no groceries challenge revisited (2.0)

In May and June, I imposed a “no groceries” rule on myself. I was very low on cash. I wanted to find new ways to save money. I know loads about preparing, cooking, and storing good, healthy food. I also knew I wasn’t using the food I already had in an efficient way.
I wrote about it some, in these posts. On Monday, I’m going to start my personal challenge again. This time I’m in less desperate straits, but what I learned a couple months ago stuck with me. I know I’ve strayed off the path of financially healthy decisions.

There are a few significant lessons I learned from my month of not going to the grocery store—with a couple exceptions—that I didn’t share here. My first “real” trip to the supermarket after my challenge was to Whole Foods. As I learned in this personal challenge, leaning on the grocery store for prepared foods like snacks for lunches, treats, and fresh fruits is the most helpful use of my food dollars (the cases of water are not mine):IMG_3792Or, rather, when I buy whole foods and make almost everything at home, there are only some items I need to purchase pre-made.

Other lessons I learned:

  • the decrease in trash and recycling was startling. There was almost nothing in our recycling (no packaging) and the trash bags were much lighter (less discarded leftovers);
  • the impulse to buy more because “I’m about to run out” costs money and wastes food;
  • engaging my children in the mindful consumption adventure makes our return to whole foods a family value that we all enjoy;
  • keeping the refrigerator organized made using leftovers much easier and more palatable;
  • it was my cooking skills that made this challenge especially fun, rather than frightening. I am lucky I know what I’m doing in the kitchen. If I didn’t know how to cook, especially how to be creative with basic and/or surprise ingredients, this would have been a lot more difficult;
  • after the challenge “ended,” I maintained a “no groceries” perspective on our consumption. I flinch a bit when I think, “I’ll grab xyz at the market” because I know I’ll need to be careful I don’t purchase more than I need;
  • what I need is so much less than what I want.

The no-groceries challenge helped me quite a bit. It took a feeling of deprivation and made me feel stronger. I found a new source of healthy pride and energy. As I said, after the challenge “ended” I still rarely went to the grocery store. In the last month, however, I’ve slid back into finding a trip to the grocery store “for some fruit” ends with four full bags of groceries that we mostly don’t actually need, and will likely not use with efficiency.
This new no-groceries challenge reminds me a bit of people who do “cleanses” with fruit juice or whatever else people do. A re-start into the world of food consumption that aligns with our values. I’ll take the weekend to assess what we have on hand, I’ll do a run to the market for items that will make the no-groceries challenge last longer than it might otherwise (a big container of rolled oats, for example). Then, I’ll stop going to the grocery store. When I start going again, I suspect the the lessons I learned will stick with me for a longer stretch of time. In any case, I’m sure that these personal challenges, borne of real financial need, are benefitting our family in important ways that go beyond money. Yum.