Stockpiling On A Budget During the Time of Covid

The nice thing about prepping over a long, drawn out pandemic is that you have time to gather things. It's not like a hurricane, tornado, flood, or earthquake where your supplies could be wiped out in an instant.

--Look at me. Always looking on the bright side.  😁

Once you've gathered your supplies you can sit it out for months without worrying about restocking your shelves. That's how we hunkered down when the world shut down.

Currently, we're in a lull. Most people are back to work and while life isn't back to normal, supplies are more readily available than they were during April and May. Now is the time to take advantage of the surplus.

Some long time preppers like to buy one or two items in bulk every week/month, but I prefer to shop in a more balanced fashion.

I shop sales, clearance, and with a list. If your stockpiling for a small family, you can shop by meals. If you're feeding a great, big brood, then you'll want to shop in bulk.

No matter what size your household, the first order of business is to make a list. And the first rule is to only buy what you know your family will eat. There's no sense in buying peanut butter by the bucket if you're the only one who eats it, right?

  • Start a diary, listing all the meals you prepared for a week to a month.

  • Break down those meals into ingredients. How many cans of tomato sauce did you use? How many boxes of pasta, rice, or beans did you cook? How many eggs went into breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert? It doesn't have to be precise. You want an estimate on how many ingredients you go through in a given period.

  • Now to the nitty gritty.  How much is in your budget for food? If you've got a healthy budget, you can splurge on shrimp and porterhouse. If you're trying to stretch your budget, chicken and ground beef will be your staples. If you're on an absolute shoestring budget then you want to focus on rice, pasta, beans and tinned fish. 

  • Never forget desserts or treats. When times are stressful it's nice to have comfort food around.
  • Space is at a premium for most people. And even if you had the space, it might be hard to find a freezer for sale. Several of my friends have lamented to me that they couldn't buy a freezer for love or money. You have to work around these obstacles.

  • Look for space under beds, in closets, or in the garage (if it doesn't get too hot or below freezing). If you don't have an extra freezer shift to canned goods or buy your frozen food more often as space allows.
  • Garden, or shop through co-ops that deliver local, in season produce.

  • Create your own co-op. Can you share a bulk supply of flour, sugar, or rice with a neighbor or family member? It's a good way to lower your cost by buying in bulk and not needing to store all of it at once.

Sample Grocery List for 2 People

Bare Bones Budget For One Month

10 pounds of dried beans (Great for soups, chili, stews, and more.) 1 lb of dried beans = 6 cups cooked.
10 pounds of rice (One of the most versatile staples you can stock.)
2 pounds of pasta
4 cans of kernel corn
4 cans of whole tomatoes or exchange for spaghetti sauce
4 cans of vegetables (peas, green beans, carrots, or potatoes)
1 lb of sugar
5 lbs of flour
3 packages of dry yeast
2 lbs of steel cut oats
8 tins of sardines or tuna
3 whole chickens
10 pounds of ground beef
2 lbs of pork sausage
3 lbs of bacon
10 lb bag of potatoes
5 lb bag of onions
4 packages of instant pudding
1 jar of jelly or jam
1 jar of peanut butter
2 loaves of bread (Use one and freeze one.)
1 bottle of cooking oil
1 each of preferred condiments (Most condiments last a long time so if you can swing a larger container, go for it.)
Seasonings: Salt, pepper, powdered garlic, chili pepper

Moderate Budget For One Month

In addition or as an exchange to the above add:

10 lb ham or pork roast
5 lbs of trout, salmon, or tilapia
5 lbs of bacon
6 lbs of steak
10 lbs of ribs
5 lbs of apples, oranges, or other fruit in season
Salad greens
Tea or coffee
Orange juice
Additional condiments: soy sauce, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce

You'll notice in the Moderate Budget you're adding pricier proteins and a few treats that some of you might think are non negotiable. I'm looking at you coffee and tea drinkers. Only kidding. It's up to you to decide where your priorities are.  If coffee is more important than beef, it's your call.

As you go along you might find you didn't use up your allotment. From here on out, instead you'll add to the allotment, buying more of this and less of that until you have a well rounded pantry. The point of this exercise is to build a base so that if you're forced to isolate again you won't feel it necessary to venture out. 

One last piece of advice if you're considering stockpiling groceries. The more you can cook from scratch, the lower your cost per meal becomes. If you're buying pre-cut vegetables and meat your costs increase because you're paying for the extra processing. The same goes for anything that is ready-made, from salad dressing to cake mix.

If you get tired of eating the same thing all the time, Google your staples for other recipes. I've found some nice surprises doing just that.

Some of my favorites have been:

Chicken satay
Pork stew
Beef Bourguinon
Stuffed mushrooms
Beef Stroganoff

If you've never built a stockpile before, start one now. It takes minimal effort and the chances of running out of something important goes down to zero. It's peace of mind in the pantry.


Mike Keyton said…
All good. I’d add honey and porridge to the list as well, but then I like honey and porridge 😎
Angela Brown said…
Space has been more of an issue than I realized. I am slowly but steadily learning to adjust for that since it is smarter to be prepared than caught in desperation and without, learned that with the TP shortage. In all my life, hadn't been so happy to have too much TP already on hand.
Maria Zannini said…
Mike: Isn't porridge like oatmeal. or is it something different back in the mother country?

Honey is a good addition too.
Maria Zannini said…
Angela: Isn't it funny what makes us happy when we're forced to go without. For me it was alcohol. But supplies must be getting back to normal because I'm seeing it more often now.

re: space
Back when we lived in an apartment, I got real creative. Since I never used the dishwasher, I used to store my big serving pieces in there. My kitchen was so tiny back then.
B.E. Sanderson said…
I found that in the long run, it's more cost effective to buy a jar of yeast than buy it by the packet. 1 packet equals two and a quarter teaspoons of yeast.

Awesome post, by the way. I've been trying to keep my big shopping trips down to once a month, with short runs to the Dollar General for things like milk and juice. If we run out of things I can't get at the DG, then we're just out of it until the big trip to Wallyworld. Doing it that way has cut way down on buying unnecessary stuff, so lower food bills, and it's cut way down on the gasoline needed to get to Wallyworld.
Maria Zannini said…
BE: It's much cheaper to buy yeast by the jar, but I was looking at people who don't bake a lot--not like you--Super Baker! I pale by comparison.

re: saving money
I've found the same thing. Our bank account is much healthier since covid. We simply don't go out much.