This post is probably well overdue. If you’ve been following me for a while then you probably remember that I did a 35 day no-buy stint from May-July last year and truth be told, I am on a food no-buy right now as well.
Yep. It’s been seven days since I last bought food, and no signs of buying anything soon. I actually had started about five days before that, but there was a wiiiiicked sale on sirloin beef that I just couldn’t pass up. I bought them using Airmiles, but I believe in transparency. I bought the beef (and potatoes!). I’m planning on not buying any food for at least another month and here’s why:
a. Life is expensive
b. I owe tax money (damnit)
c. It’s a great way to make sure you’re investigating what’s lurking in your freezer and cupboards and not wasting through expiration or freezer burn (food waste is like throwing money in the air on a windy day, it’s just dumb). Think of it like an edible freezer and cupboard spring cleaning.
People ask me all the time how I do this. My number one tip is pre-planning (take a look at what you actually have. If you have no veggies in the freezer, this isn’t going to be healthy) and my number two tip is to schedule it during a busy time. What could feel like a shitty time of not allowing yourself to purchase food becomes “thank God I have these meals made and ready for myself”, and attitude is as important when you’re doing a no-buy as it is in any other area of life.
So how do you logistically get ready for a food no-buy?
- Take an accurate account of what you have. This seems a bit brutal while you’re doing it, but it’s important to know what you have in the cupboards and freezer, as well as what kind of freezer space (you’ll understand soon) you have at your disposal. I look at it as making a list of my dry/canned/shelf stable ingredients, taking stock of my freezer “fixings” (uncooked items that need processed into meals) and pre-made meals. I usually do this the day of my final grocery shop before the no-buy.
- Make a list of what you would need to get through the 30 (or however many) days you don’t want to buy groceries for. How does this match up against what you have “in stock”? Those areas, whether it’s breakfast cereal or meat items, that are understocked go on your actual grocery list. My list of what I need actually becomes a bit of a meal plan, I think of it from that standpoint because I know if I plan it out that way, I’ll never be hungry. Be sure to prioritize eating what you already own previous to the no-buy, because this can’t become an excuse to buy thirty days of food on one bill rather than an exercise in using what you have. Well it could, but it wouldn’t save you any money. Tip: Try to avoid buying anything “convenience”. Yes, it’d be nice to have chips or flavored water, but it’s 100% not necessary. The meal plan is designed to remove these items and show you what you really need. Tip #2: If you have very little freezer space, do not load up on fresh or frozen components. Shop canned or dry items and vice-versa.
- Once you’ve created that list and meal plan, it’s time to hit the store. I start by shopping the dry and canned foods first, then produce, meat, dairy and freezer sections (in that order, too). Pick up everything on the list at the most affordable price possible, and if there’s something that you can’t get or is too expensive, substitute with something similar or buy frozen. These shops are a great opportunity to use up AirMiles cash or your PC Points rewards. They can feel expensive but keep in mind, you’re done after this. No more shopping!
- Once you come home with your loot, put it away and make plans for any fresh or non-meal items that you’ve purchased. I will look at my yogurt for instance, and say to myself… can I eat all of this before it goes bad? If the answer is no, I freeze some. If I’ve bought brussel sprouts or another veggie, I’ll often roast or cook it and then freeze it. Lastly, if it is something like a roast you bought, why not cook it and some potatoes, make the gravy and veggies and make meals? It makes life easier and you also know the day before you’re supposed to be done buying food if you’ve actually forgotten that you’ll need something like potatoes! Even just thinking about it and then popping the roast (or whatever) in the freezer will bring up those helpful thoughts.
That’s seriously it. I’m hoping to stay on my no-buy through into April for basically as long as I can (lettuce is very tempting this time of year hah) or until the food I recognize as not-so-new is gone. I don’t want to decimate the nice base of a pantry that I have, just ensure that I’m eating what I have and not just refilling the top 1/3 of the freezer weekly. I’m thinking that every week or so I’ll do a roundup post of what I’ve been eating and how the no-buy is going.
Would you ever consider doing a food no-buy? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments.