Economic times and many families are cutting their budgets wherever possible to make ends meet. This includes reducing the amount of money spent on food. Although a tighter food budget may make grocery shopping a challenge, learning how to stretch food dollars can help families afford enough healthy foods for the whole family to enjoy.
One of the most common reasons that people give for not prepping is the cost involved. People seem to have this mental image of a bedroom or basement dedicated to being filled to the rafters with cans of Chef-Boy-Ardee. They imagine someone going out and spending $5000 at a time for a year’s worth of food, or perhaps an 18-wheeler backing up into their driveway and unloading the contents with a forklift.
A well-stocked food pantry is an investment: purchasing food at today’s prices is a great hedge against tomorrow’s increases. The cost of food will only be going up. Consider the drought that has ravaged California, the number one producer of fresh fruits and vegetables in the entire country. Farmers there have been forced to cut back on the amount they produce, due to water shortages.
Here’s why I keep a well-stocked pantry
Before I even knew what prepping was, …
#2 Always Calculate the Unit Price
Be sure to record the size of the package you are purchasing so that you can accurately calculate the unit price. A unit price is vitally important. If you happen to go to one of those giant, members-only warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club, you may discover that although a huge package seems like a good deal, it was actually cheaper to purchase the items in smaller quantities elsewhere.
#3 Turn Pennies into Dollars
Now that you know you can confidently identify a good bargain, let’s move on to the next step in your new shopping style: saving pennies that add up to dollars.
Once you have the hang of it, you can apply this same pantry principle to nearly everything that you purchase. Your pantry doesn’t have to stop at the kitchen. Use your theory of Preppernomics to keep your household running smoothly on far less money!
- Toilet paper
- Kitty litter
- School supplies
- Garbage bags
#4 Plan your shopping trips with the precision of a military maneuver.
If you’re driving without a plan all over the place to hit the sales, you aren’t really going to save enough money to make it worthwhile in most cases. You should shop with a plan in order to maximize your time and fuel costs.
These sales flyers will help you to identify “loss leader” items that are geared to get customers in the doors. The loss leader is simply the unbeatable, oh-my-gosh-what-a-sale bargain to get you in the door at which point they hope you’ll purchase other dramatically overpriced items just because you’re there.
For the thriftiest possible shopping trip, your list should include:
- Items that you have coupons for
- Sale items, listed by store, that are a good deal
- Must-have items, like milk if you have small children (there should be very few must-have items – flexibility is the key to a barebones budget!)
- Ingredients that you require for your meal plans (again, this should be flexible – also, don’t waste money on an ingredient that you can only use in one dish if your budget is tight!)
- Map your route before you go – if you have several stops to make, do so efficiently and without backtracking.
- Organize your lists by store
If a store is out of the way from the other shops you plan to hit, think about the week ahead. Do you have any errands or obligations that will take you to that store? There is a warehouse store about an hour away from us. Any time we have an appointment in that city, we plan ahead to allow some extra time to stop at the warehouse store and stock up.
Here are a few more tips to help you keep the budget under control if you are spending an afternoon stockpile shopping:
- Eat before you go – hunger can impair your judgment because everything just looks so darned good!
- Take a bottle of water or a cup of coffee with you so that you aren’t tempted by the coolers or the Starbucks at the front of the store.
- Go alone – it is always far more expensive with a spouse or a child in tow. Admit it, who among us hasn’t bought something frivolous just to make another family member happy?
#5 Make bulk purchases
It gets even better when you begin purchasing in bulk quantities instead of grocery store quantities.
I purchase my beef in bulk from a local farmer through a butcher shop. They raise hormone-free meat, the cattle are grass fed, the animals are treated humanely, and the quality is superior. Because I purchase 1/4 of a cow each year, I’m able to get all of my beef at $3.99 per pound.
Some of the things I buy in extremely large quantities are:
- Coconut Oil
- Dry milk
This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, The Pantry Primer: A Beginner’s Complete Guide to Creating a Food Stockpile on a Budget, which will be available this spring. An expanded 2nd edition to the original Pantry Primer book, this updated version will have over 200 pages of strategies, lists, recipes, and how-to guides to help beginners create their pantries without increasing their grocery budgets.
The easiest way to keep down cost is to ask everyone to bring a dish to share. Offer to cook the turkey and make a batch of hot rolls and let everyone else take care of side dishes, appetizers and dessert.If that’s not an option, or you prefer to do all (or most) of the cooking yourself, keep reading to make sure you get the biggest bang for your buck this Holiday season.