In these harsh economic times every penny counts and prepeprs know it all too well. We can live with older clothes, we can drive an older car, but we must have food. Water and food are a must for whatever scenario the future throws at us. Without a good stockpiled pantry, our chances of survival are slim. Some preppers consider they have to struggle twice as much compared to their average neighbor, since besides the daily cost of living they have to also stretch their budget for additional supplies. There are some tips to make your life easier and help you save some money.
The first thing you can do is convert some of your clothing budget to food. Think about what you need for clothing and try to get it from the thrift stores. I never understood why some people would pay 30 bucks for a designer t-shirt, I consider it slow suicide if you overspend on clothing. If you follow the pre-season sales you can get some really good clothes from the thrift store. Some thrift stores even have good kitchen utensils and sturdy baking pans. It will be a shame not to take advantage of these offers. If you spend less on clothes and other household items you can move a bit more money into your food budget.
You can also save money if you grow a garden from which you can eat all the vegetables you would usually buy. If you have a good yield, you can also preserve the harvest for the winter months. Canning the vegetables you’ve grown is a good practice. It will help you add tasty foods to your pantry and stretch your food budget.
I’ve wrote in a previous article about what a survival pantry should contain and about how I try to add additional items to it, every time I go shopping for groceries and supplies. The reality is that without some well-established rules, you can end up spending much more than your designed budget.
Here are some basic tips you should keep in mind for a healthy food budget:
Plan before you act
You shouldn’t go on a shopping spree every time you need to buy something. You have to plan your shopping trips and check the grocery ads for sale items. Don’t go all around town to all the stores, but rather go to the ones you can visit in a single trip. Besides keeping your food budget in line, this will save you some gas money as well.
Anticipate your future needs
If you know you’re going to need certain items at a future date, look for them earlier to get a better price. You never know when you can find those items on sale. The less you pay for items you need, the more money you will have for your food budget.
A grocery list is a must
Never leave home without a grocery list, otherwise you will buy the entire store without knowing it. The marketing strategy of stores, the color pattern and the way they display the merchandise, it is all meant to make you buy more stuff. Write down the items you are nearly out of, look on your list and stick to it. If you buy only the items from your grocery list your food budget won’t be compromised.
Plan your menus before going to the store
You will save money if you plan a week’s worth of meals, including using the leftovers. A sale item from last week will be part of the next week’s menu. It’s better to have everything planed rather than going: “I guess tonight we’re ordering some pizza”. If you want to stretch your food budget, ordering food should be avoided.
Use coupons, they will save you money
Check your local newspapers, magazines and most importantly on the Internet. Use the sites that let you print the coupons immediately and not the ones that require additional steps, through link baits. Be sure to ask at the stores you regularly shop as they may even have a website offering coupons.
Never go shopping on a hungry stomach
If you are hungry and you go to the stores, you will not be able to resist to all the offers and the delicious foods you are bombarded with. You will buy impulsively and you will buy a lot. If you eat before going to the store, you will be able to act more rationally and stick to the list you’ve made. Going shopping when hungry is the worst you can do. It will destroy your food budget and you will end up buying a lot of junk/unhealthy food.
Just go shopping for groceries once a week
Think of it this way, the less shopping trips you make, the better your chances are to limit impulse buying. Chose a day that suits your schedule and go shopping once you’ve made your grocery list and you have evaluated your choices. If you have to shop at a store that is far away from your location, go once a month for the items you can only get there. If you can’t respect a shopping schedule, you won’t be able to keep a food budget.
Your phone has a calculator, use it
Check products for per ounce price, since the largest size is not always the least expensive per ounce. There are all sorts of promotions that you have to be aware of. Some are in your favor, some are not. Always calculate the price, to make sure you don’t overspend. There are also those wonderful “promotions” when the store makes a mistake and labels the price wrong. There are also the ones where they don’t do the math and you end up paying much less than the product is worth. Don’t buy food packed in big containers if they seem cheaper, you will end up throwing some away if you can’t eat it all. There is no shame in calculating the prices of items and if you want to stretch your food budget, this is something you have to do.
Buy in season to buy cheaper
Fruits and vegetables have a specific season and the prices are significantly lower and the quality higher at that time. If you want to start canning and you have cravings for fresh apples, try doing it at the peak of the season when the price is the best in your area. Buy only local and limit yourself to what is grown without being shipped by boat or airplane. Baking products have also a season and it is best to buy them in the months before Christmas. The same goes for other products like turkey and sweet potatoes, try to buy more than you can use for Thanksgiving and preserver it for later use. This is one trick that will help you keep a food budget and you will not overspend.
Buy in bulk
Everything that you need, that is available in bulk, should be your first choice. Once you bought the desired quantity, at home, you can transfer it to a sturdy container. There is no need to spend money on packaging, unless you plan to have a specific use for that container.
Avoid buying prepared food
Why don’t you try and cook it yourself? It will be cheaper, tastier and healthier. Buy dry beans and cook them rather than using canned beans. Don’t buy spaghetti sauce, use the tomatoes from your garden and make your own sauce. You should cook every time you have the chance to do it, mostly because cooking is a skill that has to be developed and it will save you money in the long run.
Don’t use a credit card to buy groceries
Unless you pay it off every month, any interest you pay on the debt will make your groceries cost more. What you saved on an item will be totally lost in interest payments that add up. Use cash and say no to credit cards, you will be better off and your food budget will not suffer. You can’t keep a food budget if you have debt.
Buy in large quantity and repackage
You can save money by buying large packages of meat and repacking it in smaller portions or prepare some delicious jerky (here is how to do it). Some stores sell large uncut hunks of meat at times and will cut it to your specs; you just have to take it home and package it up. You can be creative and decide in advance what you can do with the extra food and you will save money for your food budget.
Stock up when there is a sale
Stock up on the items you need and use on a regular basis when there is a sale and it will save you money. You should also put up in place your own system on how to deal with sales. I have an “emergency sale” cash deposit, which I keep for my food budget and only for sale periods. I add to it whenever I can and I don’t touch it, unless I’ve spotted a sale.
Form a friendly look-up group
You surely have friends that called you every once in a while, to let you know that your favorite beer is on sale. How about doing the same for your other supplies? If you have friends or neighbors that are into prepping you can discuss with them and share shopping tips and take advantage of sales. You can buy together larger quantities and split them afterwards. A case sell will get you 12 or even 24 cans of that item, if you don’t need it all, you can split it up and this way everybody saves and keep their food budget.
Don’t forget about free food
You can find fruit trees in your community that the owner doesn’t want to pick and use the fruits. Some will be happy to let you pick it, since they won’t have to pick the rotten fruit off the ground. Another source of free food is wild food, you can hunt for meat or you can forage for wild vegetables and fruits. It all depends on the area you live in and your knowledge (find out from this article what can you forage during summer). You just have to get out and find it.
Keeping a food budget can seem a little difficult at first, but after some time, all the tips listed above will become a natural habit. You will be able to stretch your food budget and you will realize how much money you were throwing away.
Stay Safe and God Bless!
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