budget

Stockpiling Food on a Tight Budget

Have you ever seen a photo of a family sitting comfortably in their underground bunker with big smiles on their faces?

Their living space might be a tad cramped, but it looks like they have several years’ worth of non-perishable food and other items at their fingertips. Including every form of entertainment imaginable.

I’m guessing these families did not do their prepping on a tight budget. But some of us have to. I’ve heard plenty of people say, “I wish I could prepare for an emergency. Unfortunately, I can’t afford it. I live paycheck to paycheck.”

But proper budgeting would enable many of us to have at least a small amount of income available to prepare for an uncertain future. And it’s not like it all has to be done at once. It’s an ongoing process. Slow but steady progress will get the job done.

Look for long shelf lives

Today I want to talk about the importance of stockpiling healthy, nutritious food for an emergency. It doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to do this. There are some simple and inexpensive things we can do to get ready for a crisis.

Following an emergency, it’s likely the electrical grid will not be functioning properly. If at all. So you want to make sure a vast majority of your food items are non-perishable.

In addition, we don’t know how long an emergency will last. So it’s best to have as much food stockpiled as possible. And make sure most of it has a long shelf life. For items that don’t, rotate them out periodically so they don’t go bad.

If you’re not already in budget mode, try to get there. That means always thinking about how you can spend less and save more. Among the philosophies that must become part of your daily life regarding food are the following:

  • Never pay full price for anything. Always look for bargains. You’re better off spending time than money.
  •           Buy items in bulk at places such as Sam’s Club or Costco. Or when they’re on sale in regular stores.
  •           Cut and use coupons.
  •           Find and use in-store-only offers. 
  •           Grow your own food and preserve it. There is tremendous savings in growing fruits and vegetables. And storing some of them for the colder months of the year.
  •           Watch for the best deals on websites such as Amazon. They could have exactly what you’re looking for, at a price much less than what you’d spend at a local store.

Tips and tricks

One of the first places you want to look at to save money is your weekly grocery bill. If you’re not paying attention, it can really add up. The average couple spends up to $500 or more a month on groceries. Let’s look at a few simple ways to save. 

Make a list. Grocers know how to position products so shoppers will purchase them. If you have a list, you know just what you need (and what you don’t).

And of course, if you avoid shopping when you’re hungry, it’s that much easier to resist tempting displays. 

Also, choose foods that your family will eat. Variety is important, both physically and psychologically. But you could buy some of the healthiest food in the store, and if your family won’t eat it, you’ve thrown your money away.

Shop at Aldi. This no-frills chain offers a smaller variety of products. Usually one store brand of each item. If there is an Aldi in your area, you can easily save money on your grocery bill. Prices are often even better than at Walmart.

Aldi stores now offer imported foods, fancy cheeses and lots of fresh (even organic) produce. Take a quarter to rent a cart, and you’ll also save a few pennies by taking your own grocery bags.

Buy store brands. Buying store brands alone can take a huge chunk out of your grocery costs. Sometimes there will be a brand name item or two that you can’t do without. But more often than not you won’t notice the difference. Except when it’s time to check out.

Buy in bulk. I’m not talking here about warehouse stores, which have membership fees. And usually a minimum price tag of $10 per item. Even in a regular grocery store, you don’t want to buy large amounts of just anything on sale. 

It’s about buying more of things you already use often when there’s a significant sale. If it means you shop less often, this can add up to even more savings.

Another item to purchase in bulk is produce. Onions, potatoes, apples and lemons are almost always cheaper when you buy the bag. Just make sure you actually use them so they don’t go to waste.

Buying beans and grains in bulk can also stretch your dollars while providing hearty, healthy meals. 

Use digital coupons. Many stores offer digital coupons not available in the weekly newspaper. To acquire these savings, you’ll likely need to set up an account and check off the coupons you wish to use each time you shop.

Doing this ahead of time as you scan the weekly circular can help you write your shopping list around items with the biggest savings.

Stick to the store perimeter. Center aisles have many expensive, processed foods full of salt, sugar and other additives. The outside ring of the store is where you’ll find more foods such as produce, meat and dairy. 

You’ll still need to visit the center aisles for a few things. But focusing on the perimeter will give you more bang for your buck. Try leaving your cart at the end of the aisle, and just dash in for the item you need. 

Freeze meals. If you’re buying in bulk, you’ll want to make sure things don’t go to waste. You can freeze many items including bread, milk and chopped vegetables, as well as whole meals. Just remember your power could go out in a crisis.

There are cookbooks with recipes for freezing meals in bulk. When you make a meal, cook enough for two meals so you can serve one and freeze the other. It requires almost no extra work, but will save you time and money.

Use fewer ingredients. Sometimes the simplest food tastes best. But you wouldn’t always know it looking at some of the complicated recipes out there.

Sites such as Allrecipes (AllRecipes.com) are great for finding different options for your favorite recipes. And usually the top reviews will include tips on how to make them even easier.

I’ve saved one of the best tactics for last. Look for Buy One Get One Free deals. They’re also called BOGO deals. They might not show up often, but when they do, take advantage of them.

We’ve all learned that preparedness is crucial. Regardless of how tight our budgets are. By following some of the suggestions above, we can all afford to be prepared for whatever life throws at us.

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