Never Run Out
My mom, Mommy Thrifty, (and her mother before her, Grandma Thrifty) are collectors of non-perishable goods.
My mom's side of the family come from a religious tradition emphasizing emergency preparedness. Say what you may about the Mormons, but they have this food storage thing right.
Think about your corner of the country. We're all prone to natural disasters -- floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, earthquakes, etc. If catastrophe struck, local stores were decimated and roads closed, what would you do? Do you have enough to survive in place for 1 day? 2 days? 3 days? 3 months?
It's hard to tell how much of this comes from being a child of the Great Depression and how much of it is LDS doctrine, but Grandma Thrifty has plenty of reserves in her home. In fact, her pantry smells so wonderful (cedar shelving!) that when we visit, my cousins and I do a tour just to stick our noses in and get a whiff of what is so decidedly our favorite scent. #pantrygoals
Several years ago, we happened upon an intact container of wheat in Grandma Thrifty's pantry. The container was from... drum roll, please... 1963! That's right, she's storing grains from the year of the Kennedy assassination. Her defense? "They had an article in the Enquirer about finding wheat in Egyptian pyramids that is still good!" Oh, yes, she means the reputable publication The National Enquirer.
Growing up, I can admit that my world view was skewed by my family's weird habits ("weird," until I figured out my parents are millionaires!).
Until I was exposed to enough of my friends' homes and families, I thought it was completely normal to have a 1-car garage converted into food storage. I thought all families kept 72 boxes of rice mix and 43 jars of pasta sauce?
Apparently word spread through my high school friend group of my family's secret storage. Every new friend I had over to the house wanted a tour of our infamous food storage garage. I was equally mortified and proud.
If you think this sounds like an episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive in the making, you're sorely wrong. You see, there was an organization to all of it. Once we returned from the grocery store, we kids were tasked with labeling all of the items with expiration dates and organizing the shelves of our garage so that the food that would expire the soonest was the closest in reach.
Why in the world would Mommy Thrifty do this?
She was motivated in part by emergency preparedness, but, more so by her love of a good deal. You see, she's taught us to operate on a simple principle: Never Run Out.
If you're a pasta family, stock up on boxes when they're on sale, when you have a great coupon, and/or when you can use an app to save more. If you love soup, buy chicken broth in bulk at your warehouse store -- enough to last a few months.
By being mindful of what you consume on a regular basis, you can set up your own reserves. Which of those items are non-perishables? Can you seek out deals on these items over the next few months (check out your grocery store weekly ad)? Can you carve out a bit of room in your home to store these items?
"Never running out" means always having what you need on hand. It's mindful hoarding.
Before we changed our spending habits, too many times Mr. Spendy and I would forfeit a meal at home because we were missing one ingredient -- black beans, pasta sauce, etc. The missing ingredient from the pantry was the straw that broke the camel's back, our golden excuse to succumb to a meal out. Now we've taken a bit to meal planning and because we're more aware of what we actually like, we can better plan to have those things on hand at all times. (If you're challenged in the culinary department, check out Notorious D.E.B.T.'s series, Cooking Tips for People Who Hate Cooking).
"Never running out" also means, quite literally, less trips running out to the store. It's mindful laziness.
When you head out to the store for that one ingredient, you're making a really dumb move. You're wasting time that you could be cooking (had you had the ingredient already on hand), you're wasting gas to get to the store, you're paying a higher price to buy the item at a non-sale price, and, let's be honest here, something else inevitably gets added to your cart (check stand Kit Kat, I'm talking to you, kid).
Excuses to not stockpile:
- I'm too poor. I call bullshit. In graduate school, I lived off a $9,000/year stipend to cover all of my expenses. I still found room in my budget to keep a 20-lb bag of rice in my closet and have a few, select canned goods readily available.
- I don't have the space. Once again, I call bullshit. Mr. Spendy and I live in a 600-square foot 1-bedroom apartment. Under my king size bed frame, I have 135 rolls of toilet paper stored. I could just as easily store that alarming amount of toilet paper in my car trunk and instead store canned goods under the bed. Thankfully, our place has tons of cabinet storage in the kitchen (almost too much...).
- I don't want to put that much work into this. It's as much effort as you want to exert. Start with a gateway product: buy two cans of tomato sauce on sale instead of just the one that you need.
- I'm a minimalist. I hear ya on this one. It's a constant struggle between my wanting to have as few possessions as possible while also having to never run out. My suggestion? Be selective in your choices. Pick the two or three products that you actually use that have the greatest disparity between sale and non-sale price.
- I'm hearing you, but all I can think is how wasteful this would be. It doesn't have to be wasteful. Remember, I said "mindful hoarding." At no point did I say to stock up on crap you never have used and never will. By going through your supplies every month or so, you can weed out products that will expire soon and make a plan to use those in the near future. Mr. Spendy and I have taken to a Iron Chef style competition of who can imagine the best meal given our soon-to-expire supplies (secret ingredients: a can of black eyed peas, a can of corn, a small container of thai noodles... eek!).
I mentioned a natural disaster, but there are plenty of curve balls life can throw your way. I'm currently in a period of unemployment and one of the reasons why my anxiety level about the situation is low is because I know I have so many things tucked away that I can live somewhat comfortably for several months. I've stockpiled beauty supplies (soap, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, razors, toothpaste, etc.) and household goods (cleaning products, toilet paper, paper towels). While not as fanatical as Mommy Thrifty and Grandma Thrifty, I can weed through by food stockpile and use that for the basis for most of my meals for a while. It's planned "lifestyle deflation," if you will.
When you're surrounded by abundance, you can really help others. Mommy Thrifty's food storage helped out neighbors who had fallen on hard times and a few recent divorcée, single moms in our family. I'm a fan on Facebook of my local domestic violence crisis center. Every month or so, they'll post what their immediate supply needs are: deodorant, laundry detergent, etc. If I have a surplus of these non-perishables in my stockpile, I gladly drop off my extra supplies to help their residents during their stay at the center and as they build new lives, often from scratch. It wasn't until I actually volunteered at the facility myself by organizing their storage closet that I saw the excessive donations they've received of coupon freebies like toothpaste. They really need items other items, like trash bags, that can be purchased often with a coupon, on sale, or cheaply in bulk.
This post was inspired by an article in The Atlantic that opened my eyes to the purchasing differences between low-income and high-income families. I never thought of buying toilet paper in bulk as a privilege, but it certainly is.