The plan to store and keep on hand three months’ worth of foodgot fully under way with a day-long voyage to every food and junk emporium within driving distance.
A week ago, M’hijito and I picked up the freezer at Costco, and he helped get it out of the vehicle and into its place of honor. Yah, I know: would’ve been cheaper to buy it off Craig’s List. But that would have a) entailed traipsing 30 or 40 miles across the Valley and b) left me with an unknown quantity. For a reasonable price—two hundred bucks—I got a brand-new unit with a warranty from a retailer that will take practically anything back.
Next steps were to estimate about about how much I would need to create a three-month stash of food and necessities, and then to reconnoiter to see how much was already on hand. I created an Excel list of all the storable supplies I could think of and estimated (sometimes wildly) how much would be needed for one month and how much for three months—the one-month guesses because there’s no way I can afford to buy all of three months’ supplies of everything I use from day to day. Here’s a PDF of the result.
A check of the refrigerator’s freezer revealed a surprising amount of meat—over a month’s worth. Of late I seem to be eating less and less meat, partly because in the absence of a gas grill it’s more trouble to cook than it’s worth. My stash was heavy on pieces of steak and light on fish and chicken, so I decided to pick up some of those at Costco, where both are already packaged for freezing.
Based on how much I already had in the house, I made a shopping list in Word showing how much of each item was needed to supply one month’s needs and how much for three months. Some items were likely to be found at more than one vendor: some things Safeway carries, for example, might be cheaper at Target or Food City. And some items that I would like to buy in lifetime supplies don’t appear at Costco: demerara sugar (shown on my list as “crunchy sugar”) is one such. In those cases, I listed the possible sources in separate columns. Then I had Word sort the table first by Vendor 1 and then by Vendor 2. This grouped all the things I needed to purchase by the stores where I thought I could find the stuff.
And then it was off to the high seas of commerce! M’hijito, having nothing much better to do with his time and needing to go to Costco anyway, joined the expedition as sherpa-in-chief. Thanks goodness! I don’t know how I would have hauled all the junk myself, or even stuck with the plan: it was 2:30 in the afternoon before I got home, and I’d left around 9:30 in the morning.
Surprisingly, this enterprise cost nothing like what I expected. I’d planned to spend about $500 for the initial grubstaking of the project. But the grand total of charges from Costco, Safeway, Sprouts, and Target came to $375.36, only $75 more than my usual weekly budget. I still have to buy gas, which will cost about $25—but that’s still only about $100 more than I normally spend every week trotting around to supermarkets and big boxes. For that amount, I got a full month’s supply of food, and then some.
But the truth is, the food alone cost significantly less: about $322. As part of the junket, I bought a number of nonfood items: storage jars, baskets to organize goods in the freezer, antibiotic ointment, trash bags, sponges, seeds for the garden. Three hundred and twenty-two bucks is not bad, for putting in up to three months’ of food.
Now we’ll see if this works! Can she stay out of grocery stores?
It would be ideal if I could cut trips to grocery and box stores to no more than two a month, after a first-of-the-month stocking-up foray. Because I have some produce growing in the garden—chard, lettuce, carrots, beets, onions, herbs—this just might work. It would be like living in Yarnell, my sun-parched brain’s idea of Bali Hai: clinging to the edge of the Mogollon Rim, you couldn’t very well drive 60 or 80 miles one-way to buy a few convenience items, and so you’d learn to make do between monthly expeditions.
In addition to the obvious savings from simply staying out of stores and having to plan each shopping list carefully, I believe that storing up a cache of food and household supplies, which undoubtedly will grow as the months pass, will create a hedge against the inflation we can expect to come down on us with a vengeance. Whether that happens or not, at the very least it will be a safety net in case of a layoff, or against the time when I retire and see my income drop by about 60 percent. Any way you look at it, this appears to be a good idea.