It's time to kick things up a notch! The Shelftember challenge is one of our favorites, and it's about to become yours, too… Not to mention we've got a fun surprise in store that will make your shelf cooking dreams come true!

Jordan pouring oil into a pan, from Shelf Cooking

It's that time again… September is here, and that means it's time for our Shelftember challenge! This will be our sixth year to host this challenge and we're so. stinkin'. excited! You know we love to make the most of our time in the kitchen without spending an arm and a leg. That's why make-ahead breakfasts and leftovers are our jam.

*Note: When you click the links in this post, we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

For the month of September, we're going to focus hard on shopping our fridge, freezer, and pantry FIRST! Time to clean out the very back of those shelves, get creative in the kitchen, and save our wallets BIG this month. Are you ready to rock this with us?!


Hand writing on weekly meal planner printable, from Shelf Cooking

As seasoned shelf cookers, you should already be accustomed to meal planning around your kitchen inventory and merely supplementing with items from the store. You should be working off a grocery budget of roughly $100/person/month, starting at $300/month. (Which, if you don't know, includes all consumables, not just food.) This really helps cut down on your grocery budget and drastically reduces the amount of food waste!

This last year we've all seen inflation do a number on our grocery budgets, so if you are finding your monthly budget is more like $125/person/month, don't fret! We're all feeling the pinch and doing our best, which is why we love budgeting and keeping our habits in check with the Shelftember challenge.

(Pssst… If you have no clue what we're talking about, read what shelf cooking is HERE! This will start you off on the right foot. Then come back here and pick back up where you left off when you're done!)

This Shelftember challenge takes what you're already doing and pushes it one step further. It's all about resetting our habits! Your budget is going to get even tighter and you're really going to be able to save some money and your shelves are going to be a whole lot cleaner! This is a great way to use up some of that older stuff that gets pushed to the back so it doesn't go to waste. Ready for the deets?


For the month of September, your grocery budget is $30/week for the whole family. Yes, that is probably much lower than you're used to, even if you're sticking to our recommended grocery budget. If we can do this with a family of 10, then so can you! If that's absolutely impossible for your family, then you can increase the budget by $5-10, but don't go over $50/week (otherwise it's not really a challenge). We highly recommend trying to keep it as low as possible!

Since it may be hard to stick to this Shelftember challenge budget, it may be a good idea for you to take $30 cash out before heading to the store! Leave your credit cards in the car so there's no temptation to go over the budget.

You can also do grocery pickup if that's up your alley! This makes hitting that $30/week budget simple since you can easily see how much your total will be as you're adding items to your cart.

Pro Tip: If your store has a higher limit than $30 for pickup, you can still use the app to keep your budget in check! Add everything to your cart that's on your grocery list before heading to the store to see if you'll be coming in under budget. If it's over, then you know to adjust until you get it to $30!


Hands adding leftovers to a tortilla on a sheet pan, from Shelf Cooking

Alright, so you may be thinking that we're just plain CRAZY for even suggesting this! But stick with us for a minute… Here are just a few of our top reasons for doing the Shelftember challenge:

Need a little more help? No worries, we've got your back!


Inventory and grocery list printables on a counter, from Shelf Cooking

We created a special meal planning sheet just for YOU! We want to help you be successful this month as you join the #Shelftember challenge. After doing your initial kitchen inventory, use this printable to help you break down what you'll be using each week, plan your meals, and add any supplemental ingredients that you're missing to your shopping list.

Each week you should only need to grab basic groceries like bread, milk, eggs, maybe some fruits and veggies, and the rare missing ingredient (up to $25, of course)! If you can't fit it in the budget, see if you can find something in your fridge or pantry to substitute. (Check out all of our substitution posts HERE!)



Still a little apprehensive about how to make this all work? We get it! That's why we've developed the best, most amazing resource for becoming a shelf cooking ninja…AND we've recently enhanced it with new features!

Friends, you will not want to miss out on the Shelf Cooking Subscription Meal Plan! We take all of the best shelf cooking principles and use them to create a carefully curated weekly meal plan full of delicious recipes, delivered right to your inbox.

Not only that, with our new and improved version, you can input the ingredients you have on hand that need to be used and build a custom meal plan using the ingredients that YOU want to use!! OH. EM. GEEEEE!!!! Seriously, it's a shelf cooking dream come true!

And would you believe it that this new feature doesn't cost extra?! It's true! You can try out the meal plan for 7 days for only $1, and then pay less than $10 a month for this AMAZING tool. Life. Changing!

Shelftember may be challenging, but you can do it and it'll be so worth it! Let us know your wins in the comments below!

Looking for more ideas to help you with the Shelftember challenge?

Good luck and happy shelf cooking!