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Guest Post: Building an “Emergency Fund” of Food

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photo by bkajino

Guest Post by Hannah and Abby from Safely Gathered In

Syndicated radio host Dave Ramsey advises his listeners to set up an emergency fund that consists of
three to six months of living expenses. The fund is for "just in case"
situations like job loss and medical or auto emergencies–basically a
source of cash for unexpected tough times.

Along this same line of
thinking, it is also smart to consider setting up an emergency fund of
food. Thinking of your long-term food needs is not only for
"gloom-and-doom" situations. By systematically storing food that your
family enjoys eating, you will be able to purchase the food on your
plan when it is at rock-bottom prices, learn to plan and budget better,
and give your family peace of mind.

Building
a three month supply of food can seem daunting at first—it is a lot of
food!  But it can be done. The first step is to plan meals you want to
store.
It won't do you much good to just store random food items. 

Make
a menu plan and post it on your pantry door for easy reference. Ideally, you want to plan meals that only use non-perishable items so
your food storage isn't ruined if you lose electricity and your freezer
food thaws. Spaghetti, rice and beans, chicken pot pie, and vegetarian
taco soup are some excellent meals that can be made completely from
pantry (non-perishables) items.

Once your meals are planned
out, write down all the ingredients you need on one "Master List." Each time you visit the grocery store, look at what's on sale and stock
up reasonably on the things from your list.
Or, you can just buy one
extra full meal every time you shop. Soon you will have a week of
extra meals, then a month, and so on.

A supply of food should
be built up slowly according to both your budget and plan. Do not go
into debt building your food storage—that's neither frugal or
responsible. Don't "hoard" food either. Only buy what you need and
what your family will enjoy eating. Then use it when you need it.

The
third important step in creating your emergency fund of food is
rotation.
Even non-perishable food can spoil. This is why it's so
important to "store what you eat and eat what you store."

In order to
avoid wasting the money that you spent purchasing the non-perishable
food items, pay close attention to expiration dates, and devise a
system for rotation. For example, if you have cans of veggies or fruit
in your food storage, eat them. Then, when you replace the items
you've taken out, put the new food in the back so the old food gets
eaten first. Food storage is a constant cycle of buying, storing,
rotating, eating, and replacing.

Do we only serve food storage
meals to our families? Of course not! We like to try new food storage
recipes weekly and we also like to eat a lot of fresh foods in the
summertime. We
rotate our supply, usually eating at least one food storage meal per
week, sometimes more. Because the foods are non-perishable, there is
not any pressure to use them immediately. At the same time, if we don't
feel like cooking what we had planned for dinner, we can fall back on
one of the food storage classics, and no one will complain.

Just
recently, Abby and her family had a tight month financially with some
car issues. The one expense they could confidently cut was their food
budget. She stopped going to the grocery store completely except to get
a few things like milk, eggs, and a little produce. Did they starve?
Not at all! They ate delicious, nutritious meals. In fact, no one even
noticed she hadn't been shopping as long as they didn't look in her
fridge. 

Remember, don't be overwhelmed when it comes to building an
emergency fund of food–take it one step at a time. Start by making
small goals like storing one week of food, then two weeks, and so on 
Then when you hit those bumps in life, feeding your family will be
something you don't have to think about.

Hannah and Abby share recipe ideas, food preservation
tutorials, and more information regarding food storage
at SafelyGatheredIn.blogspot.com.

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22 Comments

  • Emily says:

    It is not good to store food in places that reach higher than 75 degrees such as the garage in the summertime. Higher temperatures speed up deterioration.
    Attached is a link from Texas A&M Agricultural department for storing all types of food.
    http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/store/texas_storage.pdf

  • elizabeth says:

    Depending on where you live, it also makes sense to have a true emergency food supply. Costco sells a good one, with 275 meals in a 5 gallon bucket. All you need is water. They are shelf-stable for 10-20 years (depending on the storage temp). They run about $100 bucks, and could be grabbed and put in the car (or second floor of a home, etc.) in about 5 seconds. If you have to “shelter in place” at home, then having canned goods, etc., would improve the quality of your food, but at least you’d have SOMETHING to eat if you had this bucket. http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product.aspx?Prodid=11219554

  • ATami says:

    I just tried this- and requested that it be delivered to CVS (to save on shipping charges).. it came out to $5.35 total. Not bad for 30 cards!!! 🙂

  • Laine says:

    Great post! This is pretty much what we do and it really works for us. I grocery shop every two weeks and I buy around $5-10 of “stock up” ingredients each time. This last month we had something big come up and we had to cut our food budget as well. I stretched our two week shopping trip and what we had in our cupboard and freezer for almost six weeks. We did have to get things like milk, eggs, fresh fruit and veggies, but it really was a blessing. We ate really well and I don’t think we really lacked anything! I just was just so thankful to the Lord for His provision during that time.

  • Amity says:

    My husband’s grandfather did this. Using a black permanent marker he dated each item so he knew which items were the oldest!

  • I think it’s a great idea..home canning is a great way to add to our stock. I have shelves of green beans, tomatoes, salsa, etc. and a deep freezer full of corn from a wonderful year of harvesting!
    Julie @kingdomklipper

  • Katherine says:

    It really makes sense to stock up. When I think of “food storage” I think of cans of wheat and dry beans, but I have about a two month “stock” of thinks we like, like Mac & Cheese, canned corn, etc. Even though there are just the two of us, I buy 25lb bags of rice, flour, and sugar when they go on sale. Of course, I only buy one since it takes me two years to get through it all…

  • Saver Queen says:

    I do this too and find it helpful. We just lost over one month of pay because my spouse’s company just folded and couldn’t pay their employees – his entire monthly paycheque and $500 worth of expenses just gone. I’m so glad that I have been prepared both with the emergency fund and wise grocery shopping. Times are tough but we’ll get by.

  • Trixie says:

    Hello!

    Great post! I totally love the idea of stockpiling groceries. It makes life so much simpler to just “shop from the pantry” instead of making last minute trips to the store.

    I recently wrote about how I build my pantry store. In case anyone’s interested, here is a link to my post.

    http://farmhomelife.blogspot.com/2008/01/secrets-to-stocking-your-pantry.html

    take care,

    Trixie

  • Michelle says:

    I love this post as I have recently become aware of food storage (as a comprehensive, actual meal plan – not just stockpiling) and I have found great resources at these two sites as well:
    http://www.everydayfoodstorage.net (using your food storage in every day ways)
    http://www.foodstoragemadeeasy.net (step by step instructions on HOW to make your meal plan and know what you need from there – great tutorials, etc. and instructions to make your own food emergency kit)

    I am not affiliated with either site, just found them helpful. I can’t wait to check out your site, too!

  • Davonne says:

    This is great! I’ve recently decided to try out food storage, but haven’t been sure where to start other than extra flour and canned veggies, so I love this info.

    One problem we have is that my husband can’t eat anything with MSG in it, and most non-perishables have that in them, so I will have to be more creative, but these tips will definitely help!

  • Sherri says:

    Good tip on rotating your stock to use the oldest first. That’s the ideal. But many people may be surprised to learn that most expiration dates are not such that you must throw it out or it will make your family sick. They are basically suggestions of when the food inside will taste best. We have a store locally that sells closeout and salvage items close to/beyond the dates- we get yogurt, OJ, granola bars, etc dirt cheap and they always taste fine to us. I recently made a box of Hamburger Helper that was more than a year beyond the date (got lost in the back of the cabinet- oops) and it did not make anyone sick. I did notice a slight change of taste, but my kids didn’t and gobbled up the leftovers. It’s a shame that food banks apparently have to throw away outdated items- I would wager that most of those items are perfectly good, and if it were in my pantry I would use it.

  • Honey says:

    This is a great topic and all the comments are very helpful. I find that this month with all the holiday expenses, I am especially glad to have a stockpile so I can put some of the household/grocery budget toward last minute presents, holiday baking to share with neighbors, and our Christmas cards/postage, etc!

  • Rebecca K. says:

    i REALLY appreciate this post and the following comments!!! we are in a really tight spot now that would have been remedied by having a plan like this in place. I fully intend to make this happen as soon as possible!!

  • Melodie says:

    Our budget is tight every winter since my husband’s regular job is seasonal. During the summer months we stockpile funds and foods for the winter like a colony of ants. That way, when he is scrounging for work and getting paid hourly for odd jobs here and there mid-January and February, I can help lighten his burden by skipping the grocery store two out of every three weeks. We may have to cinch our belts a little in other areas, but we always have the basics: shelter, healthy food on the table, warm clothing, heat, and bills paid on time. We even usually have a little left over to entertain some other families now and then.

  • These are some great tips! I love to keep a well-stocked pantry and freezer with items I bought at rock-bottom prices. It also makes entertaining last-minute guests much easier!

    Valerie
    Frugal Family Fun Blog
    Good times on a budget!
    http://www.frugalfamilyfunblog.com

  • Jessica says:

    I have built my stockpile such that when I go shopping, all I need to get are perishables (bread, milk, eggs, produce) and loss leaders. It both saves money and is a good cushion in the event of an emergency- financial or otherwise. We have had power outages of 4+ days and didn’t have to eat out once, since I had food in the stockpile we could cook on the propane grill or eat as-is.

    I would advise on stockpiling simple things that are easily eaten without much prep, like peanut butter, crackers, canned soup, canned fruit- before other items whenever possible.

  • Lesley says:

    My system for stockpiling is: I use three shelves ,the lowest shelf has items that expire 2008, the next shelf has items that expire 2009 and the highest shelf has items that expire 2010 and above. This system helps me base meals around the items that will expire soon. I can see what food items where not popular and these items can be donate to the Salvation Army or food bank. Now that the 2008 shelf is almost bare, I have started to move down the items that will expire in early 2009, especially the salad dressings.

  • I love having a well-stocked pantry because it makes day-to-day life so much easier. Knowing that food is always available is only a bonus — being able to buy products at their lowest price, easily plan meals, and get out of the grocery store quickly are the real advantage. I think it is important to note that if you are building a pantry on a budget, it is okay if it takes a while. I really built my pantry over the course of a year using our actual weekly grocery budget.

  • I’m wondering if they would be interested in sharing in more detail how they organize their pantries. Microsoft Access database? Excel worksheet? Dates written on cans? LOL Whatever. I don’t know if I’m ready for THREE months but I’ll try to the DR equivalent of the baby e fund! Maybe 2-3 weeks! LOL

  • Excellent post. This will be one of my goals for early 2009
    Thank you

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