A DIY food bank. It’s insurance you can eat!
For most of human history, the insurance of choice has always been stored food. It didn’t matter what part of the world you lived in, there was a food preservation technique ideal for the food and the climate.
That stockpile of food often meant the difference between life and death.
Your DIY food bank might not be a life and death proposition, and you don’t have to preserve the food yourself, but it can certainly make a huge difference to your budget and is the insurance you can eat when life doesn’t go according to plan.
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How can a DIY food bank save you money?
A pantry filled with items bought on special or in bulk saves you in many ways:
- No last minute purchases, which are usually more expensive
- Protects you against seasonal price fluctuations
- You always have the ingredients on hand for a quick, simple meal so there’s less temptation to eat out or order in
- Plenty of options on hand for taking lunch with you to work or school so no expensive cafe lunches
- Fewer trips to the grocery store mean less opportunities for impulse purchases
- Insurance you know will pay out if times get tough.
Emergency preparation and your DIY food bank
Emergencies come in all sorts of packages. Not all of them include zombies. You can be guaranteed though, that at some point (and regardless of your financial situation), you could be faced with an emergency situation you didn’t see coming.
Here are some examples:
- Extreme weather events – DIY food bank is especially important if you live in an area prone to extreme weather events, like blizzards, hurricanes or floods. If you know you have plenty of food on hand, being cut off from civilisation for a few days is easy to manage.
- Power supply problems – There is always the possibility of a transformer in your network failing and causing a black out. Sometimes they’re back up and running within hours sometimes it’s days. If the power is out at your home, chances are it’s out at the local grocery store and restaurants. too.
- Industrial action – This could be a strike at the store’s warehousing facility, a transport workers strike or even an issue with the drivers of fuel tankers.
Anything that disrupts the ‘just in time’ distribution of goods to your grocery store can result in panic buying and empty shelves. Your DIY food bank means you don’t have to subject yourself and your family to a situation that could turn ugly in a heart beat. Nothing is more dangerous that a crowd in the midst of a panic. They might not be zombies, per se, but you want to avoid them if you can.
What should you include in your DIY food bank?
Can you guess the most important criteria to use when deciding what you should include in your DIY food bank? If you said a long shelf life, you’re close, that’s number two on the list. The absolute, most important criteria for items that go into your food bank is this: it must be food you like.
There’s no point in having a cupboard full of cans of baked beans if you can’t stand eating them. Sure, you could argue that they’re cheap and filling and mostly nutritious but if you’re not going to eat them, they are a waste of money and shelf space.
So, only buy food you and your family will eat.
If you cook from scratch, you’ll have an intimate understanding of the ingredients you use regularly. That means building up your DIY food bank will be easier and possibly cheaper if you can buy those ingredients in bulk – and be guaranteed of using them before they reach their best before or use by date.
Hint: Dry goods like grains, flours and beans can be put in the freezer for 48 hours to ensure you don’t get any nasty surprises (of the insect kind) when you eventually open them. If you have sufficient freezer space, you can store these items there for the longer term.
If you rely on pre-packaged foods building your DIY food bank might be more of a challenge. You’ll probably need more space and they’ll cost more but, you’ll probably save more over the long term because these are the items that are more often on special at your grocery store or available with a coupon deal.
My own food bank has taken a beating in recent months due to a downturn in income from my business. Having a well stocked pantry enabled me to keep my grocery bills to an absolute minimum when money was tight.
It became the emergency fund I could eat.
I could reap the benefits of all the special prices and bulk purchases I made in the past when money was more plentiful. It gave me the option of shopping from my pantry rather than heading out the grocery store. Saving me money on fuel, groceries and the inevitable impulse purchases that happen at the checkout (Hello Kit Kat… ).
Not surprisingly, my own food bank is looking a little depleted these days so it’s time to start building it up again. I’m still sticking to the basics like baking ingredients, canned tuna, tomatoes and fruit plus pasta, rice, spices and some packs of dried fruit. These are the ingredients I use all time. I know they’ll be eaten well before they reach the end of their shelf life so nothing will ever go to waste. I’m also adding (as they appear in the loss leader catalogue) the consumables that are used on a regular basis; toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.
You can do the same, too. You don’t need to spend a fortune and create your DIY food bank in one big shopping blitz, you can build it week to week by adding one or two extras to your pantry when you can afford it.
Things to remember when you create your DIY food bank
- Check the dates on the items you buy. Those cookies might look like a bargain but if they’re reduced because they’ve nearly reached their use-by date, they’re unsuitable for your food bank.
- Always rotate your stock. Always. When you’re adding new stock to your food bank make sure the products with the longest expiry date go to the back.
- Keep a stocktake list, including use-by dates. This can be as simple as a dry erase board on the back of the pantry door or as complicated as a spreadsheet on your computer. Do whichever works best for you.
- Work out how much you’re likely to eat in a year and don’t exceed that amount in your stockpile.
A DIY food bank provides choices not available to those who shop using ‘just in time’ logistics. It can save you money if you buy only those ingredients you use, and you buy them either in bulk, using coupon deals or on special. Remember, you’re stockpiling not hoarding, so think about what you’re adding to your DIY food bank and if it’s really a bargain.
Your food bank also provides a buffer against financial adversity. Even if you’re without an income for a few weeks, you still have food in the cupboard. And, it’s easier to be optimistic about the future when you’ve got a full belly.
Other articles you might find useful:
- 13 Reasons Why You Need An Emergency Fund
- When Money Is Tight – Tips for Living on Next to Nothing
- 15 Frugal Living Tips – To Get You Started
- 5 Tips for a Successful Spending Freeze
- Stop Impulse Spending with this Neat Trick
- Massive Money Saving Checklist
- Frugal Gardening – How to Start a Vegetable Garden on a Budget
- How to Shop from Your Pantry
Do you have a well stocked pantry?
Do you think it’s worth investing in your own food bank?