How to Skip Buying Groceries for a Week

by Jimmie

Stretch your food budget by not buying groceries one week in the month. With this method, you use what you already have to plan meals instead of going shopping.

If you grocery shop every week, that is around four times a month. What if you could reduce your shopping trips to just three each month? I don't mean buying more at those three trips. I mean making do with what is on hand -- shopping in your own pantry, so to speak?

Most of our kitchens are actually packed with food even though we may say "there's nothing to eat." Take stock of what you already have and save a trip to the grocery store.

Make Your Grocery Budget Last Longer

By Shopping Less Often
Stretching the Grocery Trips
Stretching the Grocery Trips

Have You Ever Lacked Money for the Weekly Grocery Shopping Trip?

Steps for Shopping in Your Own Pantry

meats at Flickr by Hotcouponworld.comInventory Your Meats

Unless you are a vegetarian, I suggest you begin with meats. Make a written list of all the meats you have in the freezer or refrigerator. If the portion will make enough for multiple meals, indicate that on your list. Dig way back in the freezer and find all the possibilities.

After the meats are listed, think of non-meat protein sources like beans and eggs. Write those down too as meat alternatives.

Brainstorm Main Dishes

Looking at your list of meats, begin to think of possible meals you can create around them. Jot down the ideas. Take a glance at your staples, canned goods, and produce to get inspiration for meat dishes. If you have lots of beans and canned tomatoes, maybe you can make chili with that ground beef. If you have lots of wilting produce, making a pot of soup is probably the best choice.

Since your goal is to stretch what is on hand, consider casseroles that include rice and pasta so that less meat is needed for each meal. Can you make that 2 pounds of meat  stretch to three meals instead of the normal two meals by adding a bit more rice to the dish?

If you think of a dish but don't have all the ingredients, consider modifying the recipe. Can you substitute pepper for the celery or pasta for the rice? Be inventive!

Look at the links at the bottom of this page for some online recipe finders that use the ingredients that you enter.

Think Outside the Box

Try making breakfast for dinner. Pancakes or omelets are still good at night, and you probably have the ingredients on hand.

Literally think outside the box. Instead of relying on a packaged mix that you don't have, try making it from scratch if you have the ingredients.

Plan for a Smorgasbord Night

Are there leftovers in the refrigerator that should be eaten? It could be that there is a little bit of many different dishes. Set it out and let everyone prepare a plate to reheat in the microwave.

Or to make smorgasbord night a bit classier, put the food on baking sheets to heat through and crisp up. Add cheese or bread crumbs to liven up leftovers.


If the Family Complains

Make it a Game

Pretend you are in a crisis situation and you cannot shop at the store. You have to eat only what is in your home. You might eat some crazy meals, but you won't go hungry as long as there is something to eat.

Call it "Clean Out the Pantry" Week

Show your family all the food left in the house and encouage them to help you empty out the cabinets and freezer.

Call it "Be Thankful" Week

Consider all the people who do not have any food in the pantry and probably don't own a refrigerator or freeer at all. Take time to contemplate your riches to have any food to eat, no matter how odd the meals may seem.

Is it Possible to Omit a Weekly Shopping Trip?

And Still Eat Well?
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Sure, most people have lots of food on hand in the pantry.
TerriRexson on 09/02/2011

Definitely. I do this quite often. Milk is the only thing we might have to buy if I don't have any in the freezer. Otherwise we can do quite well from what we have.

ohcaroline on 09/02/2011

Absolutely. My pantry tends to build up items that seem to get overlooked. I like to take a minute and see what I can do out of the pantry....or the freezer.

Links to Help You Plan Menus and Shop in Your Own Pantry

Meal Planning for Well Ordered Days
These are my meal planning tips. Also in this post are links to printable menu planning pages.

Search Recipes by Ingredients
Put in the ingredients you have on hand, indicate a primary ingredient, and see what the Recipe Matcher suggests.

Recipe Land -Search by Ingredients
Another search tool that finds possible dishes according to what ingredients you have.

Modified Weekly Grocery Shopping

If after shopping in your own kitchen, it is truly impossible to make more than two meals, go ahead and make a list of the bare minimum you would need to use what is on hand. Limit your grocery purchases to only those items instead of what you would buy on a normal grocery trip. ]

Your budget will thank you! And your cabinets will be cleared out for the next time you go shopping.

Updated: 02/24/2012, Jimmie
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Share Your Budget Stretching Tips Here

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Jerrico_Usher on 05/26/2012

We like to get a whole month's foods (non perishables) all at once- meats from wholesale stores like cosco, buy in bulk everything else (we also do this with the other family members and friends and all pitch in- divvy it up into the same retail containers but at a lower price. Our weekly shopping involves just replacing fruits vegetables and other perishables you can't freeze (well you could but we like fresh)... Great article!

Sara on 10/15/2011

You share good tips here. Thanks. We LOVE breakfast for dinner - easiest and quickest meal to make.

holly-day on 09/27/2011

I often make such a decision to stretch my grocery budget and eat what's in the fridge and the kitchen cabinets but I always end up going to the grocery :( I will try some of your tips, who knows, I might end up one month with more money than expected and be able to buy something especially for me with that extra sum.

dustytoes on 09/21/2011

Although I agree that keeping extra food around for emergencies is a good idea, nothing lasts forever, and doing this should keep you from throwing away overlooked food - the stuff that sits in the back of the cabinet that you will use "some day". Great article Jimmie!

lakeerieartists on 09/13/2011

Well written article, and I like how you suggest making it into a game. We do have empty our pantry weeks every once in a while to get rid of stuff we have had for a while.

mandeesears on 09/04/2011

WOW! Excellent tips that anyone can use. I am as guilty as the next person of saying there is nothing to eat when there really is. I like the idea of making a game (or competition) out of it. We have a lot of cooks in the household. Maybe each one could take a night and come up with their masterpiece from the pantry!

T_Harmon_Art on 09/04/2011

Having raised four daughters, I know what it's like to "not have anything to eat." I could be quite creative with leftovers and odd foods here and there...sometimes even come up with a new favorite dish! I do tend to let a lot of food go bad because it gets shoved in the back of the fridge and forgotten, or I have no desire for it anymore. This is really a great article to get my thinking cap on and be more conscientious about what I buy and how I can make it stretch. So glad I found you!

Guest on 09/03/2011

This is a great article, Jimmie!

Regarding one of the comments, emergency food storage, at least in NW Montana, emergency food is a process done completely "separate" from a pantry - it is emergency food put in storage containers for its intended purpose...never mixed in with a normal pantry! I understand you're talking about normal food in our homes...:)

Our tips? Well, as frugalrvers, we don't have a lot of space, but we absolutely use everything we have. We don't plan a menu and then shop. We make the rounds at 3 different grocery stores a few times per month, picking up what is on sale, and make a menu around those items...otherwise you can easily overspend. We know one store always has a huge bag of boneless chicken breasts for $4.95, we go there for that item, etc. We also don't get hooked with coupons, because it makes us overspend, not save money! We also make big meals and then have them 2 nights later, or freeze them, because usually buying larger quantities is cheaper.

So, living frugally, we follow a lot of your tips and have some of our own. You can save a fortune on food costs if you only buy what is on sale, and buy in large quantities. We appreciate every dollar in our hand, and picture (when contemplating overspending) throwing a dollar in the garbage if we buy that item. We don't need a $2.30 roll of paper towels, for example. If you have to go to the store (and we eat mainly fresh produce, etc. which can spoil), it might be for just an "extra" you ran out of or need, but not a $100 grocery bill you didn't need.

Loved your article!

SB on 09/02/2011

While I certainly appreciate ideas on stretching meat and food to last for an additional meal, I found parts of this article disconcerting. Some of this is helpful but not the most wise advice. If you clean out your pantry you will not have anything left in the event of an emergency. 2011 has been a devastating year for many between the winter storms, earthquakes, tornadoes, and recent hurricane. Many people have been without power for several days at a time. I don't recommend anyone "clear out" their pantry to be ready for their next shopping trip. Rather, I recommend people buying an extra can of tuna, beans, fruit, or whatever, each time they shop for groceries.

PeggyHazelwood on 09/02/2011

Good advice to stretch your budget.

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