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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Holiday baking goods sales & a strategy for getting started

Herbalpagen (Emily) has a nice post up at on American Preppers about taking advantage of holiday sales on baking goods, and comfort foods like chocolate, cocoa, and so on. She also shares her strategy for food storage decisions:
--can I live without it?
--do I want to live without it?
--could I get it if the trucks stopped bringing it to the shelves?
... IF a big emergency came a long, would that item be available locally or would it be hard to get. Sugar can't be grown locally for me, neither can exotic spices and many other baking ingredients. ...
[I like that Emily doesn’t want to live without chocolate! When big stuff happens it’s important to keep things as “normal” as possible. (Aggie has posted about this.)]

Grocery stores are putting baking goods and things like dried fruits on sale, so now is the time to stock up. But if you’re just getting started, you may be wondering how much/many of these items you should be buying and storing? Here’s my strategy. It will take about an hour or so of your time. (Yikes! Not to read it, to do it!) Note that it will work for any category of thing you want to stock up on; I’ll stick to baking goods here.

First, go to the cupboard where you keep your baking supplies and take a peek inside. What’s there? What do you have? Make a list including the item, the size of the container, and amount you have. EX:

flour: 1 1/2 5-lb. bags (one opened, one in reserve)
crisco: 3 1-cup sticks

(This is also a good time to do a little purging of really old stuff.)

Record everything you have, get a cup of coffee, and have a seat at the kitchen table.

Organize your list by making categories: FLOURS (white, whole wheat), SUGARS (cane, brown, kayro), MIXES/MEALS (corn meal, jiffy mix). I do this by transferring the list to a spreadsheet, but you can do it in pencil & paper. At this point, you may see that you’re completely out of somethings. These would be things you’d usually buy just when you need them for a recipe, or things you threw away when you were purging the old stuff. Be sure to add these to the list. They have a quantity = 0.

An added benefit to organizing is that you’re able to see substitutions. Next time you’re baking cookies, substitute dark for light brown sugar if you found an extra box of dark. You may also see that you’re “overstocked” in raisins that are getting stale. Surprise the kiddies with some oatmeal raisin cookies!

Once you have the list in order, you’re going to start evaluating what you need, setting some goals, and making your prepper shopping list. Your first goal is to replace those things that you purged. Bear in mind that not every item on the list is equally important. If you threw away a five-year old plastic container of dried cherries... take dried cherries off the list. Using Emily’s strategy, if you lived without them for this long... . This means that even if you see dried cherries on sale for 20 cents, unless you are planning on making a lot of fruit cake, don’t waste 20 cents. If, on the other hand, you realized you were completely out of yeast... . You get the idea.

My strategy now is to say, “I need at least two of everything, even things we only use occasionally.” That’s my first goal. Remember that there are two overall goals: saving some money by taking advantage of the sales on baking goods, and building up your stores. Anything you have one or fewer (i.e., open packages) goes on the shopping list. It doesn’t mean you’re going to buy it right away-- not every item is equally important-- but it does go on the list, with either “1” or “2” (have one, need one; have none need two) next to it.

If your finances only allow you to achieve this first goal, you’re farther along than you might have been. Just be sure to always have “one on hand, and one in stock” (one back-up, like in your “stock room”). As you use one, replace it with one from stock in your own store, and put one of whatever it is on your normal grocery list. Ideally, buy it on sale.

The next step is to set another goal-- a time goal. One or two months is a good place to start. Go through the list, item by item, and ask, “How much of this do I use in two months?” Here it is critically important to think of some what-if scenarios, based on why you're prepping, and what you are preparing for. “What if I lost my job, had no income, couldn’t go to the store to buy bread, and had to bake my own. THEN how much flour would I use in two months?” That’s your two month set point. Do the calculations-- what do you have? what do you need for two months?-- and add/adjust your prepper shopping list.

Notice I said, "
based on why you're prepping, and what you are preparing for." Job loss might be one thing, unstable economy (inflation?) another, hurricanes... . Just remember that you may not know what may come down the pike. If you are reading this is Ohio, where the threat of hurricanes is low... remember good old Duke Energy & Hurricane Ike.

About that shopping list... . Use discretion. It just isn’t smart to go out and buy everything on the list at one time. You may find better sales. More importantly, you may find you need to tweek your set-point. You may not really need/use 16 boxes of jiffy corn bread mix, even if it is on sale for 50 cents. (Although I admit, I’d find that pretty hard to pass up.) Unless you have unlimited CASH, use discretion. Not all items are equally important. And be flexible. If your set point on flour is 4 5-lb bags, and you are down to 3, and it’s not on sale... do NOT buy one at full price. Flour goes on sale all the time. You know your stores and what things are advertised regularly vs. only occasionally. Use discretion.

About shopping... . This may not work for everyone, but here’s what we're doing now-- in large part because we are seeing a lot of sales on basics and staples. We typically spend about $100-125/week on groceries, including preps. And we go to the store once a week with a list of what we need for this week’s menu, and for staples. We have our set point, we “shop” first in our own “store” to rotate our stock, and then (with discretion) replace those items. This amount includes stuff I’m stocking up on, too, because it’s on sale, because the move wiped out a lot of our preps, and because we have just established a new set point. Things were getting really confusing, especially when we unpacked the groceries: Do we need this this week? Am I replacing this? Is this extra?

To eliminate the confusion-- two shopping trips. One morning we go to the stores (ours and the grocery) to get what we need for the week’s menu. I make note of what’s on sale. John notes what’s on sale in the meat department. We spend far less than $100. Another morning I take our prepper shopping list, and we budget the difference between what we spent and $125 or so, and that’s what we spend on preps (including meat for the deep freezer).

We are odd in that John does the meal planning and most of the cooking, we have his and hers grocery lists, and shop together. So John is totally into prepping. (He keeps his own records of what meat is in the deep freezer, and he uses that to plan the menu.) But this two-part grocery shopping might be a way for those of you with... shall we say... less than enthusiastic spouses to illustrate the value of prepping. Once you’ve gotten your lists together, spend every extra buck you can find on prepper shopping-- only sale items! It won’t be too long before you see a reduction in your regular grocery bill, because you're first shopping from your bargain basement store. Point this out! “Hey honey, I only spent $75 at the store! Want to know why?”

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