One of the most common reasons that people give for not prepping is the cost involved. People seem to have this mental image of a bedroom or basement dedicated to being filled to the rafters with cans of Chef-Boy-Ardee. They imagine someone going out and spending $5000 at a time for a year’s worth of food.
The fact is, a pantry is a work in progress. You can save a fortune on your food budget by shopping carefully and in quantity.
A well-stocked food pantry is not just there in case of an epic disaster or TEOTWAWKI. It can provide a cushion in the event of a job loss or personal economic downturn. Not only that, but as an investment, purchasing food at today’s prices is a great hedge against tomorrow’s increases. The cost of food will only be going up as we face global shortages.
Take peanut butter, as an example: Last year I purchased a store-brand peanut butter for $1.88 per jar when it was on sale. This year, that very same brand in the very same sized jar is $5.99 on sale because of a poor peanut harvest last year. Each jar of peanut butter on the shelves is a savings of $4.11 – there is no other investment that gives you that kind of return!
Before I even knew what prepping was, I had a well-stocked pantry. When I was first married and had a newborn baby, I was struggling to put food on the table with our tiny grocery budget. At the library, I stumbled upon a series of books by Amy Dacyczyn called “The Complete Tightwad Gazette“. This fantastic series gave me a whole new perspective on grocery shopping, and is the shopping basic philosophy I adhere to still. (And I highly recommend the books – there are 3 or you can get one big compendium containing all 3 titles!)
When building your pantry, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day – and neither is your food storage!
Focus on building your pantry strategically. What are your priorities? How many people are in your family? What are the likely scenarios you may face in your current location?
- The first priority is clean, healthy organic food.
- I am prepping for 3 people and 3 pets.
- We face frequent power outages because of the extreme weather and a local grid that is old – so frozen food and long cooking times are not practical.
- I have a fairly small income and want to have plenty of food to see me through the coming inflation of food prices.
With these thoughts in mind, I select food for our household based on local sales, the clearance rack, my garden and my access to local farms. I also purchase organic grains in bulk quantities from some online sources.
To get started, write down your menus for a couple of weeks – this will help you to establish the pantry basics that you need.
Next, start a “price book” – this is a vital tool. Without it, you can’t really be sure if that sale is really a sale at all. A price book is simply a notebook that you keep with you when shopping where you write down the price that you pay for certain items. You should always update your price book with the lowest price for these items. This is what allows me to see that one year ago I paid $1.88 for peanut butter and now the lowest price I can find is $5.99, like I mentioned above.
When you find a staple at a good price, purchase in as much quantity as you can afford and reasonably use before it expires. This will allow you to begin building your stockpile. After a couple of months of shopping in this manner, you’ll discover that you don’t actually “grocery shop” any more – you shop to replenish your stockpile.
Items that you stockpile should be foods that you regularly consume. If you normally eat steak and potatoes, for example, but you fill your pantry with beans and rice, when the day comes that you are relying on that pantry you will suffer from “food fatigue” and you will also feel deprived. Start now by adjusting the food that you consume on a regular basis to foods that will be sustainable in a food storage pantry.
This doesn’t have to mean dull, bland canned food, by the way – check out the new book by Tess Pennington of Ready Nutritionfor some great ideas for serving delicious meals from the pantry: The Prepper’s Cookbook: 365 Recipes to Turn Your Emergency Food into Nutritious, Delicious, Life-Saving Meals.
If you don’t already know how to cook from scratch, it’s better to learn now, before it’s a necessity. You need to learn to cook with your standard supplies – for example, if you’ve never cooked beans from scratch before, it is not ideal to start out by trying to cook them over an open fire. Cooking with whole grains is quite a bit different than cooking food that comes from a box on the grocery store shelf.
Now, let’s take a moment to look at the math – and you’ll see why shopping for a pantry beats out weekly grocery shopping every time!
I purchase my beef in bulk from a local butcher shop. They raise hormone free meat, the cattle are grass fed and the quality is superior. Because I purchase 1/4 of a cow each year, I’m able to get all of my beef at $3.99 per pound.
Compare this to the grocery stores: the best price this week for stewing beef was $4.99 per pound. The best price for ground beef was $2.99 per pound. The best price for roast was $9.99 per pound. When you average all of these together, I pay slightly more for ground beef and far less for everything else – as well – the quality is excellent and I’m avoiding the nasty chemicals and factory farming practices that taint the grocery store meat. The average grocery store price per pound, on sale, is $5.99
Pantry method: $3.99 per pound
Regular shopping method: $5.99 per pound
Now, let’s look at grains. I just bought organic wheatberries. I paid $17.04 for 10 kg (about 22 pounds). The shipping was $21.78, bringing my total to $38.82, delivered to my door – or $1.76 per pound. I can’t get wheatberries at the local store. I have to drive an hour and 15 minutes to get them, resulting in a tank of gas. At the closest place I can find wheat berries, the cost in bulk is $2.60 per pound. Yes, I can buy a smaller amount, but purchasing that larger amount results in savings because of fewer trips to the store. The LDS Church website has a calculator that recommends 300 pounds of wheat per person per year. This would be wheat for making bread, pasta, cookies and other baked goods – all of your wheat items. At $1.76 per pound, that is $529 per year. At $2.60 per pound, that is $780 per year. If you are buying your wheat already processed into bread, pasta and cereal, the price continues to climb.
Pantry method: $1.76 per pound
Regular shopping method: $2.60 per pound
If you can do this with all of your staples, you can see the savings that can be achieved.
Some of the things I buy in extremely large quantities are:
- Coconut Oil
- Tomatoes (although this year I have the room to grow the 3 bushels per year I’ve been purchasing)
- Dry milk
I supplement these items with sale-purchased
- Organic veggies and fruit
- Farmer’s market veggies and fruit
- Baking essentials like soda, powder, etc
I also garden, pick wild berries and crabapples from the woods and acquire some game from local hunters.
I rely highly on canning to preserve meat and vegetables.
I purchase organic milk and cheese fresh, although I do have a store of powdered milk. I also get eggs and chicken from a local farmer on an as-needed basis, since there is no real discount available on the free-range, non-drugged chicken that we prefer.
I spend around $20-30 per week on regular groceries and rely on my pantry for the rest. I spend about $200 per month making large purchases for the pantry. This averages out, on an annual basis, to a monthly grocery bill of approximately $330 for 3 people and 3 pets.
That’s right! $330 per month to serve a menu that is largely organic!
Once you have the hang of it, you can apply this same pantry principle to nearly everything that you purchase: soap, shampoo, toilet paper, over the counter medications – anything that you can get in big quantities! Your pantry doesn’t stop at the kitchen. Use your theory of preppernomics to keep your household running smoothly on far less money!
Stock up and prepare for that rainy day that could be just around the corner. And if the rainy day never comes, you’ve saved time and money while providing healthy food for your family.
This is an excellent article. Many people do not understand how much money you save by prepping.
not even prepping really, just eating smart. As an organic farmer and advocate, the response i get from most folks who see the value in real food, but say they can’t afford it. I’m a farmer, so needless to say live below the official poverty level with a family of 5, yet i can afford to feed my family 90% organic. granted some of that comes from the farm mostly in the way of veggies and eggs, mostly for the cost of feed and labor,but one cannot feed a family of 5 on veggies and eggs, yet somehow we do it. buying local in bulk saves a lot of money, and mucking about in the grocery store lamenting food prices! not to mention, supporting local farms and economies is one of the best shock absorbers in the event of a nationwide economic collapse. when shipments stop coming in from the west coast due to drought or increase in fuel prices, who do you think your local farmer would be more likely to do business with, the tried and true loyal customer, or the desperate outsider? I will share this article with some folks.
Where can you order organic wheat berries? Also, I would love to get organic chicken feed.
Deb – I’m not sure where you live, but I am in Canada. I order my wheat berries from Oak Manor Farms. http://www.oakmanorfarms.ca/ I also get popcorn, cornmeal and oatmeal from them. The quality is fantastic! I can’t vouch for any companies in the US but I did check Amazon and they have a 25 pound bag available for only $30 (great price!) http://www.amazon.com/Wheat-Berries-Organic-White-Spring/dp/B001SAMJVE The nice thing is, that 25 pounds will turn into about 40-50 pounds of flour, so you have to keep that in mind when calculating your price. Even with shipping of close to $1 per pound, it was cheaper for me to mail order my wheat berries than to buy organic flour (which has a a very short shelf life also). Hope this helps! 🙂
Great article, Daisy!
I live in Boise, Id
Do you know if I can get grass fed beef localy for less than $5.00 per lb?
Hi, Ken. I don’t have any sources in that area, but hopefully someone local to you will chime in. I located my butcher through a farmer’s market booth. The vendor sold meat that he had farmed there. Also, if you have a butcher shop that you like, speak to the owner about the price for a quarter of a cow – you will get the best price buying in bulk that way.
Daisy, I am sorry to inform you that you cannot gain extra mass just by grinding something. You may get more volume but not more weight. It’s like the old question ‘what weighs more? a ton of rocks or a ton of feathers’.
If you grind one pound of wheat you only get one pound of flour, unless you are adding something else to it.
Geez, you’re absolutely right – I should have used the word “volume”. I guess what I mean by this is that once you grind 2 cups of wheat berries, you end up with 3 cups of flour – but of course the actual weight would be the same. Thank you for making that more clear! 🙂
For people living in the western USA they might look into ordering organic food from Azure Standard http://www.azurestandard.com in Dufur Oregon. They have a once a month delivery systen using trucks. Here in Wyoming I have ordered from them for many years. I am part of a local group that pay for the gas so that one person can drive their vehicle a couple hours to the drop off point and meet the truck. I would think that Azure could put a person in touch with groups in their area if they aren’t directly on a truck route.
Azure grows many of their own grains and vegetables. The have a comittee that reviews the other foods that they are considering offering in their catalog which is over 300 pages long.
Oh – what a great suggestion! I’m bookmarking that site for friends who live over that way!
I know this is an old post but I wanted to let you know Azure Standard delivers to the East Coast as well. I learned about them through another homestead site and called. They will make deliveries to my area (in TN) once a month. There is a minimum order, but it’s worth it. Our minimum is $550/mo, but if you get others to share in the purchase, it’s easy to meet the minimum.
wholeshare.com is a great buying club for local organic items if you live in NY. possibly scranton area of pa as well.