Monday, January 25, 2016

The "Bare Essentials" Challenge: An Introduction

So, you read online all the time how you should create a stockpile of food storage for the lean times.  And then you watch things on hoarders and think, "Really?  Does this even make sense?  Why would you want to stockpile food?"

Well folks, here's a good start for you as I'm going to be documenting what it's like to actually live off of a working stockpile for as long as I can.  A "living lesson" as it were.  This isn't due to my husband being unemployed at the moment,which I've been there in the past, but because we desperately need to save money to use towards bills.  Basic situation we're in right now is that yes, we were able to pay off debt last year despite a lot of financial problems, but to do it we're also down to 13.00 in savings and are living very very VERY tight and hand to mouth right now.  So, once again, I'm in the depressing situation of having to live off the stockpile I have painstakingly built up over the last year by using my grocery budget to it's fullest extent.

So, before I officially started this period on our lives, I thought I'd quickly take some pictures of my stockpile so you'll be able to see how it changes over time as we live off of it.  Now this is JUST my stockpile.  I am not counting what is in my cupboards right this moment or what is in my fridge or the freezer attached to said fridge.

So, here you are folks.  A quick photo tour.

First is a shot of the pantry when you first walk in.  This picture does not include a subscribe and save order that I budgeted with some of this month's grocery budget.  That order will include coffee, a container of powdered country gravy mix and a container of chicken gravy mix.   Exciting, I know, but I started brainstorming and realized I can actually do quite a bit with the mixes.

Now also note:  This is a challenge built on my own personal set of circumstances.  You are going to see processed foods in these photos no matter what because that is what my son will currently eat regularly.  I refuse to not buy these for him as he would starve without them (and no, I'm not kidding), so no matter what my normal grocery shopping is going to have to include Cheetos, Doritos and the like until we can get him further in feeding therapy.  It's just the way it is.  But, I am going to be dialing in EXACTLY how much chips he goes through in a week and only keep that much in the house with an extra bag of each "just in case" (we have to worry about shipping delays and dock workers strikes and things, so it just pays to be cautious).

Below are some of my five gallon buckets of flours and rice.  I have another five gallon bucket with sugar and all purpose flour upstairs in my hallway closet to make it easier on me when I have to refill my containers in the kitchen.

My buckets full of white beans and black beans.  I bought these in bulk years ago from the LDS cannery and they are still going strong.

Boxes of home canned goods.  They are still doing well so far.  I'm seeing a lot of bread and jam in my future for lunches.

Canned and dried goods continue around the corner.  Behind the flats there in front is some more canned veggies and fruits on the metal shelf behind.  They are getting kind of thin, but we have frozen veggies in the freezer and honestly other than canned potatoes and canned green beans we don't use a lot of the canned vegetables.

Canned meats, soups and bulk flats of canned tomatoes and fruits are in this area (the condiment shelf is off tot he right there with the exception of a milk shelf on top).  On the shelf on the left is where I'm keeping dried fruits and veggies and baking supplies (thus the container of chocolate chips and brown sugar).  I also have some containers of nuts on the shelf itself and off to the right there (ran out of room on the shelf).

And here's a shot of the inside of our standing freezer.  It's basically all chicken and pork with a bit of fish and beef scattered throughout.  The third shelf down is basically a ham and a turkey with what is left of the home made apple sauce and apple pie filling I made jammed in around them *laugh*.

The bottom drawer area (which you can't really see that well) contains more margarine, a few small containers of beef ribs and my frozen vegetables.

So, there you are folks.  This is what I have to start to work with.  So, let's see where this challenge takes us!


  1. You have built up an impressive pantry so you have a lot to work with.
    I think you're smart and well organized so I think you'll do fine.
    Don't apologize for the processed food. Seems so many bloggers apologize whenever they post a tasty recipe and say "I know this isn't the healthiest". Well, we are all living real lives and I'm tired of food police types butting in where there is no need.
    You do what you have to do, don't worry about stupid judging by others, I'm impressed with all you do.m

    1. *Laugh* sorry it's a gut reaction to apologize for the processed food. I ran an allergy friendly food blog for a year so believe me I know what you mean by "food police". I ran into a lot of really judgmental nasty people during my days running one of those blogs. I think I still have PTSD over it ;).

    2. Let them try and feed your son, he is not picky, you have a reason for the foods you buy.Cheryl

  2. Well I for one am very impressed by your stockpile. Processed food or not be proud of what you have built up for your family. I too stockpile food & while thankfully we have never had to live off it my thought is you never ever know what will happen. Whether it's an accident, jobs dry up, economy tanks again etc... just never know! So better to be prepared is my motto "laugh"

    We have owned our own remodeling construction business for the last 5 yrs. While we've never been without work (even during the recession) as you know since your husband is in the trade being without work can hit at any time to anybody. We've seen it too many times with others in the business. I think what has helped us is my husband will basically turn not much down. He does anything from large scale remodels all the way down to handyman stuff. I think it really helps to be diverse :)

    Now for the processed foods I agree don't beat yourself up about them or be sorry about buying that stuff because there are not to many people who don't eat them. You'll even find some in my stockpile. You have to do what you have to do & lets face it processed are cheaper & when every penny counts again you do what you have to do. And if that's where your at right now in life then so be it I say. Also what do others expect for you to do starve your son? Yeah right.

    While it really stinks you guys are in this season of life I am looking forward to seeing how well you do & manage this time period in your families life. I believe you will do well & God will bless you for it.

  3. This is my first comment. I found your blog through Rhonda. I agree you shouldn't beat yourself up about processed foods. Lots of people are certainly purchasing them or they wouldn't continue to sell them. I know I have plenty in my pantry. :) My daughter loves Spaghetti O's. I would rather have a stockpile of foods we will actually eat then a pantry full of "good" food that my family chokes down. I think the key is to have a variety of all kinds of food. It looks like you have those.

    Anyway, we are in a season of a tight budget due to medical debt and decreased wages due to the rising cost of medical insurance. You are encouraging me to make do with what I have so we can kick the debt to the curb and build our savings. I am looking forward to seeing how you stretch your pantry.

  4. I am impressed with your stockpile! What a blessing this will be as you work yourself through this tight financial time. Wishing you all the best in your journey!

  5. I love looking at your stockpile. In fact, you are encouraging me to take some pictures of mine! I've been thinking about doing a post on what I stock and how we use it. I'm on a quest to use up anything from my stock that is getting older.

    It's looking like we are going to need to move and I sure don't want to move all of that. I'd rather stockpile money to re-fill with fresh when we move. Problem is, my husband still does not have a job, so at this point, we are just eating it! I keep reminding myself that the reason I stored it was for a time like this.

    I am sure grateful that I have the stored food.

    As for the processed food--you're preaching to the choir here! I have several children with eating issues in my life, and I cater to them. Period. My niece was literally starving herself when she was younger--she is autistic and would NOT eat most foods no matter what. So, you understand when I say that Frosted Mini Wheats (name brand only), need to be placed onto the table next to a bowl of milk. Each piece of cereal is then dropped into the bowl of milk and eaten immediately, so it is still crunchy:) Or why green Yoplait yogurt is ok, but most other colors aren't, and store brands aren't, and Tillamook isn't.........etc. You have to laugh:) It's better than getting grumpy over something that is just the way it is!

    Hopefully, with spring coming on, your husband will continue to work steadily.

  6. Wow, Erika, what a great stockpile! I remember seeing pictures of your storage closet a while ago, and it wasn't nearly as stocked as it is now. Considering how tight your budget was for the last year, you've done an amazing job restocking.

    As for the "processed foods" , I'm with everyone else. You should not feel guilty for buying what your family will eat. Honestly, my husband and daughter both prefer instant mashed potatoes over real mashed potatoes, no mater how much I've tried to convince them otherwise. I've discovered that Costco sells a big box with 14 pouches in it, so I buy one whenever I catch it on sale...because it's cheaper than buying the 2 pack boxes from the grocery store. I have plenty of processed foods in my stockpile and freezer because we like eating it. Besides, if the power goes out, I can tell you that I'd rather crack open a can of Zoodles than try to make pasta on the BBQ in the middle of winter.

    I'm so looking forward to seeing how you do with creating meals...real meals..from your stockpile over the next few months! Good luck with it all. I'm sure you will be amazing, as always!!!

  7. Wow! I'm totally jealous of your stockpile! :) In a good way of course - way to go! Looks like you're in an awesome place to start your "Bare Essentials" challenge.

    I can't wait to see what you do with all of this - I'm really excited to see what you come up with.


  8. What a great stockpile you have!

  9. Thats so awesome youve a great place to store it all at. When we moved across country 2 years ago our house is smaller, and Ive less room to store food. Ive been slowly trying to build up stuff from the cannery (someone at church works near the closest one, about 2 hous away so im grateful for her.)

    I hate to seem nosey....but... (and feel free NOT to answer) are you lds? Because if you are, ought to ask your bishop for some help. You are obviously an amazing steward with your money, but thats what part of tithe goes towards, to help others a hand if needed. Even if its just extra groceries to give yourself a little breathing room.

    I have to admit though, you and the prudent homemaker are so incredibly talented with your cooking and ideas. You make it seem so easy, and are such an inspiration. Makes me feel not so alone in having a tiny food budget for our family too.

    1. We are LDS and hey don't worry about asking questions :). When it comes to asking for help from the Bishop, honestly I'd feel AWFUL asking for help from the church. Due to my son's needs and just life circumstances we haven't even attended church since my son was born. The missionaries are great about stopping in from time to time and visiting, but otherwise we are just plain not active at all in the Church. We'll get by. I have faith :).

      I am very honored to be a part of the frugal community, in part that I found through The Prudent Homemaker. You are all awesome people who continue to inspire me from day to day with your perseverance and ideas. We're all in this together :).

  10. That is a great stockpile/pantry. I believe that there are battles we have to fight and worrying about processed foods when you have a child with special needs is not one of them. I have a 4 year old with sensory issues and his diet is highly limited. As long as I have cereal bars and teddy graham's he won't starve. Know that you are not alone. And I agree that the frugal ladies who post on PH are inspiring.