Each year, my family and I take the “no shopping challenge”.
This is essentially a time for us to NOT purchase anything. We stop buying groceries, any gadgets, clothing. There are no movies rented, no eating out, no spending of money.
The only exception to this is gas for our vehicles, and bills we pay monthly. We run this week to week, and our normal challenge is to do this for an entire month.
This has many benefits to it, really.
Not buying groceries forces us to take stock of our food storage, rotate it, clean it out and use it up. No more mystery meat at the bottom of the freezer by the end of the month!
We also remember to be grateful for what we have. When we have to wait 30 days before we can buy the “latest and greatest” thing that others seem to have, by the time we can buy it, it has lost it’s appeal.
We go back to basics with the “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” lifestyle of our grandparents. And, finally, we can get rid of clutter that seems to suck the life out of us. Trust me, things can really do that.
We start by going through our pantry, freezers, and food storage.
I make a list of all that we have and start a menu plan for a month with that. Sounds easy, right? I mean, 15 chickens in the freezer, 10 pounds of ground beef and 100 pounds of wheat berries offer a lot of options.
Then, we go through the toilet paper, dog food, chicken food and make sure that there is enough of that for a month.
Running out of toilet paper CAN be worked around, but at this point in time, my family just isn’t on board with the “family cloth”. Baby steps, people. Plus, we still need to feed the dog and the chickens.
When we discover what we need to purchase, we go to the store and make sure we have it.
Some of you may think that we spend a whole bunch of money on groceries so that lasting an entire month is easy. But, honestly, we don’t.
The main purpose of this is to use up what we have and to rotate it. We DO purchase a 6 gallons of milk, since my son still drinks it, but that’s it.
Whatever we run out of, we do without. It’s a commitment, and during the last couple days of the month, creativity in meals has to come into play, but it’s kind of fun. Almost like the home version of “Chopped”.
The best part is the money we WOULD have spent on eating out, groceries, etc. is put away.
In the past, when we put it all away, we were able to take a mini vacation with that money. Talk about a motivation for the kids to eat a lot of beans and rice, as well as for us to not be swayed by shiny baubles!
The hardest part at first is getting out of the habit of running to the store each week, or going to the Amazon app on our phones when we want something. After 2 weeks, it gets easier, but that first two weeks is hard!
Our menu for the first week is pretty easy, actually, as well.
We are eating things like shredded chicken tacos, spaghetti, meatballs, chicken noodle soup, twice baked potatoes, and cottage pie.
For breakfast, we enjoy lots of variety like French toast, homemade donuts, yogurt, eggs and beef bacon, toast and the like. We have variety of snacks like homemade fruit leathers, granola bars, fresh fruit, and crackers or (gulp!) chips and dips.
After the first week…
… the fresh fruit is gone, but we have frozen or home canned to eat. Not as easy to grab and go, though.
Some thought has to be taken into eating it. Smoothies come more into play during the second week. That, and the fruit leather. Cobblers, crisps and even pies get made more often.
Soups are eaten more often, and chili is on the menu 2-3 times a week, and the amount of meat in it is minimal. Homemade pizza gets made a lot more often for lunches, too. It’s kind of fun to see what I can come up with each night.
The third week is the most challenging for us.
This is when we would rather do anything than eat beans, or canned peaches, or oatmeal for breakfast again.
By this time, the granola has lost it’s luster, and our breakfast choices are eggs, oatmeal and homemade toast. No one wants any of this anymore, but that’s what we have.
Dinner becomes a hodge podge mele of pasta with canned tomatoes and whatever spices I can add, to a “clean out the fridge and pray for the best” meal. But, we still eat. And for that, I am truly grateful.
The fourth week is the easiest, in my opinion.
We are almost to our goal, and we have gotten through the “spoiled brat” stage of not buying anything, and are truly grateful for what we have once again.
It’s a humbling week, as we realize that there are so many who would be happy to eat the meals that just days before we complained about.
Once again, we remember to be truly grateful instead of wanting more and more. Our freezers are usually empty, or pretty close to it, and our pantry is nearly bare.
But, we still have plenty. Some days I am amazed at how much we have, especially when it looks like there is nothing. That’s the beauty of this for us. We get to see just how blessed we are.
Of course, at the beginning of the next month, we go shopping.
The challenge has emptied out a lot of our food storage, so we need to replenish before the garden begins to produce.
Our garden gets planned, and we know better what we need to focus on growing for the coming year.
I am able to defrost the freezers and clean them out, in preparation for a new batch of meat chickens, turkeys and sides of beef from the butcher.
Clothing is cleaned out and closets are no longer containing clothing that doesn’t fit, doesn’t get worn, or is not loved. Outgrown shoes are donated, as well as coats, hats, and things we thought “we had to have”.
Old favorite items get loved again, and our family gets even closer, as we spend more time on board games and talking TO each other, instead of WITH each other.
Our attitude is once again one of gratefulness, humility, and life seems so much more simple. We carry this as long as we can throughout the year, and each year we go further and further with it.
It’s truly a blessing to NOT purchase anything for a month.
I never would have thought that before we started doing this, but it has changed me. Truly.
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.
Learn more about Heather and the rest of the writers on this page.