Buy No Food Challenge — An Update

by Katy on August 24, 2008 · 12 comments



Disgusted by the sheer volume of food in my refrigerator, I declaired a Buy No Food Challenge for my family on August 17th.

I climbed up on my Non-Consumer soapbox (bought used, of course) and proclaimed:

“I will buy no food until we eat up the bizarrely massive amounts that already grace my refrigerator!”

(You’ll just have to imagine the forefinger I shoved high into the air.)

It’s been a full week, so I thought I’d share how we’re doing.

It’s important to know, this week was complicated with addition of my childless friend Kathy. Her welcome visit was not greeted with to-die-for gourmet meals, but the jarring pronouncement that we would all be working to eat up leftovers and already purchased foodstuffs. Oddly, Kathy ate out with old family friends more often than not.


Meals throughout the week consisted of:

Incorporating my nephew’s restaurant leftovers into an entire meal for three of us. (Eggs got added to diner hash browns.)

One evening was everyone eats a different leftover. (A great way, it turns out to eat up those small amounts.)

Most of our meals were perfectly fine, but apparently somewhat forgettable. We all ate well, and nobody got food poisoning.

I did spring for a pepperoni pizza at The Bagdad Theater last night. I was treating the kids, plus a friend to a dinnertime second-run showing of Kung-Fu Panda. (See? I am not all about deprivation.)

It does seem like we’ve hardly made a dent in the groceries. I’m amazed how food simply shows up at my house. Kathy bought lovely snacks for her play on Tuesday, and we became the recipients of all the extra tasty treats. Not that I’m complaining though. The expensive cookies, cheeses and crackers were a zero burden within a twelve hour period. (urp!)

I did end up making one late night trip for milk, which I had already said I would keep buying. (Plus toilet paper.) It was very relaxing to know all I had to do was head straight for the dairy section, without the whole what else should I buy? dilemma that makes Safeway trips normally last so long. (My son is building a toilet paper tube robot, and oddly we’re suddenly going through an insanely large amount of t.p. Hmm. . . )

If we, (ahem. . . husband plus kids) were willing to be a bit more flexible about what dinner food is, we could probably go another week or two. But I feel good that we went an entire week without grocery shopping. This may not be a huge accomplishment for other families, but for us it was something to be proud of. Keep in mind that we didn’t deliberately stock up for this experiment.

Alas, my husband bought ice-cream and a marionberry pie for our Saturday dessert night. So I guess our challenge has officially ended. However, I am going to continue to work hard to eat up what’s still lingering about in the fridge.

Now if I can only do a Waste No Toilet Paper challenge. (Please send your toilet paper tubes to Katy, c/o The Non-Consumer Advocate.)

For more information about the issues of food waste, make sure to check out Jonathan Bloom’s Wasted Food website.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Tracey Smith August 24, 2008 at 4:35 am

Hi Katy – this really ‘is’ my kinda blog!

How lovely to see you encouraging re-use of food. We waste far too much of the stuff, terrifying amounts in fact and it was perpetuated by cooking being removed from the school curriculum – thankfully, this have been readdressed and reintroduced, however, it needs to be in primary schools as a standard lesson, not a cookery club!

This way, we can teach parents from the children upwards – particularly those who’ve been seduced by the supermarket culture and cheap, pre-packed nummies. I’m a girl on a very tight budget with a family to feed and it’s such a buzz to pick up a tip from a friend on preserving and storing abundant foods and making the most from our fridges and leftovers, not to mention taking advantage of what Mother Nature gives up for free in our hedgerows and gardens!

Enough from me! I’m going to have a trawl around on here and I look forward to hearing from someone who’s clearly singing from the same book as me!



Tracey Smith August 24, 2008 at 4:36 am

…another note, really sorry, but I forgot to say, I’ve put up a recipe on my blog for ‘Rubbish Flatbreads’…do take a peek!



CanadianKate August 24, 2008 at 5:00 am

“It was very relaxing to know all I had to do was head straight for the dairy section, without the whole what else should I buy?”

For me, that was one of the biggest changes from the Compact. I never liked shopping much, but once relieved of it by the Compact, I suddenly found I disliked grocery shopping as well and would plan to be in and out as fast as I could.

I live rurally, and changed my shopping habits by switching to the closest two stores only (instead of doing a weekly run into the nearest suburbia to hit all the major stores.)

I also started going out at least twice a week, buying only 2 – 3 days of food at a time. We travel up to 50% of the time and my son works next to a grocery store so there was no need to keep the house stocked up.

Suddenly, the sales no longer mattered. I’d write up my grocery list, then read the flyer when I got to the store and add any loss-leaders to my list. It cut grocery shopping time dramatically (both from the driving point of view and the time in the store).

After over a year, I need to go over my pantry cupboard and make sure I have minimal food stocked in case of disaster. There are many items in that pantry that are over 2 years old. Some came from my father’s house and he died in 2003. So when you say you have too much food in the house, I have no problem believing you!

In my analysis of the financial effects of my first year on the Compact, my gasoline purchases decreased by $200, directly traceable to not driving to stores. I spent less eating out as well (actually, that number was a surprise and probably due to ds not eating out with us as much due to his work/school schedule) but I did spend 1/3 more on groceries. I’m assuming some of this is more expensive choices (buying local sources, pure fruit juice vs. pop, bakery bread vs. mass produced, way more fruit, more expensive oils and we learned what beef tenderloin tastes like and have switched), part due to higher prices, and part due to not getting the all the sales. Looking at the numbers, and considering we are away on an expense account 30 – 50% of the time, our food bill is pretty high.

Anyway, there’s some more ‘food for thought’ on your meal planning experience.

Oh, and I keep premade tart shells in my freezer. They are great for making up little tarts for when I want a dessert (meals here don’t include a dessert 95% of the time), need to use up fresh fruit, or need to pull a dessert out of a hat for unexpected guests. Maybe you can add that to your dessert night inventory.


Melissa August 24, 2008 at 6:20 am

Our family became much more reluctant to waste food when several years ago we put effort into either buying locally or raising our own. I have made it sort of an unofficial goal to visit the inside of supermarket as little as possible. I’ve actually become unaccustomed to seeing food wrapped in packaging of any kind. It’s hard to pitch any part of chicken or tomato salad that was spawned, raised and prepared by your own efforts or the efforts of a neighbor. The supermarket experience has blinded us to our food sources and food quality in the name of convenience, but that’s a whole other topic.

Just an aside – I wanted to respond to the nasty comment you got about your living room not being green enough as it caused me to think more deeply on the subject. There are two approachs to being a non-consumer. One is born of a mindset of poverty in which one sacrifices beauty and pleasure because one is “suffering for the cause” or “sticking it to the man” (i.e. I will use trash-picked lawn chairs and a rabbit ear TV as living room furniture so I can make a break for it when the landlord comes looking for this month’s rent.) The other is a mindset of true wealth which develops from sense of appreciation for what has true worth and enduring value. You are certainly an advocate for the latter.


Andy August 24, 2008 at 8:50 am

This past winter I had nearly 200 pounds of local food stored up that I used mostly for lunch soups. It meant that I bought 1/3 less over winter, and often went a few weeks between buying food.


Kristen August 24, 2008 at 12:28 pm

I hear you on the husband and kids…I’m far more flexible when it comes to deciding what constitutes a real dinner(I could eat pasta and vegetables and be fine…them not so much!), and I think I’d be less prone to wasting food.

Then again, children are ever so useful for eating up bits of crackers and cereal and bread.


drcorner August 24, 2008 at 2:49 pm

My Aunt the same way, when her kids used to live their (they’ve since started their own families and moved out), the fridge would STILL remain packed with food…many of which would end up spoiling. I try not too overstock with stuff from the supermarket, but at the same time being a guy, I also hate to go shopping a lot…so, I make sure I have enough for at least 1-2 weeks.

Also, whatever you can’t eat you can always donate to local charities/food-drives.


Mrs Green August 25, 2008 at 1:24 am

Another wonderful post – really inspiring. I love all your ideas for not buying food for a week and you’ve done brilliantly. Well done you!
Thanks for sharing all your great ideas- I can’t believe a week has passed already!


BohoBelle August 25, 2008 at 4:22 pm

I’ve been doing the same this week.

Rescued a pumpkin that was half moldy and have been attacking the garden (caulis and spinach) with more force than usual.

It’s been…. interesting.

Canadian Kate – thanks for your great post.


Kathy August 26, 2008 at 7:28 am

Kathy the Childless Houseguest Here!

In my defense, I would like to state that in support of the whole Buy No Food thing, I, by choice, ate a whole serving of some rather slimy garbanzo beans out of Katy’s fridge without complaint.

For breakfast.

I live to serve…


thenonconsumeradvocate September 2, 2008 at 1:38 am

In response to Kathy’s comment:

She helped herself to the slimy garbonzo beans. I had cereal, bread, eggs available.


-Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


Lucy August 31, 2011 at 4:09 pm

“a mindset of true wealth which develops from sense of appreciation for what has true worth and enduring value”

~there is worthy goal!


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