I Only Go Grocery Shopping Once a Month — Here’s How I Do It

published Jul 1, 2023
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shopping list, calendar, reminders posted on fridge
Credit: Steph Mickelson

Every year, I pick a word of the year. This year’s word is “optimize,” so I started to look for things in my life that took up a lot of time and could be streamlined. I already had a Master List Binder that held lists and instructions to make some aspects of daily life easier, but I knew I could be doing more to do less.

So, I came up with the three-list trick that lets me go grocery shopping just once a month. Here are the lists I make and how it works.

List #1: The Master Shopping List

I wrote a list of everything I buy and put them into categories (dairy, canned goods, etc.). I hang the lists on the refrigerator, and I highlight items as I run out of them throughout the month.

List #2: The Master Meal List

I keep a list of all of the meals I know how to make in my Master List Binder. It’s broken down by type of protein, and I also have a list of sides. I pull from this list for the next one!

List #3: The Master Meal Plan

I make a meal plan for the first two weeks of the month and then repeat it for the second two weeks. I do my best to keep events and special occasions in mind, but things come up throughout the month, and I adjust where I need to. But having a plan that I can just look at each day saves a lot of time and energy. Plus, letting go of the pressure to come up with different meals for the entire month and repeating the first two weeks saves me so much mental energy (and time in the grocery aisles). 

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The Benefits of Grocery Shopping Once a Month

It helps me stick to the budget.

I’ll often do a grocery pickup, which means that I don’t even go into the store. This reduces impulse spending and ensures I stick to the list and the budget.

It saves time.

Grocery shopping can suck up a lot of time, so only doing it once a month frees up space in my weekly schedule to do other things.

It forces me to plan.

Once-a-month grocery shopping forces me to plan out a month of meals at once, which ends up saving me time in the long run and reduces the stress of having to make a new meal every night.

There’s less food waste.

Grocery shopping once a month (and repeating the menu every two weeks) means that I typically use everything in the fridge by the end of the month, creating less food waste.

Credit: Steph Mickelson

The Challenges of Grocery Shopping Once a Month

We spend the money upfront.

We budget our money one month ahead, meaning all of the money we make in one month stays in our account until we budget and use it the following month. This allows us to have the upfront money to buy all of our groceries at once. If you don’t budget this way or if you have to wait for the next paycheck, this method might not work for you.

We run out of certain things.

Because we’re not replenishing ingredients we run out of until the next month, I get to be the bearer of bad news when we’ve run out of peanut butter two weeks in. And I do have to buy a select few staples more than once per month, like milk or bananas, simply because they won’t last the whole month.

It’s a work in progress.

This is my fourth month using this system, and each month I’ve had to tweak the master shopping list and meal plan. I figure it will get easier the more I do it.

Produce can be tricky.

But what about produce? This is the question I’m asked every time I tell someone my strategy. Certain fruits and vegetables keep longer than others, so I use up things like lettuce, zucchini, bananas, and tomatoes earlier in the month and save things like apples, oranges, broccoli, and cauliflower for later. Buying frozen produce is also a good way to keep fruits and veggies on hand that are full of nutrients (as they’re typically frozen at peak ripeness) and are ready to use whenever you need them. 

I fight the urge to grocery shop.

I’ve done grocery shopping every two weeks for years. So as the month goes on, I have a nagging feeling that I need to do something. Turns out, I’m conditioned to go grocery shopping every two weeks, so fighting that urge and telling myself there is, in fact, enough food to get us through the month can be tough. But the time, money, and waste saved by shopping just once a month is well-worth it.