I think the idea of food storage or prepping/ preparedness can be off-putting to some because it seems so extreme. We have everything at our fingertips & we don’t want to admit by the act of preparing that something could go wrong. This philosophy is flawed in so many ways, but it is reinforced by our culture. In eras past, farm-centric communities planned their lives by the seasons. Not so long ago putting up a store of food to get you through the winter was perfectly normal & completely expected. In years of good harvest they stored extra against leaner years of drought & meager harvests.
Today we live in a society that has a hyper-focus on the moment. We don’t save up for something; we buy it on credit. We don’t wait until a video comes out for rent in a store; we download it in our home. Everyday becomes more of an instant access experience driving us to do more and more and more! The demand to fill every single second can be exhausting in and of itself- but that’s not what beats us down. Because most of us are living paycheck to paycheck- spending everything we earn instead of laying something aside to get us through leaner times, small problems become bigger problems really fast.
Let me demonstrate. Your schedule is ultra packed everyday; so you rely on the everyday conveniences to get you through the day. Snacks at the gas station on the way to the game cost a little bit more than they do at the grocery store, but time is money & convenience is sanity; so grab & go! Right? All of those extra pennies and dollars eat away at your hard earned dollars that are driving your super hectic life that demands the expensive conveniences and keeps you living paycheck to paycheck because somehow it just all gets eaten up, doesn’t it? Then the transmission goes in the car when you weren’t expecting it or the hard drive crashes and you have to either get it fixed or buy a new one. If there’s no money in the budget, you buy it on credit & pay it off when you can. As long as it’s a low interest credit card and you can make the payment, it’s fine, right? Maybe. Does anyone remember 2008/2009? I sure do! The cost of gas went through the roof, followed by the cost of milk, eggs, and everything else. My paycheck, unfortunately, did not follow. (Shame on it!) That recession hit a lot of people realllllly hard. Many of them are still recovering.
So- how does food storage help? It’s actually the practice of food storage that helps as much or more than what you actually store because it puts you into the mentality of thinking ahead and being prepared for leaner times- something we might think of more in our day as bumps in the road. Before we get too far into how food storage helps, though, let’s define what food storage can be, because there are a lot of different types.
NOT it!: The Doomsday Preppers that probably come to your mind first when you think of prepping (or something related) are usually the ones that live in some remote spot, grow all of their own food, have a bunker and are outfitted to survive the end of the world. Right? Good for them. We hope they do. I have a few other options for you to consider in case you aren’t wanting to bug out and battle zombies!
Working Pantry: This is what my mom always had. We lived 30 minutes from town and a trip into the store to get something that we were out of was expensive- especially if it was just 1 or 2 things. So, she shopped ahead and stocked up whenever was on sale. My dad built storage shelves in the basement & she just rotated what she bought so that we used the oldest items first. Whenever we ran out of sugar in the middle of baking cookies, we ran downstairs instead of to the store. I honestly never knew that anyone lived any other way until I ventured out to college because it just seemed so logical. The added bonus in this is that she was always paying the sale price for what she bought!
The Stash: You see the same mentality in a lot of extreme couponers, where they have a stash & just add to the stash as sales coincide with coupons. If you’re organized enough to keep up with all of the coupons and different sales, it works wonderfully! (It is mostly, if not exclusively, manufactured foods, however.) My sister-in-law has mastered extreme couponing to the point where she really does get the store to pay her on some of her hauls! As a result of her hard work every week in the sale and coupon department, she has been able to be to be very generous to so many people in her life. She regularly takes items to the homeless shelter, the local missionaries and anyone in need. We’re especially thrilled when she brings us boxes and boxes of household supplies as holiday gifts. Win for us! Win for her!
The Basics: This is the stage we’re at and what we have found to be most helpful in maintaining and using food storage. When I go to the store I just buy 1-2 extra things that are basic, easy to store items. Things like oatmeal, beans, rice, craisens, applesauce, gluten free rice flour, etc. are just a $2-$3 addition to my bill; so it’s not something that’s going to break my budget anymore than a soda or snack out would, but you’d be surprised at how fast 1-2 extra items every trip adds up and begins to give you peace of mind. You’ll also be really amazed when you see how useful that new pantry full of food really is!
When my husband had to retire early with health problems and I ended up in surgery shortly after that we were incredibly grateful to have a pantry full of basics. Life gets tough really fast when you are living paycheck to paycheck with a fair amount of debt and one or both breadwinners loses even part of their income! I had insurance that covered 60% of my income while I was on leave for the surgery, but that still left us scrambling for the other 40%. A pantry with several months of basics allowed us to stretch our food budget a lot further and kept us from worrying about whether we should buy groceries or pay rent.
You might think that in such a situation you could just get food stamps or assistance, but if you are making a decent living and have insurance that covers part of your income while you’re on medical leave or are receiving something like unemployment, you will be making too much to get assistance with food. If you end up disabled, it takes several YEARS before you can get Social Security Disability- & that’s usually with the help of a lawyer and a very long and drawn out appeal process. Some of the requirements include having no cash or savings left of any kind. You don’t want to get to that point. You don’t need that kind of stress if something like that happens to you or someone you love.
When things were tight for us we ate oatmeal or eggs a lot of days. Eggs were cheap at the store and oatmeal was in the pantry! It wasn’t fun, but we cut out a lot of things and used our food storage AND IT SAVED US!!! It taught us an important lesson, too. No matter how hard you work, no matter how successful you are, life can still hit you hard and it’s better to be prepared for it.
Here are some ways that having a pantry full of basics lowers your everyday stress:
Insurance against hard times: If the car needs a major repair, if your kid gets injured and the ER bill is astronomical, or any number of things that can stress your budget, it’s a great time to fall back on your food storage & stretch your food budget a little thinner till you get the unusual expense paid off!
No last minute runs to the grocery store: In college, a roommate made fun of me for keeping my assigned kitchen space super FULL! She pointed out that the grocery store was walking distance away & wanted to know why I needed to keep so much food on hand? Why not run to the store whenever I needed something? As mentioned above, I had grown up only buying what was on sale & then just rotating stock at home; so it was just habit by the time I got to college. I could go to the cabinet or fridge & make anything that I wanted without planning too much ahead or making a special trip to the store. Since I was working full time and going to school full time at the SAME time, that was a bonus, although I will admit to being too busy to be super organized and avoid waste. That was the downside. I’ve gotten better over time buy just stocking up on basics.
Mom!!! I need XYZ!!!: You know you’ve heard that before- usually at the very last minute possible. “It’s my turn to bring snacks for school/ the team.” “They’re having something that I hate at lunch today & I want to pack…” You name it- kids (husbands, too!) are the absolute best at waiting until an impossible moment in your overcrowded schedule to announce something that you can’t get out of. Life is a lot less stressful if you have a bunch of options already in the pantry or freezer.
This is great for times when you need to help out a friend, too. I went to a Women’s Conference once where one of the speakers gave a workshop on making your own healthier freezer meals. The benefits for you and your family are obvious, but she pointed out something that I hadn’t thought of before. She said that she always freezes some of her freezer meals in disposable pans so that she can pull something out of the freezer at the last minute if she needs to take a dish to an event or to a friend who needed a pick-me-up. Sometimes it was to someone at Church who just had a baby or gotten home from a surgery, other times she just didn’t have time to make something for an event that she needed to bring food to & having something prepared in the freezer was a heck of a lot CHEAPER than buying something pre-made and less healthy at a store or restaurant. I was incredibly impressed with the idea & thought it could be a great activity for a family night! Make ahead meals! Let everyone help!
SNACK BAG Savings!: If you’ve ever priced out individual portion serving sizes vs. their big brother/sisters in the snack aisle you know that it’s much more expensive to buy the snack size. In fact, depending on how often you buy those snack sizes & how many people you’re buying them for (not to mention if you’re buying them in bulk or grabbing them at a premium at the gas station) your cost difference is hundreds and hundreds of dollars per year!
What would happen to your life if you took that extra $500 each year and put it towards your mortgage? What if you found other savings by taking similar actions and applied that to your debt? How soon could you get to the point where you had no debt? What would your life look like without debt? Would you have to work as many hours? Would both adults in your home have to work- or could one stay at home or work part-time? If your cost of living were 1/2 or 1/3 of what it is right now, I bet it would change your life dramatically.
That’s kind of the point to everything in the “Everyday Preparedness” category. It just makes life easier. Everyone I’ve ever known who was successful was really well organized and well balanced, which doesn’t happen by mistake. They spent a lot of time saying ‘no’ as well as investing in planning measures that helped them to get ahead. It bears notice that taking the time to get ahead of problems saves you time & pays you back money when you’re dealing with all of the inevitable bumps in the road. It might seem like you just don’t have the money or the time, but in truth- the more stressed and constantly behind you feel, the more you need to take steps to get ahead. It is possible. You just have to do it bit by bit. It’s a journey & a process- not an overnight transformation. The peace of mind and feeling of control that you will gain in your life is so worth it.
Happy Food Storage Fever! (You know you’ve caught it!) 😉