09 April 2017

Rebuilding the Stockpile

Last year our stockpile was our grocery store. We lived from it, with just $100 a month to spend on fresh fruit and veg, dairy and some meat and poultry.

Part of the 2016 grocery stockpile
By the end of the year the shelves were looking very bare, and bare shelves make me jittery. Knowing I can always feed my family and keep ourselves, our clothes and our home clean is my safety blanket. It is reassuring to me to know that even if there is no money to spare we can still eat well and maintain our health and our home.

With that in mind we have worked hard over the years to build our emergency fund and I spend time working on my shopping list, to ensure we can eat today and in the future.

That means I make a comprehensive shopping list, including quantities and prices, each month. I've been doing this for almost 23 years now and having a well-stocked pantry has saved us not only money, but time and energy many times over the years.

The stockpile has meant that when needed I've been able to redirect grocery money to another area and we could still eat. It has given us wriggle room in our budget to cope with the small emergencies that crop up from time to time and not worry about how we'd feed our kids. But more than anything it has taken away the worry of how I'd do that when we had no money (and there have been times over the years when we just didn't have any spare money, not even 5 cents).

So looking at the empty shelves has been niggling at me, until this last week when I did some juggling and rearranging and reworked our family budget (budgets are meant to be reworked and rejigged, they're not set in cement) and found some money to shift to the slush fund.

On Monday I went to the butcher. It's the first time I've been to the butcher for ages and it was a great day to go. I went to Australian Butcher in Boronia and bought:
Chicken fillets - advertised at $4.99/kg - bought in store for $4.69/kg
Regular mince - $6.99/kg
Sausages - $4.39/kg
Whole chickens -  $2.99/kg - I bought 1 to have as roast chicken and either chicken fried rice, sweet'n'sour or enchiladas
Corned beef - $5.99/kg

Total cost was $106.32

Then Monday afternoon I spent batch cooking. With the help of the slowcooker and the pressure cooker I made six meals of pasta sauce and six of haystack mixture. Then I made a huge batch of porcupine meatballs and froze in meal lots - that gave me four meals.

I used some of the chicken fillets to make curried chicken and some to make chicken casserole packs (four of each). These were frozen raw, with the sauces and veggies, ready to be thawed and cooked.

The sausages were divided and made into two lots of curried sausages and two lots of Colleen's Sausage Casserole. I boiled and skinned the sausages, then chopped them and divided them into ziplock bags. I added the sauces and veggies and froze them. They'll need to be thawed and cooked in the slow cooker. I serve curried sausages over steamed rice and Colleen's Sausage Casserole I serve with mashed potato and veggies - broccoli, cauliflower, peas, beans, carrots, corn, sweet potato, pumpkin - whatever is in the fridge.

I cut each pieces of silverside in half, vacuum sealed them and then put them in the freezer to use over winter, when we will have it with mashed potato, cabbage, carrots and homemade mustard sauce. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. This will give us six meals.

This gave us 37 meals at a cost of $2.95 per meal. This sure made me smile! Meat has been expensive and while there's no steak or roast beef, we will be eating well and the freezer has some tasty meals for us to enjoy.

It took me two and a half hours to prep, pack and clean up. The cooking time in the slow cooker was about 4 hours and the pressure cooker only takes 20 minutes, but they're hands off cooking, letting me do other things so I didn't include that time.

Hannah helped me do a stockpile grocery shop on Wednesday, to replenish what we'd used over summer. We went to Aldi and I spent $174.52. This included the milk, cheese and eggs for this week, as well as the stockpile shopping.

There was enough in the slush fund to add:
2 trays tomato soup
2 trays baked beans
1 tray tinned spaghetti
4L olive oil
4L white vinegar
3 x 12 packs toilet paper
8kg white sugar
6 x 500g jars peanut butter
1 x 500g jar Vegemite
6 x 1kg spaghetti

The pantry is looking a little better now.

I still need to add:
Soup mix
Kidney beans
Pasta
Red lentils
Brown lentils
Gluten flour
Yeast
Nutmeat
Spelt flour
Powdered milk
Honey
Rolled oats

It's not the shopping that is exhausting but the putting away! I rotate, bringing older groceries to the front and putting the new stock at the back. This means lifting and shifting and I was grateful for Hannah's help.

I also doubled up on the sugar this shop. We don't use a lot of sugar, but with Cyclone Debbie devastating sugar crops the word is sugar will not only increase in price but could be in short supply. Now what that means isn't clear - it could be like the bananas after Cyclone Yasi - we didn't have trouble getting bananas, we just could afford to pay $12/kg for them so we ate other fruits. Sugar may still be readily available, just grossly over-priced. If that happens we have enough to last us about 10 months, but there are always alternatives (honey and maple syrup make great sugar substitutes).

Where did I find the money? I know someone will ask, so here it is. I allocate a standard amount each month for electricity, gas and water. We don't always use the amount allocated, in fact we rarely do, so the money sits in those categories as excess. I've gone over our bills for last year, added 10 per cent (to cover price rises, using more power or gas than we would normally etc.) and left one month of the budget in each category and the excess I moved to the slush fund.

How do you rebuild your stockpile after you've used it? Where do you find the money to stockpile?

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