By Debbie Bullington
For Rural Life Today
MEIGS COUNTY — Webster’s Dictionary defines “stocking up” as a “supply accumulated for future use; a store,” and this is the term that I like to use. Hoarding, prepping, stashing, putting aside, putting by, salting away, socking away or even squirreling away…they all have the same meaning. “Stocking up.”
The first time I remember ever thinking about stocking up was when my “new” husband loaded me and my meager possessions into his ‘77 Chevy pickup truck and transported me from a city with a population of 24,000 to a 40 acre parcel, in the middle of nowhere. I knew our nearest neighbor would be a quarter of a mile away. So, as we traveled the hilly backroads, I started thinking to myself, “It’s a long way to a gallon of milk or a pound of good coffee. I better start getting some extra.”
That one moment began my journey toward stocking up for whatever reasons. Certainly not for the Zombie Apocalypse. I mean, you can’t schedule a layoff, or flooding or a snowstorm. There have been many times during the past 35 years that we’ve had some horrible winters and been stuck on our little homestead for a week or more. We’ve always heated with wood and cooked with propane, so when the power is out, we’re fine. Fine until we run out of food. But not just being prepared for severe weather, having extra provisions was a safeguard against times when our budget was really tight.
In the worst possible situations, you need food, water, a way to cook and keep warm, a way to see in the dark, have a toilet method, bedding, medical supplies, a radio and batteries …
So, I came up with a plan.
My first step was to see how much and what kind of food and other groceries we actually consumed in a month. I kept track. I then multiplied that amount by six months to see how many extra provisions I would have to have on hand. A six month supply was the goal. When it was written down on paper to see, I was surprised how much we actually consumed.
Step two was to find a cool, dark place in our home that I could use to store all this extra stuff.
Fortunately, our house is 165 years old and the original owners made a small room under the kitchen stairs, roughly 4 ft. x 8 ft. Whether they used this space as a pantry, I don’t know. I’ve heard stories that slaves have hidden in our house before. Not sure if this is true, but there are lots of places in this old house where they could have hidden.
Anyway, when shelving was added to this small room under the stairs, it became the perfect place to put all the extras we could need.
Step three was to make a master shopping list that contained every food and consumable item that we ever use. I made copies of this list at the library and every time I went shopping, I took one of these lists with me.
Step four was to start watching out for really good sales on the things we always use. My favorite places to get really great bargains is our local “Mom & Pop” grocery store, Save-A-Lot, and Sam’s Club. We’ve only recently discovered the benefits of having a Sam’s Club membership. I’m not sure how I ever did without one. When I get a store flyer in the mail, (yes they will still deliver them by “snail mail”), I sit down and circle the deals and then the next time I’m in town, instead of buying two of an item, I buy 6 or 12 and take the extras home and start to fill the pantry. We joined two Food Co-ops and get all of our flours, beans, rices, and other bulk foods in 25 or 50 pound bags, along with cheese and juices from one. The other co-op provides bulk herbs and spices, laundry items, bathroom items and vitamins. Occasionally you can even find unique food items at the Dollar Tree!
So, fast forward to today. My storage system has grown to the point where we will soon be converting our back porch into a new 12 ft. x 12 ft. pantry, as we’ve long outgrown our old one. I often say moving all those five gallon buckets around, to get to what I need, is starting to feel like I’m playing “Bulk Food Bucket Tetris.” I purchased two dozen food grade buckets with lids at Lowes for $5 each. It was a great investment as it keeps everything fresh and bug free. (I put all the bulk bags in the freezer for 24 hours, to kill off any potential bug larva that invariably come in most grain and flour bags). We now have two freezers as well.
Over the years, I’ve advanced to an Excel spreadsheet for my master grocery list, that I can print out on my computer whenever I need it or want to take inventory of our stash. I’ve perfected my stocking up plan to where it only takes $150 to 250.00 a month to restock all our supplies. I always try to buy organic food whenever possible and it’s getting easier to find and the prices are coming down!
We grow most of our own vegetables, some of our fruits and do lots of canning. We raise our own pork, chicken and beef and have an endless supply of eggs. We cook everything from scratch and never buy processed foods. You take control of all the extra sugar, salt and fat that are in processed foods these days by cooking food from scratch yourself.
I’ve always thought that when you get hungry, you lose hope. If you lose hope, you lose everything. If you have good food to eat, you will always have hope and hope will get you through.
I remind my husband, once in a while, that he could have gotten a wife that all she wanted was fingers full of diamond rings and closets filled with furs …
For me it’s security. Security in knowing I have a full pantry.