11 September 2015

How to Build Your Stockpile Part 2

 Way back when I first started monthly grocery shopping and stockpiling, I realised pretty quickly that we use basically the same groceries month after month, with slight changes to the list to accommodate changes in season: the summer list is slightly different to the winter list. Otherwise I'm a very boring shopper :)

Boring it may be, but it makes it very easy to build a stockpile within my grocery budget.

Before I go shopping I always do a quick inventory of the pantry, fridge and freezer, then write my shopping list according to the gaps in the inventory.

When you start to build your stockpile I suggest you inventory  your pantry, fridge and freezer too. It will very quickly show you the gaps, what you have enough of and what you won't need to buy for another two years (or so….).

Doing the inventories will also give you a chance to tidy the pantry, clean the fridge and defrost the freezer. These three food storage areas need to be ready to start taking your stockpile as you build it.

If you need to rearrange things do; I've swapped the tea and coffee from the top shelf in the pantry to an overhead cupboard in the kitchen that just had vases (very ugly vases), odd glasses and a couple mugs in it. Those things have all been donated to the op shop. Now the cupboard holds 12 boxes of tea bags, four 500g tins of Nescafe (on sale this week for $14.99 at IGA stores), four boxes of hot chocolate pods and 24 boxes of coffee pods. And the pantry shelf is free to hold other things I use more often.

It is important to remember, as you start to stockpile, to keep things handy and like with like. If they are too hard to get to you'll forget where they are or worse still, just not bother to dig them out. And that's money down the drain, another reason to organise your food storage!

Keeping like with like just means keeping tins together, baking ingredients together, cereals together, condiments together and  on.

Once you've done your inventories, you'll be able to calculate how much of each thing you need to last the length of your stockpile. At the moment I'm aiming for 12 months of everything for my family of five.

There is a (perhaps) handy sheet you can download here (link courtesy of The Prudent Homemaker) that will tell you roughly how much of each thing you'll need per person for a year.

I'm not sure the quantities are quite accurate - according to this table I'd need to stockpile 104 kilos of pasta and 154 kilos of rice! As we eat lots of different foods, those quantities are not right for us, but they give you an idea of just how big your stockpile will need to be.

I've calculated that I will need 30 kilos of pasta - a huge difference. We eat one pasta dish a week (my boys love pasta!) and I use approximately 500g of spaghetti or noodles each time. That equates to 26 kilos a year. Adding a couple of kilos for pasta salads and casseroles brings the total for the year to 30 kilos - for the five of us. By the way, I have pasta covered - there is 37 kilos in the stockpile at the moment, enough for the next 15 months.

Twenty kilos of rice will be enough, that's what I buy each year now. Yes, we eat a lot of rice, in savoury and sweet dishes, mainly because I just like it and not just because it's cheap :)

Take a look at the sheet and see how the numbers compare to what you've estimated you'll need after doing your inventories.  You might be a little surprised, like I was, or you could be completely in agreement.

How much you need to stockpile will depend on your family's size, how long you want the stockpile to last, what you eat and/or use and how much of each thing you use and/or eat and where you are going to store it.

Next week I'll share the things I'm stockpiling, the quantities I've estimated we will need for one year and where in the house it's all going to be stored.

Do you know everything you need in your stockpile? Do you know how much of each thing you use now? And how much you'd need to build your stockpile to maintenance mode?

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  1. Thanks Cath - Yes, we are aiming at having 12 months worth of dry and tinned goods - our freezer is not large enough to do 12 months worth of meat yet...but we are well on the way.

    1. Phil our freezer will easily hold a year of meat/chicken/fish for us, but not veggies, pasta sauce, fruit etc. that I also freeze. We did contemplate buying another freezer for the meat and may still do that if I can squeeze the dollars from somewhere but for the moment I've taken over Mum's! She lives on her own and as it happened her freezer was getting low so I've commandeered it for us. She's only a few minutes away and I see her three or four times a week so it's our solution for the time being. Perhaps you know someone with freezer space or a freezer that they're not using that would trade you for some preserves or baking or garden produce - ask around, it might be a good work-around for the time being.

  2. These are all good tips Cath! I look forward to your future posts on this subject.

    1. Thank you Patsi, my stockpile is my security blanket :) If I know that no matter what happens I can feed my family and keep us and our home clean for an extended length of time then a huge stress is gone and I can cope with whatever else is happening.

  3. Dear Cath, I would happily see 100 more photos of your pantry! I just love seeing other peoples pantries but yours is wonderful. I have also found big differences to what we use and what the guides say, but it is easy to work out as you show. I also feel the need to stockpile somewhat for adult children with their own homes! I figure they do not yet stockpile but in an emergency realistically I would want to help them. And they both live nearby... so I have resolved to store extra as added insurance.
    Over time my attitude has grown to see my stockpile as a big safety net and so important. At one time I used spare money to build it up. Now I will do all sorts of tricky things to do it in save in another area to fund it, sell something, do swaps etc.... just to add a little more.
    I am really enjoying this series, thank you! Love Annabel.Xxx

    1. Annabel my aunty used to call Mum's pantry "the supermarket", she calls mine "Costco" :) I'd love a dedicated room with proper shelving and storage but we make do. I did try to convince Wayne to turn our WIR into a pantry a couple of weeks ago but he wasn't having a bar of it - seemed like a good idea to me :)

      Being creative is so important when it comes to building your stockpile. I look everywhere for the things we need, but I've found that once people know you are looking for something or can/will make use of something then groceries, kitchen tools, jars, seeds, all sorts of things, the blessings just come. I never say no; even if we can't use it I can always pass it on to someone who can. Nothing ever gets wasted :)

  4. If I could remember to write date on coffee tins etc when started it would help knowing how long each individual product lasts in our house. Very informative post and has given me good ideas to get more organised. Thankyou.

    1. Hi Ruth, do you know how often you buy coffee (or whatever)?

      If you keep your shopping lists for a few months you'll be able to flip back through them and see when you bought such and such and how much you bought - that will give you a simple idea of how much you use. That might be easier than remembering to date everything, I know I'd never remember to do that either :)

  5. I'm enjoying this series and my pantry and stockpile were growing slowly. I have been out of work for a couple of months now with a hand injury and I have eaten well because I have a stockpile (not as big as yours but that is what I'm aiming for). Back to work this week so will be stocking up again. Looking forward to each week to se what you add to the series.

    1. Debbie how wonderful that your foresight and thriftiness built you a stockpile to see you through. I know I feel I can face just about anything if I am sure I can still prepare healthy, tasty meals and keep ourselves and our home clean, it's the main reason I work so diligently on building and maintaining our stockpile. I'm sure you're just itching to get back to it again, I know I would be :)

  6. Hi Cath,

    Thanks for your very informative posts, I enjoy reading them and take note of what's relevant to my family and I, which is most of it. I have turned two shelves from my linen cupboard (which is a double door cupboard) into my stock pile pantry. Just wondering where you got your wire shelves from? Do they come in different sizes and heights? Thinking about utilizing some space under the stairs. Thanks very much, Deanne

    1. Hi Deanne, the shelves in the photo came from Bunnings a few years ago. They are very strong and sturdy, which is why Wayne bought those particular ones, he knew they would need to hold a lot of weight and they do. I love them, the feet are adjustable so they can be level - with our wonky floors essential. And yes, they do come in different sizes and are still available at Bunnings (and probably lots of other hardware stores too). Are you a bit of a carpenter? I saw an amazing can storage rack which would be brilliant under stairs in the current issue of Backwoods Home magazine - here's the link: http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/williams155.html (you may need to copy and paste).

  7. Thank you for such an informative post as always Cath.

    We have two chest freezers and a small one above our fridge. Our freezers are full and I have all the summer fruit coming along so I need to use what I have in there to make room. I need a freezer just for my stewed fruit!

    I look forward to these stockpiling posts, there is always something new to learn.


    1. Hi Tania, Wayne says I'll never be happy with the freezer storage I have - one, two, three, four - I'll always want more. And I'd love one for meat, one for fruit, one for garden veg, one for baking - maybe he's right :)

      I think I could really use another one here. I'm using Mum's at the moment as our "second" and it's OK, I see her a few times a week, but having it here would be just that little bit more convenient.

      I'm experimenting and researching dehydrating at the moment and have started some posts for the future about this. I love dried apple and peach, and I think that come summer and autumn I'll be preserving them this way to save freezer space. I just have to learn to use dried apple and peach in pies and cobblers for winter!

  8. Hi,

    I think the idea of stockpiling is a great idea, though there are 2 things that I don't quite see a solution to.

    (1) We are a family of 4 on a very small, limited budget that is really stretched so where do the funds come from to start stockpiling? I have enough for perhaps a month, but buying enough for 12 months let alone more is just out of the question.

    (2) We live in tropical North Queensland and weevils are a constant problem with keeping pasta, rice, flour etc for more than a month or two.

    Any suggestions?

    Thanks. Trish.

    1. Hi Trish,

      It would be ideal to just go and buy a 12 months supply of everything but for most of us that isn't possible. Start small - add 1 or 2 extra items each time you shop. Or set a budget of $10 a month and use that $10 to buy extra items (on sale so you pay the lowest price) of the things you use regularly. Over time your stockpile will increase. Even when we were living on $200 a month I was able to buy one or two things each month for the stockpile.

      The other alternative (and this is what I did in the beginning) is to have a standard shopping list and buy it every week/fortnight/ month, regardless of whether I had used everything from the month before or not. There are a couple of advantages to this:
      1. You always know what you are going to buy, no need to write a new list for each shopping day.
      2. You'll slowly build up a stockpile of everything you use.
      3. You know exactly how much your grocery bill will be.

      No one I know has ever been able to build a stockpile immediately, but everyone has started small.

      As to the weevil problem, they are everywhere. Keep your dry goods in the freezer. I freeze flours, pasta, rice, cereals, legumes, dried fruits when they come into the house for a minimum of a week - if I have the freezer room I just leave them there until I'm ready to put them into the pantry. I use air-tight canisters in the pantry and they are always washed and dried before they are refilled.

      You can buy buckets for long-term or bulk food storage, that are air-tight and weevil proof (often two different things!) and you can buy oxygen absorbers that you can add to canisters that will help with the pest problem too.

  9. Dear Cath,

    Thank you so much for your detailed reply!! (This is the first time I have put up a comment and I wasn't even sure it went through!) I appreciate your suggestions and will try them as it now makes more sense!! I have a large chest freezer I was trying to empty so I could turn it off so I could save on power, but I think I have now changed my mind!!!

    Thank you so much for all your comments!!


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