The fall pantry

Last year at this time I posted about how important it is to prepare for winter, both literally (when there is little to no fresh, local food available), and figuratively (when a crisis, personal or environmental, may prevent you from buying or acquiring food).  This year, at almost the same time, I find myself thinking the same thoughts.  Deja vu?  Maybe a little.  We've been living without my paycheck for just about 4 months now.  We are solvent, but it's tight.  Really tight.  In spite of our simple lifestyle, it has still been an adjustment, and we have to watch every. single. penny that we spend.

In spite of our financial constraints (we spend less per week on groceries than a family of four could receive on food stamp benefits [$167, in case you're curious]), we've been able to really stock our pantry.  Please excuse the cruddy pic; our camera broke and I can only take pics with my phone now.

In contrast, here are the same shelves in January of 2011, when Shayne had just built them:

At first glance, the thing I notice most is that the shelves are much, MUCH more full in the first picture.  All canned/jarred goods are at least 5 jars deep (for quarts) or as many as 7 deep (for half pints).  That's really a lot of food we have stashed on those shelves.

The second thing I noticed is how much less processed food we now have.  Yes, there's storebought cereal - I'll get around to making my own granola one of these days - and crackers, noodles, and some soups.  But there are a lot more "staples" like dried beans, canned veggies and fruits, oats (in mylar bags in the kitty litter tub), wheat (in buckets, not shown), and flour (also not shown). 

I did a bit of an inventory the other day, and found that I have nearly 3 months of food stored up.  Here's what that looks like (items with an asterisk are things I preserved myself):
  • 50 lbs of wheat
  • 20 lbs various flours
  • 2 jars of yeast
  • 20 lbs oats
  • 4 lbs of mixed beans for soup
  • 3 lbs pinto beans
  • 3 lbs navy beans
  • 8 lbs kidney beans
  • 8 lbs lentils
  • 4 lbs split peas
  • 3 lbs black beans
  • 15 lbs brown and white rice
  • 2 lbs wild rice
  • 8 pints canned tomatoes*
  • 5 quarts tomato juice*
  • 12 quarts pasta sauce*
  • 20 lbs pasta
  • 8 pints applesauce*
  • 6 pints pear sauce*
  • 17 pints sliced pears*
  • 7 20 oz cans of pineapple
  • 10 pints peaches*
  • 4 pints pickles*
  • 9 pints corn*
  • 2 pints maple syrup*
  • 5 pints chicken*
  •  Plus various canned soups, cereals, spices, flavorings, and cooking essentials (baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch, olive oil, etc).  And coffee, which is certainly an essential.
And then there's the freezer...
  • 25 lbs ground beef
  • 7 lbs roasts
  • 10 lb ham
  • 5 lbs salmon
  • 5 lbs green beans*
  • 7 lbs corn*
  • 5 lbs mixed veggies
  • 10 Freedom Ranger chickens*
  • strawberries*
  • blueberries*
  •  raspberries*
  • orange, yellow, and red peppers*
  • butter
And the "root cellar" in the garage...
  • 50 lbs potatoes
  • 50 lbs onions
 Hungry?  :)

So...  How did we amass all this food on such a limited budget?  The wheat, oats, potatoes, and onions were bought in bulk.  The wheat and oats came from Country Life Natural Foods, a co-op nearby with great prices.  A 50 lb bag of wheat was $25 (compare to King Arthur flour, which is $3.29/5 lb bag at Meijer - $.65/lb.  Which is actually still a great deal on premium flour, but wheat berries are cheaper and more versatile).  The potatoes and onions came from Shelton's Farm Market, which offers pretty amazing deals on in-season produce, especially when you buy in large quantities.

The frozen and canned produce were bought in-season from either the farmer's market or Shelton's.  Every time I've calculated the cost of my home preserved versus store bought, the home canned/frozen comes out cheaper.  It's obviously more work, but I love knowing where my food has come from and what is in it.  Plus, I enjoy it!  For me, it is worth my time.

The rest was bought through watching sales.  Meijer really has some good sales on staples, so when I see them, I stock up.  Recently all olive oil was 25% off, so I bought a gallon jug.  Their brand of pasta goes on sale for $.89 per 1 lb box.  And strawberries (though I much prefer local, we didn't freeze enough in June) can be gotten for $1/lb. 

Our fall preparations have also included storing more water and fuel.  Especially with little ones, if our power should go out for an extended period of time, I don't want to be too uncomfortable.  We still need some oil lamps and lamp oil, but I feel we could be reasonably comfortable in an emergency.  And considering that the average American doesn't have any sort of preparations or much of a pantry, I feel like we're a bit ahead of the game!