Building Your Food Storage On A Shoestring

One of the biggest blocks when someone considers prepping is the cost. Too many people do nothing to prepare for an emergency simply because they can’t figure out how to pay for it. As I’ve mentioned, I’m disabled and John is retired. Our income didn’t make us part of the upper crust even before John got cancer and the bills started coming in like an avalanche.

In spite of our financial situation BC (before cancer), I was determined to do something to ready my family for a crisis. It was challenging to figure out how to start. I was overwhelmed. But when John got sick and I had to rely on the things I’d purchased I was so glad I’d made the decision to prepare. You’ll be happy you put in the time, work, and money should a disaster strike. It’s my goal, with this blog, to help people who are not as far along or haven’t even started preparing just as I’ve learned from those people with more experience.

You want to build your stockpile of food and water but you don’t want to have to go to a loan shark or sell your firstborn to do it. There are strategies to help you stretch your dollars. And you can learn from the mistakes that those of us who started earlier have made.

First on my list of things not to do is thinking you have to do it all before the sun sets tonight. When I realized how unprepared I was for a crisis I felt I had to get everything instantly. I didn’t research certain items as well as I should and, consequently, spent too much on them. I bought too much of some things and not enough of others. My first word of advice is to take a little time.

When you do dishes by hand the “experts” (and just who the heck is a dish washing expert? Sorry. I digress.) tell us to wash the glassware then the flatware followed by the dinnerware, and finally the pots and pans. If you wash the pots and pans then the glasses you’re either going to have to change the dishwater (a waste of detergent and hot water) or you’re going to end up with greasy glasses (a waste of your time, detergent, and hot water). Think of your preparations like doing the dishes. You do one thing at a time. Start by building a Deep Pantry then move on to 30, 60, and 90 day stockpiles. Eventually you can get into storing enough food to last for years.

Because I jumped in and wanted to build a huge supply in a heartbeat I didn’t set a budget. This was sort of okay at first but later it really began to pinch. Set an amount you feel comfortable putting aside each week. If you can only do $5.00 put that aside. If you can save $20, it’s even better. It adds up more quickly than you think and it gives you time to research what you want to purchase early on. Use all or part of your tax return to stock up. In our state we have to return most cans and bottles. I use the money from the returned cans to spend on my storage. What I’m saying is there are ways to set aside at least a little money to begin preparing.

There are a lot of things that you’ll eventually want to have stockpiled. You’ll need a way to cook the food. You’ll need personal hygiene items. You’ll need to be able to provide heat. But the most basic items are food and water so I’ll start with food. A huge mistake is buying the wrong kinds of foods. Remember, this is for a survival situation so stocking up on Twinkies and pop isn’t the best use of your money.

Your body needs certain things to function. In a survival scenario you’ll want to get the most bang for your buck in terms of both money spent and nutrition. In a crisis you’re going to need these foods at about these percentages: Carbohydrates – 50% – 60%, Fats – 10% – 20%, and Proteins – 20% – 40%

Carbohydrates break down quickly into the sugars your body will need. Fats break down more slowly. These two give your body the energy it needs. Protein allows your body to create new cells and without it your body will cannibalize itself. Without protein your body will eat your muscles to keep itself going.These three are referred to as macro-nutrients. For long term survival you’ll also need micro-nutrients which I’ll discuss later.

Many websites talk about stocking comfort food and I agree, in part, with what they are saying. But junk food is empty calories and very expensive. Avoid buying it. Another really expensive purchase is proteins. You’ll need them but be careful about which ones you choose. Meat doesn’t keep well unless it’s canned or dehydrated but beans will give you a lot of protein and is a really inexpensive choice. It’s okay to stock a few of the junk food items but don’t use the bulk of your prep money for them.

Make sure you buy the items that will store well if you have no access to a refrigerator or freezer. There are ways to keep even some of the more perishable items for long term storage and I’ll get into them when I discuss the ways our ancestors fed themselves without refrigeration.

Planning, price comparisons, and sales are the best way to get your food for the least amount of money. Plan what you want to start stockpiling then check your local grocery stores and online to find the best price. While many items you’ll want to buy, like dried beans, don’t often go on sale, you may find a great sale on canned items. If the store has a limit on sale items just take everyone in the family and have each person buy the limit. I’ve also purchased the limit of items, put them in my car, and gone back in to buy the limit again. If there’s a great sale on meat you can always buy a lot of it and then turn it into jerky. Amazon carries grocery items as do Walmart and Target. And they’ll ship for free if you spend a certain amount (usually $50). Buy salt, canning salt, sugar, molasses, dried fruit, and beans this way, too. A lot of the carbohydrates you’ll want to stock are sold in bulk. You can get really big bags of flour, pasta, and rice shipped right to your door. Check the prices for various online vendors.

By spending money for a membership to Sam’s Club or Costco you can end up saving a lot. Unless you have a huge family or are planning to feed the neighborhood in an emergency, don’t buy the 5 gallon jar of mayonnaise and stay away from the frozen prepared foods. But these warehouse clubs are a great place to pick up restaurant size containers of spices (which will help you and your family adjust to a different way of eating). You can also save a lot on paper products, personal hygiene, and even bottled water there.I’m lucky enough to have a son who lives very nearby who is already a member of a warehouse club so I just give him a list.

Coupons are another fantastic way to save money. Many stores will double and sometimes even triple the value of your coupons. We’ve all heard about the people who come home with hundreds of dollars in food and have only spent $10. I’m not saying you’ll be able to save that much but every dime you save on one item is a dime you have to spend on another. The number one source of coupons is the Sunday paper. Get the coupons from as many Sunday papers as you can. Don’t buy 50 newspapers (you’ll probably spend more on them than you’ll save) but if there are great coupons in the paper it may be worth buying a few extra. Another source is neighbors, family, and friends who may not use the coupons and will give them to you. Magazines also sometimes have coupons. Food magazines are your best source for food coupons but you can find food coupons in what I call “all purpose” magazines like Better Homes and Gardens. You can also find coupons for non-food items that you’ll want to stock. There are many, many sources of coupons online. Most require that you download their “coupon clipper” but you can find coupons from everything from food items to detergents. Manufacturers also put coupons right on their websites. This is especially true of the really big companies. And don’t forget the grocery stores themselves. Two of our local grocery stores have little coupon clips right on the shelves beneath the items the coupons are for and others have a coupon area by the bulletin boards. A lot of stores also print coupons right on the receipts. And never overlook the “save now” coupons attached to items you’re buying. Manufacturers often have coupons that peel right off the item that can be used immediately. Get creative. Check out your local recycling center to see if you can go through the papers left there. Some coupons come in the mail. Also check the trash bins of party stores and gas stations late on Sunday. If some of the papers don’t sell the store will just throw out the extras along with the coupons they contain. Just be sure to organize your coupons and to keep track of those that expire. Don’t miss the chance to save some money by letting coupons “go bad.”

Farmer’s Markets are one of my favorite summer visits. I’m lucky because I have at least six of them within a 20 minute drive. If you don’t know how to can, this is the time to learn. Be sure to follow only approved recipes. Buy bushels of tomatoes, vegetables, and fruit at a farmer’s market and fill your store with food you’ve canned yourself. Also look into CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) in your area. These are not only a source for fruits and vegetables but you can find honey, meats of various types (beef, lamb, rabbit, chicken, etc.), and even eggs. Many require you to purchase either an annual, seasonal, or weekly share but they can provide you with non-GMO produce and non-commercially raised meat and eggs.

Another way to save money on food for long term storage is sharing. You can buy items in bulk and split both the food and the cost with someone who is also storing food. If you buy #10 cans of items to split I recommend using Mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, and desiccant packs. When opened, #10 cans can be stored for an advertised 5 years but it’s more likely you’ll use up whatever the items is in less time than that.

Remember to plan, compare prices, and shop sales. Remember coupons savings can really add up. Don’t feel you have to buy the latest “prepper” storage containers or gadgets. Don’t forget to research inexpensive ways to accomplish the same goals as the expensive solutions. And, as always, feel free to ask us questions or leave your comments.

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