Friday, June 12, 2009

Testing your preps

We decided to cut our grocery budget by 75% for a couple weeks. It was quite an eye opener. My pantry is starting to look a bit depleted and I'm realizing that I didn't have so much down there as I thought.

It's a good idea to do a trial run once in a while to make sure your preps are adequate. All the calculations in the world won't help you once the store shelves are empty. What you 'normally eat' and what you eat in stressful situations are two different things. You're under stress which makes you crave comfort foods. At the same time you also know you have to make adjustments so you're consuming more storage items (i.e. dry milk VS regular)

One thing I've noticed is that stress gives my family the munchies. I thought we had more than adequate 'comfort food' preps but I'm finding that they go through them pretty quickly when they're stressed. We had stacks of candy and chips and have gone through a good deal of them in the past month. I had actually STOPPED buying snacks because I thought we had too many. I had also rationalized that I would make more from scratch. What I'm finding is this: I am making more from scratch but it's basics like bread and meals. I don't have as much leisure time for baking cookies or brownies. I could, if we were desperately craving something, but I'd have to make the time. If I can prepare now by having a few of these items on hand it will make life easier then.

Additionally, many of these items were purchased 6 or more months ago - you should regularly sample stored foods to make sure the taste and consistency haven't changed. We had a box of fig newtons that had been in the pantry since before Christmas. I was worried that they'd be hard or stale - they weren't. So now I know we can store these for at least 6 months if purchased fresh. I left one unopened package in the pantry and we'll test that again at the end of the summer to see if they're still holding up. I've found that Goetz Caramel creams hold up well for 6 months but skittles, starbursts, and twizzlers don't - they start to get hard after about 3 months. A bag of fall themed Reese cups was as good last week as it would be a couple weeks after purchase. Oddly enough, either spaghettios change rapidly or my tastes have changed. They're not inedible but the pasta just seems 'different'.

Another item I'm going through quickly is powdered milk. Now that we're using it for everything but drinking we're going through a 28 qt box every couple weeks. It's quite an eye opener. Imagine that you can't buy the bare necessity perishables (dairy, eggs, fresh produce) and realize how quickly your stores would be depleted. I've found that I can substitute honey for sugar in baked goods with very little appreciable difference. My family won't eat it raw but they love it cooked. It also has a nearly indefinite shelf life - even though it crystalizes quickly.

You know the mantra "store what you eat, eat what you store' but this is taking it a step further - we stopped buying most food for a couple of weeks. As I looked at my pantry yesterday I saw GAPING holes where we had consumed nearly all of certain foods over the course of 2-3 weeks. These were items I thought we had a 3 month supply of. Granted - the family will tire of them and move on to something else - but it's a shock to the system to see a well calcualted, thought out plan vaporize before your eyes. Don't take your stores for granted or they may not be there for you when you need them

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