(Continued from Part 2.)
In 6 months, I was able to stock up on basic, healthy, foods for a single person relatively inexpensively. You won’t necessarily have to take what I did and multiply it by the number of people in your household because it depends upon food needs and tastes. I avoid “emergency food supplies”, which are basically either dehydrated or freeze-dried foods at a premium price, because the budget matters to me. I avoid processed foods unless I see an exceptionally good sale, and know that these items will be good for the purposes of bartering or charity. Most processed foods are “meal-sized”, which makes them handy to pass on to someone in need. Some processed foods, like peanut butter, are less expensive to buy than to make, although the cheaper brands are chock full of sugar and other oils, so look at the ingredients list before buying. The following is the process I followed in order to achieve the 7-year goal in 6 months while not breaking the bank. If you’ve got loads of money, you can do this in a few days.
But first, the best advice I can offer is to know how your family eats and start taking daily notes about types and quantities. If you save your grocery receipts, that’s a good way to eyeball it. In reviewing your grocery receipt, remove everything from your grocery list that is not a necessity, and focus on food. For instance, you won’t need that air freshener should SHTF, although you’ll wish you had it. LOL. I know someone who recently got very serious about providing nutrient-dense food for her large family of little ones while on a budget. I suggested that she read the book “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon. It’s chock full of information about basic foods and the types the body needs in order to thrive. I recommend it for everyone.
Once you understand how and what your family eats, think seriously about modifying the diet to remove processed foods. Removing processed foods will not only improve your health, it will save you an enormous amount of money. For instance, a Rice-a-Roni box of rice pilaf in the smaller box (6.5 oz) might cost $1-1.50. If you bought 10 of those, you’d have less than a couple of pounds of actual rice that you paid $10-15 for. Whereas, you can buy 20lbs of rice for a few dollars more – anywhere from $17-$20. Wouldn’t it be worth it to learn how to make rice pilaf from scratch? What about Red Beans and Rice? You get the picture.
Another example, I purchase organic wheat berries that have a long shelf life, rather than flour, and grind the wheat into flour. It costs about $17 for a 25lb bag of wheat berries. If you don’t want to fool with grinding, you can still get ahead of the game by purchasing flour in bulk. There is a non-GMO brand called Wheat Montana that you can get in 10-lb bags from Walmart inexpensively. My point is that it takes a pound of flour to make a 1 lb loaf of bread, which translates into 25 loaves of bread for $17, which translates into ~68 cents a loaf. Have you seen the price of a good loaf of bread lately? Eeek! I use a few different types of flour for different recipes (breads, pastries, rolls, pasta, dumplings, tortillas, etc.), but I’ve learned how to do this over time.
Start small by just making your own bread. Caveat: I do not eat genetically modified foods, so when I say a loaf of “good bread” I mean one made with non-genetically modified ingredients, and one without modifiers, stabilizers, etc., that are so common in the food industry. Most all corn and soy products in the food industry are genetically modified so just be aware that processed foods, in general, could be contributing to poor health. That really cheap $1 loaf of bread may not have the best ingredients. Do your own research.
Do you see how this works? Now apply the principle of “everything from scratch” and you can stock up quickly for far less money than you think. If you buy spaghetti or marinara sauce for $2-3/jar, learn how to make it from canned tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, and spices, especially if you cannot grow enough tomatoes. I used to buy a 15oz can of Hunt’s seasoned tomato sauce in a can for about 75 cents. I’m sure it’s over a dollar a can now, but it’s just as good as the other brands. I traded paying $3 a jar to paying less than a dollar for a can. Those are the types of substitutions to be looking for. Recently I found a Walmart brand of tomato seasoned sauce in 28oz cans for 98 cents, so I bought a bunch of them until I can get the garden producing tomatoes this year. Open your eyes to other options and you’ll be surprised at what you can find. During shortages, we can no longer be brand loyal due to runaway inflation.
In regards to canned goods, every fall you can find something called “case lot sales” where stores clear out their canned goods inventory. I don’t know if this practice will hold up in the coming years due to the shortages, but I was able to buy a large quantity of canned goods at half price a few months ago. That’s fifty cents for a 15oz can of soups, vegetables, beans, fruits, and sauces. Let’s say you spend $50, that will give you 100 cans of food. What a great help to the annual food budget! Now, the reason they do that is “expiration dates”. The canned goods in a case lot sale may have an expiration date of the same year, while newly canned goods generally have an expiration date of 2, 3, and 5 years out depending upon the product. We all know that canned goods last significantly longer than their expiration date, but be sure to not purchase a dented or damaged can. Also be aware, that canned goods need to be stored in a cool, dry, dark place for the best shelf life. Inspect your cans regularly for any irregularities and throw away anything that looks suspicious. I once had a bunch of canned organic tomatoes whose cans swelled and burst. I purchased them for full price at Costco, so there must’ve been a defect in the canning process, or maybe it got too hot in that closet. I don’t know, but it does happen. Canned goods are an excellent choice if you cannot grow a large garden and can up the extras for the pantry.
The past six months I’ve relied heavily on purchasing in bulk from Azure Standard. You can research products and pricing without having an account at azurestandard.com. It works similar to a food co-op. The company is located in Oregon and delivers nationwide with the help of “drop coordinators”. A drop is the place where products are transported to. It could be a church parking lot or at someone’s home or a mutually agreed-upon place that a big semi truck can get into and out of. The coordinator’s job is to communicate with buyers on behalf of the company and make sure things go smoothly. Orders are delivered monthly and there’s a small fee for transportation costs added to your order. It’s the buyers’ job to help unload the truck, help others, be on time, and generally be responsible. There’s little room for cancelling your order once it has shipped, or not showing up promptly. For my last order, we rallied in a rain storm to help one another get goods off the truck and into one another’s vehicles without the aid of our coordinator who had a delay. We knew the drill and everyone was cheerful about it. I drive about 45 minutes to my drop since that is the closest one to me. It’s worth every mile. I personally have great difficulty lifting anything over 25lbs, and even that is painful. I try to park as close as I can. There are many people who willingly help lift the heavier items for others.
In conjunction with purchasing in bulk, I am prepared with food grade 5-gallon food grade buckets and lids which I’ve purchased from Lowe’s. It doesn’t take that long to transfer the food items into buckets. I like the buckets because they stack several high. There are better food storage options, but they aren’t as cheap. Personally, I transfer the dry goods into zip lock bags, about 2-3 lbs each, before placing them into the buckets. This allows me to pull out 2-3 lbs at a time for my immediate pantry needs. Everyone does it differently and it can get quite complicated and pricey. Since I’m not storing for 20-25 years, I do not use mylar bags, but I do put some oxygen absorbers into each bucket before I squeeze out the extra air with the lid. I store these buckets in a cool, dry, dark, space in the house where I can control the climate.
If you combine cooking everything from scratch and purchasing basic foods, such as canned goods, flour, grains, peas, lentils, beans, and rice, you are very close to having food security. It’s not necessary to add meat, but there’s no substitute, really, for animal meat in the human diet. The protein and other nutrition in animal meat is hard to beat. Adding dairy and fresh vegetables as well as fats and oils makes it complete. But, in a pinch, you can put together a hearty meal with beans, peas, lentils, and grains. In the next installment, I will list out what I purchased for my 7-year food plan, along with actual costs.
(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 4.)