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“I wish I could prepare for an emergency. Unfortunately, I can’t afford it. I live paycheck to paycheck.”

While discussing preparedness with people, I’ve heard plenty of folks say that. And it’s true. Most of us have to put together our emergency food stash on a limited budget. We’ve got a lot of bills to pay.

But I’ve done the math and determined that proper budgeting would enable most of us to have at least a small amount of income available each month to prepare for an uncertain future. 

And it’s not like it all has to be done at once. It’s an ongoing process. Slow but steady progress will get the job done.

Long shelf lives are key

Today I want to talk about the importance of stockpiling healthy, nutritious food for an emergency. It doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to do this. There are some simple and inexpensive things we can do to get ready for a crisis.

Following an emergency, it’s likely the electric grid will not be functioning properly. If at all. So you want to make sure a vast majority of your food items are non-perishable.

In addition, we don’t know how long an emergency will last. So it’s best to have as much food stockpiled as possible. And make sure most of it has a long shelf life. For items that don’t, rotate them out periodically so they don’t go bad. 

If you’re not already in budget mode, try to get there. That means always thinking about how you can spend less and save more. Here’s some things you can work on to budget better:

  • Never pay full price for anything. Always look for bargains. You’re better off spending time than money.
  • Buy items in bulk at places such as Sam’s Club or Costco. Or when they’re on sale in regular stores.
  • Cut and use coupons.
  • Find and use in-store-only offers. 
  • Grow your own food and preserve it. There are tremendous savings in growing fruits and vegetables. And storing some of them for the colder months of the year. 
  • Watch for the best deals on websites such as Amazon. They could have exactly what you’re looking for, at a price much less than what you’d spend at a local store. 

Tips and tricks 

One of the first places you want to look at to save money is your weekly grocery bill. If you’re not paying attention, it can really add up. The average couple spends over $500 a month on groceries. Let’s look at a few simple ways to save. 

Make a list. Grocers know how to position products so shoppers will purchase them. If you have a list, you know just what you need (and what you don’t). And of course, if you avoid shopping when you’re hungry, it’s that much easier to resist tempting displays. 

Also, choose foods that your family will eat. Variety is important, both physically and psychologically. But you could buy some of the healthiest food in the store, and if your family won’t eat it, you’ve thrown your money away. 

Buy store brands. Buying store brands alone can take a huge chunk out of your grocery costs. Sometimes there will be a brand name item or two that you can’t do without. But more often than not you won’t notice the difference. Except when it’s time to check out. 

Use digital coupons. Many stores offer digital coupons not available in the weekly newspaper. To acquire these savings, you’ll likely need to set up an account and check off the coupons you wish to use each time you shop. 

Doing this ahead of time as you scan the weekly circular can help you compile your shopping list around items with the biggest savings.

Stick to the store perimeter. Center aisles have many expensive, processed foods full of salt, sugar, and other additives. The outside ring of the store is where you’ll find more foods such as produce, meat, and dairy.

You’ll still need to visit the center aisles for a few things. But focusing on the perimeter will give you more bang for your buck. Try leaving your cart at the end of the aisle, and just dash in for the item you need. 

Freeze meals. If you’re buying in bulk, you’ll want to make sure things don’t go to waste. You can freeze many items including bread, milk, and chopped vegetables, as well as whole meals. Just remember your power could go out in a crisis.

Use fewer ingredients. Sometimes the simplest food tastes best. But you wouldn’t always know it looking at some of the complicated recipes out there.

Sites such as Allrecipes (AllRecipes.com) are great for finding different options for your favorite recipes. And usually the top reviews will include tips on how to make them even easier. 

Buy in bulk. I saved one of the best ones for last. We’re not talking here about warehouse stores, which have membership fees. And usually a minimum price tag of $10 per item. Even in a regular grocery store, you don’t want to buy large amounts of just anything on sale.

It’s about buying more of things you already use often when there’s a significant sale. If it means you shop less often, this can add up to even more savings.

Another item to purchase in bulk is produce. Onions, potatoes, apples, and lemons are almost always cheaper when you buy the bag. Just make sure you actually use them so they don’t go to waste. 

Buying beans and grains in bulk can also stretch your dollars while providing hearty, healthy meals. 

 A challenge for you

I’m going to finish this communication with a challenge. I hope you’ll chime in with your remarks in the comments section below. 

You have exactly $50 in your wallet and one empty food storage tote. What would you purchase to put in it?

Now, that exercise was just for fun. But if you recall, I recently told you about the grain deal that expired between Russia and Ukraine. Meaning the entire world – including America – could see food shortages and rising food prices very soon.

So, the time to stock up for real is now – before inflation hits our grocery stores again. 

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