Reader Question: Is it better to shop monthly or weekly?

Published on February 26, 2014 By Lauren

Wondering if you should grocery shop every week or once a month? Here is a post that talks about the good and bad of both.

I received a reader question the other day which I thought was a great one to answer publicly on the blog:

Here is the question:

Is it better to shop each week, or monthly. I noticed I shop monthly and I spend a lot of money in drinks, soda, milk, tea, and use up my budget on those, meats, and essentials. Then 2 week into the month I need milk then 3 weeks into the month, I need little things to go with my meal, like more potatoes. Then our local stores will have a sale and we will spend more to stock up. There is just 2 of us to cook for, but we do coupon. I wasn’t sure how to make this plan work if you shop monthly or should I switch to weekly?

I LOVE this question because there are so many different ways to answer it.  First, let me tell you what we do.  When Mark was working we got paid bi-monthly (every other Friday), we would take out the money that we needed for groceries for the next 2 weeks in cash and put it aside in an envelope marked groceries.  I would then shop every week and use only half of the money.   Taking out cash bi-weekly still seems to work well for us.

I am not an advocate of using 100% cash all the time, but for groceries I think that it is absolutely the best way.  Setting a grocery budget is difficult to stick to, especially when you have your debit card and don't mind going $5.00 over budget.  That $5.00 adds up over time, so sticking to cash will help you stay within budget.

I think that you should try to shop weekly as much as possible and here are my reasons why:

1.) You are missing out on loss leader sales and stock up opportunities.

If you are unfamiliar with the term loss leader, you can read my post about it here.  These are items at rock bottom prices and are the ones that I usually stock up on every week.  When using my 1/3 rd budget system  you will be stocking up on these with the last third of your budget. If you shop once a month or even every other week, you will be missing out on these opportunities to stock up on some great deals and put aside for later.

2.) You may be making 1 ingredient trips which is actually costing you more in the long run.

I saw a statistic that said for every extra minute you are in the grocery store, you spend an extra $1.75.  What does this mean for single ingredient trips? It means that you usually don't stop in for just that 1 thing, you normally come home with a few other impulse buys in your cart.  This costs you money in the long run.

3.) You can eat more fresh fruits and veggies.

By shopping every week you can stock up on lots of fresh fruits and veggies and eat them before they go bad.  I know many people who shop monthly typically run out of those items by the last week, so they are left without fresh produce until they go shopping again.  If you do choose to shop once a month eat the produce that will go bad first, then save the produce that will carry a month until later in the month (apples, oranges, potatoes etc)

4.) Just because you get paid twice a month, doesn't mean you have to shop twice a month.

We take out cash for 2 weeks, and split it in half so do my shopping every week. This allowed me to shop around our weekly schedule, meal plan and stock up on the loss leaders for that week.

Another factor to consider is how far away you are from the grocery store, and how much in gas it will cost you to make weekly trips.  We are fortunate to live very close, but I know that some of you live in rural areas and may have to drive a half hour or more to go grocery shopping.

I've tried shopping once a month and failed miserably, but I am sure that many of you have success shopping monthly.  Why don't you leave your comments below on what things you do to make monthly shopping a success.

COMMENTS

  • I see that the comments are from two years ago, however I wanted to let you know that there were some really helpful ideas in your article. I also wanted to remind you that you are missing a whole demographic. I am on S.S.I. and get paid once a month. My husband has to do our shopping since I’m to sick to go out most of the time. We do 90% of our shopping at Aldis, I don’t think we could survive without that store. 8% is done at Wal·Mart. What I’m getting to is our 2local butcher shop. That is the first stop made on shopping day. Our meat is potioned out and vacuum sealed to last the month. That way I know what I need and I have fresh local meat all month.

  • Personally, I shop once a week. I meal plan for the entire week. I know exactly what I need. I tend to spend less and eat out less often when I do a small grocery run every sunday.

  • We shop on every day off, I am not special or rich enough to have a 9-5 Mon-Fri job so my days off are usually every 3-4 days, I rarely get two days off in a row unless I request time off. But shopping for 3-4 days at a time is great for my family, I get paid once a week and we put $125 aside each week for food, with shopping every 3-4 days I am able to spend money on more fresh produce and less processed foods. I used to shop for 2 weeks or 1 month at a time until I develop high blood pressure, pre-diabetes, and other health issues. Changing it to 3-4 days I have control over my high blood pressure and are not in the pre-diabetes zone, even feel better as it gets me out of the house more and that little bit more of exercise is helping. I learned that like the Lauren I had to separate my food budget from my other budget, a pre-paid reloadable card is great for this, I don’t feel like I am leaving money around to get stolen and there is only so much on the card so I have to pay attention to how much I am spending.

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