The Bean Times (part 2)
During The Bean Times, I heard a few friends bragging about their savings using coupons paired with store sales to save a lot of money on their grocery bill. This seemed to be the missing link we needed to implement in our efforts to get our budget on track! I went to a little informal class where a friend shared her strategies & the websites she used to develop her shopping lists & find the corresponding coupons she needed for her weekly grocery buying. It took six long months for me to fully wrap my head around the concept. I don’t understand why I had such a mental block, but I just couldn’t get it. I did keep buying Sunday papers though, and putting them aside, in hopes that it would click!
A month later, I had a dear friend over for dinner. During the evening, she & her husband talked about preparedness & mentioned food storage & stockpiling. I had no idea this was related to couponing at the time. But my husband & I knew wisdom when we heard it & our perspective on our household food started to shift even more. Of course, we wondered how we could possibly afford to build a stockpile when we were just starting to make headway with our budget.
During the months that followed, as I tried desperately to connect the coupon dots, I realized that an important part of the goal is to stockpile the items on sale. Not in an extreme way. But I was surprised to learn that to maximize savings, it’s necessary to buy enough to feed your family for about 12 weeks. That’s the general amount of time until most items goes on sale again. For different items, the amount you buy is different. There’s no need to buy as much mustard as you would toilet paper, for example. Your family might use both, but you use much more of one in 12 weeks than the other!
WOW! When I realized these two concepts that were suddenly so important to us (saving money on our food bill & stockpiling food for preparedness purposes) were intertwined, my jaw dropped!
Sure enough, as soon as my slow-to-understand brain finally caught on to the coupon lifestyle our pantry exploded. Each week we were bringing in more food, at such an incredible savings, that our kitchen was overflowing & our budget was healing! We maintained our meat stretching, bean eating (less bean eating than before) strategy, while shopping for the things on sale each week. Soon, we had built quite a pantry stockpile & felt more prepared. We could easily eat for a few weeks if we couldn’t make it the store for whatever reason. We might have spaghetti three nights out of seven, but we could eat!
A lot of the items that end up on the weekly shopping list are shelf stable foods. I’m the first to admit that this doesn’t help much with nutrition, or waistlines. But since our perspective had shifted to shelf stable preparedness, we were happy to be buying those items, even if we would only eat them in an emergency. In my preparedness research, I’ve read that you must eat from your stockpile. This is to make sure you & your family like the foods, and also to keep expiration dates rotating. We do that, but it doesn’t make up the bulk of our diet. If the power were to go out for 5 days though, we have enough canned ravioli in pop top cans to feed us, even if we wouldn’t eat that sort of food in a normal scenario. And we got it for pennies!
Eventually, we bought industrial kitchen shelving to house our stockpile in the kitchen, as it grew past our small cabinet pantry. I have a photo of when we first installed them, and to compare it now, the increase is substantial! Buying the shelving was easily paid for in just one week’s grocery bill savings! Keep in mind that buying too much of something wastes your household storage space & risks wasting food when you haven’t eaten it by the expiration date. But, we are trying to intentionally build a stockpile for preparedness purposes! So, we do buy a bit extra. This gives us peace of mind, knowing that if we are unable to get to the store for a while - we'll survive! Our goal is to have a years worth of food for our family of 5.
By staying on top of the coupon matchups each week, our budget is almost out of the paycheck to paycheck classification! It’s been 1 year since the start of our bean times, and I know we’d be further along if I had grasped the coupon concept sooner but I'm happy with the progress we've made. We’ve only been couponing for 9 months. And frankly, when I cook beans for dinner, especially in the beloved slow cooker, I smile & feel rather nostalgic. And satisfied. I feel like it’s been a small journey. We made positive changes that resulted in success, and we keep doing that- one step at a time! And the way that fixing the budget problem & reaching the preparedness goal ended up having the same solution?! Well, that's just so cool!
Eventually, I would love to replace this method with growing our own food & preserving it ourselves. I think our grandparents had the right idea! Instead of running to the store every few days, they ran to their pantry or cellar to get what they needed! Frugal AND self sufficient!
This post is linked to The Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways Wednesday Blog Hop!