Grocery Shopping Once a Month – Can You Do It?

My husband and I recently bought a house, and we’d like to plump up our emergency fund just in case we have a large house expense.  (Because, of course, when you have little savings, expensive things start to break.  It’s the law of nature, right?)

To inspire myself, I reread America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money by Steve and Annette Economides.  One strategy of theirs that I latched onto is once a month shopping.  The Economides shop once a month for their family of seven and right after shopping day, they make 15 to 17 freezer meals to help them on nights when they’re too busy to cook.

Alright, I already regularly cook freezer meals, so how hard could it be to shop once a month for my family of five?

As it turns out, very tough, at least the first month.

Grocery Shopping once a monthBreaking Bad Habits

I have a bad habit of making a big shopping trip on the weekend and then running to the store for this or that several times a week.

Do you do this, too?  From all of the harried shoppers I see at the store at 5 p.m., I’m guessing I’m not alone.

The problem is that each time I run to the store, I buy more items than I initially went to the store to buy.  The Economides recommend once a month shopping to avoid this kind of impulse buying that blows up the grocery budget.

Making the Big Shopping Trip

This month, eager to change my bad shopping habit, I scouted the deals and made my big, once a month shopping trip.  I spent two days afterward cooking up meals to put in the freezer.  I was set, or so I thought.

Turns out, limiting the impulse to stop by the store is more difficult than I thought.

There are a number of reasons why we’re struggling:

  • My husband likes fresh fruit and veggies.  Our family wiped these out after a week, so back I went to the store to pick up some more.
  • I’m an impulse eater.  If something sounds good to me, I want to make the recipe and have it for dinner.  I don’t want to wait until my next monthly shopping trip to get the ingredients to make it.  (The whim would have passed by then, which is the point, I guess.)
  • Eating up odds and ends at the end of the month is not fun.  Sure, trying to make meals out of what food is left is fun, but the last few days, most of it doesn’t taste good.

Taking Baby Steps Moving Forward

While it would be easy to give up on the idea of once a month shopping, I haven’t yet because I know it can be a big money saver.  Instead, I’m going to back up and move to twice a month shopping.  This will allow me time to plan out our meals for two weeks, making sure we have all the ingredients we need.  Many fruits and veggies stay good for nearly two weeks, so my husband will have the fresh fruits and veggies that he wants.

I don’t know if I’ll ever fully implement once a month shopping, but if I am successful with twice a month shopping, I will still significantly reduce my impulse shopping trips and improve my grocery budget.

How often do you grocery shop?  Are you a multiple trip, impulse buyer like I am (was?), or are you a grocery store ninja?

Why I Bought My Baby Stuff Used

I had my first baby last June, and I probably bought one or two small purchases new. The rest was all second hand. I’ll also let you in on a secret, but please, don’t tell anyone I know. I returned about 90% of my baby gifts and bought stuff for our new home instead. I know; it is a bit shameful. However, I did tell everyone I know that we didn’t need anything for the baby, and that resulted in getting about six sets of baby washcloths and several newborn clothing sets.

Now that my baby is almost a year old, I can say that I am very happy that I bought my baby stuff used. Here’s why:

I Made a Profit on My Used Goods:

Get this, not only did I save a ton of money from buying used baby items, but I also made a profit on majority of it. I bought all of my daughter’s clothing from newborn to six months and majority of my equipment from a wealthier mom of two daughters. She was also very sweet and threw in a ton of free items because I was buying so much from her. For all of the clothes, I paid $110. There was about 200 pieces, if not more. So far, I have sold 80% of the clothing and have made much more than $110.

Many other items I have sold for what I bought them for. Basically, I was able to use the baby items for free.

I Don’t Feel Bad About Stains:

ABought my Baby Stuff Useds I said above, I bought a lot of clothes from the wealthy mom. There were some very nice outfits in them, and I received a lot of compliments on how I dressed my daughter. However, I am not very good at laundering or keeping messes contained. A lot of pieces were stained once my baby girl started eating solid foods. Not only that, but my dogs chewed up several pieces of her clothing too. Now, if I had spent more even $5 a piece for each outfit (which is fairly cheap in baby world), I would have been devastated at how many pieces were ruined. However, since most of the clothing was free (after adding in the money I made back), it was easier to just let it go. I instead used the pieces as baby wipes to further save money.

I Don’t Have to Store Anything:

I don’t know how many more babies are in my future, but I do know one thing. I don’t want to store several baby items to use for the next baby. If I had bought everything at full price, I would have the guilt to save everything so that I wouldn’t lose my money. However, since I bought everything at 60-90% of the original price, I am able to sell the item for most of the cost. I also know that when the next baby comes around, I will be able to find the same used baby equipment for the same prices.

Don’t forget that every square inch of your home that is devoted to storing stuff is costing you money in some way or another. Plus, who doesn’t love having a cleaner, clutter-free home?

I Don’t Have Buyer’s Guilt:

Buyer’s guilt can happen to a lot of new parents. You buy that awesome looking Bumbo seat for your baby only to find out that they don’t like it or that it only keeps your baby happy for one month. For example, I bought a Prince Lionheart bebePOD Flex Baby Seat used for $8. On Amazon.com, it is $34. My baby used it for two months. So basically, my weekly cost to use this seat was $1 (though, this does not include the fact that I will sell the seat for profit or cost). If I had bought it at full price and used it for two months, it would be like paying $4.25 a week. I would rather treat myself to a Starbucks latte once a week with the money saved.

One more example; I was set on breastfeeding and pumping for the baby. However, for many reasons, it didn’t work out for us. I would have felt even worse knowing I spent $260 on the breast pump. Instead, I paid $120 and sold it for $70. My cost was $50 for six weeks of pumping, or $8.33 a week. Considering it costs about $15 a week to rent a pump, I think I made out on top.

I am very passionate about buying used items, especially for my baby. Baby items are so pricey, so I loved having top of the line items that were still in our budget. Also, let me just quickly mention how much better used items are for baby’s health and the environment. Used items don’t give off that new chemical smell and used clothes have already been worn and washed a few times and contain less harmful chemicals and toxins too. Think twice the next time you shop for your baby.

Paying for Services When There’s a Free Alternative

Sites around the web, including this one, are always pushing free or DIY alternatives to lots of things.  And, in most cases, I think that they (and I) am right.  There are so many things that we pay other people to do that we can just as easily do ourselves.  Just about a year and a half ago, I built my own deck.  It wasn’t necessarily easy, and it certainly wasn’t quicker than hiring someone to do it for me, but boy did it save me some money.

I truly believe that there is little that you and I cannot do ourselves.  With a quick search on Youtube for the DIY project, and a few quick web searches, we can have some pretty detailed instructions on how to do anything.  Well, OK.  Probably not something like brain surgery.  There’s probably a bit more of a skill/knowledge gap there. But, certainly, most everything else.

Occasionally, I find a service that I decide I’d rather outsource to someone else.  Oil Changes are an excellent example.  Can I change my own oil?  Absolutely.  But, for $30, I get someone else to do it for me.  I don’t have to mess around with getting the filter loose, disposing of the waste oil, and I certainly don’t have to crawl around under the car doing it.  For me, it’s well worth the $20 or so difference to have someone else do it.  That’s more of a choice of convenience. Meaning, for me, that it is just more convenient to have someone else do it and save me the time and effort.

There are, however, some services that have less to do with convenience, and more to do with some other factors.

Paying for Services when there are Free AlternativesSaving Time

In the case of my DIY deck, I could have saved a whole lot of time by having someone else do it for me.  For a professional with a crew of a couple of guys, it probably would have only taken 3-4 days.  Maybe less.  It took me several weeks.  Obviously, it saved me a lot of money to do it myself, but if I had been crunched for time, it would have made a lot of sense to factor the time it would save into my choice.  I had the time, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.  (note: I say that now.  At the end of the project, I was seriously wondering why I did it myself)  The choice to have someone else change my oil isn’t weighted so heavily on saving time, but that is a factor.  I can have someone else do the work, and all I have to do is drop the car off.

Motivational

I think this is one that many people discount too often.  In many of those cases, people choose to do something themselves strictly to save themselves some money and then fail at it.  In my case, I’ve tried, for many years, to control my weight.  I used to be an athlete, so I’ve always thought that I had the tools to lose the weight myself.  I’d start by finding some calorie counter that was free and start tracking calories.  But, what inevitably happens is that I forget to count for a day or two and then it stretches to a couple of weeks.  If I had lost any weight, it goes right back on.  Sometimes, paying for a service that has free or DIY alternatives can be motivational.  You’re paying for it, so you better get the most out of it.  I recently joined Weight Watchers Online and that factor has helped a lot.  There are other factors, but you better believe that the fact that I’m paying for the service is playing into it as well and keeping me working at it.

Hate/Fear

How could I write this post without adding this factor.  There are just some things that you hate to do.  For one reason or another, you just hate doing them.  To you, not doing that task is worth the money to have someone else do.  Maybe it’s mowing the lawn.  Maybe it’s changing the oil in your car.  Maybe it’s losing weight.  Wait, maybe not that one.  But, how cool would that be! For me, I tend to avoid major electrical work.  There’s just something about the possibility of electrocuting myself that I don’t like…  Another would be doing anything very high off the ground.  Can’t do it.

Impossible

As much as I (and you), would like to think that there isn’t anything outside of our realm of possibility, we always seem to find something that we just aren’t capable of doing.  While I truly believe that you can learn to do many of the things that you think are impossible, I recognize that sometimes there are things that are physically impossible.  It doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen.

Saving money by doing things ourselves is a good trait to have.  It helps us keep our budgets from overrunning. It keeps us learning new things.  It gives us a sense of self worth by developing new skills and knowledge.  But, sometimes, there are other factors at work and we make the choice to have someone else do the work for us.  Maybe the cost difference isn’t worth the time you’d put into it.  Maybe the extra time you’d spend on it isn’t worth the savings.  Or, maybe you need some monetary motivation.  Whatever it is, we develop our own factors that go into the decision, and make a choice over whether to do something ourselves, or to hire someone to do it for us.

What are your factors in deciding whether you DIY or not?