During the month of January, we did a grocery spending freeze. Here’s a little Q&A about why we did it, how it worked, and our thoughts after the month was over.
A quick Q&A about our month-long grocery spending freeze
Last month, we did a grocery spending freeze. I mentioned it on Instagram a few times throughout the month and had lots of questions about it, so here’s a little Q&A about it!
Q: What is a grocery spending freeze? How does this thing work?
It’s just period of time when you freeze, or stop, your grocery spending.
For us, we decided to still purchase perishables (fruit, veggies, and milk) during the entire month, but we purchased no snacks, canned goods, meat, or dried goods for the whole month of January.
Q. Did you stock up before you started?
Yes, and no. We did a normal Costco trip after Christmas and got our usual items. I had no intention of doing a grocery freeze at the time of the Costco trip.
But when we got home and started putting everything away, I realized that we had purchased more of things we already had, and we’d gotten in the habit of just buying stuff and not being very good about using the portions of things we already had.
Like that half bag of tortellini in the freezer? Or the last two chicken breasts in the freezer bag? Or the bag of non-peeled frozen shrimp I was ignoring at the bottom of my freezer? (I hate peeling raw shrimp). I needed to push myself to use these things, and this felt like a good way to do that.
So we HAD just stocked up, but we didn’t do a purposeful stock up with the intention of not buying for a month. Make sense?
Q: Did you plan meals before the freeze?
No. Philip makes a weekly menu every week on Sunday (he created his own Pinterest boards and it’s been the best thing ever cause he chooses things that he knows he’ll like and he’s never disappointed at dinner time), so each week he’d ask me to dig through the freezer and pantry and tell him what we needed to use up.
I found half a bag of gnocchi, so he found a gnocchi beef stew recipe for one week.
I finally got the courage to peel the frozen bag of shrimp, so he found a shrimp and steak pasta recipe.
I had some mushrooms in the fridge that were getting old, so he put our mushroom bacon pizza recipe on the menu.
So each week his menus were intentional about using up the things that had been sitting around in our fridge, freezer, and pantry.
Q: What about perishable items like fruit, milk, etc?
We definitely bought those! We bought veggies too. And I bought a huge pack of eggs once.
Q: How much did you end up spending on groceries every week?
We order our groceries through Walmart+, and the minimum order for delivery is $35. So we kept our orders as close to that dollar amount as we possibly could. It was actually kind of a fun game for the boys. We didn’t ever spend more than $40 in one week.
Q. How did you keep stock of what you already had in the freezer/pantry?
We downloaded THIS FOOD STORAGE APP toward the end of last year, and during Christmas break we went through our entire pantry and freezer and took inventory of everything.
It’s super simple to scan items and mark where they are in your house (kitchen top cupboards, garage freezer, etc).
When you use items, just scan the barcode, it pops up in the app, and you subtract one item. Easy!
Q: Why did you do this spending freeze?
We did it for two main reasons:
One, we wanted to start off the year with less spending. After higher spending during November and December, it always feels good to intentionally decrease our spending a bit.
Two, I felt like I was getting in a bad habit of not using what we already had. If I bought a bag of potatoes and only used half of them, I wasn’t as good about using them up before they went bad. Or I had meat that I’d purchased months ago that was sitting in the back of my freezer and I was ignoring. This forced me to notice it and use it!
Q: How much do you feel like you saved?
Several hundred dollars, for sure!
Q: Did you eliminate any perishables you feel like you usually buy?
I didn’t specifically cut out certain perishables, but I was definitely more careful about purchasing perishables each week. We all have ambitions about eating certain things, and then they rot in the fridge. We’ve all seen the memes about the bagged salad, right?!
This helped me be realistic about which fruits and veggies we actually will eat during the week, and purchased only those.
Q: How will this affect future grocery shopping habits?
As I said above, I felt like it was a really good exercise for me to be honest about what we actually eat during the week. In the two weeks of grocery shopping since our freeze, I’ve continued to be good about using the things we have, and stocking up on things that are on sale and deals. Not just buying randomly.
It honestly shifted my mindset a lot, and I feel like I’ll need to do this once every six months just to keep myself in good habits.
Q: What was your most creative meal that you cooked that you may not have?
This is a good question! I don’t know that it was particularly creative, but I had that bag of non peeled shrimp that I mentioned above that had literally been in my freezer for a year and I continued to ignore it…until January! I used it to make a delicious steak and shrimp pasta that everyone loved!
Q: Did you go out to eat at all during January?
We did. We typically order in or go out to eat on Saturdays, and during January we continued to do that.
We didn’t make it an all encompassing spending freeze where we didn’t spend any money, but there are no rules here — you could do whatever works best for your family if you decide to do a grocery spending freeze!
Q: How did you plan things like breakfast and lunch?
Those were part of our freeze too! We had frozen lunch meat and frozen hoagie rolls in the freezer, and oatmeal and cold cereal in our pantry and we worked through some of that.
Eggs, milk, fruits, and veggies were on our perishables list, so I continued to purchase those each week, and those were used for breakfasts and lunches.
Have any other questions? I’m happy to answer!
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