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Why Grocery Shopping Once a Month Saves Money

Guest post from Anne

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?

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170 Comments

  • Jessica says:

    This doesn’t really seem like once a month shopping if you still make a trip every week for perishables.

    That said, how do you manage your food storage?

    • Ryanne says:

      My mini shopping trips for bananas, milk, etc is only $25-$30 per week. My big shopping trip is around $250. Food storage hasn’t been a problem for us with a freezer in the garage and nearly everything is made from scratch.

    • Anne says:

      Yes, like Ryanne, my mini trip is only $20/week, and it goes almost exclusively to fresh produce, especially during the growing season. For food storage, all I need for the month (and more) fits very nicely into our pantry, fridge and freezer. True, the fridge and freezer get VERY full at the beginning of the cycle, but everything still fits.

  • Ryanne says:

    YES! I shop once a month with mini-shopping like you described once a week and it is sooo worth it! One site I use towards the end of the month is supercook.com . It helps you find recipes for the items that are still in your pantry.

    I also plan my meals and I find that I can even go 5 or 6 weeks between the big shopping trips. It has taken our $600-$800 grocery bill per month down to $400 or less per month (including cleaning supplies, health and beauty care, paper products, etc.)! We have a family of 5 and I am Gluten-free. It can be done!

    • Anne says:

      I will have to check out that website; it sounds awesome! Two of my children have allergies, and my husband also has dietary issues, so we have to work hard to keep those specialty diet food costs down. It is definitely possible!

    • Laura says:

      The first month we did this, we also saved about $100-200 for the month. (I’m behind on recording expenses.) But I think this was mostly because we were eating a lot more out of our pantry that month, and not restocking many things that we ran out of. Since then we’ve saved less every month, but I still think we’re beating our previous grocery bills.

      I find that the most difficult thing is predicting what pantry items I’m going to run out of during a given month. So we end up getting some of these things on our restocking trips, as well as fresh produce.

      I also find this saves me lots of TIME! I do my monthly trip by myself while dh watches the kids, and then I either send dh to the store on off weeks or go with the kids for a quick trip. I find this way much less stressful.

  • Fantastic tips Crystal! I am definately a once or twice a month shopper..It saves soooo much money..If I walk into a store and I have not bought and planned most of my meals for the month..there goes the $$ right out the window! Great post!

  • It makes sense! My first thought, when I saw the title of the article, was, What about fruits and veggies? But I completely agree. It’s harder to overspend this way.

  • Daily Citron says:

    I’m starting to seriously consider once-a-month shopping as it does seem like a great way to save money. But, since I’d still have to drive to the store for a weekly produce run, I’m conflicted as to whether it’s worth the effort to separate out the monthly purchases and the weekly purchases. Maybe if I did my weekly produce runs at the farmer’s market then I wouldn’t be tempted to buy dry goods every week…
    -Viva recently posted Use Old Maps for Kids Drawings

    • Anne says:

      The farmer’s market is what I do during the growing season (we don’t have a farmer’s market from Nov-Apr here), and in the off-weeks during winter, I just go to one grocery store for the produce. Before, I used to hit up 3 or more stores in one week, so this really limits how often I go into a store.

  • Carrie says:

    I’ve done something similar to this. I’ve tried to make a big trip to Aldi’s and do a major stocking up of food. I buy my beef from a local farm. With this stored up, I only have to buy minimal items. I’d like to say I do it only to save money, but I really hate grocery shopping in the cold weather! It also saves me so much time. And you really know what items you need to have.

  • Tammy says:

    Buying in bulk? Do you feel you save more than the weekly ads that come out once a week?

    I grocery shop every week but only what is on sale and very minor perishables that I need for that week.

    I plan my menu once a month but only out of my pantry and freezer. I buy the loss leaders that are in the ad every week and they go in my rotating pantry and my freezer.

    I have done price comparisons and with buying sale items I’m not sure the buying bulk thing would cut my bill any more.

    Your thoughts???

    • Anne says:

      Actually, yes I think so! I still look at the grocery ads every week (out of sheer curiosity, and to catch any loss-leader sales I might want to take advantage of) and nine times out of ten, I don’t see anything that’s a good enough sale for me to justify getting out of my OAMS routine. One exception: when Harris Teeter does a super doubles or triple coupon event, I will take advantage of that (usually still keeping within my weekly mini-trip budget). I also will say that I have done a LOT of research on prices in my area, and maintain an extensive price list. When shopping once a month, I’m willing to go further afield to stores where the good deals are, which I wouldn’t do if I were shopping on a weekly basis.

    • Sara says:

      I feel the same way Tammy. I found I don’t save more if I buy in bulk. I only have a couple brands that I’m loyal to, so I simply buy the loss leaders and have specific price points for produce and meat. Between frozen and fresh produce we always have something in the house, but it is what is in season. I usually only have 1-4 of the same coupon, so I just buy what I can with those when the product is on sale, and another brand will usually go on sale in a week or 2.
      I have hardly an storage space and no actual pantry, so my stockpile is small, but it gets rotated quite often.

    • Tammy, I mostly buy in bulk. I feed my family of 8 for $100 or less each month (.40 per person per day).

      I buy bulk items such as 25 pounds of oats ($15.65), black, pinto, and white beans in 25 pound bags, 50 pound bags of rice, 50 pound bags of popcorn ($17), #10 cans (over lbs each) of tomato sauce for $2.65.

      Does it cut my budget? You bet it does!

  • Chelsea says:

    This style of shopping has never worked for me in the past. I actually spend more this way because I feel like I have a lot of money to spend and feel overwhelmed by how bare the cupboards are… so I buy a lot to stock them. I also have a hard time meal planning a month in advanced to know what to buy. I much prefer shopping 2-4 times a month instead of 1. But, everyone is different 🙂 the key is trying things until you figure out how you best function.

    • Anne says:

      So true; there is no one perfect way to do everything! And I actually don’t plan my meals a month in advance – I just know that every week we will have 1-2 meat-based meals, 1 meatless meal, 1 fish-based meal, and a sandwich type meal. Throw in the necessary items for breakfasts and lunch (supplies for making bread for sandwiches, oats and eggs, etc.), and I don’t need anymore specific plans to write my grocery list.

  • Melissa W. says:

    I have recently started bulk shopping once a month and LOVE it! I was spending $150-$200 (for a family of 5) easy when I was weekly grocery shopping. Now, I spend less than $300 a month. I do still purchase fresh produce once a week, but I’m still not spending near as much as I was before. I make my menu out for the month and that’s what we go by. Some month’s are cheaper than others because I may have leftover noodles, meat, etc.

  • Allison says:

    I’ve been once a month shopping for almost a year and it is great. It is so obvious when eating habits change, such as you run out of food faster that month and it gives you time to change your budget for next month if needed. It does force you to buy what you use and use what you buy. I quickly stopped buying things that just sat there and used the money to buy more of what we consume quicker. I buy canned and frozen veggies & fruit for the second half of the month – a great tip I got online 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Yes, buying canned and frozen veggies and fruit is a great option, too, that does keep you completely out of the stores except for that one trip.

  • Cotton says:

    I think it is great that this works for you. I am most definitely a sale shopper. I tried twice a week and then found the items I needed were not on sale and I paid a lot more. I shop twice a month, by sales and that is it. No matter what I don’t return to the stores.

    • Anne says:

      I used to be a strictly sales shopper, too, but the problem I ran into was that I actually spent too much money on “great” sales. I would see what seemed like a great deal with a sale and a coupon, and convince myself I had to buy it because I wouldn’t see such a good deal again. Because what was on sale was kind of random, I would end up with some odds and ends of food that I couldn’t really use as efficiently as I should be able to. I still take advantage of really good sales and deals, but I find now that i am more focused with my spending that the deals aren’t as good as i thought they were.

      • Jennifer says:

        Agree with everything you said here. Used to be hard-core, seven stores in one day, sale and coupon shopper.

        Now I shop every two weeks (that’s how my hubby gets paid) and mostly in bulk at Sam’s Club. I just keep my eyes out for good meat, produce and pantry deals.

  • Cotton says:

    Actually I meant to say once a month and now shop every two weeks.

  • Debbie says:

    Wow this was really convincing. I would love to buy Olive Oil at Costco but with the weekly budget it isn’t doable but this way sounds so great and it would eliminate the extra gas usage to the store too! I wanna try this!!

  • Jessica says:

    I’ve done this for YEARS with great results! And I also do the milk/eggs/bread/fruits/veggies weekly stock ups. I still shop sales….if they are HUGE and/or something that we go through a lot of. But the less times I go into a store, the less I’m tempted to spend! 🙂

  • Leighann says:

    I’m sorry, but there is a fundamental problem with what the article is about.

    The person who wrote the article said they shop once per month. What that actually means is that you go into the store one time per month and get everything you need/want for the entire month.

    If you go back to the store the next week and get eggs and bread and apples and bananas and so on, YOU AREN’T SHOPPING ONCE PER MONTH. You are doing a large stock up once per month, and then continuing to shop.

    It would be more accurate to say something like “Why it’s easier to save money with one big stockup trip per month.” It doesn’t give the impression that the OP is able to keep milk and produce good for the entire month. It’s not misleading.

    Now, you can save tons of money by doing one big stockup per month and then weekly smaller trips for perishables. That’s how we shop here. However, it would be misleading and dishonest for me to say “We only shop once per month.”

    I also do a once-monthly Amazon warehouse stockup, where I get crackers, peanut butter, etc. using Subscribe & Save. I try to make my big stockups during different times of the month, though, to help save on costs. We’re still paycheck-to-paycheck right now, but we’re slowly getting better.

    • Anne says:

      I’m sorry; I certainly didn’t intend to be mis-leading! This is just a variation of the OAMS concept, where instead of relying on frozen and canned produce, I actually stock up on fresh produce during mini-trips. As you can see from the comments, many people who practice OAMS do it exactly the same way. I agree it’s not the most accurate title, but that’s just what it’s called.

    • Anna says:

      I politely and respectfully disagree. I understood exactly what the author stated because I personally “think” like the author does. I do my shopping “once a month” even though I do “little trips” each week for dairy, fruits and vegetables.

      The HUGE difference may be in my mindset but by shopping for 90% of what we need once a month, it feels like I have my shopping done for the month. The “little trips” are just that, “little trips” that I do very quickly and easily.

      Like most people I make “extra trips” to the store when I forget to buy something or we run out of items or my child needs something. Whether I do “big shopping” or “weekly shopping” I don’t necessarily count those last minute trips to the store as part of my main routine shopping. Those are just extra trips that I had to make out of necessity but I still consider myself a “monthly” shopper, again my mindset.

    • Andrea says:

      I agree, the title is misleading. I was disappointed when I got to the end and realized that she still shops every week.

  • Kim says:

    This is pretty similar to what I have done for years. It saves so much more money. Recently I have also found that going to the store without my husband helps tremendously I didnt realize how much junk he was throwing in the basket & just saying “three dollars” & I would add $3. I always take a calculator (w/memory so if u accidentally hit a button that messes up your total it remembers what your last “transaction” was)

  • robyn says:

    I shop in a very similar fashion. As a former coupon-a-holic…I prefer shopping this way, I find it less stressful. We moved from a very populated area with multiple walmarts, krogers and albertsons to a very rural area. We have several health issues so our family eats grain, dairy and refined sugar free and mostly organic. Our grocery budget it $500 a month (double what I spent using coupons). I spend appx $200 at costco the beginning of each month stocking up on eggs (i generally buy 10dz), organic chicken, wild salmon and fish, organic carrots, organic spinach, several bags of avocados, almonds, walnuts, almond butter, maple syrup, salsa, canned items and other misc. I allocate $200 to be spent on either Azure standard order or Amazon stocking up on almond and coconut flours, hemp seeds, chia seeds etc. and the remaining $100 i spend on a produce co-op that we participate in at least every other week if not each week (and during the summer months the local farmers market) often i don’t spend the entire $500 each month and save the leftover for a large purchase of local meat. We only have one standard size refrigerator but do have a deep freeze. My husband generally gets and Elk each year as well and have family members with large gardens and fruit trees so we can/bottle and store them each fall as well. I find most things store well if dealt with properly. our carrots last all month in the fridge, avocados are left out to ripen and once soft i refrigerate them. during the colder months i leave produce in the garage (apples, squash, oranges, onions, carrots). We by no means have a lot of storage space but between our deep freeze and pantry we keep enough food storage to supply our family for 1 year (in case of disaster or emergency or sharing); things are rotated obviously and nothing expired..it’s doable!

    • Anne says:

      Yes, there are definitely plenty of produce items that will last the whole month when well stored. I also buy a lot of organic, local, grass-fed, etc., at least as much as I can.

  • Heather says:

    So pleased that you still do mini-trips for the fresh stuff.

    I do something similar to this.

  • lee says:

    I used to shop once a month, don’t really know why I stopped. Now I do about half and half. I spend half of my grocery budget on stocking up and half of my grocery budget on fresh produce. I meal plan based on what I have. I guess I should rethink this as it would make my life a little easier! Dragging 3 grumpy kids to the store every week is a real pain!

  • Lisa P says:

    I started doing this religiously about 5 months ago. It makes a HUGE difference for me! I spend less, really stick to my list and budget and always have food and a list of meals on hand. I stay home with 2 toddlers and take them to the store with me as little as possible. I go to Aldi and my 2 local stores during the first week of the month (I buy the sale items and use coupons-also try and go on the one stores double coupon day) and then just send my husband for milk and fruit on his way home from work the rest of the month. It saves time, a lot on gas-especially with current prices and he is good at getting the couple of things I ask for and then getting out without impulse buys especially at Costco. When I go there I seem to be side tracked by the other items they sell (kids clothes, books, housewares) and have a hard time resisting. Where he can go there on his way past and just buy 2 gallons of milk and strawberries. I never thought I could do this or that it would work and it has been HUGE at helping me stick to a VERY small budget for our family! More people should try it.

    • Amand says:

      How small is your budget? We’re working at like… $500 a month but that’s usually more than we actually should have. It’s more like $400 a month. I’m really thinking about doing this.

      • Anne says:

        Our budget is $210, but since our baby is now a toddler, we’re seriously considering increasing it. That’s the budget for 4 people (household products not included.)

    • Anne says:

      I totally agree with you!

  • Sara says:

    I do the exact same thing! I go to Costco once a month and spend 200-250 and then have a weekly budget of 30 ish for produce and deeply discounted products!

  • Amand says:

    This is an interesting concept and I’m going to consider it. We get paid twice a month and usually by the second pay check it mostly goes to rent, so we have hardly any money to work with. Maybe if I did this then that last pay check could go to just paying some bills that I didn’t pay with the first paycheck.
    I’m seriously going to consider this.

  • Becky says:

    I do something similar to this. One weekend a month a drop off my 16 month old by her grandma (while daddy works) and I go to 3 to 4 grocery stores and stock up (Aldi and Ruler Foods every time and then if I see sales I will do a quick stop into another store). During the week I normally stop at least once to get milk, fruit and veggies. The reason I started this is so I could have more mommy and me time on the weekend with my daughter. Its hard shopping with her and I know she would rather be doing something else. Luckily for me, on my drive from work to daycare I pass 4 grocery stores, so a quick 10 min trip in for what I forgot is easily accomplished.

    Good luck to anyone trying this. It was hard at first for me to try to plan everything out, but since we are now buying meat in smaller bulk (we buy a 35 pound box of beef and pork from a local butcher every 4 to 6 months) I do not have to worry about buying meat at the store often.

  • Jenny says:

    I love this!! Three years ago my husband took a new position with his company and his pay went from bi-weekly to ONCE A MONTH!! It was quite an adjustment, but by learning to shop once a month (also on a very tight budget) I was able to feed us, and feed us WELL much cheaper than when I shopped every week. This month I spent $127 at the meat market and I have spent about $10 on milk and fresh produce (thanks to some great coupons this month)!! Plus, my cupboards and freezers are always filled with loss leader items, I don’t stray off my list, so I get some great deals!! I could never do this if I didn’t have a vaccum sealer and an extra freezer, but wow…$137 a month to feed 2 people (steaks, roasts, only boneless pork and chicken, ham, turkey, burger)…what a great deal!! Thanks for a great article!!

  • Laundry Lady says:

    We usually shop at our regular grocery store every other week and once a month at Sam’s Club. This seems to work well for us. We do make occasional extra trips for very good deals on meat or produce, but generally try to keep it to those three trips. Lately we’ve been shopping every week since we don’t know exactly when our new baby is going to arrive (I’m currently three days past my due date with no end in sight) and we are definitely spending more in spite of our best attempts at sticking to the list. Some how we still spend more. I think shopping less definitely helps you spend less.

  • Christine says:

    This is how we shop too! I did a post about it a while back. Another reason that it saves money is because it forces me to do meal planning. If I don’t, we end up with lots of food and no meals to make from it! So it’s great because you buy what you need and use it up because you planned for it. O! And we eat out less when the cupboards are full and the meals are planned and just need to be whipped up.

    http://www.peachesandcheese.com/2012/02/money-saving-series-ways-to-save/

  • Donna says:

    I’ve been doing OAMS for years and I can’t imagine doing it any other way!

    I buy bulk EVERYTHING.

    We live quite far from town and the gas alone saves me hundreds monthly…not to mention the convenience of having food on hand. There’s never a time (or really an option) where we say “we’ll just go grab fast food”. There’s too much here and the drive there and back would take me just as long to thaw and cook something 🙂

  • I do agree with this post. Shopping one a week has helped to save a lot of money over the past year.

  • Chrystelle says:

    Great post and very timely too! I did a huge shopping trip this morning (before I read the post) and actually started thinking that I was going to try to shop once a month, but wasn’t sure how (or if) it would work. With a 10 week old and a 4 year old, I need all the help I can get!

    • Anne says:

      I have a lot of posts on my blog about this if you want to read more about how I do it. And other bloggers have posts as well, which you can find if you google once a month shopping.

  • Diane says:

    I don’t quite do this, I don’t designate one trip as my big trip, but I look at the ads and see what is on a big sale worth stocking up on and then buy 2-3 mos worth of that product (if it stores that well). I try to find weeks to skip, if the ads aren’t good we go 2 weeks between shopping trips and then after 2 weeks we really do need some produce. I freeze milk so that doesn’t send us to the store and buy 6 dozen or more eggs when they’re on sale so I don’t force a trip out of needing them. Every other month I make an order to Azure standard for bulk grains/other bulk organic foods. We have 230 cash for a family of 3 and do not eat out and my husband packs a lunch to work every day.

  • shauna says:

    I find fruit, veggies, and milk don’t last a month. Unless you get frozen of course. I like my fresh fruits and veggies. I don’t think one top freezer would fit a month of frozen products for us. I wish.

    • Shauna,

      Apples, oranges (and most citrus), and carrots will easily last months in the fridge.

      A garden is also helpful. We eat from our garden every day. Today we had Swiss Chard from our garden.

      • shauna says:

        I live in a one bedroom apt. We don’t have a place for a garden. I can’t wait to have a home with a small area for a garden. I bought apples recently, and they didn’t last after a week. It could be the supermarket too. I find fruit bought at whole foods last longer then when I buy from Stop & Shop.

      • Andrea says:

        What temp do you keep your fridge, Brandy? I can keep apples and sometimes oranges for 6 weeks, but nothing “easily” lasts months. I wish it did.

        • First, remember that the apples that you are buying at the store in April were harvested in October. The growers keep them refreigerated that long–and longer (apples are still available to purchase in the summer; some are imported in th the summer, but not all). I don’t haev a thermostat in my fridge, but most fridges can be kept at 42º, or even at 38º.

          However, I bought oranges on sale in November and kept them through March in my garage (where I have a thermostat; we had a warm winter, so it only got down to 65º) and they were fine! I had apples in there as well; they didn’t last as long that warm, but in colder winters they will last longer (usually it’s 55º in there). So, even if you had a warmer setting on your fridge (which you wouldn’t, or milk and other things would go bad) you should be fine. It may depend on the freshness of the fruit that you start with, however.

          • Andrea Q says:

            Thanks! My fridge is at 38 F. I know that growers keep them at about 32 F (because of the sugar content, most won’t freeze until 29 F). I imagine that the humidity level has something to do with it, too.

    • Anne says:

      Yes, there are plenty of fruits and vegetables that do last a month, and milk lasts a lot longer than you might think. If you buy it at teh freshest date possible, it can last a month, or you can freeze it if nothing else. And i only have one small freezer, too, but it works for me! And also, I buy fresh fruits and veggies on weekly mini-trips (which is mentioned at the bottom of the article).

      • shauna says:

        I find if i get around 6 meats/chicken and waffles and other frozen food products , it takes up most space. I think I will try the bi weekly shopping to start.

      • Donna says:

        Anne, I do this too.
        But sometimes, I can’t get back 2 weeks into the cycle so I then buy things like cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes, etc that will keep as well as frozen fruits and veggies. We eat up the quick-spoils in the first 2 weeks, like spinach, lettuce, cukes, zukes, grapes, berries, and the like. The latter part, we use the above mentioned and frozen; berries, peaches, green beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts, peas, greens, and so much more… along with home-canned foods.

        We ran out of jelly last week so I pulled strawberries from the freezer and made jam 🙂
        Such a blessing to have it all on hand!

      • If you watch the dates on your milk when you purchase it , you can purchase milk that won’t expire for 2 weeks or longer.

  • I used to do this, when we were shopping. I haven’t really shopped for food since November, though. We’re living primarily from our pantry and garden. I did buy 50 pounds of oats and some margarine in January.

  • Heather T. says:

    Good article, I have decided to take the Month of March off from shopping for groceries well except milk, bread and fruit. So far so good. We have so much we need to eat, 3 freezers full and a huge stock pile. I think every few months or so I will plan this, and then put the saved money aside to buy half a beef or something. we only budget $240 a month for 5 and have #6 coming but I don’t plan to change the amount anytime soon.

  • Julie says:

    I have been shopping once a month for several months and it has chopped our grocery bill in HALF! I also began buying organic! We use everything and I make everything. No pre-packaged or processed junk! I have also lost weight…almost 20 pounds.

    I do have a question. I have to go back for fresh fruit. It never lasts. Do you have any suggestions on how to avoid this? I don’t want to freeze it, but I am afraid that it won’t stay fresh if I buy enough to last the whole month. What do you do? THANKS!

    • Anne says:

      Wow, I love to hear success stories like this! Thanks for sharing! And I do go weekly for fresh produce also. I don’t have room to store frozen fruit, and I don’t like to buy canned, so I do stock up on fresh produce once a week. During the growing season, I go to the farmers’ market, which eliminates the need to go into a grocery store.

  • Debbie says:

    I’m just curious, does anybody who does this type of shopping have three or more teenagers? They eat so much more than toddlers.

    • Wendy says:

      Amen. I realized my 15 year old has grown another 2 inches in the past 3 weeks—-well over 6 ft now.

    • Stacey says:

      You are so right….teenagers DO eat more than toddlers or even early elementary age kids! I don’t find this method of shopping at all helpful to my family, but we’re all different!

    • Anne says:

      The family that “wrote the book” on OAMS actually does have teenagers, three of them I think!

  • wow, that would be awesome if I could start doing that. I’m still struggling to do major shopping just once a week. I’m still making multiple trips to the store…but what I’m realizing it’s not so much about the shopping itself, as it’s something to do and gets me out of the house for a little bit of time. However, I do need to really change that!!! I’m going to check out your link that you mentioned here, too. Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Alyssa says:

    Although it sounds like a great idea, there is no way we could do that. We buy about 80-90% perishable foods while out. The only thing we buy from the center is pasta sauce (which coming up soon, I will be canning my own), cereal, and the occasional pretzel :D. We go through about $100 a week (for a family of 5) eating mainly the outer edges of the store.
    Oh, this week, I did buy tortillas as well, and got the kids some veggie straws 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Actually, I buy almost entirely unprocessed foods. Even most perishable food lasts longer than you might think – a lot of dairy products can last as long as a month, and so can eggs. What doesn’t last can easily be frozen. Oddly enough, organic milk seems to last longer than conventional!

  • These tips are invaluable! I live in the country and find that I have to plan like this….going into town on a regular basis (every few days) is totally uneconomical!

    Anne, as always, you are going to save me money and make things so much easier! I love your blog!

    If any of you MSM readers haven’t visited Quick & Easy, Cheap & Healthy (Anne’s Blog) I highly recommend it….tons of recipes and tips to save you money and make your life so.much.easier!

    ~Nikki

  • Donna says:

    Love OAMS-

    I also buy produce in bulk like this.
    -50# bags of potatoes (they last us from 4 to 6 weeks)
    -a bushel of apples (they last about the same and if they start to go bad, I freeze or can them)
    And more.

    25 to 50# sacks of flour and grains, sugars, beans, etc

    Even bulk ketchup- a little over $3 for the large cans at Sam’s. I divide them up into mason jars when we get home. Same with mayo.

    I bought a second used refrigerator to support this shopping ‘habit’ too.
    Then I bought a second used freezer and sorta won a 3rd by bartering.

    One freezer is loaded with fruits and veggies, another with meat, and the 3rd has meat and quick fix meats. (Like browned ground meat, shredded chicken from boiling several whole, etc) I also cook big batches of beans to store and garden and fresh food gets frozen before going bad.

    I know that’s excessive for many families but I have 6 kids, half teens.

    • Anne says:

      When you started listing the amounts you buy, I figured you must have either lots of kids or teenage boys, lol! But yes, a lot of those things last a lot longer than we think. I do buy potatoes, apples, and carrots to last through the month, as well as some other produce items (garlic, onions, pepers, etc.).

      • Anne, I have 6 children, and my oldest is 10. They are no small eaters:) (and they’re thin as can be, too!) We can easily go through 50 potatoes in a week, and in the winter, we often do, since potatoes are so versatile. I’ll buy 300-400 pounds of potatoes on sale before Thanksgiving for .10 a pound, and we’ll eat those to the end of February.

    • Debbie says:

      Oh my this was helpful! How much is your monthly grocery budget if I may ask?

  • Kandace says:

    I love once a month shopping. It is so much easier for me to plan out the menu and list once a month as opposed to weekly. We stick to the list and go weekly for fruits and veggies. I’m never going back!

  • Kimberly says:

    Other than a mid-month produce/milk trip, we’re once a month shoppers too. We’re paid once a month, so it really makes sense for us. It simplifies my life, and I don’t have to go to the store all the time. We’ve been doing it for years now and I wouldn’t change it.

    • Anne says:

      Yes, if you’re paid once a month, it definitely makes sense. Our income stream is very random, lol, but we do get regular twice-a-month paychecks, and we use the second one for the food shopping. Well, part of the check, anyway. LOL!

  • I’ve been thinking of this for a while, but quite frankly I’m terrified of doing it. I have a body that tends to change its mind ever once in a while…it’s very hard to explain but basically if I don’t give my body exactly what it wants when it wants it I suffer the consequence which is irritability and lack of focus, plus it hurts.

    Anyhow, how do you plan an entire month’s worth of groceries??? What do you do when you’re nearing the end of the month and your cupboards are almost bare? I’m totally frightened of getting to the end of the month and not having enough of a variety to satisfy this fickle body I have.

    Great post! Can’t wait to see your blog too!

    • Diane says:

      I meal plan a month or more in advance, based on our stockpile. Really, if you have a good stock pile you can get away with infrequent trips, if you don’t have the food on hand though it will be very difficult.

    • Anne says:

      Well, I am not in your situation, but I have written extensively about this on my blog (follow the link at the end of the article to get to the series). I don’t plan a whole month’s menu in detail. Instead, I know roughly what types of food we will eat in a week’s worth of time, and buy accordingly. The longer I do OAMS, the more I learn about how much we consume of particular items. Two pounds each of pasta and rice are perfect, for example, because I use either of those once a week. I typically do one large meat-centered meal (using the leftover meat for another meal), one fish-based meal, one casserole (or pasta dish), and one meatless meal in a week. Also, I know we eat a lot of oatmeal and other hot grains for breakfast, so I keep those in stock. (One 10lb box of oats from Costco lasts approximately 2 months.) You will develop a feel for it as you go. And when the cupboards get bare…. I get creative!

  • Crystal,
    Your guest posts lately have been hitting it out of the park!! I have read more helpful posts here lately than ever before. Thank you for providing such great information.
    I can barely imagine once a month shopping for the 10 of us…hubby, me, and the 8 of our kids still living at home. I do want to think it through though, and not discount it without some serious thought.
    We are almost 2 hrs away from the closest Costco, and do all our shopping at WalMart, which in itself is 40 minutes away. I currently shop once a week.
    Thanks for the great idea, Anne!!

    • Donna says:

      Dawn,
      I have 6, 3 of those are teens.
      We live about 25 minutes from ‘town’.
      I only take 2 of the big kids with me and it takes 2 days usually, but then- it’s done!

      After about 4 months, I can almost skip a month, except for milk and eggs.

      It’s helped me to add another used freezer in the basement and second hand freezers too.

      It is a HUGE blessing and I don’t think that I could ever go back. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      I don’t have a large family, so I can’t guarantee it will work for you, but given your distance from costco and walmart, I imagine shopping once a month would save you a LOT of money. Even if you don’t go all-out with your OAMS, you could still save a lot simply by making one large trip a month to those stores and stocking up on stuff you know you eat a lot.

  • Liz says:

    I have tried shopping twice per month in the past, and it was a flop. My husband and children would just eat the food more often since it seemed we had plenty of it and because we had so many different options, so it ended up costing us more. However, I would be interested to try once a month…I think if the whole family knows in the back of their mind that the food has to last at least 4 weeks, that might slow down the rapid rate at which the food was getting attacked. 😛 I am excited to try this, thanks so much!

    • Anne says:

      That has been occasionally an issue, yes. Even I tend to over-do it sometimes when I think I have plenty of one food or another. But you get into a rhythm once you realize how much food you can eat at one time in order for what you have to last. We have all adjusted pretty well now, and I’ve been doing it for about a year.

  • I’ve done this for several years as well and LOVE it. I meal plan for the month, then shop at Costco for most items in bulk for both my menu and to replenish our stockpile (oats, flour, Craisins… you know, the essentials). I then hit Target for the smaller items. About 3/4 of my budget is spent the first week, which leaves me some for each of the remaining weeks for fresh produce and shopping the sales. I keep a list on the fridge to jot down throughout the month the little things that need to get purchased when the budget resets (i.e. brown sugar, coconut milk) so I don’t have to start a fresh list when the budget resets (that saves sanity). Also, because there’s still money left in the budget, it’s not a big deal to pick up something if we really need or want it before the new month.

  • Susan says:

    Great post Anne.

    I thought OAMS meant “once a month stockup,” not “once a month shopping.”

    A few years back when money was tight and I was looking for ways to cut back, I started reading about couponing. Seemed like a good idea, and I jumped in. I ended up spending more, because I was buying a lot more food even though the individual items were less than what I would have otherwise spent. And the bigger downside was that we were eating a much less healthy diet.

    Nowadays, I don’t necessarily shop once a month, but I don’t shop nearly as often as I did when I was heavily into couponing. The best way for me to save money is stay out of the stores as much as possible.

    I buy chicken from Zaycon and beef from friend who raises it. A Zaycon order will last us 6 months, and a quarter steer will last us a year. We eat fish and pork less often, and I buy it in the grocery store when it is on sale. Good sales occur often enough that we don’t run out before a good sale comes along.

    I buy fresh produce every other week at a farmers market. We’re fortunate to have a nice one nearby that is open year round. I spend about $12-15, and buy less than what I think we will need so it won’t go bad. We usually run out before the two weeks is up, which is okay. When that happens, we turn to canned or frozen for a few days.

    For panty or freezer items, I shop sales. I use coupons here and there, but I save a lot more simply by looking for sales and then shopping only once a week.

    By keeping it simple, I save way more money than when I was clipping coupons and running from one store to another in search of great deals.

    ~Susan

  • Kristine says:

    I used to do one major shopping trip per month because we lived in the middle of nowhere. We also had a large freezer in our garage and lots of storage space at the time, so it worked for us then.

    We have since had to downsize to a small townhome, and we have an apartment-sized refrigerator, one cupboard for food storage, no pantry, no freezer (other than the small one above the refrigerator), no garage, and no basement. I miss all the storage space and freezer space that we used to have. The limited space makes it impossible to stock up for a month anymore; I can barely squeeze in a week’s worth of food. Besides, the more I buy, the more my husband eats, so anything except for staples would still be gone within a few days if I bought more. 🙂

    So I do what works for me now, which is shopping at Aldi for the basics and watching the sales at Walgreens and our local grocery store.

  • Denise says:

    People keep mentioning “loss leader” items and I have never heard that term! Can someone fill me in?

    • Kristine says:

      Grocery stores often put things on sale for a really low price that actually causes them to lose money on those items, but they want to get you into the store to buy additional items that they will make a profit on.

  • Stephanie says:

    I started cutting down to two big trips a month, just starting this and I think it definitely saves money by being more purposeful. Great and timely post!

  • I’d say 2/3 of my weekly shopping list is already fresh fruit and veggies, with the remainder 1/3 being specialty or sale items. We do Costco as needed for the bulk items that save money from the grocery store prices (baking necessities, beans, rice, olive oil, frozen wild fish, peanut butter, parchment paper, etc., but that’s not a huge dent in the budget since we run out of these items pretty infrequently).

    When pantry items are on sale we stock up, but unless there’s an unbeatable sale on something I frequently use, I rarely set foot in the grocery store. I have saved a lot of money cutting out the chain grocery store runs, (you never can just buy one thing!) and we have been eating healthier by avoiding some of the processed goods I used to purchase there. We do Costco for bulk, Trader Joes for basics, and the health food store for produce.

    I have tried planning my menu on a monthly basis, however, being pregnant and all, it was too hard to fit in my cravings-du-jour 😉

    • Anne says:

      I do most of my shopping at Trader Joe’s, Walmart, a local health food store, and Costco. I only go to a regular grocery store if they’re having a super deal on something I need, or if their produces prices beat my other sources.

  • Anna Hettick 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • Christine says:

    How do you get fresh fruits and veggies.

  • 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! 🙂

  • Sarah 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!

  • 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!

    • Anne 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.

  • 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? 🙂

    • Anne 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.

  • Lisa 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.

    • Anne 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.

  • 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!

  • Deb 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.

  • 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..

  • 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.

  • Susan says:

    Do any of you do OAMS although you live close to a grocery store? Just wondering, but since I am about 2 miles from Publix, I’m thinking, is it worth it? Love the concept, though!!

  • I enjoy reading your blog and the comments people make, I am learning everyday. I have also found that monthly shopping saves me money, I only started about 3 months ago. I do my monthly shop online, even with the delivery cost it is coming in cheaper, than my old habit of weekly and sometimes even daily shop visits . I buy milk, bread and fruit and vegetables once a week. I have recently started planning my meals and only the ingredients I need for the meal plan go on my shopping list. We only have on large grocery store in South Africa that does online shopping, so buying in bulk is not always possible and coupons are not found unless you are a pensioner (only available from this same online store). There are one or two places that do bulk sales but they are not always cheaper, and are quick far away.

  • Keisha says:

    I was raised by school teachers who were only paid once a month, so we always grocery shopped once a month as well. I have never asked my mom why she did it that way, perhaps it was because the closest grocery store was a half-hour drive away. That way we saved on time and gas money as well as grocery
    money. Now I am a wife and mom myself, and I only live 5 minutes from the store. But I have continued the idea of grocery shopping once a month. So many of my friends are amazed that I only spend 2 hours a month at the grocery store, and that is usually with my 2 young kids in-tow, but it really is good for my budget and attitude (I hate grocery shopping). I have blogged about this too at http://livingonvicariousgrace.blogspot.com/2015/01/a-practical-and-frugal-new-year-menu.html?m=1

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