Thursday, October 23, 2008

Stretching the Family Food Dollar by Stocking Your Kitchen Well...

It can be a challenge to serve meals that are both nutritious and budget-friendly -- not to mention tasty to the family. The wise family manager is able to stretch her dollar to meet all three requirements.

One way to do this is to cut expensive impulse buying by having a small supply of goods on hand. If you can build up at least a two-week to six-month stock of food (as well as toiletries, medical supplies, etc.), you will be less likely to rush out and spend too much in a pinch. Moreover, your family can live off of your extra store in the event of an emergency. Situations where you might need to live out of your "stock" for a while range from missing a paycheck to being snowed in to having a new baby in the house.

Have you ever found yourself standing in line with all the other grocery store customers who are trying to buy milk and bread when a hurricane or a snowstorm is rolling in? By keeping your kitchen well-stocked, you can avoid such last minute trips. In this way, you are helping to cut down the minor panics that such events can bring.

Also, by keeping a well-stocked kitchen, you will have something to share with others if that is needed. I read about a family who donated their stock of food to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

We're not talking about hoarding here. It's poor stewardship to keep so much food on hand that it goes to waste in the end.

In general, it's cheaper and healthier to cook from scratch than it is to buy pre-packaged or "quick" foods. However, we all have situations in which we need to throw a meal together in a hurry. In such instances, it is more economical to have some "quick" foods on hand, rather than to go out and buy something.

It can be daunting to think of stocking your kitchen with extras if your grocery budget barely covers your family's basic needs. You can build your extra stock one item at a time. Look for deep sales on items that your family frequently uses. For example, if you're buying mustard and mustard happens to be dramatically priced down that week, snag an extra one. Little by little, you'll build your store of extra supplies.

If an item's marked down because it's almost at it's sell by date, it's probably not suitable for your extra stock.

If you can goods yourself, you can easily and economically build up a year's supply of many items. Not everyone can can their own goods however, so don't feel that you must in order to stock your kitchen well.

In keeping things stored, here are a few principles to keep in mind:

1) Check how long an item can be properly stored. Mark when you bought it or canned it or froze it.
2) Rotate your items so that no one item is sitting in storage past its spoil date.
3) Keep your family's tastes in mind. The items one family keeps on hand may not suit another family.
4) If you have a tiny kitchen, be creative about how and where you store things. Even small spaces can become extra "pantries". Just be sure that your items are stored in a way that if a bottle should break or a water jar should burst, your flooring won't be damaged. Also, be wary of places where the goods will be exposed to extreme heat, extreme cold, or too much moisture. Also, store things in containers that won't be tempting to children, pets, or "uninvited critters".
5) You can keep apples from an orchard (or your own trees) fresh for about a year if you bag them in zip-lock bags with just a teaspoon or less of water. Don't put in too much water!! Also, make sure the bags are tightly sealed and seal them back each time you remove an apple. If you live near apple-growing country, look for an orchard near you.

Here are some ideas of things that can be easily stored. I'm sure you can think of many others, but these should give you some ideas:

1) Powdered and canned milk; canned goat's milk; buttermilk powder for baking; powdered egg for baking; frozen homemade or store bought pie crusts.
2) Any variety of dried and/or canned beans.
3) Flour if you bake a lot; bought or homemade baking mix; rice (be careful to avoid contaminating your other supplies with meal worms. These often come into the kitchen on rice. Store your rice in the freezer for a month or place your rice in a glass container.) Large container of cous-cous; corn meal
4) For quick meals: frozen cookie dough; frozen rolls or frozen bread dough; frozen chicken pieces; extra casseroles (frozen); soups -- canned or frozen; dessert mix; homemade pudding mix or store bought pudding mix.
5) An extra jar of each condiment that your family likes, e.g. mayonnaise, mustard, pickle relish, jam, jelly etc.
6) coffee/tea/herbal teas -- make sure you don't exceed the date when these taste fresh.
7) cocoa or carob powder
8) canned tuna or canned chicken
9) spaghetti sauce/noodles/canned olives or mushrooms
10) canned tomatoes; MSG free chicken or beef broth; bought or homemade seasoning mixes
11) frozen and/or canned veggies and fruits
12) juices and water


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