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Stock Up Costs Vs. Living Costs in This Economy

A shy reader e-mailed this question: "Thanks for breaking down the list to manageable pieces but with this economy I still can't afford to get much. What do I do? J. "

Our answer...

Dear J and other interested readers...
Thanks for writing! It's good to know that we're helping people. We are a family of 3 on a very limited budget - only one of us has a job and the other is partially disabled. We have minimum bills: mortgage, car insurance, utilities, phone, student loans. The bills are paid first. (We don't have cable or other fancy entertainment things.) What is left over goes first to essentials like gas, car maintenance, health care and prescriptions, food, toiletries, etc. Family, in the here and now, comes FIRST.

There are months when we don't have even a penny left over. When we do... we attack the stock-up list, stopping first at the dollar store, yard sales and the on-line recycle yahoo group. When we have a windfall of more than $50 or so, we stock up on dried foods from Emergency Essentials or Sam's Club. Then, even though we disagree with Wal-Mart's employee policies, we shop there for the rest because they do have the lowest prices. Usually. Gotta shop around and compare prices. And garden.

We are working to cut out our eating out, so that will free up additional funds for us. But for now, we can get a couple of rolls of aluminum foil and a box of baby wipes this week, plus one superglue, and about 9 cans of no-sugar-added fruit (pears, fruit cocktail and pineapple). Every little bit will help.

And we're eating what we store. It definitely helps to prepare for eating our basic ingredients.

Here's a list of suggestions:
  • When people ask what you want for birthdays or Christmas, tell them a gift card for your favorite grocery store, or to an online supplier of dried foods.
  • Lay off the purchased coffee drinks (using your stored coffee instead), and after a month, you'll have a nice little chunk of change to do some shopping.
  • When the kids present their holiday or birthday gift wish list to you, explain to them that money is tight. Look at your list of supplies to store and ask them to pick one to get for the family in lieu of one present.
  • Check out the dented-can section of the grocery. You still have to be careful but if a can is dented and not bulging it will be fine. Eat that one pretty quickly and put one of the un-dented in your storage. In that section, they'll also have other discounted products like smashed boxes of tea, or off-season candles (Halloween in December). Check out this section every time you go to the store. King Soopers in the Denver area also has almost-expired bakery items in their section, and they put special orange stickers on dairy and meat products that are about to expire (but they leave them in the dairy and meat section, respectively); great way to provide these products at more affordable prices.
  • Especially check the day after holidays. Valentine's Day is in 2 days, Saturday. Early on Sunday, check out the dollar and grocery stores for their 50% marked down goodies. Get candy that will last a long time, like hard candy. M&M's last a while too.
  • Don't spend money on special storage buckets. Every bakery that you pass, go in and ask what they do with the empty icing buckets. When you find a place that will give them to you for free, go in every chance you get and pick some up. Thoroughly clean, dry, pack (adding a couple of bay leaves for any bugs already in there - they hate that scent), label for contents, and seal. If you don't store your food properly (like flour and beans), you are inviting mice, roaches and other critters to invade your stores. Don't waste your money by having to throw away good food.
  • Jackie Clay at Backwoods Home Magazines suggests another good way to store items is in metal trash cans with lids.
  • Eat what you store. Another way to say it is: "rotate your stock". The most recent cans of soup or bags of flour (etc.) get labeled with purchase date and go to the end of the line. Use your oldest. And if you're storing corn meal and have never cooked with it, now's the time to do so. If you store corn meal and later on have no way to get anything else, you better like foods made with corn meal!

Hope this answers the question. Please ask if you have more! Thanks.


ConfessionsOfAnOverworkedMom said...

Those are great ideas. Another suggestion I have is to ask for items on your local Freecycle. All items there are free. I have gotten a nice oil lamp and a world band radio there. It can't hurt to put out a request for a sleeping bag or extra seeds.

NVG-WmsFam said...

We've gotten so many things from free-cycle! Last year we traded some bean seeds for pumpkin seeds. Craigslist is good too, but beware of scam artists that have begun taking over there.