I loved about the milk in Canada was how it came in the small bags. If you wanted to, you might consider freezing enough bags to last the month. I now freeze all my extra milk in bags because it worked out so well up there. For best results, freeze them flat on a cookie sheet, then stack them up in the freezer and pull them out as needed. 🙂 Just a thought!

  • That is a great thought Daisy. I know some areas of Canada have the plastic bags but ours doesn’t. I guess I could buy the square 1 l. containers but they are more expensive. Here is a thought though. DH made me a box that freezes 7 – 4 c. bags of tom. juice as I was running out of jars again. It is a rectangle wooden box with removable aluminum dividers & a hinged back that allows for easy removal of rectangles of frozen tom. juice. I just slip a 6 lb plastic bag in each, fill, & put on a twist tie & take to freezer. They stack so nicely in the freezer once removed from the box. I have 38 of these blocks now. I could do the same with milk & pouring from a jug would be so easy.

  • My garden and most farmer’s markets are done for the season so how do you fix green salads if you only shop once a month? I think we could live off of everything else from our storage but we eat lots of salads. Ideas?

    • Hi Fretti. 🙂 I’m glad you’re thinking about joining us!

      There are a couple of options for salads past the first week. First, you can plant lettuce and grow it in your windowsill. Use the fast growing baby varieties and you should have lettuce in about 3 weeks. Plant successively so that you can have these all the time. Second, can you sub in some heartier produce for lettuce? Kale would last longer in the fridge, as would broccoli. My kids like the “broccoli slaw” which is made from grating the stem of the broccoli. Cabbage is longer lasting too and you can make a delicious Asian-type salad with that and an apple cider vinaigrette.

      Alternatively, if it’s the only way you can get your family on board, make that an exception for the month. Just resist the temptation to buy anything else while you’re at the store – which, if you’re anything like me, will be a huge challenge!

      • Thank you for the follow up! My “kid” is 68 years old and wouldn’t put a “tree” (that’s what he calls broccoli) in his mouth for the life of him. 🙁 Now for me, that sounds wonderful! We don’t have a window that that faces the right way for growing inside in this house and, to boot, we are going to be faced with moving as we can’t afford to keep up the mortgage. I guess that means I will have to make an exception for his salads but you are right; stepping foot inside a grocery store is dangerous. Thank you for all that you do!

        • You’re so welcome! Please feel free to adapt it to suit your family. Sorry to hear you’ll have to be moving soon.

  • For the last four years we have been shopping once a month. Yes its challenging yet fun. Any time you can stay out of the stores you will save money.Last month busted the budget mega foods had their twice yearly meat sale and i spent $200 on meat. Will last a long time as we also eat many plant based meals from our abundant garden. Feed four adults on $350 a month. Only eat take out twice a month which is a big money saver.

  • What an excellent idea! I will definitely try this in the future. I’m starting the envelope budget system and this would probably be a great companion to that and really help me use that monthly grocery budget wisely. I’ll be interested to hear how it went at the end of your challenge. Good luck!

  • one of the problems of reaching this goal is that we all have “special” things we don’t want to do without. in a shtf, we don’t get that choice. it might be good to practice that, at least for a few weeks now, to figure out what would work out in an emergency.
    my dh loves bananas, but they aren’t raised here. so he can sub apples because he likes them, but not pears, because “they’re gritty”. he’s a salad guy, and thinks iceburg lettuce is the best. so do lots of bugs. if i grow it, it is so gnawed on that it is disgusting. i can grow leaf lettuces in our community garden plot. and can sprout seeds to add to sandwiches. i do grow mixed lettuces on the east and west facing windowsills and the balcony in the fall and winter. lettuces don’t need or want full sun. one of my windows has a 24 inch tube grow light to help things along. we can also manage green onions and re-sprouted celery in the windows, and many pots of herbs on the balcony. we also stretch the salad fixings with dried cranberries, nuts, cold steamed veggies, cold potato chunks, etc. if it tastes good with salad dressing, it’s a salad, right?
    i forage a bit in the neighborhood and along a local creek trail. we find portulaca, plantain, dandelion greens, lambs ears, minor’s lettuce, etc. these are at their best added to salads in the late winter/early spring, during what was called the “hunger gap”, that was when winter supplies were running out but it was too early for any planted crops to be edible. we sometimes run out of salad fixings in winter, and then we don’t have salad. our green beans are very productive and we usually fill in with ones i have canned, or perhaps roasted winter squash, or cole slaw.

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