How to build a grocery stockpile

Have you been thinking lately that it’s probably time you should stockpile? This is a core tenet in homesteading, and I want to share with you some innovative and simple ways to start a grocery stockpile plan, right now!

The last couple of years have been an experience many of us have never experienced, nor will we (hopefully) ever need to experience again. With the pandemic, there has been a lot of change, and lots of opportunity to change, predominantly mindsets and outmoded ways of thinking.

As a fast, globalized, consumerist society, we have become very used to pressing a few buttons and getting what we need very quickly. We stopped doing weekly and/or monthly grocery shops because the supermarket was open until all hours and we knew if we were late or missing one or two ingredients we could just duck out to the store and get what we needed.

When we moved to our first acreage, there was no store nearby. In town, which was about 7km away, there was a post office and a servo and a produce store, and that’s it. No major grocery or vegetable store for at least 20km in any direction. I was working about 45 mins away and got into the habit of getting groceries along the way, or doing a big shop once a fortnight and planning meals accordingly. Again, it was mostly me as my husband was FIFO at the time at the mines so it wasn’t like I needed a whole lot of food and the house we were in was much smaller with little storage space.

But ever since that house, we’ve learnt to stockpile and plan grocery items that we know we will always need. Grocery stockpiling has probably emerged as more important now than it’s ever been, and without a doubt, there is still a very practical reason to learn to stockpile. Unfortunately, the events of the pandemic has put up a cautionary wind in some, and others still haven’t learnt and never will learn, that being prepared is cost effective for the future.

Stockpiling food is also an important part of budgeting on a homestead, as is learning how to make the basics. Learning how to make a basic bread, basic pasta sauce, sourdough, pickling, canning – all those typical ‘ye olde time’ skills are fundamental in getting out of strife. We have pretty awful summer wet season storms where I live, and I’ve been flooded in with no electricity for a week at a time, multiple times. I was very lucky I had a stockpile of food and gas cylinders to make myself food during that time.

And in terms of meal planning, grocery stockpiling is important in making sure you always have something on hand you can make easily. There’s no point having fancy ingredients for one off recipes you’d like to try if you’ve never made the recipe before. But if you had tins of beans, and some onions and spices, you could probably whip up my bean stew ‘Sulja, or make a fresh salad out of tinned tuna, corn, beets and a cup of rice. There are endless ways to get sustenance when you can’t get out or to the store.

What is grocery stockpiling?

Put simply, its stocking up on items you use regularly when they’re on sale.

How much you want to stock is up to you, and will be dependent on space, time, budget, etc. I plan to release a stockpiling series soon, looking at some of the ways you can plan for different periods. The trick is to stock up on things that won’t go bad, or that you know you will rotate through and can replenish freshly at a later date.

How will stockpiling benefit me?

While the initially outlay may be expensive, particularly if you’ve never stockpiled groceries before, in the long run, it will be much more cost effective. It will also help you determine what it is your family really needs or what is used most often. For example, if you find yourself always using tinned corn or peas, maybe it would be better for you to grow that instead. There’s a number of ways you can store and keep freshly grown vegetables, and having your own garden is not only one of the core tenets of homesteading, but really therapeutic, too.

If the toilet paper fiasco of 2020 was anything to go by, it’s that things can change in a split second. I remember before March 2020 when the stories about the pandemic were first coming out, I spent about a month every weekend going to the store. I’d pick up a few things that were actually needed, and the rest were things like toilet paper, tinned food, gluten free pasta, garbage bags etc. Our friends were also on a cruise at the time around Australia, and they’re an older couple so I picked up extra for them just in case. Of course, March hit, suddenly we’re all told to lock down and stay at home and guess what, we didn’t need to go to the store for a good 6 months. I had also ordered bread flour and yeast online which was delivered and could get bulk meat from the butcher to make our dog her food (we raw feed).

The other way that grocery stockpiling can help you is if, again, like in a situation such as the pandemic, one or two adults of the family lose a job or have a reduction in work hours. If at a minimum, you have some baked beans and sliced bread in the freezer, you can have baked beans on toast. I can’t say it’s the most exciting meal, but your stomach doesn’t have a window and when you need sustenance that will do.

So, how does it work?

Here’s the basic way that grocery stockpiling works:

1. You make a list of the most commonly used and needed items. Signing up to newsletters of local supermarkets or even an app like “½ Price” can help you by notifying you of your favourite items when they go on sale. Alternately, you can try and find these items in bulk on ebay, Amazon or Costco. I must admit, I’ve been able to find everything I used to go to Costco for on Amazon. It gets delivered for free and in a couple of days. So I will be getting rid of my Costco membership as a result.

2. You purchase multiples of the item at the lowest price you can get it. Another thing I noticed on Amazon is for some things, they offer it cheaper if you subscribe to a regular delivery of that item – toilet paper is one example – or they make it cheaper but you have to buy a minimum of 2 or 3.

3. Base your meal planning on recipes that will use these items. This ensures a constant rotation and replenishing occurs, but that you still have backup when needed.

4. The remaining items are items you can pick up at a fruit shop, from your garden or hopefully a co-op in your town, if you have one. The fresh food items should be the only things you purchase.

5. In general, your weekly or fortnightly spend will go down as you are pulling from your reserve. Often time when we race off to the store to get something for a recipe, we don’t think of cost because we may only be buying one or two items. So short term, you think nothing of it, but long term it can end up costing you more as you’ve not been as diligent with your spend as you normally would’ve when its planned.

Do I need to be into couponing to stockpile?

No. But it does help. You don’t need to be extreme, but as long as you keep an eye out on items that work for you, this is just another brilliant way to apply a broad based saving to your shop.

Do I need a lot of extra space to stockpile?

No. But you do need to make sure you have enough for the time period you plan for. If you only do 3 months or  6 months, make sure you have enough space for that. For all intents and purposes, a basic, decently fitted kitchen will give you the space needed for a stockpile of this size. If you were going somewhere completely rural or a few hours away from a store, then I’d say you might need a small shed or spare room to dedicate, but that is only in the most extreme cases.

I don’t know if I can spare the start-up cost to stockpile…

That’s ok. You don’t need to do it right this minute. I think if you are planning on starting or making a stockpile, you need to spend a bit of time and research doing so. I’m an analyst by trade, so I will do comparison research all the time, and it’s very normal for me to whip out a basic spreadsheet to work things out.

The best way to start is to make a list of all your commonly stored items. Then, add information relating to your local stores, and jot down the regular price and sale price. It’s best to do this over a couple of months so you can see what the pattern is in the price fluctuation. It also helps you determine roughly, when the next sale of that item will be. I’ve made a FREE downloadable excel based spreadsheet for you to start a pricing list of your favourite items from your favourite stores. To download for FREE, click here.

Also, if you give yourself a few months before starting your stockpile, you can put away whatever extra money you have available and feel comfortable allocating for the stockpile. A good way to do it is with cash, as you’re less likely to spend more, or spend it on something else, and are limited by what you have in your hand.

And invest in herbs. Instead of buying the Dolmio sauce with extra garlic and herb that’s $3.50, buy the basic passata from the deli that’s 3 for $2 and add the extra garlic and herbs yourself. That’s basically what Dolmio is doing anyway. And you have more control over the taste of your sauce. Of course, you know I’ll say that the ultimate in this scenario is to make your own sauce, but we can get to that another day.

Make sure that any excess you may be spending, like grabbing a coffee when you’re out of the house or drink is supplied from home instead. Making your own food from home as opposed to eating out is another core tenet in homesteading and one you should be very familiar with by now.

What items should I stockpile for basics?

  • Flours
  • Grains
  • Yeast
  • Sugar
  • Tinned food
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Paper Supplies (toilet paper/paper towels)
  • Meat & Fish (freeze)
  • Dairy (some can be frozen)
  • Produce (freeze/dehydrate/can)
  • Bread (freeze)
  • Soap & Skincare – or you can support a homesteader and buy natural soap. I run Homestead Soapery for that exact purpose!
  • Snacks
  • Condiments
  • Gluten free flours and pastas. They’re less likely to go off or get weevils like wheat flour does and these days, you can find really well done rice and corn mixes that taste no different to a wheat pasta.
  • Herbs and spices

If you start with some of these basics, then you are sure enough to start building a stockpile sooner than you know it. I’ve created a simple spreadsheet to help you get started. Click HERE to download for FREE.

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