The “No-Groceries” Challenge

Every once in a while I throw away food from the refrigerator or freezer because it has gone bad.

Sometimes I toss out an item from the pantry or the cupboard because it has expired.

And each time I say to myself, “Man, I wish I would have noticed that before.” I always feel guilty about wasting food.

I know I’m not alone. Millions of Americans waste at least some food on a regular basis. I’m guessing you’ve probably done it a few times yourself.

Use what you already have

The fact is, most of us have plenty of food in our refrigerators, freezers, pantries and cupboards.

Some of it may have a long shelf life. But other items are going to go bad if we don’t eat them soon.

Here’s a suggestion for you if you’re looking to save some money on groceries. Try taking the no-groceries challenge.

Try living off the food you already have on hand for a few days, a week, a couple of weeks or even a month.

A family commitment

That’s what author Sarah Li Cain did not too long ago, according to Business Insider. And she says she saved $200 over the course of a month.

She and her family committed to using everything in their refrigerator and pantry before buying any new food.

She decided to take this no-groceries challenge after too often buying something she already had at home. Or realizing that food items had expired.

The experiment worked well. In fact, she now plans to do the same thing for one week out of each month in the future.

You can bank on it

“I find myself buying more food than we need in our household,” Cain said. “There are also times when my husband goes grocery shopping only to find that we already had boxes of pasta in the pantry.

“Or, I’ll forget that we had vegetables stuffed in the crisper drawer, only to have them go bad when I dig through our fridge.

“Yes, I want to save money, but I hate wasting food as well,” she continued. “I’d rather purchase only exactly what we need and save any extra money for other things.

“I’m happy to say we survived and saved money playing this game.”

Challenge tips

If you’d like to take the no-groceries challenge, here are a few tips from Cain.

Take stock of what you have. Go through your pantry, cupboard, refrigerator and freezer, making a list of what you can use. Stick the list on the fridge and cross off items when you use them.

Make sure your family is on board. This challenge will only work if everyone agrees and cooperates. Get the kids or grandkids involved in the plan and in cooking so they take ownership in the challenge.

Devise meal plans from your ingredients. By planning specific meals using your available ingredients, you’ll have what you need for each meal instead of using everything up too quickly.

Be ready to substitute. If you run out of coffee creamer, use coconut milk instead. If you run out of eggs and vegetable oil for a cake, substitute ground flax seeds and applesauce if you have them.

Exercise discipline. Regardless of whether you’re doing the no-groceries challenge for a week or a month, there are going to be times when you want to order in, eat out or buy a few groceries. Try to resist. You’ll save money while being self-sufficient.

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