Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I hate shopping. It’s not so bad to shop for new stuff (clothes, gadgets, toys, furniture etc), but there are two types of shopping that drain the life out of me: groceries and necessities. There’s nothing worse than going to the same two stores, week after week to buy the same exact stuff.

You might feel the same way. Have you ever thought about how much time you spend at the grocery store and Walmart each year? It’s disheartening.

Here’s the Breakdown

This is the breakdown of time that our family spends on shopping for groceries and necessities each year. Your numbers may be more or less.

  • Driving to town and back: 1 hour per week x 52 weeks = 52 hours
  • Shopping for groceries: 1 hour per week x 52 weeks = 52 hours
  • Shopping for necessities: 1 hour per week x 52 weeks = 52 hours

That’s a total of 156 hours spent (wasted) shopping each year! But that’s just for one person. For our family of 3 we collectively spend 458 hours per year!

If there was just some way to save that time, you could essentially give yourself a 4 week staycation (in business hours, anyway). That’s huge!

The Vision

Maybe it’s the introvert in me, but the ideal life to me is something like this:

A nice farm house with many acres of property, completely private from the outside world. We would grow all of our own food organically; essentially becoming self-sustainable and independent. We would no longer rely on major corporations to provide everything we need in life.

I want a life where I would never have a reason to leave the comfort of my own home, unless I simply wanted to. Think Chip and Joanna Gaines.

We’re a long way from that, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start working toward it!

How to Save 458 Hours Each Year

Time is the most valuable thing we have. I’m all about finding new ways to save time and money, so this year our family is focusing on how we can save all the time we spend on shopping for disposable goods. We have the overall vision, but the process will need to be adjusted each year until we get there.

For now, we’re starting out with these baby steps:

  1. Start a huge garden in the backyard
  2. Stock the deep freezer full of beef, chicken, and fish
  3. Automate the process of shopping for necessities online

Overtime, we’ll learn how to overcome the obstacles that are discussed below (‘A Few Things to Consider’ section) and eventually save ourselves 458 hours per year!

Imagine not needing to make that grocery store trip each week? What about never running out of toilet paper, shampoo and toothpaste because it’s always shipped to your door right when you need it?

That’s what we’re shooting for and we plan to track our progress and document what we learn along the way.

Side Note: We’re going about this the hard way (intentionally), but you can save yourself just as much time by buying your groceries online if the option is available to you. The online strategy will save you time, but it won’t save you money, so if you want the best of both worlds, then you may consider starting a garden too!

Starting the Garden

We just now got started germinating seeds indoors yesterday. Hopefully we didn’t wait too long. It’s suggested that the last frost (or time to plant) in our area is March 15th, but we’ve had snow, hail, and all kinds of nasty weather following us into April now. In fact, it is snowing right now as I type. The cold weather has lasted longer than usual, so perhaps it’s a good thing we waited until now to start? Hopefully so.

We’re exploring the idea of building some raised garden beds because they seem easier to maintain. Also, I don’t have a tiller, so that makes the decision a little easier. It’s going to be a new experience, but I would imagine having raised beds will result in fewer weeds to uproot throughout the year. Not sure if that’s actually the case, but if you have some experience with raised beds, we would love to hear your thoughts. Let us know in the comments!

Our garden this year will consist of the vegetables that we tend to eat most frequently. This includes green peppers, onions, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes and a variety of others.

A Few Things to Consider

Depending on your circumstances and where you live, there will certainly be factors that will prevent you from a ‘zero grocery store trip’ goal. You may live in the city or have limited space, which presents a completely different set of challenges than we have.

For us, some the factors we’ve considered are discussed below. We won’t be able to avoid the grocery store altogether, but we can still dramatically reduce the amount of time and money that we spend there.

  • We live in Missouri, which is great for growing vegetables (and some fruit), but not conducive for things like bananas and oranges.
  • We’re not ready to bring live animals into the picture yet, so we’ll have to depend on the store for dairy and eggs.
  • As far as we know you can’t have a garden in the winter, but maybe indoors you can?
  • We really only know the basics of gardening now, so there are likely a ton of other factors that we’ll have to address along the way.

You may be thinking “Sure, you can save some time this way, but you’ll have to spend time to maintain the garden.”

True, but the idea of getting outdoors and working with our hands is definitely worth it. We need an excuse to go outside and get some more sun anyway. This just happens to be a great, intrinsically rewarding way to do it.

Deep Freezer Full of Meat

A few years ago a farmer talked us into buying 1/8 of a butchered cow. The cost was $350 and it resulted in 60 pounds of local, grass fed beef that we kept in our deep freezer – some in hamburger, steaks, roasts etc. This meat lasted a few months and it was very convenient to have on hand, thawing it out as needed.

This year we plan to do something similar by buying our beef, chicken, and fish in bulk quantities (about $500 worth at a time). We recently became weekday vegetarians, so our meat consumption has reduced by about 60%. If we keep it up for the rest of the year, we’re estimating that $500 worth of meat will last at least 6 months, resulting in no more than 2 trips to the store to buy meat.

If you plan to try something similar, it would be worthwhile to consider how frequently you consume each type of meat and divide your budget accordingly.

For us, most meat-based meals consist of beef, fewer consist of chicken, and even fewer consist of fish (we don’t ever eat pork). Therefore, we plan to divide our $500 budget accordingly:

  • $300 on hamburger / $50 on steaks
  • $100 on chicken
  • $50 on fish

In the distant future we hope to truly have that farm-to-table lifestyles, by raising our own cattle, chicken, and fish. However, until then we’ll still save a ton of time and money by buying meat in bulk quantities like this.

Automate Shopping for Necessities

This step will take some time and planning to set up, but avoiding the hassle of shopping for necessities will be totally worth the effort. Walmart, Amazon, and Sam’s Club offer a “reorder items” feature on their websites. We’ve never tried it personally, but are looking forward to outsourcing all that time wasted going up and down the isles to buy the same stuff over and over again.

To clarify, in our family we call items that are bought on a routine basis “necessities,” while other goods that last for longer periods of time (like TVs) are simply “miscellaneous” expenses. Some examples of necessities include laundry detergent, dish soap, toothpaste, toilet paper etc – stuff that runs out and requires you to go back to the store on a regular basis.

Some people alleviate this problem by getting a Sam’s Club membership and buying these types of items in bulk quantities. This is great, but we want to take it one step further and automate the entire process as much as possible with repeat purchases. Essentially, all of our necessities would ship directly to us automatically, right when we would normally drive to Walmart to restock on them.

The challenge is that necessities never run out at the same time, so there will be some experimentation to fine tune the process along the way. We’ll be documenting everything (the pros and cons) that we learn along the way.

How to Save $7,800 Each Year

At about $520 per month, our family officially spends more on food than we do on our mortgage.

Side note: I’m looking forward to sharing how we’ve saved $700 per month by buying a fixer-upper home. Subscribe below if you want to hear about it!

In the self-sustainable vision described above, we would essentially eliminate that $520 grocery bill, without sacrificing the quality of the food that that we consume. My wife is the most health-conscience person I know, so buying “cheaper” food isn’t an option at our house.

Of course, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever truly get to a $0 grocery budget, but we’re striving toward that goal anyway. For convenience sake, let’s be optimistic and say it’s entirely possible to be 100% self-sustainable and independent of the grocery store, saving a total of $520 per month / $120 per week.

Also, you might agree that going to the store for a few things (like necessities) never really works out as planned. There’s always extra stuff that you suddenly need when we see it at the store. By automating our spending on necessities and avoiding the store in person, we will no longer feel compelled to buy stuff we don’t need. Not sure how to calculate the expense of this extra stuff, but a conservative estimate is $20 per week.

The cost of fuel to travel to town and back to buy these things is about $10 per week.

So if we do the math:

  • Grocery: $120 per week x 52 weeks = $6,240
  • Extra stuff: $20 per week x 52 weeks = $1,040
  • Fuel: $10 per week x 52 weeks = $520

We end up with a total savings of $7,800 per year!

Sure, that’s the “best case scenario” and will be very difficult to achieve, but it never hurts to be optimistic. Taking the baby steps outlined above will still result in some pretty big savings:

  • Vegetables: $70 per week x 26 weeks = $1,820*
  • Extra stuff: $20 per week x 52 weeks = $1,040
  • Fuel: $10 per week x 52 weeks = $520

That’s $3,380 that we could potentially save this year alone! Still worth it.

*About $70 of our grocery bill is spent on vegetables. The calculation is based on the assumption that our garden can provide all of our vegetables for 6 months. It’s still a fairly optimistic estimate since we’re new to gardening and will probably make some mistakes along the way.


We know this plan isn’t for everyone, but if you want to save time and money this year, hopefully this article has given you some inspiration and practical ideas that you can use. For us, this is just the beginning of working toward a more efficient, self-sustainable lifestyle. We expect to make mistakes along the way, learn from them, and share what we learn on this blog.

If you have some tips on how you’re saving time and money, we would love to hear about them. Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. Uncle Billy says:

    Nick, you guys need to be looking at preserving what you are going to grow. Otherwise you will end up with a lot of waste from your garden as quantities ripen at the same time.
    A root cellar, dehydrator, waterbath and pressure canning, smoking, freezing, and freeze drying are the common options.

    • Nick Rollins says:

      Thank you! That is some great advice. I want to make pickles and salsa with some of what we have left over, but haven’t thought about other options just yet. Now I have a list of things to look into. Thanks!

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