Everybody has had those moments in life where you wonder how on earth you are going to cope until your next pay day. Maybe you had an unexpected bill come in that completely blew your budget. Maybe you lost your job and by the time you found a new one, you were completely out of food. There’s a variety of reasons why people find it hard to stretch their food during the “lean” times. Usually, it’s because most people buy from week to week and have, at most, about a week’s extra food stored in their pantries, fridges or freezers.
We all need to be a little more prepared than a week. Every house, ideally, should be able to function well with at least 1-3 months worth of supplies in their home, should an emergency strike, which inevitably it will to everyone at least a few times in your life. Especially when there are children to feed, it becomes even more important and urgent to have a game plan in place. The time to start thinking about this scenario is today, BEFORE it happens. This is why it is important to stress to young people, people on a fixed budget or income, that now is the time to budget even harder if you have to and every single dollar or penny be put away in a contingency fund at home to purchase extra food items and essential pantry staples during special promotions.
When it comes to things like pasta and the BOGO deals, I know my husband is keen on those. Not so much me, because I can always get cheap pasta at places like Aldi. But this is just a simple case of him being a pasta snob and wanting his special make. For me, pasta is pasta. What I look out for are clearance items, when things are going out of season or no longer being carried in the store. That is where I will make my best savings. For example, this year, a couple of days after Thanksgiving I bought seven 10lb Turkeys and one 22lb Turkey. I put all of them in the freezer. The largest one I used at Christmas and that got used in a variety of ways after. The others, I figured I would cook one every say, 2 or 3 weeks. I slow roast the turkey overnight in foil, I don’t care about the color of the skin, no one is going to see that, the main consideration is the meat is nice and moist. I then remove all the dark meat, refreeze it for a later date in 2 or more bags. The white meat gets sliced for sandwich meats, some I’ll put immediately in the fridge, the rest stored back in the freezer for as and when I need it. The way I look at it is, where can I buy good quality sandwich meats at just 55c a lb? I can’t! So this is great sandwich meats for my kids and grandkids. The carcass of the turkey always gets turned into stock for future stews, soups, gravies etc. That also either gets canned or stored in Ziplock bags in the freezer. So not one ounce goes to waste.
Like I said, Thanksgiving is a great time to buy in bulk. While everybody else is going black Friday shopping for electronics. Be smart. Go out and pick up those cheap hams, turkeys, pies, bread rolls, whatever else you see on offer and that’s the time you freeze them for later use.
Another thing I’ll buy lots of will be cheese or butter when it’s on special. We don’t use margarine in this house. Not only do I think it’s terrible for you, but the taste is dire. I think butter is just worth that extra buck or so. Aldi’s often do deals throughout the year where you can pick up 1lb of butter at $2.29. This is when I’ll go out and buy 10lb of butter and store it in the freezer. The same for cheese. While I’m a bit more fussy on my cheese, the grandchildren are not. So when Aldi knocks their cheese down to $1.29 for 8oz of sharp cheddar, that’s the time I’ll pick up about 10 packs of that and freeze it.
Before you buy your butter, please consider your use for it. I used to have a thing for salted butter at one time and my husband only likes non-salted. So we used to get half for him, half for me. Then I realized that several times it was affecting my cooking using the salted butter, like in cakes, they just were not coming out the same. So now I just mainly use unsalted butter for everything and we pretty much have eliminated salted butter from the house. So consider the uses before you purchase in bulk.
Another thing I will buy in bulk are tinned tomatoes or pasta sauces. Pasta sauces are a great fall back when you are in need of a quick meal. So definitely I don’t turn my nose up at them.
Ground beef is another. You can never have enough ground beef in the house when you have a large family. If I see a sale on those, then that’s when we’ll buy in bulk. Same for chicken.
Also consider the large items like the huge pieces of beef which have been knocked down significantly in price per 1lb. Often this works out cheaper to make your own ground beef or other cuts. For example the other day, my husband and I went to Sam’s Club and bought a lovely huge Sirloin. The price per lb was significantly reduced so we took it home. Half of it was cut into individual steaks, the rest was cubed for dinners in the future, like steak pie etc. We got about 10 good quality dinners for me and him out of that piece of meat.
Aldi recently had a great deal on eggs at about 50c a dozen. I bought 10 dozen eggs at that time. Sounds a lot, however, there are many recipes you can use eggs in and freeze away for another day. That is when I make a batch of quiches and freeze for a later date or things like banana bread with my over ripe bananas. Again, I’ll make several at a time, Ziplock bag them and put them away.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I will providing Sample Weekly Menu’s which will include the prices (at the time of writing) of the items and endeavoring to feed a family or 4 or 5 on $50 or less a week. Often I will quote a price where you will be able to get it cheaper and those saved pennies or dollars, just roll them over into the near future when you see a special deal. I like to gather all my pennies in jars. I have jars and jars of them everywhere. Usually the grandchildren will raid them during the course of the year, but if you put them up and away from children, you should see a significant few dollars add up during the course of the year. This will, in time, help form the basis for your contingency fund.