18 August 2015

Living off Our Stockpile Part 1

Due to a change in circumstances (that sounds worse than it is really) our income for 2016 will be cut by about two thirds. This is a challenge we had thought would be about five years away, but it's been brought forward due to circumstances totally beyond our control.

Now we could curl up, start moaning and watch our dreams and plans for the future vanish, but instead we've sat down with our spending plan and re-worked it so that we will be OK.

We've made a few cuts to some discretionary spending (clothes, entertainment, holidays, gifts) and lowered the utility budgets (water, gas, electricity, phone, internet) and we'll be just fine. We've lived on very low incomes before, under $300 a week for a long time, then $390 a week for a long time and still managed to pay our bills, eat, dress nicely, have a holiday once a year, give gifts and do all the things we'd normally do. We even managed to pay school fees during that time, so I know we can do this.

Of course the first thing to be cut was the grocery budget. Just like when Disaster Struck it was the first thing I thought to cut because it is the one thing we absolutely control.

Most of you know that I keep a stockpile of groceries, enough of most things to last us six months without shopping.

I do this for a number of reasons:
1. I never pay full price for groceries
2. It is food security for times when money is tight
3.I t makes it easy to stick to my grocery budget (buying on sale, buying in bulk)
4. It saves me money, time and energy.

My grocery budget is $320 a month and because I have my stockpile I can stick to that budget and we don't go hungry, we eat really well (and healthfully - we get plenty of fresh fruit and veg, good meat and poultry, some fish,  homemade biscuits, cakes and sweets and no packaged or convenience meals,). I buy ingredients, not ready-made.

Due to the changes we are making to our spending plan for 2016, between now and the end of the year I will be concentrating on building the stockpile to hold a year's worth of food, toiletries and cleaning products (it's currently 3 months of food, 12 months of cleaning supplies and toiletries).

I started the stockpile 21 years ago this month, when Disaster Struck and we had three years of little to no income.

To get that stockpile started I wrote a weekly shopping list. On that list was everything we used in a week. Then I multiplied every item on that list by four to give me a monthly shopping list and took it shopping. I had $200 to spend, it had to buy everything we needed for the month. As I went around I noted down the price of each individual item (this was the start of my price book, not that I knew it then) and then the total.

When I arrived home I had four weeks of groceries - the start of my stockpile - and my cupboards were overflowing. I knew that no matter what, I would be able to provide meals for my family for at least four weeks.

Since then I've slowly built it up, tin by tin, grain by grain, toilet roll by toilet roll, so that now it holds enough food to keep us fed, enough toiletries to keep us clean and sweet smelling and enough cleaning products to keep our home and clothes clean for at least three months.

What do I stockpile?

Mostly basic pantry ingredients: pastas, flours, dried fruits, tinned tomatoes, tomato soup, baked beans, tuna, salmon, pineapple, beetroot, powdered milk, sugar, honey, molasses, nuts, oats, rice, bi carb soda, salt, herbs, spices, and fats - olive oil, vegetable oil, coconut oil, butter.

I also stockpile toiletries: toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving cream, soap, bath/shower gel, razors, moisturiser (for me!) and hairspray.

The cleaning stockpile is simple, just a few items: dishwashing detergent, dishwasher powder, laundry soap, washing soda, borax, vinegar, bicarb soda, eucalyptus oil, lavender oil and scourers.

The stockpile is a combination of home grown (i.e. zucchini) or made (i.e. dishcloths) and preserved (i.e. tomatoes) and bought (i.e. pasta sauce).

I've been able to re-work the grocery budget to give me $25 a week to spend. That will be for fresh milk, eggs and whatever fruit and veg we can't grow and maybe a little meat. If there's anything left each week it will go into the slush fund and I can use it to replenish the stockpile.

Between now and the end of the year I'll be using the grocery budget each month to primarily build up the stockpile with non-perishables to see us through 2016 so if you see me at the shops and I have a trolley loaded up with flour and pasta or toothbrushes and toilet paper you'll know why!

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  1. I have always had a stockpile, Cath but never worked out how long it would last.
    At the moment I am stocking up with basics as I am going into hospital in 3 weeks time for a knee replacement. My husband is quite frail & our son is coming from Perth to look after him & then me when I come home.
    He will probably stay about 4 weeks but I will not be able to drive for 6 weeks, so I need to have ingredients on hand.
    Of course our budget will be totally blown while our 6'3" plus son is staying! But this is an emergency time so we will cope.

    1. Oh you won't know yourself after your knee replacement Mary Jo! My only advice is to do the exercises even though they hurt because if you don't then your recovery will be so slow and even more painful. When I first started stockpiling I had no idea how much of each thing we really used either, but I realised I bought mostly the same stuff over and over each week so I simply bought 4 of everything (for the month) and made notes for the next month's shopping list. If you only stockpile things like butter, flours and sugar if you bake, cereal if you eat it, some meat/chicken and frozen veg you'll survive just fine. Perhaps try and stock up some ingredients for easier meals - pasta and bottled sauce, frozen fish and wedges and so on so that once your son goes home you'll be able to get dinner on the table without having to try and get to the shops. I know I say you shouldn't buy convenience foods but there are times like this when the cost outweighs the benefit. Good luck with the op!

  2. I wish you well. Sounds like you have an excellent plan. Thanks for inspiring me to continue building my stockpile. My DH will be out of work soon, so it feels good to be prepared!

  3. Cath - if anyone is going to thrive during such a time it is YOU!

    1. Thank you Phil, I'm quite overwhelmed with everyone's confidence in my abilities :)

      We're looking at this challenge as a trial run for retirement - who knows we may be able to retire early after all!

  4. Hi just wondering if your "changes circumstances" is what you were wanting and will they give you and Wayne anymore free time. I remember you saying years ago when you retired you would like to retire to a parcel of land. I have looked everywhere to see if you have shared the change for 2016 but can't see anything in writing

  5. We **may** have a little more free time, but this wasn't by choice. We have always planned to have a year practising living on what we estimate our retirement income will be, but we had planned that for about 5 years from now. Instead things are changing for us and so we will be using next year as our trial run, if we can survive comfortably on what we have coming in next year we'll be just fine in retirement, and may even be able to retire a little early (that would be wonderful). We do want to retire to a bigger block and be a little more self-sufficient and we are still working towards that goal of more land, smaller house, cheaper utilities. Right now we need to stay where we are for a number of reasons, but it is only short-term in the grand scheme of things.

  6. Hi, could you tell me, do you stockpile groceries more as a convenience rather than saving money? In my limited recent experience, Aldi seems to have the same price for flour, sugar, peanut butter etc. or do you manage to get bulk discounts by buying a tray of those things? Thanks, Kimberley

    1. Hi Kimberley. I stockpile for a number of reasons:

      1. Convenience - less time spent shopping

      2. Price - I never pay full price for groceries. When something we need/use is on sale I stock up. I buy enough to last until at least the next sale cycle, or if it is a really good price (5c/kg oranges or 20c/kg potatoes or 54c toothbrushes etc.) I buy as many as I can.

      3.Security - having been in the position of having no income and no food I don't ever want to be in that place again. If we were to, for whatever reason, find ourselves without income, or should one of us become ill or unemployed then we would survive for at least 9 months (at the moment, I'm aiming to build up to 12 months by the end of the year).
      4. Right now I won't have a lot of money to spend on food next year so I'm working on building up the stockpile so we can eat the way we are used to.

      Aldi prices go up and down too - they are not consistent. They also no longer have their national pricing policy so prices are going to fluctuate between stores just like Coles and Woolworths do. Aldi is also not always the cheapest for groceries, you need to watch and know prices all the time to ensure you get the lowest price and best value.

      I usually do a top-up shop once a month. That means I'm only buying to replace what has been used from the stockpile, giving me the option of waiting for a sale price because I have the stockpile to fall back on.


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