Sunday, 18 January 2009

Stockpiling - the Basics

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

Stockpiling necessities is something I’ve been researching and working toward (with mixed success) for a long time. It has been in the media a lot recently because for concerns about the economy and climate change.

After experiencing Cyclone Larry in 2006, I became more aware of the need to be prepared for a disaster. There were 13 of us cut off from civilisation in our friends' isolated home. Compared to most we had it easy - solar power, independent water source, food in the cupboards and garden, wood stove and so on. But still, there were challenges.

Disaster-preparedness is no longer seen as freaky survivalist behaviour. Most local councils and/or state governments have disaster-preparedness manuals or guides. Apart from food - consider power (cooking, lighting, heating etc), water, medical needs and hygiene requirements.

For more information on stockpiling food, see the Emergency Pantry List and Food Lifeboat. These sites relate to storing items for possible disasters, but stockpiling necessities is about more than that.

Keeping a stocked pantry and freezer saves us money. We buy lots of dry goods, tins and jars in bulk. We also buy extra when grocery items we use are on special. This way, we can shop from stockpile instead of the supermarket. For an example of someone using coupons (in the U.S.) to store a huge amount of food, check out this blog. Our stockpile looks a bit different to that and contains items such as: white rice, basmati rice, brown rice, flours and grains, rolled oats, popping corn, various dry legumes and soup mix, breakfast cereals, tins of oil, tinned butter, teas and coffee, homemade cordials, UHT rice milk, powdered milk, yoghurt mix, sugar, salt, coconut, bicarb, baking powder, yeast, stock powder, gravy mix, herbs & spices, dry pasta, homemade jam, honey, tomato puree, tamari, tinned fruit, vegetables and fish. I’d also like to keep more soap, ingredients for laundry liquid, bicarb and vinegar for cleaning, toothpaste, spare toothbrushes, toilet paper, etc – but because I haven’t figured out storage solutions for these I only keep limited spares. We don’t store many processed, packaged foods because, a) we don’t eat them, and b) they take up a lot more room than ingredients.

The rule of thumb for stockpiling to save money is “store what you use, use what you store”. Apart from spare candles, matches and a few other emergency items, your stockpile should reflect what you need and use every day. It can start with a couple of extra tins of tomatoes one week, some extra toilet paper the next, and so on. Until you have a few weeks’ worth (or more) of your most-used non-perishable items stored.

It will take awhile to collect what you need, unless you go out and shop specifically to stockpile, which would take extra time and money of course. Sometimes my stockpile runs low because I’ve not made time or allowed enough in the budget to keep up with my bulk orders or special buys. So I cut back on groceries for a few weeks, and allocate some money each week to refilling the pantry and freezer. To cut back on groceries, I slot more meals into the menu plan which use the cheapest ingredients, in-season produce, food harvested at home and meals from the freezer (like bulk-cooked curries). I’m still trying to work out a system to keep track of what I have stored and when I need to re-stock it.

Our extra food is stored in the kitchen pantry (it’s very full) and in the linen cupboard. I moved some of the linen to the hidden storage under the sofa bed in the lounge room in order to use this space. My laundry is adjacent to my kitchen, and my freezer is in there, so it made sense to stockpile where I can easily access items when I need them.

I hope this has given anyone new to stockpiling a better understanding of the hows and whys. If you have any ideas about keeping records of what’s in stock and keeping the pantry full, please let me know in the Comments. I’d also love to see any links to information, articles and blogs about stockpiling, so please do share.