This post is Part 3 of the “No Buy July” Challenge Series.
Let me just say this aloud right here. I do not like grocery shopping. Nothing really makes it more attractive for me.
Unless I see extra green in my wallet.
As a family of four (with two growing boys), I kept a small freezer that allowed me to buy extra items on a bi-monthly grocery run. It was a big job, but anything to make fewer dreaded trips to the store.
Having more on hand was helpful when I was busy taking my boys to baseball and soccer games, homeschool trips, and other activities. With various frozen veggies and meat in the freezer, I could make a quicker decision for dinner. I simply had to take out things to thaw or put a recipe in the crockpot. I didn’t have to overthink it when I had other things to do.
During COVID, when no one wanted to make unnecessary trips to the store, having my garage freezer was a lifesaver, especially because I had to cook for more family: my oldest son came home early from college, and my mom was living with us. I would buy extra because the shelves were quickly emptied of canned goods, and there were limits on fresh meat.
Into 2021, I always had a full freezer and pantry. I did well with rotating items, but if I lost track of what was on hand, I inevitably had to toss things that were freezer burned or were past shelf-life.
Doing a “No Buy July” Challenge
Last year I did my first No Buy July and challenged myself to empty my freezer and pantry before buying more groceries.
What is “No Buy July?” It’s a designated month to save money by not buying anything unnecessary for one month: using up, making do with what I already have, or going without.
It was a good exercise: I learned to better plan what should be purchased and ensured those items were used. Over the month, I saved $500, most of which was simply shopping from my freezer and pantry. I saved even more since the garage freezer died at the end of July. Because it was nearly empty, there was no loss of money by throwing away unused food.
If you want to try this challenge, look at your freezer and pantry today to begin saving over the next two weeks. Here are 4 ways you can save hundreds on your food bill:
Shop your kitchen pantry and freezer.
Do you know exactly what is in your pantry and freezer, waiting to be used? Take 15 minutes to make a quick list of meats, vegetables, fruits, and leftovers in your freezer. Immediately throw away those things that are past their use. (Check this Cold Food Storage Chart to determine what can stay or must go.) For help, try the My Fridge Food website or their app to keep a digital list of what you have.
Next, do the same with your pantry. Toss expired food and those specialty items you know in your heart will never get used. (Or give the specialty items to your foodie friend.)
As a last step, clean out your fridge. While doing this regularly, we often forget to check and toss condiments or other items well past their shelf life.
Knowing what is on your shelves makes meal prep easier. Begin creating zero-waste recipes with websites such as SuperCook.com (or their app). Spend a few minutes today planning meals for the week for less hassle.
Limit eating out.
With busy schedules and families, this can be tough to eliminate. Dining out, once seen as a special treat long ago, has become a regular staple today. Our family falls into this category, which will be challenging this month. My two adult sons living at home have different work schedules, and my husband’s arrival time at home can vary too. If I’m not home in time to make dinner, everyone will grab something through a drive-thru.
Even if eating out cannot be eliminated for a month, there are ways to save. Visit the restaurants that have their own app so trips create rewards. Instead of a drink, substitute with a free cup of water. If coffee is your daily morning drive-thru habit, make a point of taking your own instead. (This can save you $100 alone!) I treat myself to Chick-fil-A in July. Using their app all year long, I accumulate points that I can use toward free food this month.
Refrain from choosing delivery.
One of today’s continued conveniences is local grocery delivery or curbside pickup. Amazon Prime is another way to have groceries delivered to your home.
While this is a timesaver, most stores charge delivery fees or require you to purchase a yearly membership for the privilege of “free” delivery. There are also hidden charges for curbside service. My regular store’s curbside service is free if scheduled a day in advance. However, there is a slight markup on nearly every item purchased.
Leave convenience stores for gas tank fill-ups only.
Another type of shopping that drains the wallet are stops at convenience stores. When getting gasoline, it is curious that at the same time, we need a snack or a drink! Yet those expenditures can really add up. And — never purchase groceries at a convenience store, as their prices are up to four times what you would pay at the grocery store! Plan ahead to avoid going to the local convenience store for a bag of shredded cheese for $7 for a dinner recipe. (Ask me how I know.)
Check for gas stations with convenience stores in your area that have apps with rewards for gasoline stops. Use those rewards for splurging on a soft drink or snack.
Will you try one of these challenges this week? If so, which one?