One way to enhance your frugal lifestyle is to establish a home food storage system. My family is building our food storage slowly, and we have close to four months of food storage available. Our goal is a year's worth of food, so we are well on our way to meeting our goal. The idea behind having food storage is to buy things when they are on sale and to store them just in case you need them later. Indeed, if you run into financial trouble later, being prepared with food storage can be helpful, since you will be able to use it to supplement your meal planning without having to buy as much with limited funds.
And while we never used our food storage during this pandemic, having extra food sure brought us peace of mind when news of lockdowns was all over and everyone was panicking and hoarding pasta.
While you don't need a year's worth of food storage to be successful, even a month or two can be helpful. Consider how much space you have in your home, and what sorts of items it is feasible for you to store. You need to be careful as you build your food storage, and go about it in a planned fashion. Here are seven tips for establishing a home food storage yourself:
Don't buy everything all at once: It can be expensive to purchase everything at once. Instead, build up your food storage a little bit at a time. Buy one or two extra food items each week when you go to the grocery store so you barely notice the extra cost of each trip. Get an extra bag of flour, or three or four extra cans of corn, each time you get groceries. By spending an extra $5 to $10 at the store each week, you can begin building food storage. You also won’t need to carry all that extra stuff into your house all at once.
Shop case lot sales: You also want to shop case lot sales. Many stores have them. You can buy items in bulk at these sales, and for good prices. Many stores have case lot sales twice a year. Figure out the schedule, and set aside a little bit of money so that you can buy items during a case lot sale. Keep an eye out for coupons that can work to lower the per-unit cost even further.
Buy things that you will actually eat: Food storage is no good if you won't eat the food. Consider buying things that you can use to make foods that you will consume. Also, consider the types of food that your body can eat. For example, storing wheat is a great idea since it lasts so long. However, if your body isn't used to digesting the food, there can be problems if you suddenly start eating it out of your food storage. Make sure you incorporate foods that you store into your diet so that your body can comfortably digest the food if you have to use your food storage.
Rotate your food storage items: Realize that there are some things that you shouldn't buy in bulk since they will go bad before you use them. Check expiration dates, and use items in your food storage regularly. I know of a few people who built up a home food storage only to not touch anything inside for 20 years. It’s safe to say that at least some of the stuff isn’t edible, so they’ve effectively wasted a ton of money.
You can set up a regular rotation so that you use items that are close to expiration, replacing them with items that are still good for longer. Get in the habit of using your food storage items in the order they expire, and you will keep items fresh, and keep them from going to waste.
Organize your food. Put them on shelves if possible: It’ll be extremely difficult to rotate your food based on the expiration date unless they are organized neatly. You also want to periodically look at what you have and be able to figure out what you own and still need to buy. If you don’t put everything neatly and stay organized, I guarantee you that you will end up wasting a bunch of food you spent your hard-earned money on.
Think of needs, not wants: You need to remember that a home food storage is used for times when you truly need your family to be fed. It would be amazing if you can have gourmet dinners in the midst of some type of food shortage, but you are better off figuring out how to make your food lasts instead. This means simple food and simple ingredients. Refrain but complex meals that take hours to prepare, especially if the stuff that will need a bunch of tools. Remember, in a true emergency, you might not have every kitchen gadget or even a sharp knife at your disposal.
Avoid adding a freezer to your home storage strategy: Many people immediately think of using a freezer as part of their home food storage. But while having a freezer is great for keeping food for longer periods of time in normal times, it’s not a good solution for bad times because you never know if you can keep the electricity running in a true emergency.
Anything that needs to be frozen will also go bad if you ever need to transport the food. There was a fire in the city we lived in and many of my friends were evacuated. Those who had food storage could take their food with them, but the stuff in the freezers had to be left behind.
In the end, no homes suffered serious structural damage but if things got worst, anything that was bought for the freezers would have been lost.
Establishing food storage is an essential part of frugal living. Start with what you can, and build slowly to ensure that you don't strain your budget. If you have a food storage system that is regularly rotated and used, you can build up one, three, six, or even 12 months' storage gradually and be prepared for times of economic difficulty.