How to stock an emergency pantry without stretching a tight budget...

Posted October 27th, 2015 by Mimi

I thought I'd share a little tip that I used to use when I was a broke single Mum, to ensure we had a bit of an emergency pantry stash.

It's a small thing, but like many small things, when I've mentioned it to others, I've seen their eyes light up and they go 'hey, wow, I've never thought of that.'

So, what I used to do was this.

The usual advice of course, is to add something additional to your trolley each time you shop, and put the extras aside.

Well we NEVER had money for extras. Sometimes I was budgeting down to the very last red cent to be able to afford baby formula.

Instead, I had a hidey hole in my bedroom cupboard.

In the hidey hole I had recycled baby formula canisters and some plastic tubs.

Each time I shopped, I'd put aside incremental amounts of my usual shop, to use as my emergency stash.

So into the tub would go one roll (sometimes just the remainder of the one currently in the bathroom!) of toilet paper, scraps of soap grated to make a sort of emergency laundry detergent or dishwashing liquid (no internet to Google a recipe for laundry detergent back then!), a small recycled bottle with a bit of cooking oil decanted into it, daggy fruit made into home made jam, catering sized sandwich spreads or salt and pepper or sugars if I'd got them with my cup of tea at work, a bit of cordial decanted into a recycled bottle, a tablespoon of coffee in a Tupperware container, a teabag, a couple of tampons, and so on. Just tiny bits of everything possible, that wouldn't be missed in the scheme of a fortnightly shop, but which would, over time add up and become a sizeable stash.

In the formula tins would go half a cup of flour in one, a tablespoon of cocoa in another, half a cup of rolled oats, a serve of Cornflakes or Weet Bix, half a cup of rice, macaroni and so on. Whatever dried goods we had.

Each fortnight I would add half a cups worth or a tablespoons worth, to the amount in the jars and formula tins, and would quite often fill them before we ever had to use them. But eventually we would get a big bill, or the car would break down, and at least we could feed ourselves for up to a week, without having to have a meltdown wondering where we'd get either the money for the bills or the food for the week!

I recently employed a similar strategy to budget for our fruit trees.

I couldn't work out how to spend the $400-$600 I needed to buy the trees I wanted, without having to make a significant sacrifice elsewhere in the budget.

So for months, I've stocked up on tinned and frozen fruits and veges, usually by utilising Flybuys points converted to dollars, and buying when they're significantly discounted. Frozen berries for example are often heavily discounted, as are various frozen vegetables. We'd also harvested two huge bunches of lady finger bananas from our own trees, and I'd peeled and frozen heaps as they tend to all ripen at the same time.

We spend about $120 a week of our $150-$160 a week food budget, on fresh produce, as we eat lots and lots of fruit (another reason to plant fruit trees!) and like our variety in our vegetables too.

So we agreed as a family, that we would eat our frozen and tinned fruit and veges for one month, so that we could put aside that money for our fruit trees.

We ate yoghurt berry parfaits, frozen berry puree' with power seed topping (sesame seeds, pepitas and the like), banana sorbet and fruit smoothies, vegetable mornays, stir frys, vegetable soups and so on, so that we still felt we were getting the variety we liked.

And now...we have our fruit trees!

Black Genoa Figs, Mulberries, Tahitian and Kaffir Limes, Meyer Lemons, Pineapple Oranges, Cumquats, and dwarf Avocadoes, dwarf Mango, and Tropical White Peach still to come.

It's been a great strategy for us, and hopefully someone else might find it useful too. It took time, but like most things that you have to wait for, I think it means we appreciate our 'orchard' all the more :)

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