With prices on everything going up and our earnings going down, many of us are living on the edge, some of us are only one paycheck away from being homeless. Right now, food and supplies for everyday living is readily available, you can walk into any store and find the shelves stocked with food. But you must realize those shelves can be empty in just a matter of hours in any kind of major emergency. These types of emergencies can be on a global scale, solar flares, asteroid or comets impacting the earth, to regional problems such as hurricanes, floods, wildfires, to very local problems, such as a car hitting a power pole knocking out the power for your entire neighborhood… even down to a very personal crisis, like losing your job, being injured and not being able to work, having an unexpected bill. What can you do to help ensure that you will survive?
As I mentioned, grocery stores have stocks of food, right now, but that could change in a heartbeat. It used to be that grocery stores had larger warehouse areas in the back of the store, they received fewer but larger shipments. Now, most stores have at best, a 3 day supply of food in the store, including the stock room in back. They receive multiple shipments a week, but ultimately receive less stocks of food from each one. If anything were to happen to the transportation of these foods, trucks, or trains, or airplanes or ships, then your grocery store will run out of food within about 3 days, that’s IF there isn’t a panic run on food, then you have hours at best. If something happened and you could not leave your home, starting right now, today, how long would it be before you started running out of food? How long before you would be in real trouble? A few days? A week? A couple of weeks? A month?
Today I’ll talk about how to prep in the area of food, even if you are on the tightest of budgets. If you say to me that you cannot afford to put back extra food for emergencies, I will tell you that is precisely WHY you need to do it. If you have extra food, even as little as an extra 2 weeks to a month’s worth of food, then in a financial emergency, such as an unexpected bill, or job loss, you will not have to choose between buying groceries and paying your rent or mortgage.
First you need to decide how much extra you can spend, if you do not have a budget written down, it’s time to do it and see just where your money goes, you might be surprised as to how much waste happens a few dollars here and a few dollars there. I know there are ways you can stretch your earnings, do you really NEED that $3-4 dollar cup of yuppie coffee? Do you really NEED to eat out at lunch (or breakfast, or dinner)? How about taking your lunch for a month and spend that extra money on food supplies to put up. Do you really NEED to buy prepared junk foods and convenience foods? How about buying more basic foods and actually cooking a meal from scratch?
Ladies, how about doing your own nails for a month, or you could go to a beauty school to have services done. Do you really NEED every premium channel on satellite or cable TV? Do you really NEED to drive as much as you do? Fuel is very costly, running around for no good reason eats into your budget. How about putting your gym membership on hold and working out at home, or find a cheaper gym for a while. How about shopping in resale shops? Do you really NEED to pay full retail price for clothes and such?
Now that you have determined how much you can spend, now to decide what to buy. Ideally you would buy foods that don’t require refrigeration and will last a long time. Obviously rice and beans come to my mind, also canned foods, dehydrated or freeze dried foods. The reason to stay away from frozen foods is in an emergency where you might not have electricity, you don’t want to lose hundreds of dollars worth of food that you worked so hard to put up. If you are really good in the kitchen, you can even can your own foods in Mason jars and such. I have a friend who buys chicken and beef in bulk quantities when it’s on sale and cans it, she spends a day preparing and canning the meat, she even cans her own stock/broth.
I love those little hermetically sealed aseptic foil packs of foods, like tuna, chicken, beef, you can even get milk in those foil boxes that don’t require refrigeration, just watch the dates on those, even though they are aseptic, they do eventually start tasting “off”.
You can also stretch your money by clipping coupons, you can even print coupons from the internet, but be aware, the ink you are using might be digging into your savings, so decide if you printed coupons are worth the savings. Get together with coworkers, people from your church and neighborhood, create a coupon co-op, that way anything you don’t want, someone else might be able to use, and you can get coupons that someone else might not want. Use store sales, if there is something you like that would work well in your preps, and it’s on sale, then instead of buying one or two, buy a few extras to put aside. If your store limits the number of a sale item you can purchase, then bring along a friend or family member to help, and don’t forget, they probably will not try to stop you from buying something, taking it to your car, coming back in and buying it again.
You can shop at discount stores, look for dollar stores, Big Lots and such, you can find LOADS of prep worthy foods (along with other goodies to put up for emergencies), what you would have spent on an expensive cup of latte, you can buy a whole box of tuna packets, for what you would have spent on a month at the gym, you can fill a shopping cart with canned meats and such, as long as you shop smart. Don’t forget about store brand foods, you know the ones that used to be referred to as generic? WalMart has their Great Value line, I usually buy those first because they are such a bargain and they are just as good as the name brand, Sam’s club has Member’s Mark, look at the stores where you shop, buy one of a store brand item to try it and determine if you will like it before buying up quantities. Even the dollar stores are starting to carry their own house brands, usually at half the price of the name brands.
Be sure to rotate your foods too, you don’t want to find out that your foods have gone south when you are in a position to have to eat it. Grocery stores use a system called “FIFO”, first in, first out.
One more place to find food to put up, is at food banks. I have gone to food banks and I often find many people walking past the foods that would be best for putting up, things like bags of beans, bags of rice, one food bank I used to go to would allow you to take as many bags of beans and rice as you could fit into one grocery bag, I was amazed at the numbers of people who would walk right past that to go to the more convenience type foods. Please don’t let pride stop you from providing for yourself and your family.
Later I’ll discuss how and where to store your precious foods, what other items to stock up on, and security related to your preps and family.
Here are the links to the entire Prepping on a budget series
Prepping on a budget – part 1 – food
Prepping on a budget – part 2 – book review
Prepping on a budget – part 3 – food storage & security
Prepping on a budget – part 4 – water
Prepping on a budget – part 5 – first aid kit
Prepping on a budget – part 6 – sanitation
Prepping on a budget – part 7 – getting started
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