Report inappropriate ad

Once-a-Month Shopping and Cooking Checkpoint: Month 1 Completed

April 7, 2009 · Filed Under Once a Month Cooking & Shopping · 2 Comments 

It has been about a month since we started our experiment with once-a-month shopping and cooking.  We spent some major moolah at the grocery store and then my wife spent one very long day cooking.  To get the full scoop, check out the posts where I mentioned getting ready to try it , where I discussed our first weekend , and then gave an update on our experience after a week .

So after a month….

It’s been about a month since we did our big shop and cook, so that means it must be time to hit the grocery store again.  The only problem is that we still have a ton of meals left!  My wife originally made 32 meals (she divided 2 of them in half for freezing) and we still have 12 left in the freezer!  I guess that means we will need to adjust our strategy slightly.  Remember, the month plan calls for literally 30 meals – one for every day.  Our family just does not eat that many meals at home in a month.  We occasionally eat out, eat with friends/family, usually eat Wednesday night at church, etc.

Our non-meal supplies are running out (I’ve been dangerously low on salsa for a week or so), so we definitely need to get to the grocery store again.  We certainly do not need to do a full shop and spend another day cooking 30 more meals, however.

We’re altering our once-a-month plan

For this coming month, we will continue to do the once-a-month plan (I absolutely love not having to go into the store for the entire month!)  We will do our "staple" shopping the same way we did last month.  By staples, I mean all the normal stuff you need for a household – cereal, milk, fruit, veggies, snacks, drinks, toilet paper, salsa, beef jerky (all the essentials).  We will push off the meal shopping and cooking for at least another 2 weeks.  When we do another round of meal cooking, we will only do a 2-week cycle and make 14 meals.  For our family,  I think this will still last a month.  And it will take a lot less money to buy and a lot less time to cook 14 meals instead of 30!  We are also going to take another trip to the store at 2-weeks for fresh stuff like fruits that won’t last a month and milk because we don’t have room to store a month’s worth.

Hopefully this month we’ll save some money

I felt like we spent a lot of money on groceries last month – as I mentioned, we spent over $700 during our shopping weekend.  We actually did pretty well, there were very few things that we had to get during the month (other than milk…a lot of milk).  This month, since we don’t have to do the meal shopping, we are looking to spend much less.  My wife took a trip to the grocery store yesterday and spent a little less than $100 and I have a Click-N-Pull order in at Sam’s Club for ~$150 plus tax.  That is obviously much less than we spent last month.  Even with another trip in the middle for milk and fresh stuff, I am hoping that we will get nowhere near $700 this month.

What have we learned so far

The most obvious takeaway is that we drink a tremendous amount of milk – but I already knew that.  We simply can not buy a month’s worth of milk as we would not have the space to freeze all of it.  So, I’m going to start off with 8 gallons and hope that lasts us at least half of the month.

The main thing I learned is that I consume a vast quantity of salsa each month.  I totally lucked out and found the kind of salsa that I like (second to my homemade salsa based off my buddy Spencer’s recipe) at Sam’s club so I ordered a jar.  Have you ever seen a 47 oz jar of salsa?  It was a bit larger than I expected.  The bad part is that I ate all of it this month – in fact, it was basically gone a week ago!

Once-a-Month Shopping and Cooking Update

March 10, 2009 · Filed Under Once a Month Cooking & Shopping · 9 Comments 

It has been a week since we tried our hand at once-a-month shopping and cooking and so far the results have been great.  Before last week, I discussed how we were going to make an attempt at grocery shopping and cooking only once a month and then followed that up with the results of our first weekend of it .

Once-a-month Shopping

Ok, so I must sheepishly admit that we have already been to the store again…well, sorta.  Neither my wife nor I have actually stepped into a grocery store, but we did have my mother-in-law pick up some milk for us when she was out shopping the other day.  In fact, we asked her to pick up four gallons of skim milk and another gallon of whole.  If you add that to what we bought last weekend, that’s eight gallons of skim milk and 2 gallons of whole that we’ve bought so far this month.  That seems like a lot to me – my wife and daughter drink a tremendous amount of it each day.

When we did our first big shop, I was nervous about how well the milk would freeze so I purposely did not buy enough for the month.  So far we have been happy with the frozen milk (after it defrosts, at least) so I will be more comfortable with buying more next month.  Of course, at this pace I am not sure we’d be able to fit a month’s worth of milk in our freezer anyway.

Other than that, we do have a list started up of things we are already running out of and will probably have to replenish before the month is up.  So far it is not huge so that’s good.  We are treating it as a learning experience as I think it will take a few months before we get a good feel for how much of everything we need to buy to last a month.  Fortunately, we are not out in the jungles of Brazil (like some of our friends) so if we do run out of something, we can make a quick jaunt to the store.  That being said (besides having my mother-in-law pick up some milk), we will probably try to make one more trip to the store about half-way through the month.  We don’t want to fall back into making frequent store trips and the wasted time and impulse buys that accompany them.

It’s actually a pretty nice feeling to not have been in grocery store in a week.  And an even nicer feeling knowing that I probably will only venture into a grocery store one more time this month.

Once-a-month Cooking

Oh, I have eaten very well this week.  Actually, I usually eat very well every week as my wife (who does most of the cooking) is a very good cook and she takes time to plan out tasty meals for us.  So, I guess the big change would be whether it was easier to prepare these tasty meals.

My wife is happy with the time that it takes to prepare the meal each evening.  It is definitely less time consuming that cooking a normal meal.  And these are real meals here, too, not macaroni and cheese from a box.  An unanticipated bonus is that meal cleanup is faster as well.  Instead of using multiple bowls and measuring spoons/cups and pots/pans, all of that is already done and usually a single skillet is used to heat up the meal (with maybe pasta cooked up in another pot).  The verdict thus far is less time cooking and less time cleaning up.

So far we have eaten Mrs. Ringle’s Brisket (phenomenal), Spaghetti with homemade sauce (excellent), some strange ham and cheese thing in a pie crust (so-so), barbecue chicken (excellent flavor), and taco pie (very good).  All but one of the meals this week were really, really good.  Through one week, the once-a-month cooking is a winner!

Photo Credits: hive and karindalziel

Our First Attempt at Once-a-Month Shopping and Cooking

March 3, 2009 · Filed Under Once a Month Cooking & Shopping · 4 Comments 

Well, it was an interesting weekend at our household. We started off with some grocery shopping on Friday, a very long Saturday of cooking (for my wife), and a Sunday of snow culminating in a snow day for everyone on Monday!

Two shopping trips on Friday

Friday morning we stopped by Sam’s Club to pick up our first attempt at a Click’n’Pull order.  We spent $123.60 on an assortment of products.  As it turned out, that was only the preview…the main event was to come later that evening.  After dinner, my wife, son, and younger daughter headed out to Kroger where the real fun began.  After about 2 hours of shopping, we had completely filled up two shopping carts.  And when I say completely, I mean completely – the food was mounded up over the top of both carts.  The final tally was $582.30!  The price was high but the total amount of time expended for all this shopping was not too bad.  About 30 minutes to pick up the order at Sam’s Club and two hours at Kroger.  I think those numbers can be reduced a bit too in the future once we get used to the routine.

At least when you spend almost $600, you get some minor benefits.  My wife stated that she felt like a celebrity.  As we checked out, obviously the clerk checking us out was there and they had to have two guys bag and pack it up and take it out to the car for us.  And the manager came up and was chatting with my wife and gave our kids stickers and ran back and got us another dozen eggs after ours broke.

When we tell people that we’re attempting this, the first question we usually get is "won’t the fruit and veggies and milk spoil before the month is over?"  For the vegetables, we bought mostly frozen ones ready to microwave and my wife saved time cooking buying some (onions, peppers) that were already chopped and frozen.  I realize this was more expensive than fresh vegetables, but remember that at this time, saving time was our main focus.  We are staging fruits to see if we can stretch out the single shop throughout the month.  We bought bananas, apples, and oranges.  We will eat the bananas first and then the oranges and finally the apples which should be able to last most of the month in the refrigerator.  Finally, we are attempting to freeze extra gallons of milk.  The containers bought from Sam’s have a lot of extra space at the top, so we just stuck a few in the freezer as is.

Cooking and Cooking and …

We got started on the cooking Friday evening with chopping and peeling and slicing, etc.  We actually stayed up pretty late trying to get a head start on Saturday.  I have to admit that at the end of the evening, when I was cutting up seven pounds of cooked chicken breasts, I was oh-so-tired and my back was starting to feel very uncomfortable.  I was absolutely exhausted the next morning when I woke up early (seriously, I can’t remember a time recently when I was that tired)

My wife and her mother did all the cooking and childcare Saturday while I was at the Iron Sharpens Iron Conference in Colonial Heights, VA.  Yes, I do realize this was terribly bad timing (or good timing depending on your point of view).  We had discussed this last week and my wife really wanted to put this plan into action, so she decided to go ahead with her mom’s help instead of pushing it back.

She started cooking around 7 am and took a break around 3 pm to take a shower and get ready to go out.  She cooked a little bit more and then had just a few things to finish up after we came back. (Our friend Brian – who also runs – had his ordination service to officially become a Presbyterian pastor – Congrats!). All in all, my wife spent about 9 hours cooking on Saturday.

An exhausting weekend is over, now we’re hoping for some benefits…

The (interim) final verdict is so far, so good.  My wife had an exhausting weekend but is still optimistic overall.  As long as this saves time during the month cooking, then it will be worth it.  The next time that we do this (which will hopefully be for closer to 6 weeks from now) I will be available and we still might get someone to come help with childcare.

Regarding the once-a-month shopping, unfortunately I do not think that we will be able to hit that target this time.  We have already found a few items that we did not purchase and will probably run out of this month.  So, that is a bit frustrating, but we assumed that we would not be 100% successful on our first attempt.  I am going to try to keep very good records on what we bought and what we still need throughout the month in the hope that we can optimize this over the next few months.

That being said, I still think it will be better than haphazardly going to stores whenever something small is needed.  My new goal for the first month is to only take one more trip about half way through to pick up the items we missed.

The review?  Two forks up

So far we have only tried one of the meals.  We ate "Mrs. Ringle’s Brisket" and it was wonderful .  It’s one of those meals where you hope everyone else fills up early so there’s plenty left for you to have seconds (and thirds!).    If all the meals even approach that one, I’m going to be eating like a king for the next month or so!

Of course, if all of this effort was just for one meal, it would certainly not be worth it (even as yummy as that dinner was!).  So, I will periodically update you on how the plan is progressing and whether we still think this is an idea worth pursuing later on in the month.

Once-a-Month Grocery Shopping and Cooking

February 24, 2009 · Filed Under Once a Month Cooking & Shopping · 15 Comments 

Since we’ve had kids, my wife has become much more cognizant of what we all eat on a daily basis.  We certainly eat much healthier now that when she was an internal medicine resident and didn’t have the time to regularly meal plan for us  (let’s just say that I can certainly follow a recipe and do some cooking, but creatively planning a variety of meals is not my spiritual gift – "sure, tacos again…but they are so yummy!")

No, not one meal per month

Anyway, my wife recently got a copy of a book from Focus on the Family called Once-a-Month Cooking .  The basic idea is that you spend one (loooong) day per month preparing your meals (and then go out to dinner that night!).   The result is that you have a month’s worth of home cooked meals ready to reheat at any time.  And though frozen, these are "real" frozen meals – not those frozen TV dinners with who knows how much sodium in each serving.

Well, my wife read this book and is sold on trying it.  It actually makes a lot of sense from an efficiency standpoint.  Think of all the meals you cook throughout the month – aren’t there some that are repeated?  Some that have the same ingredients?  Think of it in terms of economies of scale: If it takes you a certain amount of time to prepare, boil, and clean-up one pound of chicken, it will only take you a small increment more time to do two pounds if you do them at the same time.

The book is actually quite exhaustive in that it lays out an entire month’s worth of meals complete with the exact shopping list for everything! Then it shows exactly how to prepare everything including the order to do each step to maximize those economies of scale.  I’m not sure if this will save any money, but she and I are just so excited for the potential time savings.

But wait, there’s more!

So I was sitting around the other day looking through a copy of an old Economides newsletter (you know – America’s Cheapest Family ) and what do I read there?  Well, I read that they spend $350 per month on groceries and household goods.  And I read that one of their strategies is to shop only one day per month! So, you see where this is going, right?  This dovetails perfectly and now I’m really excited – if we are going to cook only one day per month, maybe we should only shop one day per month as well!

So, we have this huge shopping list prepared and we are gearing up to put this into practice for the first time this weekend.  I’m not actually concerned about saving money, but I really, really would like to realize some time savings. If you’re only at the grocery store once a month, think of all the "quick trips" (that actually take at least 40 minutes) that will be eliminated (saving time) and all the impulse buys as well (saving money).

The downside

So, it is going to be pretty crazy to buy a month’s worth of food and paper goods in one shopping trip.  Actually, we are planning a trip to Sam’s Club to try out their Click’n’Pull deal for the first time and then we’ll hit a regular grocery store for the remainder of the list.  But I’m anticipating having to fold down the back seat in the minivan to fit all these groceries in there.  Certainly, you have to have room to store all of the food too…that might be a bit iffy for us.  We do have a big freezer out in the garage, though, which does seem like a necessity to implement this plan.

And then there’s the bill. It’s not going to be cheap.  But, if it works out right, at least this will be the only trip this month.

Like I said, we are putting it into practice this weekend.  We’ll be shopping Friday and cooking Saturday.  I will let you know how this goes.  Of course, it might not look so pretty on Saturday evening, but I’m hoping that three Saturdays from now, after no more trips to the store and yummy meals each night with no real "cooking," that it will have been well worth it.

Has anyone tried either or both of these before?  If so, did it work?  Do you have any suggestions/comments/warnings?

Photo Credits: Mykl Roventine

  • Blending simple and straightforward financial discussion with Biblical principles to assist normal people like us in being good stewards of our finances. This site is for ordinary people who have better things to do than watch the stock market every day, study countless mutual funds, and constantly stress about their financial situation!

  • Subscribe to Borrow From None

  • Currently Studying…

  • Currently Reading…

  • Affiliates

  • Social Networking

  • Links of Interest

  • Blogging