No grocery store January

Last year at this time, I had two realizations.

1, I was spending a lot of money on food each week, and 2, I already had a ton of food in my house.

Living alone and shopping for one is not the most economical way to live. Buying in bulk is always cheaper, and cooking larger meals whether to share with more people or to save for leftovers makes way more sense than dirtying dishes for one measly portion.

For those reasons, I always bought in bulk and ended up with a ton of food at home, and I always cooked larger portions than I needed. This resulted in my fridge, freezer, and pantry being packed. Yet I still went grocery shopping every week.

I would often buy a few more of something I already had “just in case” I didn’t have as much as I thought I did. Then I’d get home and realize I now have more than I need.

An obvious solution would have been to make my shopping list while looking through what I already have and seeing what I’m truly lacking. And then sticking to that list once in the store.

But I wasn’t organized enough to do that. And I knew I’d eat it all eventually, so what was the harm in having the pantry a little overstocked?

But with the start of the new year last year, I decided I would do No Grocery Store January, something I made up entirely to suit my needs. Pro tip: you are allowed to make up your own goals and challenges to suit your own needs. (tweet that)

The rules were simple: I wasn’t allowed to go to the grocery store to buy food until I had eaten everything already in my house. I had a bunch of frozen vegetables (not as tasty as fresh, but definitely usable) and an assortment of rice and pasta, etc. I wasn’t eating much meat back then so I didn’t need to buy that to supplement my meals. And heaven knows I didn’t need more snacks or desserts.

I was surprised how long the food I had lasted. I made big casseroles that lasted a few days, and used things I had bought “to try something new” that I had been putting off for months. Although I set out to last all of January, part of me wondered if all my food would only last a week or two. But I had way more than I thought, and it lasted all month.

It felt so good by the end to have an empty fridge and freezer, and a mostly empty pantry. And it felt great to go grocery shopping in February and fill my kitchen with new things, starting from a clean slate.

The experience taught me just how far food goes, that my fear of running out of some “crucial” ingredient was unfounded, and that there is no need to overstock “just in case”.

I still have tendencies to buy in bulk to save money, but I try and buy less overall quantity each visit, and instead make more frequent trips to the store. That way I can buy only a few fresh vegetables and fruits, and then buy more once those are gone.

Stock up on rice this week, and stock up on pasta a few weeks after that. I don’t need a mountain of both in my pantry. Buy apples one week, pears the next. Buy only one kind of juice at a time.

The fear of not having enough options can be surprisingly strong. It’s why we buy the same sweater in three different colors, or why we are hesitant to commit to a job or a relationship. I didn’t realize that it extends to food as well.

These days I have fewer food options at home now, and I am surviving just fine. What areas of your life could benefit from minimizing your options?

Decluttering my life has brought me peace of mind and relief from the world around me. There’s nothing like walking into the space you created and knowing you have nothing more than what you need. I write articles to help others create that same feeling for themselves.