Lots of folks have jumped on the preparedness bandwagon lately. The first step for many is to stockpile food. They will run out to the nearest big box store and come home with giant bags of rice, number 10 cans of pickles and cases of canned peas. I fear that much of the money spent will be wasted, especially if they don’t know how to store the rice, have no way to use up all those pickles and really hate canned peas. This is not the time to panic buy. It’s the time to make a food plan, stick to the plan and watch those pennies. I want to outline some of the mistakes we make when beginning a food storage plan and talk a bit about how to avoid them.
1. Know how you are going to store whatever you buy. Get the buckets before you get the 50 pound sack of wheat. Have the storage space before you buy the case lot.
2. Watch your unit price. The old adage of bigger being cheaper is no longer always true. Marketers are pulling out all the stops to get you to spend more money. Packages are smaller, pricing is all over the map, specials are not always the bargain they appear and coupons are a waste of money if they make you buy something you don’t want.
3. Don’t store what you can’t eat. Gluten intolerant people should not store wheat.
4. Don’t store what you won’t eat. I know you think that you’ll eat the canned string beans during the apocalypse but why not store something you actually like. I gave my canned green beans to the food pantry where someone who likes them can use them. I now only store those canned things I really like and use. I have lots of canned pineapple and mandarin oranges and very few canned vegetables except for corn and peas as my family will eat those in soups and chowders. I dry or home can or freeze the veges my family likes.
5. Make a price book. You don’t know a good buy unless you know the best price. It’s just too hard to keep track of the prices in all the places we can purchase food without a price book. I keep the prices for staples like peanut butter, concentrated juices and rice in my little book. When a true deal is out there I know it.
6. Eat the food. You may eat the 20-year-old can of salmon if you find yourself living the live from Earth Abides but otherwise, I don’t think so. Make salmon cakes a few times a month now. They’re easy and tasty and they’ll be familiar if you have to make them more often.
7. Keep an inventory. This is not always my strong suit. But without an inventory you may find yourself lacking some crucial ingredient. You need to know when to buy another sack of baking soda.
8. Get the right cookbooks. All of those glitzy cookbooks from the south of France are lots of fun but you need to know how to cook from storage. A basic cookbook and one devoted to storage food is a good spend.
8. Don’t be the only cook in the house. Take-out pizza is expensive. Teach your children and your spouse how to prepare simple meals from the pantry. Ten recipe cards with good step-by-step instructions should be on hand. Don’t forget breakfast and lunch and a few snack items.
9. Check out multiple sources for good deals. It takes a bit more time but you will probably have to shop at multiple locations. I use a co-op, farmer’s markets, our local grocery, a natural foods store and a big box store although I rarely go to a supermarket.
10. When you shop, keep a list. It’s so easy to get off track. I shop with a list to avoid the impulse buys. I never shop hungry and I leave younger kids at home. I try to shop when I’m not in a rush and I try to shop when I’m not exhausted.
Our dollars are getting harder to come by and it’s important to think of food buying as a part-time job. If you can save $20.00 a week, that;s like earning $30.00 dollars in tax-free income. Okay. I made that number up. I have no idea how much it really translates into but I do it’s tax-free earnings. One side note is that the price of energy is already making it harder to make ends meet. I talked to a friend and we’re going to start combining our shopping trips to cut down on our gas usage. The more I can purchase at my co=op, the fewer on-the-road miles my food will cost. The more I grow, the less I buy. The less I waste, the less I buy. The more I make from scratch, the less I spend. All of this also means less waste in the landfill.
PS. I will get to the comments later today. I read of them but sometimes the answers from other readers are better than what I can come up with. A big welcome to our new readers. We have lots. I hope you chime in often. I have so much to learn.