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I, as many of you know, have been working my way into the prepper/homesteader mindset for a number of years now. Back in 2014 when I discovered Aldi and Pinterest I also discovered the world of the long-term pantry. And let me tell you, I fell in love.
While I would by no means call myself an expert (or even at an intermediate level prepper, if I’m being honest), I really enjoy continuing to learn about prepping and everything that goes with it.
Thanks to Covid-19, my friends and family who have called me crazy for prepping this entire time, now say that maybe I’m not so crazy. Because as we all know after the run on the grocery stores when that hit, and the loss of toilet paper, millions of Americans (and others around the world) have been at a loss on how to care for their family during the pandemic.
But for those who had been prepping for a long (or even a short) while, they were prepared.
Unfortunately for me, due to my adoption I decided in February to get a little lax on my prepping so that I could focus more funds to my adoption costs and figured I would pick back up in summer. Boy did that hurt.
While I wasn’t nearly as bad off as many people, because I still had some of my stockpile, I wasn’t nearly as well off as I could have been had I been faithful about growing my stockpile.
Now, before I continue, I know I have written two differing opinions on stockpiling based on what happened to me almost three years ago; but even remembering what happened, after Covid-19, I would rather be prepared for something like this and have to give it all away in another bout of homelessness or something, than to not have when there is a run on the stores and not be able to provide for my family.
So today, I would like to share some tips and tricks with you that I have found for stocking my pantry and how to do it on a budget!
Before I begin, I would like to add that while I am only a family of one currently, I am stocking up for five people. This includes my mom, my brother, my sister, myself and my son. Also I only eat organically as I am deathly allergic to food dye and other harsh chemicals that are in processed food.
Stock Up on the Essentials
Grabbing a ton of Oreo cookies when you really need flour, sugar and meat is not a wise investment. And while it might taste good while it lasts it’s going to cost you financially and physically in the end. Having some simple basics, such as:
- Flour (and/or wheat berries)
- Sugar (cane sugar, honey, or maple syrup)
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Popping corn
can save you and your family from hunger when tragedy strikes. (Trust me, at one point or another if not at multiple points in your life, you will have a situation that leaves you with less.) Having these on hand (if you can in bulk) will help you feed your family when you otherwise would have been hungry. Even if the food is bland, it feeds them. That’s what counts.
I would advise before tragedy strikes, to learn how to use these ingredients to make food that your family will enjoy and that you can make well, even if it’s just a few basic recipes such as these.
I haven’t used a box mix in a number of years and it has been so easy and wonderful. It’s cheaper, safer for you (because of the chemicals they put in to preserve the food), and more fun for you and your kids. You can even make them ahead of time and pop it into a mason jar for later!
Compare the Prices & Find Good Stores
While it might seem like a great buy to buy 5 lbs of flour for a certain amount of money, it might be a better financial investment in the long run to buy 50 lbs of flour. It costs less per pound and will last you longer. Be sure to check costs before buying. And if you’re buying a bigger priced item like 50lbs of flour, be sure to have done research beforehand so you know how to store it, have the adequate space and you know you can use it before it will spoil.
If you’re just starting out a good place to shop may be somewhere like Aldi, which is what I use. They offer great organic products and even lots of gluten free products if that’s what you need. I use Aldi “religiously” to purchase my toilet paper, paper towels (the biggest packages), plastic storage baggies and my aluminum foil. They definitely have the best prices for those things in my area (New England). I also get a number of other things there but those are my “Aldi Staples”.
Recently I have discovered an online bulk store called Webstaurant Supply Store. They are open for individuals and businesses so you can order their stock for home too. I have a “cart full” on their site and plan on buying it within the next few months. I haven’t decided how yet, but I’ll talk about that next!
I do know that at the Webstaurant store that I can get a 50 lb bag of flour less than $11. So there are plenty of cheap ways to stock up your pantry fast!
Decide How You Will Budget
Budgeting to stock a pantry isn’t a small feat. Having a long-term storage pantry can costs hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on how serious you are or for how long you plan for your pantry to last.
If you’re just starting out building your stockpile, then you need to decide how you will budget it. Are you going to make a large order once or twice a year with an extra paycheck? Or will you buy one thing with each grocery trip?
Here are the pros and cons of each:
Making One or Two Orders a Year
- You will be prepared faster for anything that may come along.
- You will have the ability to have security if you lose a job or there is another pandemic.
- If you’re ever unable to make it into town due to weather (as I am often here,) you will be able to pull from your pantry supply.
- This is a large upfront cost. You may have debt that you need to pay off first before making a purchase like this.
- You need to have adequate storage in order to make sure the food doesn’t go bad or attracts rodents/pests.
- If you deplete your supply you won’t be able to replace it as fast.
Making Small Purchases Every Week
- This will save you money up front. If you only purchase a thing or two with each trip it will help you not to spend so much at once.
- This will make your “work days” shorter as you won’t be trying to put up a year or more worth of food at once.
- It’s easier to acclimate to having a long-term food storage system.
- You might not be ready for a tragedy in time. If you only have 50 lbs of flour and sugar but no yeast or baking powder yet then when tragedy hits you won’t be fully prepared.
- Supplies might not always be available. With the recent pandemic many supplies are gone, and if you build your stockpile slowly then you may be missing many items that are no longer available.
Become a List Lover
If you are going to have a long term pantry you’re going to need to stay organized and keep track of what you’re buying and what you have.
Make a list of the foods your family eats normally, then make a list based on stores and prices of where you will purchase that food from. Once you’ve got that you can head out and shop for what you need.
If you’re like me, then you will be keeping a list of price changes and trends in sales and prices. (Yes, I know I’m a nerd.)
Once all of your food is home you need to make an inventory list of what you have in storage, where the food is and whether it’s “raw material” or food that you’ve pre-prepared.
Make a list of the essentials. What do you usually make each week? What is your comfort food? Stock up on the items you use most and then you will have your go to meals that you can pre-prepare and put in your freezer. When it comes down to it, and the finances are tight, there’s nothing better than comfort food.
Saving money and buying in bulk, while it seems crazy, will save you time and money. Planning ahead and cooking your meals and freezing them will also save you in the long run. When you’re running out of money, and the tension is high, food is what is going to bring your family together.
Don’t Buy What You Won’t Use
If you have picky eaters like me (from my little brother to my autistic son), do not buy foods that you don’t normally eat. For example, I have never once eaten a bean in my life (and don’t plan to), they’re just not my cup of tea. So why in the world would I stock up on them?
In the middle of a pandemic or tragedy is not the time to start your children (or even yourself) on new foods. Everything will be uncertain and scary enough, the one thing that could comfort them is the consistency of a good home cooked meal.
So my suggestion to you is this: If you’re child only eats mac n’ cheese and chicken nuggies, then you should have a good stock pile of noodles, frozen cheese, milk, butter, chicken breasts, eggs and breading.
You don’t have to have four course or fancy meals, but having meals that you family is used to and comforted by (and knowing how to cook them well) will keep spirits high in the midst of tragedy. Even if it’s only 4 or 5 meals.
Avoid the Trends
One of the latest trend is called “eat from your pantry” and it’s a challenge to see if you can clean out your pantry by eating meals only from it to save money. While I understand the reason behind it, if you’re building a stockpile like me, then it’s important not to clean out your pantry when in good times.
While it’s obvious that we need to eat out of our pantries (because we don’t buy it just to look at it), eating it all in good times will bring sorrow when we fall on bad times.
While stocking your pantry may seem like a new trend, it’s one that is thousands of years old. The Bible tells us:
“In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not slaves to excessive drinking. They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, workers at home, kind, and in submission to their husbands, so that God’s word will not be slandered.” — Titus 2:3-5 (CSB)
So, by learning from our elders and how they kept their homes (and their pantries,) not only can we prepare for the worst, but we can serve our husbands, families and the Lord.
Do you have a long term pantry? If so what are three things that are in it that you couldn’t live without! Leave a comment down below or join the conversation on our Facebook group The Homemaker’s Corner!