Frugal Living: Stockpiling to Save Money and Prepare for Disaster
We Were Caught up in the Boom
I was raised living frugally, we never went hungry, but money was always tight and my mom knew how to stretch a dollar. She always shopped the sales, and would buy only what was on sale at each store. My mom also kept a stockpile to save money on food.
In the late 90s my husband and I bought a house. We both had pretty good paying jobs and as real estate values escalated, like a lot of people, we were feeling pretty prosperous. Our spending habits reflected our new attitude and we were living "high on the hog" as my grandma used to say.
Now that our house is worth maybe a third of what it once was, and our income and net worth have fallen with the fortunes of the country, we have rediscovered our frugal ways. One thing that was easy for us to cut back on was the cost of food. We don't eat any less now, in fact we probably eat better than we did before, but we're spending 1/3 or less of what we were spending before on food.
Eating Out is Expensive!
Live Frugally, Eat at Home
The most obvious way to save money on food is to stop eating at restaurants. We used to have a nice dinner out at least once a week, and anytime we felt hungry when we were away from home, hey just stop somewhere for a bite. We have cut way back on eating out, and that goes for that morning cup of coffee at Starbucks too. I take my lunch to work, no more lunchroom vending machines either, that $1.50 a day doesn't seem like much, but it really adds up.
A High Cabinet in the Garage Keeps Supplies Safe
When an Item is on Sale Stock Up
Buying canned food and dry goods when they're on sale can really save you money. Many items are discounted on a six week cycle, so if you buy six weeks worth when it's on sale, you will never pay full-price!
When you see an item you know you're going to use, and it's significantly discounted, why not buy a case of it instead of a just a few cans? After all, you're not going to stop eating are you?
- Make sure the foods you stock up on are things you like and consume regularly.
- If you don't have a big chunk of money to spend, start small and stock up on one item at each shopping trip.
- Shop at discount stores like Sam's Club, Costco, and Winco. Make sure to check the prices though, to make sure you're really getting a bargain.
- Make sure to use the oldest stuff first. Even canned goods don't last forever.
- Don't go overboard on items like crackers and cereal, a couple of extra boxes is enough. Those things tend to get stale if you keep them around too long.
Having a Stockpile is Convenient
Another upside to stockpiling is that it reduces those extra trips to the store to get some missing ingredient. It's so handy to just go out to the garage, basement or whatever. Besides, it saves on fuel.
I think a six month supply is a pretty good goal to shoot for. You will soon see which items move off your shelves quickly and which need to be restocked less often. Once your stockpile is in place you will be pleased to see how little you have to spend on your regular shopping trips.
Make sure you store your extra food in a cool, dry place. Some sturdy shelving will come in handy. Cans are pretty safe in the garage, but your dry goods are probably better off in the house. If you must store some of them in the garage, make sure they are secure as they can attract pests. Large plastic tubs with lids can help protect your supplies from moisture and are easy to stack.
Here are some of the items I like to keep in my stockpile
Rice, Beans, Pasta, Crackers
Coffee, Tea Bags
Beef, Chicken, Corned Beef, Tuna
Soup, Chicken Broth
Green Beans, Peas, Mushrooms
Tomatoes, Tomato Sauce,
Chili, Pork and Beans
Fruit Cocktail, Peaches, Pineapple
Bottles and Jars
Peanut Butter, Jam
Catchup, Mayonnaise, Salad Dressing
Don't Underestimate the Value of an Emergency Food Supply
In our area we often have extended power outages in the winter. Having a good supply of food on hand can be a great advantage during a power failure or disaster situation. Even if you don't want to have a big stockpile like mine, I think it's a good idea to keep a pantry stocked with a couple of weeks worth of food.
Some Thoughts About Couponing
Coupons are very popular these days, I myself have not caught the bug, but I know people who have who do quite well with them. It seems like you have to put in a lot of effort, but if you're willing you can get some great deals.
The only thing I notice is that couponers sometimes will buy something like 5 years worth of body wash just because they have a great coupon. If you weren't going to buy it anyway, you really aren't saving any money, also it is taking up valuable real estate in your stockpile. Be careful about stocking up too much on lotion, the oils in it go rancid after a while and it starts to smell funny.
Grow Your Own Food
Even if you don't have much land, it is usually possible to grow at least some of your own food. Where I live the growing season is short, and the soil is poor, but still each summer we grow more tomatoes than we can possibly ever eat. It doesn't take much space, time or energy, and the tomatoes are so much better than those pale flavorless things you get in the supermarket.
Home Grown Tomatoes, Flavor Money Can't Buy
Freeze and Can
If you keep it well stocked, buying a freezer is well worth the price, and it will soon pay for itself. It is usually a lot cheaper to buy meat in a larger quantity and then break it down into smaller packages for freezing.
My husband makes a killer spaghetti sauce, and he likes to make 5 gallons at a time in one of those electric turkey roasters. He freezes it in packages just big enough for a dinner with a vacuum sealer. It's April now, and we are still eating spaghetti sauce made from our tomatoes we grew last summer! It's great for lasagna too.
Canning is not as Hard as you Think!
There was a time when I thought canning was out of the question, it just seemed like too much work and I didn't have the time or interest to do it. But with all the fresh tomatoes we have as fall approaches, after we have eaten our fill of the fresh ones, it seemed a shame to let them rot on the ground.
I have always made big batches of fresh salsa in the summer time. It's a big hit with my friends and family. So I started small with canning some salsa. It was kind of addicting, it wasn't as hard as I had imagined, and it made me so happy seeing my pretty little jars on the shelf. Then I started canning the whole tomatoes. They taste just as much better than the store bought ones as the fresh tomatoes do.
Home Canned Tomatoes
Cook From Scratch
For a while there, I was in the habit of buying lots of convenience foods that seemed like time savers. But I have rediscovered cooking from scratch. It doesn't have to be labor intensive or time consuming. There are plenty of simple dishes you can make that don't take any more time than a box of Hamburger Helper, and they taste better and are better for you.
In some ways our lives have improved since we have been paying more attention to how we spend. My husband has actually become interested in shopping, and even cooking. He loves chasing a deal and can't resist bragging about the bargains he finds, which is fine with me.
© 2012 Sherry Hewins