by Wanda Lynch
There is no better feeling in the world than looking in your pantry to see it stocked full of food! When you live out in the country and going to the store every day isn't an option, having a full pantry is very important. You can't just run down to the corner store to get something for dinner or if you run out of something. You have to plan ahead....way ahead!! I stock up for a year at a time and would like to share some of my ideas for making it easy and fun!
First make a list of all the BASIC supplies you would need. For example: flour, sugar, salt, yeast, coffee, tea, powdered milk, noodles, etc. I consider anything that can make more than one thing to be basic. I don't buy prepackaged food except for macaroni and cheese. I make all our meals from scratch. But that's just how I cook. You need to consider what you use and put that on your list. Then start watching the grocery ads. For example: is your shampoo on sale? Instead of just buying one or two but 10 or 15! We use VO5 and it is pretty cheap at .78 a bottle so I usually buy at least 10 when it is on sale. The first year or so of buying in bulk and on sale takes time and patience. I have been doing it for so long that I no longer have to think about it too much. I just automatically buy things in larger quantity. But it did take me a year or so to get a system going.
There are several places that you can buy food in large quantities. I buy a lot of my flour, salt, sugars (regular, powdered, and brown), yeast, and dog food at Costco. I have price compared long enough to know that the other stores can't beat the prices. I also shop at our local health food store in town. She offers wonderful prices on bulk spices and seasonings and I can purchase rice, oats (quick and regular) in 25 lb. bags. If I need something that she doesn't usually carry, she will special order it for me at a low price! Most of the items that she sells is organic but the prices are very reasonable due to the bulk ordering. She bags up some of the stuff and sells it separate at a low price also. I have found good deals on corn starch, coconut, and raw sunflower seeds there too! So check out the local health food store in your area and you may be very surprised! I have been in the health food stores that are in the malls and they are very expensive. Your best bet is to use the smaller stores! Another store I buy a lot of things by the case from is Discount Grocery. They usually carry items from stores that have closed and the prices are very reasonable. They carry a lot of off name brands but I have never had a problem with any of the stuff that they sell. Toiletry items are very cheap and usually they have a pretty good supply of cleaners, soups, cereals, canned vegetables and fruit. We eat a lot of olives in our burritos and other meals so I buy cases of them at the Discount Grocery. My mom lives on the coast and does some of her shopping at Sam's. We don't have one of those here but you may have one near you. The bigger stores like Wal Mart and K-Mart are great sources for buying crackers, sweetener, and snack foods. Your local grocery stores usually run case sales once or twice a year. Take advantage of them and stock up when they do! In our area, the case sales start in September so I make sure that I have money set aside to take advantage of them! I never pay full price for any grocery items. If there is nothing on sale for the week that I can stock up on, then I don't bother going to the store. In the fall, once the pump house is full and the extra room, I usually only go to the store once a month if I need something special. A good place to purchase milk cheap is at the gas stations. In our town, a gallon of milk at the grocery store is $3.39 but at the little gas station on the corner it's only $1.99! Quite the savings!
Now you are thinking, okay so I buy all this stuff in bulk....now how do I store it all? There are several things you can use for storage! I purchase five gallon buckets from the store bakery that icing came in. One will hold 25 pounds of sugar or 20 pounds of flour! I also store rice in them! I use Tupperware containers that I purchase at yard sales to store the smaller stuff and gallon glass jars (also yard sale purchased!) work great for oats, popcorn, and macaroni. I always put a bay leaf in each container to keep bugs out of the food and it works great! I buy my bay leafs at the health food store too! I put three or four (depending on size of leafs) bay leafs in the larger containers like flour. I have also ordered storage containers from Bulk Food Storage and my favorite one is the largest one they make...it holds 50 pounds of flour! Check them out on the internet at http://bulkfoodstorage.anthill.com. The initial start up cost for storage containers can get quite expensive so I suggest spending time looking at yard sales and second hand stores. Ask friends and relatives if they have some buckets with lids that they wouldn't mind parting with. Some of my gallon jars come from people who buy pickles or mayonnaise in them and then give them to me when they are done! But use your imagination! Any container that has a tight fit and was used for food is great! I use 35 gallon lock down Rubbermaid garbage cans to store dog food and bird seed in! Works like a charm!
After you have been buying food in bulk for a couple years it will come as second nature to you! But be sure to always check your food and mark the date on the container that you purchased it. Then always rotate your food. If you buy more of something, pull the older stuff forward so that the new purchases are in the back and you use the other first. Rotation is very important! Without it you take the chance of food going to waste and the whole idea behind stocking up is to save money!!!!
Paper products are cheapest when purchased by the case ... watch for case sales or regular sales! If your store doesn't have case sales, when say toilet paper comes on sale for a great price, tell the store you want one or two cases. Same with paper towels or whatever else you may use. I have never had any trouble at our grocery stores when I want a case of something. I think they are probably used to me by now!!
If you don't have the money to buy by the case, then try buying at least more than one of something when it is on sale. After a while you will get to where you watch the ads for stock up items only! But the whole idea is to save money and time in the long run. So enjoy shopping and next time you are at the store, ask yourself this....can I buy this in quantity?! If my answer is no, I usually don't buy it unless it's a specialty item! Have a great summer and start stocking up for the coming winter!!