A couple of months ago, I was about to go on a long trip when I decided to stop buying groceries for a month so that I could empty my stockpile.
I hate food waste. It is like throwing money out the window to me. I probably got that from my Grandma, who raised seven kids post-World War II and always had a story about starving during the war whenever we left food on our plates.
The solution to food waste
According to the National Resources Defence Council (NRDC), the average American household throws out 25 percent of the food it buys, costing them $1,365 to $2,275 a year. Other statistics estimate that the waste as high as 40 percent of our grocery bill.
That's some serious money that you could save, and countless hours that you've spent working for, well – for nothing.
Not buying groceries for a month is a good start to get rid of all the food you have hoarded in your kitchen.
During my grocery shopping abstinence, I resolved to not buy anything but fruits and vegetables. I had frozen meat, canned tuna, and a few eggs, as well as a little bit of cheese.
At first it felt strange not buying groceries regularly. Obviously, the food that was sitting around was food I seldom ate, so it forced me to reconsider my eating habits and make meals that I wasn’t used to eating too often. I had cans of peas and corn that I had bought over a year ago, “just in case.” I used them for salads with tuna and tomatoes.
When the grocery freeze gets tricky
The hardest part was bread. I bake my bread once a week and freeze the slices and toast them every morning.
Since I usually have bread with every meal, having to do without it was tough.
I also had trouble when I invited guests over for dinner. Usually I would have wanted to offer something fresh like a salad, with fruits for dessert. But I made a lovely creamy mushroom pasta with bacon and everything went well. It was original and they loved it.
Going a month without eating what you are used to is weird. Sometimes I felt great because I had eaten a nice meal, and I resolved to cook it more often (like the dinner I had prepared for my guests). Other times, I felt like I was having empty calories instead of a real meal for breakfast. Usually, my breakfast is eggs and beans – it’s filling, and afterwards, I don’t feel hungry until 1 or 2 p.m. But I had to exhaust my pancake mix, instead. With maple syrup, it was a quick shot of sugar, and made me hungry again at 10 a.m.
True, I saved a ton of money – my grocery bill went from over $100 to one $10 veggie refill for the month. It should have been a little more, but I also run a guesthouse, and some guests had left a few vegetables in the fridge one week.
And while I know I will have to restock on basic foods, I am now way more cautious with stocking too much. You need to be able to store food properly so it doesn’t spoil.
For me, it was scary at times to see the shelves go empty, especially because I live in a remote area. One storm could block the roads for days. Still, I could have survived on pasta and sauce and be just fine.
If you need extra cash this month, going through the pantry instead of to the supermarket can save you quite a bit.
Now that you are re-stocking, make sure you are only buying groceries that you will eat.
Grocery shopping tips:
- Make a meal plan for the week and see how much food you will really need. If you have salad twice a week, no need to buy five heads of lettuce.
- Do not buy anything you don't know how to cook. Even if it’s cheap, it’s a waste if you don’t end up using it.
- Only use coupons for food you are used to eating. There is no use in stocking on cans you will never open.
- Make a special shelf in your fridge for food with a short lifespan. Try to use that first. You can look up recipes based on the ingredients that you have at-hand.
- Always store a frozen meal or two. Stew, lentils and beans freeze perfectly. If you run out of groceries before it's time to go shopping again, you can thaw and warm them quickly, instead of having to resort to an expensive take-out.