With the economy so fragile right now, even families who aren’t affected financially are feeling insecure. Will your favorite grocery store still be open next month? The small shop where you take your car for repairs? Is anybody really offering a sale these days, or are they just jacking up the price first, so they can offer you that “discount”? Now, more than ever, is a good time to get your budget under control, your finances in order, and stock your pantry.
I’m not a coupon clipper, although I’ve used one from time to time. Our store is no longer doubling coupons, and that’s where the real savings is, I’ve been told. If you clip coupons and it works for you, great! My system can help you save even more.
How to stock your pantry
It isn’t brilliant. It’s simple, really. Buy in bulk whenever something goes on sale. Stock up. If you can buy boneless skinless chicken breasts this month for $2 a pound, when it’s normally $3.50 a pound, then why only buy a couple of packages? Buy as many as the store will allow, and as many as will fit in your freezer (unless you plan on canning chicken, too.)
But whose got that kind of money? Maybe you will spend $4,800 or more on groceries this year, but not all at once. You probably designate a certain amount from every paycheck, and that only covers enough to feed your family until the next paycheck arrives.
So here’s a way to squeak out a little more food from that limited budget, so you can begin to stock up and save.
First, take a really good look at what you have on hand. If you couldn’t go to the grocery store, what could you find to eat right now? Is there a box of macaroni and cheese in the cupboard? Could you make pancakes or French toast? Potato soup? Maybe these first meals aren’t overly nutritious, but they should be filling.
Next, when you’ve figured out every meal possible with what you have on hand, then add a few groceries to round out those meals. Maybe some hot dogs to go with the mac & cheese, or syrup for the pancakes. And you only made five menus from your kitchen, so you’ll need to buy some foods for the last two days. But now you’ve pared your grocery list down to the barest minimum. You should have some of your grocery money left that you can spend on whatever is on sale – provided it is something you would normally eat anyway.
Where to shop
I don’t drive all over to get the best bargains. Gas is too expensive, and my time is valuable. But I will drive a little bit to shop at a discount store like Aldiz or Save-a-Lot. Then I finish up at my regular store for items that were not available elsewhere. Because I often shop with a two-year-old, I split up my grocery shopping over several days. My husband gets paid only once a month, so I really stock up on the days after payday. Then I save a little for the next three weeks to purchase the fresh foods that wouldn’t keep for a month.
How much you should buy
How much should you buy to stock up? As much as you can afford. Some people won’t do this, as they claim they ran out of space. But just because you buy food items doesn’t mean you have to keep them in the kitchen. Store extra bags of potatoes under the bed, or canned goods on a shelf in the hallway. Fill plastic bins with food stuffs, snap on the lid and spread a bright cloth over the top for an end table. Put up shelves in the basement or garage, or plan to build a root cellar next summer. With a little imagination, you can find a lot of places to store your hoard. Keep track of where everything is, and rotate your stock. When you buy new cans of vegetables, put them in the storage closet and bring the older cans into your kitchen.
What to put in your pantry
Your pantry, of course, is anywhere you find to put your food. Not every kitchen is blessed with one of those darling little rooms built just for food storage. What foods you stock up may be different from what I do, because your family has different tastes, and some foods keep better than others. But you should keep a supply of basic ingredients – things to cook or bake with – like flour, sugar or honey, salt, powdered milk (emergency milk!), pasta, rice, dried beans, canned goods, and frozen foods, if you have a freezer.
Below is my list. Go ahead and print off a copy, I’ll upload the list in a PDF file to make it simpler. But you will need to adjust the list to meet your needs. I’m cooking for a toddler, and my diabetic husband. So no sugar in my home. Only whole wheat products and molasses or honey in small amounts.
What we will eat in a month:
o 5 lbs. Chicken
o 3 lbs. pork
o 5 lbs. hamburger
o 5 lbs. fish
o 4 lbs. yellow cheese
o 4 lbs. mozzarella cheese
o 4 dozen eggs
o Abouth $90
Fresh Fruits &Vegetables
o 5 lbs. apples
o 2 lbs. oranges
o 1 lb. berries
o about $105.00
o 8 lbs. frozen vegetables
o 4 lbs. frozen fruits
o 2 lbs. frozen potatoes
o about $30
Once you start the stocking-up method of making your shopping list, it will get easier. You’ll have more meals in your kitchen, and you may be tempted not to go shopping at all. Of course, if you’re sick in bed with the flu, you should skip shopping. That’s a good reason why to be stocking up in the first place.
In a future article, I’ll discuss other methods of saving money in the kitchen. Until then, happy mealtimes to you!