Regardless of who you are, what your family’s current diet looks like or what your budget is, you could definitely benefit from stocking up on pantry staples and other food items in bulk. Stocking up is a great way to ensure that you never run out of things your family uses on a regular basis, save money by buying in bulk and catching deals and also giving you the peace of mind that you’d be ready for anything – even a global pandemic or other emergency situation.
If you’re looking to stock your home for disaster scenarios there are plenty of companies out there that will be a One-And-Done type deal, where you can buy freeze-dried, MRE’s & Year’s Supply of Food and Water kits. Those are great if you’re short on time, patience or skills – although skills can be picked up quite quickly if you know where to look – and with the right mindset and gumption you can create your own emergency stockpile fairly quickly. However, if you want to have real food for everyday use, and also some extra (depending on your family’s particular needs) you can absolutely do this. My number one favorite way to ensure we have all of our favorite staples stocked up and ready at a moment’s notice is to plan ahead. With a little bit of ingenuity – and your favorite notebook – you, too can create confidence in your food stockpile.
Make a Plan
Firstly, figure out which items your family uses on a regular basis. This will save money and lessen food waste. No sense in buying a 10lb bag of Oregano if you only go through a 1oz jar once a year, right? You aren’t going to figure this out overnight, it’s something that comes with time and experience. You know your family best. If you’ve been planning your meals for a while, your handy-dandy Notebook is going to be an amazing resource for you here. You can look back and check all of your previous shopping lists to see what you bought most often. (This is where categories come in handy, if you know which “section” to look in, you’ll have a much easier time here) Also, check your pantry, cupboards, shelves, spice rack, freezers, etc and see what you are running low on. Depending on the shelf life of each product, I decide how much and how often I’m going to be making a purchase.
Another great tip to mention here – and this totally depends on your network/community/willingness – you could do group bulk buys (usually called a Co-Op or cooperative) with some local moms and families. This is where everyone orders together in large quantities, items are shipped and sometimes sorted by the “Drop Off Person” and there is a scheduled and organized pickup. It requires quite a bit of work on the front end (and the back end) to set up, but can be a great resource. Azure Standard has a great track record, tons of products to choose from and they allow you to either:
- Have the bulk orders shipped to your door
- Select a Drop Off location near you
- Become a new Drop Off location
Keep in mind, there are order minimums and shipping fees included, depending on which option you choose!
Make a Place
Obviously, to be able to stock up on pantry staples you need to have the room to do so. You may need to get creative here depending on the square footage you’re working with. Pantries and cupboards are great, if you have them, but if you’re already bursting at the seams in your limited kitchen space you might have to branch out to other areas of the home and use some ingenuity. Think about other storage areas where non-perishables could spend some time.
- A temperature controlled garage is a great option for many, and bonus if you’re picking up groceries in your car you can unload right to the shelving when you park! Many people also have an extra freezer or refrigerator here which is amazing for meal prepping!
- Basement – this one is hit or miss. Some people’s basement looks like an extension of their home, nice and carpeted with drywall & living space, other basements look like the stuff nightmares are made of, spiders, sprickets & perhaps a mouse or two occasionally. Use your judgment here. Canned and paper goods obviously wouldn’t be affected by the environment as much, so this could work for some categories.
- Under beds. It really depends on your family, and the type of food etc. I’ve seen lots of couponers do this as they run out of room quickly with all of their hauls. I don’t recommend buying bags of chips and storing them under a teenage boy’s bed, for example. Paper towels could work here.
- Unused closet space & shelving. Linen closet not being fully utilized? Take advantage of that top shelf and put your extra toiletries & cleaning supplies up there!
Condensing & Multi-Purposing
This is sort of an awkward place to discuss this, but also not really. When we talk about stocking up, some people tend to go a little wild. Just because Mr. Clean is on sale with a coupon, it doesn’t mean you need 40 bottles, Susan. Besides the fact that most conventional cleaners are full of carcinogens, respiratory irritants & hormone disruptors – buy bulks of these would take up a ton of storage space! Consider using concentrated cleaners, and while you’re at it, why not one that is completely plant-based, costs less than $1.50 for a 16oz bottle and is so multipurpose that it has literally replaced every single cleaner under my sink (except for my favorite buddies, white vinegar, baking soda & kosher salt)?
Create a Master List. If you have a Notebook for your weekly menu and shopping list (which I highly recommend), you can use either the first few pages or the last few pages for your master list. This is a great idea because you can just flip to it as a reference before doing your weekly planning. If you want something premade that you can grab and go, I gotchu! This printable is great because you can print several copies, depending on your needs, and tape them near the area of your home where each stockpile is! This list will/should look different for everyone based upon usage/dietary needs/family size/etc. but it will give you a rough idea of what our family stocks up on and hopefully inspire you to start your own stockpile!
I can’t talk about stocking up without mentioning canning & preserving! There is so much value in the age old practice of stocking up on foods that you’ve personally grown and preserved. It seems as if it’s become a lost art of sorts in our modern society, but believe it or not there are still plenty of people who take advantage of this method of food preservation. This will be something I address another time, in another post, but just know that growing your own food – or even purchasing it – and canning, dehydrating, vacuum sealing or freeze-drying is one of the most satisfying ways you can build a massive stockpile, and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment at the work of your own hands.
Stocking up on bulk foods & multiples of items implies bigger purchases than normal, which equals bigger spending than normal – up front at least. This is where having a weekly budget comes in handy. You can plan for these bigger purchases by saving money on your weekly groceries. Pretend your weekly budget is $275. If you try and keep it under $250 that gives you an extra $100 or so a month to play with. You can make a serious stockpile with $100 a month extra! Aaaaand, bonus!!!! When you begin to stock up on bulk items and multiples of commonly used staples, your grocery budget shrinks because you’re not buying the same items over and over at the mercy of whatever current grocery store prices are! Win, win!
At first it will seem like you’re spending more up front – which you are – but as time goes on, you’ll notice your weekly budget decreases, which allows you to take the leftover money at the end of each week and either put it in a savings account, or roll it over to the following week. Perhaps you want to get fancy and have a Surf & Turf night, or you can decide to buy a local Beef Share once or twice a year to get quality meat to stock your freezer and never run out. People think buying meat from Clubs like Costco, BJs or Sams is saving money, and in some ways it does, but I encourage you to check out your local Farmers & Butcher Shops. A lot of times the prices are on par with or close to the conventional store prices and the quality is far superior. You’re also supporting a local family that truly cares about the food they’re providing and the welfare of the animals – something you won’t find from many big corporate farms.
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Slow and steady wins the race. As with anything, it can seem overwhelming at first, both on the wallet and to the mind. However, if you take it slow and just do a little at a time, you won’t feel that pressure nearly as much, and the compounded effect will be enormous. Don’t look at the prefilled list in your download and think that you have to buy all of this stuff at once, or all of the stuff on your own personal list in one trip – or even in one year for that matter! Take your time, cross-check Unit Prices, wait for sales, buy just a few items at time from your list, test the waters and see how long things last, and before you know it you will have a fully stocked pantry, freezer, etc. and the peace of mind knowing that you are prepared.