Why Grocery Shopping Once a Month Saves Money

Guest post from Anne of Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy

Almost a year ago, I switched my grocery shopping routine from weekly trips to monthly. It was one of the smartest moves I’ve made in my adult life.

Seriously, shopping once a month for groceries has helped me stick to my (very tight) grocery budget more than any other trick I’ve tried. More than coupons, more than sales, more than stockpiling, more than any other money-saving tip you can name (because I’ve done – and in some cases, continue to do – them all).

It seems counter-intuitive, but it works. Here’s why:

1. It forces you to be intentional and purposeful about spending your money.

Somehow, dealing with a larger amount of money all at once inspires caution, especially when combined with the fact that the food you purchase with it has to last at least four weeks. I am so much better about prioritizing my grocery purchases and focusing on the foods we will actually eat.

2. It’s harder to over-spend.

When I shopped on a weekly basis, I thought nothing of going over my budget a few bucks here and there. Those few bucks added up to $10-15 in the course of a month, as much as $180 in a year! When your funds are limited, that’s a lot of money to waste. But when I shop monthly, I’m much more aware of what I’m spending, and there are fewer opportunities to over-spend.

3. It allows you to take advantage of the savings found by buying in bulk.

Whether it’s the big boxes at Costco, or the bulk bins at the local organic market, it’s easier to buy larger amounts of food when you’re working with larger amounts of money. When I was shopping weekly, I was only working with one-fourth of my budget at a time, so I wasn’t able to buy large amounts of any kind of food unless it was deeply discounted.

Even though the large jugs of extra virgin olive oil at Costco are considerably cheaper per ounce than any other store in my area, there was no way I could purchase it at the expense of the basic food we needed to keep our tummies filled until the next week rolled around. Now, I can buy a large jug of olive oil one month, and 10 pounds of oats the next month. Each will last at least two months, and I can rotate similar large purchases throughout the year.

4. It makes you more aware of what food you actually eat.

When you refill your cupboards on a weekly basis, it’s very easy to push the new stuff in on top of the old stuff until the old stuff gets ignored for months. But when you go a whole month before re-stocking, it becomes pretty obvious what foods disappear quickly, and what foods tend to stick around for a while.

Having a better handle on what – and how much – your family actually eats helps you to write a more accurate grocery list that isn’t padded with a lot of frivolous items.

5. It helps you eat what you buy.

The fridge and cupboards start looking pretty bare by the last week of the shopping cycle. That’s a good thing, though: instead of food getting shoved into the dark recesses of your kitchen, it’s brought into the light, prepared, and enjoyed by everyone. Instead of being tossed because it’s past its prime, it’s put to use: thriftiness and frugality at its very best.

6. It helps you save on impulse purchases.

The more often you step into a grocery store, the more money you will spend. It’s just a fact of life. You run in to buy a gallon of milk, and come out with a gallon of milk and five other things you saw on your way. (They set it up that way on purpose, you know.) If you limit your shopping to once a month, you don’t have to deal with that temptation nearly as often.

Now to be fair, I actually still do step inside a grocery store once a week. I spend 75% of my budget on my big monthly shopping trip, and then use the remaining 25% to take what I call “mini trips” each week in the remainder of the month. Those mini-trips are only for re-stocking the fresh produce and taking advantage of any loss-leader sales that might arise.

Oddly enough, the reverse of principle #1 holds true: on the weekly mini-trips, I’m working with such a small amount of money that I’m very careful to spend it only on the things that are absolutely necessary.

Curious about Once-a-Month Shopping (OAMS)? Read my entire series on OAMS here and see if you think it will work for you!

Have you ever tried once-a-month grocery shopping? Have any questions for me?

When she’s not busy concocting something new in her kitchen, Anne can be found blogging about it at Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy, where she shares how to make healthy food without wasting any time, money or energy.

photo credit

Share This:

Subscribe for free email updates from Money Saving Mom® and get my Guide to Freezer Cooking for free!

Read Newer Post
«
Read Older Post
»

Comments

  1. says

    I think I am going to try this. I have been really trying to make menus and grocery lists based of off those menus to curb the compulsive buying that I seem so prone to do. I am trying to work saving money at the grocery store in “baby steps”. First menu planning, grocery shopping only what’s on my list, and eventually using more and more coupons, but only for things we need or will use. I feel like doing most of my shopping once a month and then mini trips each week for essentials and good coupon deals will be better than the current way I do things.

  2. Christina says

    I have started once a month grocery shopping and I am happy. I use to go to the store weekly or multi times a week always chasing a deal. I do once a month big trips and then I stay out of the store. I ensure I have the snacks, nuts, flour and plenty of staples.
    It has dramatically reduce my spending. I believe in stockpiling but I was doing too much. I have a ongoing list of things that we are running low on. I do menu planning, I bake alot and we rarely eat out. My goal is to pay down my debt and I am watching every dime I spend.

  3. says

    I love to stock up on things so that I don’t have to go to the grocery store that much. I am not a fan of going grocery shopping! I have a small stockpile of non-perishables. I do usually shop for milk, bread, produce and meat on a regular basis, but that’s about it!

  4. Kim says

    Is anyone willing to share your shopping list from a typical once a month shop? and your menu? I’d love to try this out! :)

  5. says

    I just stocked up on a ton of food for a party this past weekend, my goal is to use ALL of it before I go major grocery shopping again. Our produce here is pretty horrible, so I have to do that at least once a week, but other than that I’m going to use what’s in the house. Or at least try to!

  6. Julie says

    Maybe I’m just weird, but the opposite has worked for me. I tried doing once a month big trips, but found I never stuck to my meal planning that far ahead. Then we’d have food going bad or left over. Or I wouldn’t buy enough (due to having company, new recipes not going as planned, etc.) and have to go back early anyway. We get paid 2x month, so I even tried going 2x month. That went a little better, but now I just stick to once per week. It’s proven easier for me to stick to a meal plan this way, and I do better when making a short list, knowing I can only use 1/2 of the grocery budget for that pay period. So if you’re not big on planning, once a month might be tricky!

    • says

      I actually don’t menu plan for the whole month. I find that too restrictive, because I’m always finding new recipes, and I HATE making the same thing the same way over and over again. So I haven’t found a monthly menu planning system that works. However, I will say that I have a basic weekly menu structure that I follow. Essentially, it looks like this: one crock-pot meat-based meal, one meal with the leftovers from that meat (usually a soup or casserole), one fish-based meal, one meatless meal, one sandwich-type meal, one breakfast meal. That gives me a good idea of how much meat I need to buy to last the month, as well as how many pounds of rice/pasta/potatoes, etc. But it doesn’t limit my creativity or the flexibility of my schedule.

  7. Kelly Hess says

    This article just totally contradicted itself. I was left wondering the whole time how you buy milk and produce for an entire month, then to find out she still shops once a week? Yes we do monthly Costco trips for large items, but still do the weekly trips to Aldi for the basics. Exactly what she is doing. This does not mean at all once a month shopping!

    • Andrea says

      Yes, I was also disappointed. I’m experimenting with veggies/fruits to see how long I can keep them fresh in the fridge. Apples stay good forever, but who wants to eat apples every day for two weeks? :)

    • says

      Actually, dairy does keep for quite a long time. It is possible to buy it for the whole month. I always buy yogurt, cheese and eggs to last for the whole month. A lot of produce also lasts for a long time: potatoes, winter squash, carrots, apples, celery, citrus, onions and garlic come to mind. I don’t buy any basics on a weekly basis other than fresh produce and occasionally a super awesome sale or deal. And during the growing season, I don’t even need to step into a grocery store, because I can get that fresh produce at teh farmer’s market. Also, you CAN shop just once a month, eat the fresh produce while it’s’ still good, and then eat canned or frozen produce the rest of the month. I just prefer to have fresh produce.

  8. says

    I started monthly shopping last year and then stopped. I started up again in January and I love it! I do make a trip after 2 weeks for milk and anything I forgot. But, I know I am saving LOTS of money. I am more cautious about sticking to my menu and my list.
    I also have added to my menu. I used to just do dinner. Now I add snacks and breakfast. Mostly to make sure I have the ingredients for what I wish to make. I am not as strict on making them on certain days.

    • says

      I admit that I am not as organized with my menu, at least not on a monthly basis. Weekly, I do the same as you, but I find it too restrictive to plan that far ahead on a monthly basis.

  9. Grace S says

    I have been doing this for a LONG time. I live 80 miles from WalMart and Costco so I go there once a month. As far as fresh produce I get the perishable things that we go through in about 2 weeks then fall back on Pears, apples, cuties, and melons. I also incorperate celery sticks and carrot sticks. I freeze my milk then it lasts for a month or two. I also freeze any fruit that is starting to go. I still hit my local grocery but only for sale items. It does work and I do spend a lot less!

  10. says

    I do this too! Well, sort of. I set up my meal plan and shopping lists once a month. Then, the last week of the month I get my Azure Standard order and go to Walmart, a few weeks later I get my Costco stuff (a friend and I swap making Costco runs because we live in the boonies), and every two weeks my local health food store gets a big produce order. It can be tricky because I’m not always able to get all the produce I need for the meals I have planned, but I keep several “pantry meals” on hand so I can fill in as needed. Since I started planning a month at a time I’ve been spending$50-75 less each month, which I’m thrilled with! I think it’s mostly due to being much more careful what I purchase since it has to last aaaaaall month long. I love doing all the planning/list making and then basically forgetting about it for a month.

  11. KimH says

    I do basically the same thing, but lately its been even less frequent than once a month. I do stop in for meat when its at its rock bottom stock up price. I get a good bit & freeze it. I almost always have many different kinds of meat in my freezer at any given time..
    I enjoy shopping this way so much better than weekly..

  12. Liz says

    I do the same thing mainly because it also saves time. The big grocery order takes me about 2 hours. I do a mini-trip to the grocery store on the off weeks for produce, bread, milk, eggs. This trip is only a 15 minutes in / out of the store. When I go to weekly shopping, I tend to spend more and it takes me at least 1 hour at the store. You have to be organized and stick to a menu planning schedule. However, you do have some flexibility switching meals when you have a whole month’s worth of meals to chose from.