The past 3 years have been hard on a lot of people as we have all felt the effects of a recession. I read newspapers and I watch news programs. I even listen to the farm report every morning. From listening to all of this information it was easy to come to the conclusion that we will not be out of the woods for a long time. The economy is recovering, but slowly. In our area we are hearing of new lay offs and cut backs in hours for workers. These are businesses related to the housing industry.
There is one thing I learned from my dad when his company would go on strike or he would be laid off for a period of time and that is not to give in to your circumstances and there was always something you could do. A lot of what you could do was tied to what you had already done – planned ahead to prepare for the lean times. My parents would buy a side of beef or hog and stock the freezer with meat. They had a garden and everything was canned or frozen for the winter.
I have taken that philosophy of preparing for lean times and adapted it to my own life. I don’t buy a side of beef or a hog, but I do purchase meat in bulk when it goes on sale. I don’t have a garden, but I do purchase frozen fruits and vegetables along with their canned variety when the prices are very low. I purchase fresh fruits and process them into jams and jellies.
I began seriously stockpiling about 9 months ago and I have been conscientious about using the food from my freezer and pantry. It has been a goal of mine to have a 4 month supply of food on hand and to maintain it. I have done that. In August I decided to change that goal to a 6 month supply of food and to maintain that. I use what I have on hand and replenish those items when the sales roll around. In working up to having a minimum 6 month supply on hand at all times, I have to be sure to rotate the food so nothing expires before I can use it. For example, I like to keep on hand about 20 cans of tomato soup at a time. Right now I have 15 cans. I use this to make my own salad dressings and I use it in recipes. 20 cans is usually a 6 month supply. However, tomato soup is always on sale now through Christmas, so if I can continue to get it for 25 cents or less, I will work towards a 6 month as long as the expiration dates go beyond that.
Since most canned goods do not expire for two years or more, I have been able to maintain an 18 month supply of certain items.
In the past two months our grocery stores have had a lot of loss leader sales on meat and cheese that have enticed people into their stores. I was able to purchase chicken hind quarters for 39 cents a lb. which I would cut into thigh and drumstick pieces that would normally sell for 99 cents a lb. on sale. Shredded cheese went on sale for $1.00 for an 8 oz. package. Hamburger ranged in price from $1.38 lb. to $1.73 lb. depending on the amount of fat. Good quality ground turkey was on sale for 99 cents a lb, and sirloin tip steak was at the low price of $1.50 a lb. Chuck roast went on sale for $2.25 a lb., boneless ham was 99 cents lb. and cuts of boneless pork were $1.50 lb. and sometimes even less. Yes, there were grocery price wars in our little community and because I knew my prices, I snagged some great deals and stocked up.
One other item went on sale in August and September that totally blew me away. It was spaghetti sauce. I was able to get name brand spaghetti sauce for between 50 cents and 60 cents a jar. Pasta was on sale also for as low as 50 cents a lb. Since I cook meals for people in our church, I usually make a pasta casserole and these are the key ingredients along with mozzarella cheese.
As far as non food items, I hit upon some deals on name brand laundry detergent that brought the price down to about $1.50 for a 32 load size. I use this when I don’t have time to make my own. I have plenty of dish soap and dishwasher detergent along with laundry items also.
And then the sale of all sales – Ziploc plastic food bags and containers. I was able to get ziploc bags anywhere from 7 cents a box to 25 cents a box depending on the sales and the coupons I had. I use these bags along with the Ziploc containers to transport food that I prepare for people in our church who are sick or recovering from surgery.
Over the past few months there were lost leader sales on deodorant for $1.00 or less and I usually had 50 cent or $1.00 off coupons and I found some great sales on 12 double rolls of toilet paper for $4.75.
In maintaining a large supply of food, it takes a small amount of work to organize and label cans with expiration dates so that food is used up before it expires. I keep ongoing lists of what is in my pantry and freezer and I post these lists so that I can simply mark off what I have used and I can add to this list when I make purchases. As long as I keep this up as I go, it doesn’t take a lot of time.
Right now I am low on items such as vegetable oil, vinegar and whole wheat flour. At this time of year I always stock up on baking supplies and I will continue to purchase flour and sugar over the next several weeks when they are at their lowest prices for the year. The only other two items I stock up on in November and December are turkeys and hams.
Now is the time for me to reap the benefit of my home food supply. Even though I am not quite at a 6 months' food supply, we are in need of some extra cash. Christmas is coming, we purchased a shed, we have had car repair bills and Senior pictures were expensive. I am certain that our furnace may need some work on it also.
We will be eating from what I have on hand for the next few months and it will be interesting to see how quickly items get used up. Many items that I have in my pantry such as canned tomato products and vegetables have expiration dates of 2012 and 2013. When you look at my list (I will be posting it very soon) and see 30 or more cans of something, keep in mind that they will not expire for a few years and the reason I have a considerable sum of one item is that I purchased those cans at an absolute bargain price.
This week we will begin to eat from the freezer and pantry and while I don’t have a rigid goal of how long to do this, I want to get my freezer down to half of what is in it now. After all you can’t just toss stuff into a freezer and freeze it for eternity. The same is true for the pantry. You can’t just buy stuff, label it and put it on a shelf and never use it. I will need to purchase dairy products and fresh produce each week.
When my freezer is at least half empty, I will evaluate the money that we saved and will start to look at any sales and determine if the sales are good enough to start rebuilding my supply or I will get it down lower before I stock up again.
It has taken several months for me to build up my pantry and freezer to where it is now. In the beginning I would buy 5 cans of something when there was a sale and then when the next sale came along I would increase to buying 10 cans. I have entered all of my grocery receipts into an Excel spreadsheet and I not only know how much I paid for an item such as hamburger, I know when some items such as flour and sugar are on sale at their lowest price of the year (during the holidays).
So this has been my journey. It is definitely not for everyone and it can be overwhelming for some. I do it because I enjoy tracking prices and finding good deals. I also enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that if anything should happen, we have plenty of food on hand to feed us while directing money not being spent on groceries towards an emergency money need.
I have posted the contents of my food supply as of today, October 27, 2010.