As the United States slips into a deepening recession with the potential to become a depression Americans are looking for ways to stretch their budget for everyday expenses and the coming holidays. Our family is holding its breath as we wait for Lockheed Martin to announce whether or not they will be closing Seattle Flight Service where my husband works. He could be out of a job at the end of the month, the end of this year or the end of the next one.
I have been searching the Internet for ideas on making the most of our grocery dollars, the only segment of our budget that I feel I truly have control over. Whether it is a well stocked pantry, recipes that make large dinners for few dollars, or homemade household cleaning products I’m interested in learning what others are doing to keep their money in their wallets.
An interesting website I’ve found is The Dollar Stretcher. There are articles not just on shopping, but borrowing money, selling your house, getting a mortgage. There are blogs on the site where people share their experiences and tips.
Since the oil crisis of the 1970s I have believed that the best market in which to invest during a shaky economy is the corner market. Putting my money in toilet paper seems to make more sense than giving it to the bank or Wall Street. On the Dollar Stretcher website I found two articles that speak to this idea.
“Donna,” of the Dollar Stretcher blog refers to keeping a six to eight month pantry “The Homestead Mindset Anywhere.” One needn’t live on a farm in a rural area to benefit from the money saved by planning ahead and keeping a well stocked larder. Even if you live in a small urban home or apartment you can get creative regarding where to store extra food and dry goods. It could be under the bed, in the garage or basement (depending on whether or not the items being stored are moisture resistant), or the top shelf of the coat closet. We have a small pantry the builder put in our kitchen when built, but to that we’ve added a closet in the family room and shelving in the garage. Another interest site I discovered is The Left Over Queen blog site run by a freelance food and travel writer. There are ideas about kitchen organization and pantry creation worth checking out.
A well stocked pantry is a safety blanket that the Mormon Church has long understood. In these times we can all be Economic Mormons. I found a link to a site that calculates what your family would need for a year for nonperishables based on the number and ages of the members of your family. There are items our family would not probably eat in the amounts suggested and I doubt if we could find space for a year’s worth, but the site is interesting because it gives you an idea of amounts of things like cooking oil, peanut butter, dry milk, etc.
The Mormon calculator does not calculate frozen items such as meat which will depend on lifestyle and ability to store not to mention the possibility of an extended power outage although many homeowner’s insurance policies will pay for the loss of food during a natural disaster. Last year Southwest Washington was slammed by a storm that left folks in the dark from three to seven days and the State of Washington gave $168 per person for loss of food.
Okay, you’ve located a place or places to put your stores. How do you go about stocking up? What you don’t do is to take the numbers from the LDS calculator and run to the store. Here’s a list of rules from Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy of the Dollar Stretcher website:
Rule #1: Buy only what the family will use. Filling a pantry with items that family members may not like or things that may never be used defeats the purpose of building a stockpile of food.
Rule#2: Stock up with sale items. Don't rush out to buy six cans of spaghetti sauce or four boxes of macaroni and cheese. Wait for a sale. Most supermarkets put out a weekly sale ad so watch for favorite products and brands to go on sale. In addition, some markets offer in-store savings on select items so be a savvy shopper and search the shelves for bargains. When the spaghetti sauce is at a low sale price, that is the time to stock up with several to store on the shelf.
Rule #3: Use coupons. Many Sunday newspapers offer coupon inserts and other coupons are in many publications. Online sites like Coupon Cabin, Cool Savings.com, and Coupon Craze can also provide coupons that match products. Often, manufacturers put out coupon savings at about the same time as their products go on sale at the supermarket, providing a chance for even greater savings. Better yet, find a supermarket that offers double coupons or even triple coupon events to increase the savings!
Rule #4: Prepare the space for your pantry. Whether it is an empty kitchen cabinet, a freestanding shelf, a hutch, or basement shelves, utilize any open space for food storage. My basement came equipped with many shelves and bonus kitchen cabinets, installed by a former owner. Remember that any space used as a pantry should be cool and dry. Most garages and outside storage buildings get too hot or cold to serve as safe storage space for food.
Rule #5: Once you have a pantry established, remember to rotate. Put the newest items in the back and use the first one in line. This is easier to do if you organize the food on the pantry shelves, like item with like item. I keep condiments like ketchup, mustard, and salad dressings together with each item in a row of its own.
Rule #6: Don't buy more than you can ever use. Once into the routine of planning and stocking a pantry, it is easy to get carried away, but don't buy more than can be used within a reasonable amount of time. Keep track of use-by dates on products, plan ahead, and if more than three squeeze bottles of mustard won't be used by that time, don't buy more.
A well stocked pantry is built over time by purchasing in bulk when you find a good deal on items. Oh, and the spaghetti sauce? Fred Meyer has Hunt’s for a dollar a can right now, so if your family likes spaghetti you might want to start with the spaghetti sauce after all.