What is shelf cooking?? (+ how it will cut your grocery bill in HALF!)

This is GENIUS! Why have I never thought of this before?? Super helpful video and awesome month-long challenge!

Freebs…pause the DVR, text your mama, and grab a snack…

A trend is coming.

Over the last few years, I have had an overwhelming amount of people ask for more and more details on how I shop for, cook for, and feed my family (of 7) on a budget. For a long time I've wondered why my “method” of cooking isn't highlighted or talked about more; why it isn't more common, nor common sense. I've come to realize over time that most people cook based on the recipe they want to make, which is backwards in my opinion.

I finally decided to step up and declare to the world, not only a name for this “new” way of cooking, but I'm issuing a challenge to everyone reading this to give it a try for yourselves!

I now introduce to you…

Shelf Cooking.


Shelf cooking is making homemade, balanced, and nutritious meals for your family, starting FIRST with ingredients you already have on-hand from your fridge, freezer, and pantry, then supplementing with fresh/new items from the store….not the other way around.

Sure, I'm guessing many of you are rolling your eyes saying “um…Jord, this sounds totally lame, and not new or exciting at all. Pretty much everyone does this.” *said like a valley girl, duh.*

Au contraire, my little dear!

Believe it or not, if you are a natural shelf-cooker and cook FIRST using ingredients from your pantry, fridge, and freezer BEFORE running to the store, you are a treasured minority. And a rockstar one at that.

From my years of blogging, TV segments, YouTube, public speaking and classes, one-on-one consulting, working with families, couples, and groups, and dogs (I threw that one in to see if you were really listening), I can soundly say that it is NOT common to cook this way.

Most American families, when they do cook or meal-plan at all, pick a recipe off of Pinterest or the web, buy the ingredients they need from the store, cook the meal (sometimes), then let the leftovers go to waste after a few days, OR, they toss the leftovers out from the start because they “aren't leftovers people”.

Hmm. It's a wonder most Americans are in debt and struggle to afford the lifestyle they want…

Could it be, could it POSSIBLY be, that we've been cooking wrong all along? Could it be that the method most Americans (and even families across the globe) use to feed their families, is costing them more than it should?

If you haven't picked up on the massive hints I've been dropping yet, then let me spell it out for you…yes. Yes it does mean just that.

10 times out of 10 the families I work with are spending more than they should on groceries, aren't using the food they already have on-hand to their full potential, and/or they are letting an incredible amount of food go to waste.

Well, I say NO MORE, FREEBS! It's time for a revolution!

*Picture me waving a gold sparkly banner of some kind. Likely with tassels on it.*

Today I'm going to *hopefully* change the way you look at your food, and change your food budget for the rest of your life.

Here's a video that explains not only the concept and purpose for shelf cooking, but tons of tips for making it successful for you, and also all about the Shelf Cook September challenge that you should all be part of!

Watch the video below or watch here online then come back here for even more info on the challenge:

Are you pumped for this challenge or WHAT?! It's going to be amazing!

I know that was a lot of information to take in via video, so here's the Cliffnotes version for quick reference:

  • NOTE THE NEW HASHTAG!! After filming and posting this video, you Freebs came up with a way better hashy so it's now #Shelftember! Use it and love it, folks!
  • Shelf cooking is a new phrase I'm coining. Yes, you are helping me start a trend! It describes the frugal method of basing your meals primarily around ingredients you have on-hand and supplementing with ingredients from the store, rather than the other way around. Yes, you can cook healthy, balanced, nutritious meals this way! Yes folks, you've heard it here first! woo hoo! Such trend-setters!
  • For the entire month of September I'm challenging all of us to take the #Shelftember challenge. I'm pledging to feed my family on just $25/week in fresh groceries, and otherwise make our meals based around what I have on-hand!
  • I understand that $25 is very tight for some. I want this to be hard, but realistic. If you absolutely can't do $25/week, feel free to go up to $50 – BUT – do not exceed $50!
  • Shelf cooking is extra challenging if you don't have a freezer, so I highly recommend you get an extra one. Put it in your garage, basement, closet, guest room, get creative! Watch the video above for TONS of ideas.
  • Keep tabs on this blog, my YouTube channel, Facebook, and especially Instagram. I will be sharing DAILY tips about how we are making this challenge manageable.
  • Have absolutely NO food in your freezer, pantry, or fridge? We need to chat. Because I don't believe you ;). Or, maybe it's true, and you just don't like to eat. Either way, you need Mama J's help! Watch closely all month long and get excited for Stocktober.

Seriously guys, are you so excited or what??

This is GENIUS! Why have I never thought of this before?? Super helpful video and awesome month-long challenge!

You in?? Let's do this!!

(And come back excited for Stocktober next month ;))

Happy shelf cooking!


  1. So how many posts are we required to do on social media? ? Because I’m not a huge poster of pics but I will do at least one to get entered!

    • Just do what you can! As long as you use the #Shelftember hashtag and tag me so I can see it, you’re entered!

  2. I’ve been following for 2 weeks (well binging past vlogs). I’m excited about #shelfcookseptember even though my husband does most of our cookong. Have a few frozen meals in freezer and not a ton in fridge or pantry. Ready to feed my family of 4, but thinking we might be in the $50/week range as i know we are about to run out of necessities as well as diapers, dog food, and kitty litter. For the past 2 weeks, we did decent $115 the first week and $105 last week on groceries.

  3. This is so great! We were already planning on doing a “pantry challenge” for September, but I now realize that this needs to be a way of life always, rather than something you just do once a year. So excited to start this challenge!

  4. This is awesome! I have my sisters (4) joining this challenge; even my husband!!! This is more exciting than the finale of GOT!!!

  5. We are in! Our pantry , canning shelves and freezer are almost overstocked. Some of the food is “vintage”, jelly from 2009! Ready to shelf cook.

  6. I downloaded the pantry and freezer inventory sheets today. I also downloaded the meal plans to help ensure I start planning meals and use up all leftovers or freeze them. Also just purchased the vacuum sealer as we buy large quantities of meat from Costco and repackage into meal sizes – trying to keep meat at $5 per person per meal and use leftovers at lunch the next day.

  7. This is awesome I’m totally going to try this this month! We just moved into our new home and things are going to be tight till the end of November so I’m excited to start doing this! Jordan you’re amazing!

  8. So want to give this a try! #shelftember I already do some shelf cooking when I want to clean out what is in my Fridge or Freezer. I am all about not wasting food, that you worked hard for. My problem is coming up with new recipes to try. Sometimes we get stuck in a food rut and I don’t feel like making anything. I have taken Dave Ramsey Financial Peace course (for Free!) So I am all about saving money and getting our debit paid down! Would love to take your Budget boot camp to see what ideas you offer, to see what would work for me. Of course I would love to do this for FREE 🙂

  9. we are totally doing this! we are going to limit our spending to 40 a week. produce and keto diet eating can be spendy, but I am going to be creative 🙂 I would like to put the extra money on our credit card debt I am working to pay off

  10. I am SO excited for this because we were just talking other day how we need to use what we have in stock before we buy food and waste money. This could not have come at a more better time for our family! Thank you for the positive encouragement and motivation and to make it even more enticing a chance to win a freezer! Another thing that’s Been on the list of something I’ve wanted forever! Thank you!!!

  11. I am so excited about this. I am pretty good at stocking my freezer…slight hoarding tendencies maybe… But I am not good at using it! So here we go. What an awesome idea!! Thanks for the kick in the shorts I needed!! Maybe now my husband will let me buy a used fridge/freezer to keep in the garage. That man loves to fish. Half my freezer is salmon!

  12. You’re timing is perfect! My husband and I just made the same decision when we couldn’t fit all of our last Costco haul in the freezer! We decided to make September just what you describe for Shelftember! We will be eating out of our freezers and pantry and only buying what is really needed to fill in the fresh stuff. So count us in! (We really do have enough food in our freezers in case the zombies attack!)

  13. Thought!
    #stocktober (how to stock your pantry, fridge and freezer properly so that you are NOT running to the store every other day?

  14. I am totally stoked for this challenge. I have been wanting to do this forever but wasn’t sure how to go about it. Thank you for the help.

  15. I have been doing this for years without putting such a small cap on how much I spend weekly. This will be fun!

  16. Jordan- is there an option to post things on your site for the free freezer giveaway for people, like myself, who do not have facebook or instagram? I know its unreal but I absolutely do function well!!!!

    Thanks! So excited for this month!!

    • Yes! Let me talk to my team, maybe we will do a second giveaway in conjunction with the social media posts. Just keep commenting and doing what you can and stay tuned!

  17. SUPER EXCITED. I need this in my life in a gigantic way. I spent at least double what you recommend on groceries and while we don’t throw a ton away, I do have lots and lots in storage that needs to be used!!


  18. Hi Jordan,
    Looks like you and The family are having fun that’s great what a great experience my parents took me all over the United States camping and I’ll never forget that great bonding time with the family now I’m the lady that told you about giving the children at Christmas time three gifts just like Jesus got three gifts I want to let you know I know you don’t have a microwave there while you’re camping but when you get home take a potato or sweet potatoes peel them get some freezer wrap paper put them in the freezer wrap paper however many you want with them in the microwave potato when you’re done with that because your phone open it because it’s really hot water steam take your potato your sweet potato for a little bit of olive oil or whatever kind of oil you like then get your barbecue ready and grill those potatoes they are awesome tasting something my husband made up when we were coming up with new ideas on how to make different kinds of food but whenever we serve them to my family and friends they love them it’s always a hit got bless you guys have a great Sunday and happy Labor Day Warm god

  19. I have been binge watching your youtube videos for a couple of weeks and have enjoyed them. I have tried shelf cooking for a week before, but never a whole month! I am so excited to get it done! Today (Sunday, Sept 3) is my first day. Now it tag the use of the extra funds! Good luck everyone!

  20. Giiiirl, thats exactly it! They dont teach this stuff anymore to kids in school. My grocery list starts with pinterest ideas, BUT then its to the pantry and freezer to see what i have for it OR what can i make from the leftovers, no way im buying all the ingredients. I amaze myself with leftovers, hahaha.

  21. Eep! I am so stoked to rock the #Shlftember hizzouse! I have celiac disease so this may be extra challenging, but I’m always up for a good challenge. Thanks for this awesome idea! My husband also says thank you because, well, he’s a fan of the money saving?

  22. I’m a little late, but am excited to do this! I was all set to do $25 a week until I did an inventory of my fridge, pantry and freezer. I’m so mad at myself for all the expired food that I had to throw out. We’ll start with $50 a week and try to get lower as we go. Thanks for the inspiration!

  23. I think this is a great idea! I will be trying to do this with you as well. I had Achilles surgery and couldn’t walk for months so I did this method (kind of) while I was recovering. Because going into the store wasn’t an option. And I would have others (husband, kids, friends) go for me only if it was necessary. To be honest it wasn’t really that difficult. My freezer and shelves got deprecated but in the last month I’ve stocked up again! My father in law has a garden and he’s been giving me free veggies this month! ((LUCKY))

  24. #shelftember sounds amazing! Especially after all of the back to school shopping we did last month. I brought up a no spend month to hubby and he looked terrified. I can’t wait to see what shocktober is about.

    I just made up a master meal list so that way I could match up ingredients I have to the meals on my list. Plus it helps to meal plan when you’re in a rut. I also like the theme night ideas like soup night, casserole night, Italian night etc.

  25. Just started following you right before the #shelftember challenge. I am a mom of 5 with 3 still at home which I homeschool, so we decided to make this a school project. We took stock of everything we had on hand and made a menu plan and have stuck with our 25.00 week budget. We have had so much fun cooking together and coming up with new recipes for what we have on hand. My kids and I are having so much fun doing this together. Thanks for the inspiration!!

  26. so i am a student and i live with my boyfriend and my brothers and yes i am the only cook, and i am happy to say that i enjoy cooking very much but i have gained so much weight living with them urg!!! i started #shelftemberchallenge and lord i did lose weight i lost 15 pounds and also save money thanks Jordan!!!!! i also got a cook book that guided me as part of my journey, you can get yours too just click the link below and yes it is affordable https://tinyurl.com/y7ere3th

  27. I have been enjoying your blog and youtube a lot lately but man, the food budget seems totally insane to me. I cook vegetarian, all home cooked and organic for my family of three and I would never buy most of the things in a regular grocery store. We live in a small town with very few options for “budget” groceries unless I drive an hour or more which I just won’t do. I am struggling to get our food budget to under $1,000 a month!! And we live on my salary alone, working part time, so it is not like we are rich and spending that much money on food. Food is just our #1 priority as far as budget goes, which I know is very uncommon in our hotdog-loving culture. Americans tend to prefer to skimp on healthy food and pay for it later in health care costs! Anyway I really enjoy your site and I think that I can use your tips but I am going to make my own budget!

  28. If I am putting my oven on to cook something, I try and find something else to cook so as not to waste energy and time. I made 2 homemade pies, some bread rolls and a cake the other night. This was mainly because 1: the oven was going on and 2: I had ingredients for all the other things.

  29. I love this concept sooo much! I hate wasting food, but unfortunately it happens…. however, now I’m more mindful of what I have on hand before running to the store for every little thing. This is life changing and wallet friendly!

  30. This is one I struggle with but I know I can do it! I just need to plan better and and really stick to buy one for now and 2 for later to help get me prepared for this.

  31. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you…. this is the best idea ever!!! I have continued using it each month. I was wasting so much food when I was stocking up and not finding ways to use it in a timely manner! Shelftember is the best!

  32. It is now Febr. 2018 and I am still doing this!! Also, love the comment from Jordan to buy 1 for now and 2 for later! I feel like I am always prepared. Thanks!

  33. I love this idea. This is a real “not your mama’s frugal” !! This helped me realized how much money i am wasting and how easy is it to save on food!! Love you guys ?

  34. I started following youngsters before Shelftember and this challenge was perfect for us! We live in a small-ish apartment and it was perfect to eat/clean out our pantry and storage and not buy quite as much at the grocery store as usual. Also, I realized I had some expired food.

  35. Shelftember was a blast for me! I’m currently living in my in-laws basement so my husband and I can some spend time paying off student loans. My mother in law doesn’t cook often but still keeps a lot of ingredients in the pantry. She didn’t mind at all that I used items that were getting close to expiration and it saved us money on groceries, too!

  36. I have really been trying hard to do this for the last few weeks and I can’t believe how much food I had on hand that I forgot about! ? Thanks for the tips!!

  37. I love the idea of shelf cooking. I have been working on that and I feel my budget is getting smaller because I feel like i am using what I have!

  38. I can’t thank you enough for this. I had just started falling you in August and as soon as you started this segment I knew I was hooked. Keeping our food budget low is necessary in our family right now and shelftember saved us! Its so simple and im mad i didn’t think of it myself!

  39. Yes! Shelf cooking is a game changer! When I’m intentional with my meal planning and freezing leftover food and even making extra meals to have stocked in the freezer, I save so much time and money.

  40. You have saved us so much money on take out by realising we do have more in the pantry/fridge/freezer and that we CAN make a meal out of it when we think we have nothing left in the house!

  41. We just moved into our forever home in November ‘17, it blew my mind how much stuff from my pantry was expired and had to throw out!! Reading this post/watching your video really brought into perspective on how I can truly utilize my pantry and freezer and not let things go to waste.

  42. This has changed the way I cook. Thanks for the challenge! I am now cooking from my pantry, instead of running to the store for every little thing.

  43. Thank you so much for this challenge! My mom always cooked like this and it was fun to see what she could throw together, but being the “organized” person that I am have been making elaborate lists and meals and have been spending way too much money on food! You have helped us cut our grocery bill by nearly 25% or more and you have shown me that we can still try new things while using what is on our shelves already.

  44. We did not participate in this during September but I utilized your teachings this month (Feb 2018) to not only have one week of shelf cooking but also one week of freezer cooking. It saved us $300 over a 2 week period and I immediately put the money saved into our savings. Best part? It doesn’t even look like we touched our shelves or our deep freezer so I am planning another 2 week “event” sometime in March as well, which will save us $300 again! I’m actually excited about it!

  45. I’ve been doing this for the week! I only spent $60 on groceries. I have little who eat lots of fresh ingredients so much less does t work. But woah! We saved so much! Thanks for the tip!

  46. Living in a one-bedroom apartment, we don’t have a large pantry or extra space for another freezer, but I still find myself using your term “shelf-cooking” when I force myself to use up items that I have had sitting in the freezer or pantry for a while (before they expire and get thrown away – waste of money). Looking forward to moving into a home and being able to stock pile food when sales are good and to really have the opportunity to “shelf-cook”! Thanks for the wonderful tips, Jordan!

  47. LOVED this shelf cooking challenge last time! I have a freezer full of possible meals and it’s time to save up for summer fun. So I’m going to do a shelf cooking challenge here for March! This is fabulous!
    What would I call that… Shelfmarch just doesn’t have the same ring as shelftember ???

  48. I need to try this sometime. I always find meat in the freezer that I have forgotten or things in the back of the pantry.

  49. I seriously wanted to do this last week and thought I was being so innovative haha! Going to try again this week!

  50. Shelftember was soooo challenging for me because I never kept much on hand but I started your one for now two for later concept and it happened quick and made me successful at shelftember which is now our new normal!!

  51. I loved watching you do this. Honestly I was too nervous to try it…i know that’s so silly! But I think I’ll try it on March!

  52. I started implementing one week a month when I don’t grocery shop. During that week I solely rely on shelf cooking. Thanks for helping me get more control over not just my finances, but also my life!

  53. Yeah, definitely would have never thought of this! And it totally does seem backwards lol. But hey, my trust in you is fairly unbreakable when it comes to this kind of stuff so I’m going to try it! (I feel like I say that I’m going to try everything you’ve ever posted about lol. Yes, you can call me you little minion! )

  54. So I totally cook like this ??❤️ Although to be honest it’s not because I’m trying to save food or be more efficient, it’s because I’m too darn lazy to go to the store. ?

  55. I’m super excited! I told my boyfriend and he is also excited! We been Binge watching your YouTube and just recently Instagram and love it. We want to be apart of this challenge and see how well we do! We are saving for a home of our own, as we do live on a reserve in Siksika but the houses are tiny and we want to build up enough money to purchase our own home to grow in and enjoy being home saving money. We are a family of four and your budget plan 400 per month literally was set out for us so we gave it a shot and we love it so far! Thanks and excited for this challenge ?

  56. You keep recommending that everyone get a freezer but what about people renting apartments? I have a family of 3 living in a small one bedroom apartment. I’m not quite sure how to get a stockpile of food going when I don’t have the space for it.

  57. I have LOVED all of your savings tips!! Thank you! Your ideas have helped us AND have been fun to try!

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