The way I shop now is different than the way I shopped a few years ago, when we had fewer stores nearby.

I’ve found my choice of stores changing as I look for the lowest prices to stretch our food budget while prices have been steadily rising. This year, I increased my budget for food, toiletries, diapers, and cleaning supplies to $400 a month for the nine of us who are home (my two eldest children are off at college, leaving seven children ages 2-15 at home). Last year it was $300. The increased budget is making it easier to stock up on some things right now, and I have been filling the gaps in my pantry and bathroom storage, as I know that not only can our income stop at any time, but that it only takes a moment for things to not be available to purchase. For instance, when the lockdown started, I was low on flour, pinto beans, popcorn, toothpaste, and a few other things.

I am often asked what stores I have where I live. I live in a city in the desert; our food comes from other states, but “local” food in the grocery store is from about 6-8 hours away, grown in the next state over (California). There are no farms here save one pick your own place, and the few farmer’s markets in town sell mostly crafts and food from California.

Within less than two miles from my house, I have several options: Winco, Costco, Walmart, Target, Sprouts, and two Smith’s stores (a Kroger affiliate grocery store). There are also a few drug stores (Walgreen’s and CVS). Within five miles, I have two more Targets, another Sprouts, three Albertson’s, a Vons, a Dollar Tree, another Walmart, and Sam’s Club.

Every couple of years, I buy a few herbs online that I cannot find locally from San Francisco Herb Company. I also make a trip to Smart and Final every few years for a bulk purchase of rice vinegar and molasses.

I buy a few things from Amazon; I’ve included those at the bottom of this post.

I have a list for each store on my phone in the Evernote app. My list is in order of the way I walk around the store. This list is for everything I buy at that store. When I’m running low on an item or out of an item, I’ll add a checkmark to that item on my list for that store. Once I’ve purchased it, the item stays on my list, but the checkmark comes off.

I shop the loss leaders and sales at Smith’s and Albertson’s for produce and most of our meat purchases. Albertson’s has a digital coupon on their app for a number of these purchases, and there’s a limit on those items if they do.

I purchase pasta (in a one-pound package) two to three times a year at Smith’s when they have it on sale for $0.49 as part of a buy 10 sale. I usually purchase 80 to 110 pounds each time. I usually cook 2 bags for a meal, as one bag has 8 servings. For soups, I’ll use just half a bag.

I purchase canned corn, green beans, peanut butter, canned cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soup, and canned mandarin oranges on sale at Smith’s during their case lot sales. These are usually in April and September. There’s a limit of two cases of an item.

Smith’s is my go-to for sales on deodorant (usually part of a buy 5 items sale), toothpaste (Colgate goes on sale for $1 as part of a buy 10 sale), and ice cream (I buy the Kroger Party Pail when it goes on sale for $3.99 or $4.99). I’ll purchase strawberries on sale in season there when they are $1.25 a pound or less; my ideal price is $0.99 a pound. When I’m there, I’ll also pick up some milk.

Winco doesn’t have sales flyers. Their sales are not limited to a certain week; it may be just on a particular shipment that they have. I buy all my potatoes there, where the price is almost the same year-round (and the lowest by far). I’ll look for produce at my price points there, including tomatoes, lettuce (when I don’t have any in my garden), broccoli, and celery. I buy carrots there in a 5-pound bag for the lowest price per pound I can find anywhere. When they have cucumbers on sale for $0.25 each, I’ll buy them there; otherwise, I wait for the ones in my garden.

Winco also has a bulk section. That’s changed a bit during the virus; they now sell prepacked bags in the bulk bins rather than allowing people to serve themselves. They carried several bulk items in 25-pound bags, and at my last visit, some of those were still there. I buy popcorn kernels and oats in 25-pound bags from them. I also purchase all my black beans, white beans, pinto beans, lentils, and mung beans from the bulk section here in the past, as well as bulk cocoa, spices, and couscous.

I have bought some meat on sale at Winco within my price point ($2.00 a pound or less, but preferably under $1 a pound); they also have had a free turkey with a $100 purchase at Thanksgiving for several weeks in a row.

I’ve been doing a lot of my shopping at Winco as sales prices on items elsewhere have been rising. I buy onions, apples, cooking oil (often on sale), corn and flour tortillas, salsa, rice noodles, frozen sweet peas (the Winco brand in a 2-pound bag), milk, spreadable margarine ($2.27 for three pounds with zero trans-fats and 45 calories a serving), low-fat sour cream ($1.18 a pound most of the time), canning salt, white chocolate chips (the store brand), and marshmallows there (always $0.99 a bag).

Target is where I buy disposable diapers (the store brand). I’ll wait until they have a spend $100, get a $25 or $30 gift card deal, and I buy the large boxes of the store brand diapers. I usually do this deal two times a year.

I buy facial toner, hydrogen peroxide (store brand), bleach (the store brand on sale), the store-brand of antibiotic ointment, and multi-vitamins (the store brand). Vitamins are on sale in January, and cleaning supplies often have a 5% off deal using the Target app.

I don’t buy a lot at Walmart. I do buy dishsoap (the store brand), washing soda and borax to make my laundry soap, Oxy-clean refill spray, blue Scotch-Brite scrubbing pads, hairspray, shampoo, conditioner, and face lotion there. I also buy Knorr Tomato Bullion powder, Mrs. Wages pickle mixes, and canning lids there. I buy waxed paper there as well, but I literally only use it for my children to put their clay on when they are playing with clay (a far cry from watching my mother wrap my father’s sandwiches in it when I was tiny!)

At Dollar Tree, I’ve bought toothbrushes (4 for $1), 100 hair elastics for $1, multi-packs on combs, brushes, multi-packs of headbands, bobby pins, and The Works toilet bowl cleaner. My mom goes a bit further to a $0.99 store, where she picks me up a bag of 1000 cotton swabs and Soilove stain remover for me (which I use to remove tomato-based stains from clothing).

I don’t have a membership to Costco, but my mom does, and she lives next door, so for the few items I need there, I pay her for them. I buy baby wipes (Costco brand) for $19.99 a box there; sometimes they go on sale for $16.99 a box. It seems to me that a box lasts one baby about 9 months. I also purchase balsamic vinegar in a one-liter bottle from there, which I use in cooking and to make my own salad dressing.

About once a month, I’ll drive the five miles to Sam’s Club (most of my other shopping is done in under two miles from my house). At Sam’s, I’ll buy flour ($6.48 for a 25-pound bag), a 25-pound bag of sugar, white vinegar (for cooking, laundry, and cleaning), olive oil (in a 3-liter bottle), a 25-pound bag of rice, onion and garlic powders, dried onions, chopped garlic, Knorr chicken bulion powder, salt, baking powder, mayonnaise, ketchup, powdered sugar, brown sugar, yeast (in a package with two 1-pound containers), salt, Kosher salt, chocolate chips (in a five-pound bag), crushed tomatoes (in a 105-ounce can), sliced almonds, pecans (not often but for Thanksgiving pies), raisins, Craisins (dried cranberries), Nutella (once a year when it goes on sale as a special treat for our crepes), pancake syrup, Ziploc freezer bags, paper towels (we use these mostly in cooking and not real often), POM toilet paper, cheddar/Colby shredded cheese and mozzarella cheese in 5-pound bags under $2.50 a pound, feta cheese, chevre (on occasion), Oxi-Clean powder, Oil of Olay soap, and Aveeno lotion. I’ll pick up milk if I’m there.

For holiday items, I watch for the sales, and I buy those where they are lowest.

I don’t like to go shopping often; the more one goes to the store, the easier it is to spend more money! I also don’t like to spend time waiting in line and driving to and from the store, so I’ll combine trips to several stores whenever possible. I have a cooler in my car with reusable ice packs when I need to do this or when I am going shopping in the warmer months. When I shop, I try to go in early in the morning or later in the evening (after 8 p.m.) on a weekday. That has changed since the lockdown; I haven’t gone shopping as often and store hours have changed, so I’ve gone both mornings and a couple of afternoons.

I grow as much as possible in my garden as well, to keep my produce costs low.

A few things that have changed for us this year: I have purchased meat on sale twice since the lockdown; I bought (well tried to buy!) a ham at Easter that was under $2 a pound. A neighbor who is a grocery store clerk offered to pick it up for me, but then she wouldn’t let me pay her back, as I had made her some masks for work as a gift. I also bought 8 pounds (which was the limit) of boneless skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.67 a pound. We normally eat a lot of meatless meals, but we’ve been eating even more since March. Bean burritos and bean tacos are on the menu quite often; we have been having them three times a week for dinner lately, and everyone has been pretty happy with that at my house. They are a great option for when it’s hot. I’ll talk more about our meatless meals in an upcoming post.

I do want to note that even though prices on meat have gone up, there are still sales. Look for the sales, rather than just buying meat each week, and freeze meat when it’s on sale. In between those times, incorporate more meatless meals to stretch your meat. Also, keep your portion sizes correct; they should be no larger than a deck of cards for an adult.

The other thing that has changed is that I am no longer able to use reusable bags at the store. I prefer them for many reasons, and I enjoyed receiving a discount on my purchases from the stores that gave them.

I have made a few orders online during lockdown from Smith’s. I don’t plan to continue shopping this way, but should the virus numbers increase drastically in our area, I will definitely reconsider it again.

I know my readers live all over the world and have vastly different options on where to shop. Some have just a small corner shop. Some live an hour’s drive away from a single store. Some have farmer’s markets, CSA’s, and pick your own farms. Some live in areas where they can fish and hunt. Some have many options; some have few. Some have lower prices than I have; some have higher prices.

Wherever you are in the world, I encourage you to make a price book with the lowest prices in your area. There are many free apps that you can load to your phone to do this. In the U.S., most sales rotate on a twelve-week cycle, so if you can buy enough to last you twelve weeks, you’ll be able to stock up at the lowest price again at that time. Some items (such as produce and holiday foods) are only on sale in the season. If it’s been a while since you’ve updated your price book, now is a great time to do so. Look at the store ads, if you live in a country that has sales. If you live in a place that does not, look for which store carries the lowest price. Choose to cook less-expensive meals more often to keep your budget lower. Lastly, if you can garden, grow as much as possible!

What have you done this year to continue to save money on your grocery bill? If you haven’t kept a few months’ worth of pantry supplies on hand, have you started doing that now? If you already did that, how has it blessed you during the lockdown

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  1. We had decent food/supply storage prior to the world shutting down. We saw “the writing on the wall” at the beginning of March, so we filled in “holes”, stocked up on meds and other pharmacy-type supplies, and got ready for things to hit the fan. We didn’t have to shop for almost two months. We were able to buy a chest freezer on a trip up to Utah in May, so I’m working on filling our meat, veggie and fruit supply. I’m gluten free, so making sure we have enough things on hand for me has become very important. Should things go sideways again, we’re ready.

    1. I loved hearing that bean burritos and tacos are a staple in your house. Tacos are always a favorite in our house too. I eat exclusively meatless meals and my husband only rarely eats meat which has always helped keep our grocery bill down. We expanded our garden this year and I’m trying my hand at cool weather crops for the first time. Having fresh produce in the garden has been a huge blessing and saved us trips to the store in the peak growing season. Now that the growing season is winding down, it is harder to stretch the time between trips to the store, but we are still going as infrequently as possible. I’ve been experimenting with recipes that incorporate more frozen vegetables and dried fruits with some success. Neither of us enjoys frozen vegetables much on their own, but incorporated into a stew they’re much more enjoyable.

  2. We shop similarly, though we are shopping for just three adult eaters, so our budget is a bit smaller than yours, and includes pet foods, all toiletries and paper products, etc. My husband does most of the shopping, and gets a lot of free items/moneymakers with the rebate deal sites, combined with coupons and such. With the pandemic, a lot of that has dried up, so we switched methods and are still just fine, purchasing a little more in bulk and dong more of the making at home.

    One price point that may vary for some folks – we found that 25 pounds of AP flour here is a a dollar-something less at Walmart than it is at Sam’s. Just wanted to share that in case it’s true for others as well.

    I’ve put more energy into the garden this year as well, and hope to do quite a bit of canning and freezing of harvest. Thank you for all the ideas and inspiration on your site!

    1. It’s always good to compare! I have changed where I buy a lot of items and I am always open to changing again if it’s less somewhere else! I am going to look at that price now! (I just checked; $7.98 at Walmart but $6.97 at Sam’s Club, so still cheaper for me at Sam’s).

  3. I am so thankful you posted this for us.
    I buy once a month…I have for years. I only buy flour, sugar, coffee, tea, beans, pasta, canned tomatoes and rice in large amounts a few times a year. When we were locked down I was out of, or very low on, most of those items. It was shopping week the week they locked us down. I am still trying to build up my stock again.
    We are still having shortages, limits and higher prices.
    I live 30 minutes drive from any grocery. During the pandemic I have ordered online for pickup. I haven’t been in a store since Feb..
    To save money I have cut down on meat servings. I have also cut serving sizes…not by a lot, but it is helping.
    We are wasting less. This is a harder battle with the grand-babies since they have come from a home with a surplus of money…and waste. They are trying, but sometimes forget.
    I am gardening some this year. Hopefully we will be able to garden more this fall.
    I feel safer having the surplus in the house.
    I can tell you that I will be more careful about running low on our basics. Having lived my live during a time of plenty in our history I never expected to live through something like this.
    I learn something new every month from your site. I appreciate you more than you can know. Thank you.

    1. Becky, something that we have done for years (and still do for the two youngest) is to plate the meals at the counter before bringing them to the table. That helped with those who would otherwise take too much. The older children can now dish up for themselves. I’ve now got a teenaged son with eyes bigger than his stomach; we’re working on that to curb waste.

      1. The granddaughter that lives here is 6′ tall. She is 15 and still growing. The grandson will be 13 in August. The both eat me under the table. *laughing* Their mama is only here for a late supper after she is done with work. I thank goodness that she buys their food, but I am still trying to get them to understand that times are much harder here. They are beginning to understand, but it is slow going. Again…thank you.

  4. I gotta say I wasn’t prepared for the lockdown. I usually am better stocked but not this time. The only thing I did have was TP and paper towels. Plus I panicked bought alot. I’m now stocked pretty much up. Even stocked up on face masks and hand sanitizer . Should last me to the end of the yr…The cheapest beef I have found has been at Aldis for 3.89 lb. I’m in Mo. We moved from Ca Oct 2019 same size house over half the taxes ,half the price of what we sold our Ca and we retired at 57 on my husband’s pension from the Carpenter union. On a fixed income and always looking to cut it even more. The last of our kids are 17 and 15 boys and you know how they can eat. Lol. Thank you for your website all these yrs… Tammy

  5. I, too, saw the writing on the wall in March and started to stock up. I’ve continued to do this as we have had a reasonable income at this time from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) here in Canada. If my husband is not able to go back to work at the university in September we will have considerably less income so I really want things topped up now. I have definitely noticed that things have gone up in price here as well so I’ve been really scouring the sale ads and trying to get things at the least price possible. Discount stores are all within a mile or two for me so it is convenient for me to go to two or three to pick up the specials. My freezers and panty shelves are getting full and my toiletries and cleaning supplies are well stocked too so I feel secure that we can ride out whatever happens in the next few months.

    1. Over our 49 years and 11 children, we have always had to be mindful of grocery prices and we’re in the habit of buying in bulk! If bananas were on a good sale, I would buy a 40 pound box. Apples on sale- I would buy a bushel!
      We have always had a year’s supply of basic long term storage- grains, powdered milk, salt, honey and sugar. But over the years, it expanded to all the things we eat regularly.
      So even though there are only 3 of us at home, we still eat from what we have in our food storage- pantry, freezer, fridge every day. We have 9 chickens here in the city and get almost 5 dozen eggs a week. Our garden and fruit trees and berry bushes give us fresh produce and I also go to a produce market where I can regularly buy mark down produce- $5/ 40 pound box of bananas. $2/ 20 pounds of already chopped onions, etc! I can, freeze and dehydrate regularly. We avoid the stores and rarely buy except on sale.
      I budget $150/ month
      Our situation is so much easier than others, but I know the value of even adding “just 1 or 2” extras of an item to your purchases! Every step forward ISA step!
      Thank you Brandy for all your encouragement and instructions!

  6. Before Covid, I had never bought anything on line before except airline tickets and hotel rooms. is now how I send food to my ill son who lives several hours from me, and my daughter who lives thousands of miles away, and myself. My two sons who live closer to me are easier to get food to, so I just have it shipped to my house. I buy 90 percent of what I need at now, and only go to the local farmers market for tomatoes, watermelon, okra, muscadines, etc. From, I have ordered face masks, cheese powder, sour cream powder, peanut butter powder, milk powder, ghee butter powder, in addition to stocking up on beans and black eyed peas (one years worth), three months supply of canned tuna, canned chicken, canned vegetables such as peas, green beans corn, beets, collards, turnip greens, mustard greens, carrots, sweet potatoes, instant potatoes, pineapple, pickles, cream soups, rice, cornmeal, sugar, canned milk, coconut milk, minced garlic, spices, pasta, flour, tomato sauce, rubbing alcohol, etc. I am around so many people at work who have had Covid, or have had family members with. Covid, that I do not want to increase my exposure even more by going to stores. Plus, I am just exhausted. and shopping on line is so much easier than driving 20 miles one way to Walmart. There is no grocery store whereI live and the one grocery store in the town where I work has high prices.

    1. That’s a long way to drive! I can definitely see ordering most, if not all, pantry items online if one is a long way from the stores! My cousin has a Walmart 35 minutes from one direction from her house and a grocery store 45 minutes in the other direction, so it’s an expensive and time-consuming drive to get to the store. I think our time and gas are important commodities!

      1. We do have a Dollar General in our town, so, in a pinch, I could run up there and get pantry items if I ran out, and because we do not have a grocery store anymore, they have a large freezer section. However, they are actually more expensive than the Dollar General located in the town where the Walmart is located. I guess they charge more, because they can because of zero competition in this town. So, yes, you are right, ordering pantry items online is my best price, and it saves time and gas. I am also, like you, using less meat and far more beans. Red beans and rice is kinda my go to, since the Louisiana influence is strong where I currently live. I tend to chop up cheap hot dogs, or vienna sausages, or just use chicken bones to flavor the beans, before I add the tomato sauce and cajun seasonings, so I don’t make them the traditional way. I also use a lot of pinto beans. Beans and greens (collards, mustard greens, or turnip greens) with cornbread and raw onion was kinda a standard meal growing up. The cornbread was used to sop up the ” pot lilker” that the greens made. It is a cheap meal, and very filling.

    2. Cindy
      I have done walmart grocery pick up many times. I never really thought about ordering staples to be delivered. I may try that next time since you can get free delivery. I could get produce from the local country store and I am having a misfit box delivered every few weeks. Great idea! Saves time and gas.

  7. Thank you for the reminder – I will need to dig out my price book and figure out if our new home location has different prices – it’s only an hour away from our current home but that could mean different price points and I will need to track it. At least with it being in the same area, the same things will be in season!

  8. Thankfully we had stocked up in January for the bad weather we have here between January and March. We also kept an eye on the events and readied ourselves with haircuts, buying some extra meats to freeze and paper products. We are on fixed incomes and I babysat our neighbors 2 youngest girls. With the pandemic both parents were able to work from home so I lost that income which was just extra for fun or wanted items. So we are in good financial shape. We only have utilities. I try to spend less than 50 a week for us which includes cleaning supplies and watch sales for toiletries and use coupons to make the cost really low. Reading your blog since 2008 has really helped me save/shop better.

  9. I had major wrist surgery in mid-February, so I really stocked up in the first half of that month because I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive or cook for many weeks. As a result, we had plenty of everything, including a freezer full of meals, when people started panic-buying in early March. We didn’t panic buy, but we (well, my husband and college-aged son once he came home from school) shopped a bit here and there, back-filling as we used things up and stocking up a few extra things as we saw them. As a result we have not gone without anything this whole time, including paper products and Lysol wipes. Also our grocery bills stayed fairly stable, since we were able to wait for sales instead of having to buy things ‘now.’ Well, I should clarify that our grocery bills actually went up, but our eating out came to a complete stop, so overall our spending on food is actually down for March, through today. Being stocked made a huge difference in my emotional health during this time, just knowing I had what I needed and didn’t have to worry about feeding my family.

  10. I basically stay stocked up as I reside in a snowbelt area. The larger stores are 45 min – 1 hr away. In the winter, you do not eant to drive if you don’t have to. We had over 156″ snow.

    My mother resides with me, and she has dementia. There are certain foods she will eat so I keep for her, even though I am not fond of or eat that much of it. She is a chocolate ice cream person, and I don’t care much for chocolate so I purchase for her. I buy the larger size so there is one goibg and one for backup at all times. She tends to like chips and cheetos sp I buy for her. I prefer more fresh fruit instead. She would eat some but wants her junk food. I do as she is 87 (88 come July) so she deserves to eat what she wants.
    Thanks for a great article.

  11. Even though I do not have food storage this was a great read. Our Kroger was always stocked during the pandemic. I did all my shopping there since March. I do save a lot with their yellow mark down stickers. I just bought 14 pounds of drum sticks for $1 package. I can find meat mark downed most times. We are a family of 3 so I do not need large quantities. I am back to shopping at Aldi now that the shelves are stocked. All of our stores have TP and PT too.

  12. Stocking up is a way of life for me. It is how I grew up.

    Freezers are fairly full. Most frozen fruit gone but I have canned peaches, pears, plums, and applesauce.

    We bought a pig at the beginning of the packing plant challenge, we were was able to get it butchered at a butcher shop ( one of the last slots). We have quarter of beef ordered for August. This was already ordered pre Covid. My husband hunts and fishes. We have some pheasant left and we are now fishing and bringing home some meals of walleye. We still have a bit of halibut and salmon from our trip to see my cousins in Alaska last summer. We have an upright freezer and a small chest freezer.

    I have a large garden with cabbage, kolarabi, basil, eggplant, cucumbers, watermelon, zucchini, summer squash, green beans, peas, lettuce, kale, radishes, beets, peppers, jalapeños, asparagus, tomatoes, and rhubarb. Fall is very busy canning and freezing.

    Grocery stores are 45 miles to the south or 30 miles to the north. I do shop a Mennonite bulk store (that is 30 miles away). I shop monthly and then I stop once a week for milk, creamer, and produce if needed on my way home from work(I work 45 miles from home).

    I buy larger quantities and never buy anything at full price. This saves us a lot of money! We have very little waste. We rarely eat out or pick up takeout. Breakfast is on our own usually toast, oatmeal, smoothies, or eggs. Weekends we usually have a bigger breakfast as we only have 2 meals. Lunch is generally leftovers, we both take our lunches. Supper is planned the night before and I usually will do the prep work and use a crockpot or the instant pot. Weekends is for making bread, baked goods, and occasionally a dessert.

    Since I can a lot of meats, soups, etc.quick meals are a snap! I like good wholesome food without much effort.

    We were ready for the shut down and we could go 6 months I think if needed. My coworkers joke and say we are coming to your house if we run out of food. I think with all that is going on it would be prudent to make sure that before fall everyone has added to their pantries!

    1. Forgot-Brandy great article thanks for this site and the like minded people! There is always something new to learn. Looking forward to all the comments.

    2. I hope everyone does add to their pantries!

      I was enthused by how many people chose to garden for the first time and get chickens for the first time. It is wonderful!

      Your fish sounds wonderful! That would be so nice! My neighbor fishes in Alaska and has shared some fish with us before. Otherwise, it’s above my price point. I have been grateful for those who have shared!

  13. Last year’s garden was the most productive ever; we are still using dehydrated vegetables from then (and until recently were still eating frozen home grown vegetables). So, this year I am trying to surpass last year, which means some flower areas have been turned into vegetables sites. We live in interior Alaska, so the season is short and we have a regular size single family home lot, but I am still amazed at the volume I can grow. My husband has always teased me about having too much tuna and toilet paper stored, but now he is thanking me for being a “healthy hoarder.” We don’t have the store choices you have so I am a hawk about paying attention to sales and stocking up. I also find coupons I can use for generics (we seldom buy branded products but there are a few things that we don’t like store brand for so I stock up on those when on sale); there are not many but last week I saved $12 that way so it does add up. We have been shopping less due to the virus but I the weeks we have shopped, I go on the day that our Safeway butcher puts things out on sale. I have gotten meat for less than half price. I am obsessive about keeping track and we spend less than half of what we did five years ago for food, and it is from switching to generics, watching for sales, growing more of our own, buying in bulk when things are on sale, and switching to cheaper sources of protein as well as recognizing that the American diet is protein heavy so eating less of it. My husband does fine wood work for a hobby and pretty much every fall he manages to do a job in trade for moose or caribou meat or salmon. Usually we end up with quite a bit of it, which really cuts costs. I have also traded tomatoes for moose meat and eggs.

    One question, please. I was given two of the giant containers of tomato bullion powder and have no idea what to do with it—I always make homemade tomato soup from my own tomatoes so am wondering what else I could use it for?

    1. Rice! Use it to season white rice as a side dish for beans and also for rice to put in bean and rice burritos! Also, it’s technically a tomato and chicken bullion powder; I have sometimes used it in soups, especially when I am short on tomatoes in winter.

      1. I finally got some of the Knorr tomato bouillon you’ve been mentioning — but nobody here in Colorado stocked it. (I had to order it from Amazon — but at least it was on sale.) I’m looking forward to trying it.

        I enjoy your weekly posts, but learn so much more from subject posts like this one. THANK YOU SO MUCH. Please do some more!

    2. Mable: If you are not opposed to try Indian recipes, I can tell you a vast majority of them use tomato in them…instead of the acid of say lemon juice in the food…You also don’t have to make them spicy just flavorful.

  14. Great post! Thank you. I was ready to do a review of our shopping price points again since so much has changed. Our Kroger store really has stopped having meaningful sales…Albertsons still does though. But I need to get the price book out again and start updating. Thank you for the winco open bin comment, I was bewildered why their bins were generally empty and unlabeled.

    I was stocking up in Jan and Feb so by the time the virus arrived our pantry was in decent shape. Funny how you can overlook items. I always have a backup can of baking powder,,,not this time. So last month I reached for the next one and I didn’t have one! So I googled and found out how to use cream of tartar and baking soda instead…and it worked, Our stores now have baking powder in stock again but for months they didn’t.

    I am concerned this late summer and fall might bring hardship again so am doing another inventory and top up this month. Here in Arizona people are crazy, no masks, no social distancing (well, that is an overstatement but many folks are ignoring it) , our cases are up statewide, and so my husband and I continue to stay at home mostly. We will go grocery shopping and to Sam’s club with masks on, but haven’t otherwise socialized. Too risky given his health. I realize that we have to get to herd immunity and that could take a year ;(. So I stay stocked up and stay away from crowds.

    Thanks again for this post, it inspired me to do the inventory tomorrow and focus on the pantry gaps!

    1. I always have plenty of flour, but this time, I had forgotten to buy but one bag in February, even though I had four on my list. I hadn’t been stocking up on that for a while because I had a lot and was trying to go through it all. I did buy toilet paper in February, so we were good until they finally got more in just last month. I had plenty of yeast and baking powder, so we had lots of whole wheat bread.

    2. Hilogene, we are also in Arizona and experienced the same thing. On a good day, half the people in a store are wearing masks. Even now, that our county has made them mandatory, manydon’t care. I feel badly for the store employees, because they obviously aren’t p aid to enforce it, but am also uncomfortable with how many unmasked people there are, and how close they insist on getting to you. Fingers crossed that we get through this, as well as the 2nd wave, unscathed.

  15. I am in the process of cleaning out my pantry and freezer and coming up with a less expensive meal plan. I’m low sodium so that can be a challenge to find things that work for me, but with practice and discipline, I’m getting there.

    Brandy, you have said before that you use scentless products, what do you use for facial toner and facial lotion, shampoo and hair spray?

    Thanks for your timely encouragement and concrete practical examples.

    1. My husband is very sensitive to perfumes of any kind, be they scented products or even flowers.

      There is also the mixing of scents from shampoo, soap, deodorant, hairspray, etc.

      I used many unscented products for this reason before I got married, so that the only scent was my perfume. When I found out my husband was allergic, that was a problem! So I stopped buying perfume and I asked him what products don’t bother him.

      I have not found an unscented shampoo, and keeping the price down is an issue as well. The children like Suave Green Apple (which is discontinued at most stores) and Suave Strawberry. That one still exists. For myself, I use Suave Professionals Almond + Shea Butter. My husband uses the Walmart brand of dandruff shampoo plus conditioner. There is a scent in this, but it’s rather mild and seems to fade completely during the day.

      Though you did not ask, I’ll also give you a few additional items:

      Soap: I buy Zest bar soap for my husband; he and I have opposite needs in soap. For myself (I have very dry, sensitive skin and am allergic to most skin products–another reason I search for items without perfume or with mild scents) I use Oil of Olay bar soap. I find he bar soaps are less expensive, last longer, and are not as perfumey.

      Deodorant: I use Secret unscented solid. My mom and I both have had funny situations arising from using baby powder scented deodorant. There’s nothing quite like being told it smells like a baby’s bottom and you realize that people are smelling your armpits! That made me switch to unscented deodorant right there! My husband like Right Guard unscented. I find that most places don’t carry the unscented versions of either of these, but then I found out that the grocery store did AND had sales, so I started buying them there. I buy the same brands for my children who wear deodorant.

      Facial Toner: I buy Neutrogena Alchohol-Free Toner. I usually buy it from Target on sale, but I should have mentioned that I occasionally buy it from Amazon as well: It depends on the sales at Target.

      For Facial lotion, I use Oil of Olay for Sensitive Skin (spf 15). Comparing recently, the price was lower at Walmart than Target. In years past, there were rebate deals in April and I could buy a year’s worth using coupons and the rebate to bring the cost down even lower. For my daughters, I recently tried the store brand, and they have no issues, but I am allergic to so many lotions that I have continued to use this. That said, I had surgery for skin cancer a few years back (in my part–I wasn’t putting lotion or sunscreen there!) and I would like to start using a daily face lotion with a stronger SPF. Those are significantly more expensive. So, for regular days where I won’t be outside much, I use this and wear a hat. I also work in the shade in the early mornings and in the late evenings. If I know I will be out more, I will wear sunscreen or (and I’ve only bought one bottle of each of these so far) Neutrogena oil-free moisture with 35 spf sunscreen, and Neutrogena Age Shield face oil free-lotion with 110 spf. I’m not sure what I’ll buy going forward, but I’d like to keep the skin cancer away as well as many wrinkles as possible! I bought prescription sunglasses a few years back and I wear those and a hat much more now than before.

      Body Lotion: I’ve recently switched to Aveeno body lotion at Sam’s Club because the price is lower (two 18-ounce bottles for almost the price of one on sale!) but before that I bought the baby lotion after the lotion I used was discontinued. My grandmother and my mom switched to using it, too, eyars ago; they also havd/have sensitive skin and we live ina very dry climate with around 16% humidity or less.

      Hairspray: When my hairspray was discontinued, I had a time finding a new one! I had gotten so used to having things without a scent, and I found the ones with a strong scent left me with a headache! Some would say they were unscented but them they had “masking fragrance” listed in the ingredients–and you could smell it! The one I found that until recently I could find at Target as well is now only at Walmart; it’s Salon Graphix unscented super hold. It’s an aerosol; wet sprays just make my hair go flat immediately.

      Low-sodium: Cooking from scratch is a good thing! Unscented butter for baking, no additional salt added to things like homemade spaghetti sauce, salad dressings, steak sauce, etc., frozen vegetables instead of canned (and fresh from the garden), dried beans instead of canned, etc. I was just talking to my mom about this and an article about it had just come into my feed as well today! Good luck!

      1. Brandy, if you have a Marshals in your area, I have been able to purchase very high quality facial products (L’oreal, Olay, and Neutrogena) for very cheap there — I’m currently using a Neutrogena facial lotion with SPF 45 and it was very inexpensive — $5 or $7 for a good-sized tube. Now I buy all my facial and skin products there. (I thought Marshals only sold clothes until a friend dragged me in there one day.)

        1. I didn’t know that! I will definitely check into it! The higher SPF face lotion is really expensive!

        2. Marshalls and T.J. Maxx both carry good toiletry products with discounts and then they also have a discount section. Not sure what the criteria is as I have found their regular discounted products AND the marked down products with seemingly no difference!

        3. I’m sure you meant “unsalted” butter instead of “unscented”….but since the rest of the topic was on allergies I’m sure that just flew from your fingers! Made me laugh, anyhow.

          I’ve had to cut down a lot on sodium for my husband, and have been googling a lot of ideas. With a can of no-salt-added crushed tomatoes and several spices, we had spaghetti sauce recently over a little ground beef and spaghetti squash. I have a recipe taped to the inside of my cabinet for taco seasoning, and just leave out the salt. He usually really notices when the salt is missing, but has thought both dinners were delicious. I’m trying to get in the habit of cutting up potatoes for oven-baked steak fries rather than relying on store-bought tater tots or steak fries as they both have more salt than we need. It’s definitely a work in progress though….especially with someone that LOVES bologna, hot dogs, summer sausage, salt-and-vinegar chips, tomato juice and all things super-high in sodium!

          1. Lizajane, our taste buds do adapt, and after just a few weeks (2-6). After practicing a low sodium way of eating for years, “regular” sodium levels taste briney to me now. Add the fact that salt is an appetite stimulant, and we’re much better off in several ways when we avoid it.

      2. Just to add a word or two about soaps, etc: I have very dry sensitive skin–actually Oil of Olay makes me break out, as does Eucerin. My dermatologist lists Dove as a preferred one and we have found it good. I even switched to Dove shampoo–it’s non-irritating to us, at least. For moisturizing he recommends Cetaphil which is unscented and Sam’s Club carries it with frequent specials. I use it in quite large quantities because of extreme dryness and it’s more affordable than most. About $10-11 for a 20 oz jar. He also recommends half the normal amount of detergent for laundry and for me that works for all but the most horribly soiled items. (He recommends others also but I have not tried them all.)

        1. I have strong soap/skin product allergies and dry skin in a dry climate, but I have better luck with Oil of Olay over Dove, so that’s why I use it.

  16. 2 questions:

    -Do you use the LDS manual as a guide for your storage and food prep?

    How often do you use Neem oil on your plants and what is the ratio?

    1. I used to use Neem Oil once a year on my trees and bushes when they were dormant (it’s 1 TBSP to 1 gallon of water), but the last two years we had a rainier spring than normal and the bugs have been crazy! I sprayed the fruit trees twice and the hedges three times. Apparently I should have sprayed them more; there was a yellow jacket nest in the hedges and I got stung yesterday morning through my gloves by a yellow jacket that would not quit stinging me! Today my hand is blown up like a balloon! I went to the doctor’s as it was so bad; they gave me a prescription for an antibiotic but I sure hope it goes away soon because so far it seems the same! Soapy water will destroy them; I sprayed the nest and the yellow jackets. You aren’t supposed to use sprays when it’s over 90 degrees (it can kill the plant or at the very least burn all the leaves), so it’s tricky and risky to use them in summer. The spider mites are particularly bad on the hedges this year, so I may go out real early and spray them soon if we can stop having 40 mph winds.

      I have used the old LDS food storage amounts, but having lived on our food storage for over a year, I have a better idea now how much we used. We had five small children then and now we have seven at home, most of whom are a lot bigger and eat a lot more, so the amounts are larger than what we needed before.

      1. Yellow Jackets are the worst and are very dangerous because they are so aggressive. I am terrified of them. I sure hope you feel better soon!

      2. Brandy,
        Sorry about the stings. I’m a bit puzzled as to why the doctor would give you an antibiotic and not an antihistamine. You don’t have an infection, do you? I always keep a bottle of Apis mellifica, a homeopathic remedy that helps with stings. Also Sting Stop gel is wonderful. It’s pricey, but with a bad sting, cheaper, and safer than the doctor.

        1. I was, too! He said because it was spreading up my arm. Not sure it will make any difference but I am taking it.

          1. Bacteria may have entered the wound made by the wasp’s stinger. If you aren’t current on your tetanus shot, one will also
            be administered.

            1. Gail, I’m good now. They did not talk to me about tetanus at all. When I pulled my hand up, the wasp was twisting its stinger into me constantly. I was stung for a long time. I was near a nest that I didn’t see. I sprayed the next with dishsoap and water, which destroyed it. It was right in our walkway and I don’t want anyone else to get stung.

  17. I have always been a cheap cook! I mostly cook from scratch because that’s how I learned. I rely on store brands, grocery specials and stocking up when on sale (even 2-3 extra items add up). I only buy meat on special, and we eat much smaller portions than we did, say, 20 years ago. I have price points for meat…really, for just about everything we buy.

    I do a lot of stocking up from about October through December. Last year, for some unknown reason, I felt compelled to can peaches, cherries, tomatoes and green beans and make a lot of freezer jam. (Now I know the reason!). I also found a killer sale on store brand canned peaches and I bought 6 cases. (I am down to 3 jars of peaches, 3 jars of cherries and about 12 cans of peaches). I buy Scott 1,000 Sheets TP at Target when there is a good sale, and I had 54 rolls after a sale in February. I don’t buy paper towels (much to my husband’s chagrin–he LOVES paper towels, LOL). As a result, we went into lockdown with a mostly full freezer and enough canned and dry food to last 3-4 months. In mid-March, when things first started shutting down, I bought a few extra pounds of beans and rice. I noticed today that I need to buy more food, although I’ve probably got at least 6 weeks’ worth left, even if I didn’t buy anything. I will can cherries again this year if they are cheap–which they usually aren’t, but they were .99 lb. last year. My raised bed of strawberries is loaded with fruit that only needs some sun to get ripe. I’ll be making more jam and freezing sliced berries, plus eating a lot fresh.

    I started shopping about every 10-14 days, mostly for milk and produce. But it also enabled me to eat less from the pantry (saving it for later) and to take advantage of spotty availability. I have not seen a good sale on anything we regularly eat in over 3 months. I’ve only bought meat once or twice in the past 3 months. I live 2-3 miles from Fred Meyer (Kroger) and Winco, plus Albertsons and Safeway (where I almost never shop) and a local chain called Super One. They advertise themselves as “the low price leader,” which they aren’t (Winco is the cheapest), but they do have good loss leaders.

    I am 74 and never have spent much on personal care products. I am what you would call low maintenance. I wash with white bar soap and rarely use make-up, lotions or creams. I stay out of the sun or use sunscreen. My skin isn’t fabulous, but it isn’t bad for my age. (I wish I had taken better care of it, though). I mostly use Head & Shoulders from Costco and I’ve been working on using up little bits of other shampoo that has been hanging around the house, sometimes for years. I have short hair and wash it about every third day. I also don’t have many clothes and I mend what I have and usually wear them out.

    We have been retired for 14 years and have a fixed income (fortunately, not a low one). Having the money come in every month has been a huge blessing. Debt-free, including the house. I’ve never been a big spender and I don’t like to shop. I grew up in a family that was somewhat food insecure, so I’ve always had a freezer and a good working pantry. I learned about that over 40 years ago from an LDS friend and it has blessed me many times over.

    1. I find the best bargains at the same time of year. Our kids start school after labor day (mine are way past school age) and the best deals seem to start then and go until about Christmas time. Best coupons then too. I try to keep a certain level of the items I use year round. My shopping is stocking up on things I’m low on and replacing items I have used. Good deals are always snatched up if it’s something I use regularly. I’ve never had anyone agree with me on this, so I was happy to see you agree.

  18. Yikes! Sounds awful to be stung so badly.

    This past year we’ve really dug into our pantry. First there was my being so ill and not working. While we transitioned to a different financial plan, we ate more from the pantry and the expired free food table. I’m thankful now that I waited around to see what was going to be tossed and rescued food (esp. fruits and veggies well past their prime) as we now are finishing up those ftozen foods and have a bit of dehydrated veggies to use later.

    Than, I had the opportunity to bulk shop a couple times in a city when I went for further treatment. Those February trips stocked up somewhat. Enough so that we were able to minimally shop for only fresh veggies and milk for a couple months. We did stock up on meats just before the meat packing slowdown.

    This brings us to now when I am on a mission to restock to the point where I think we should be which is to have a full year’s supply of food on hand. We could probably survive for about that long, but it would not be fun.

    So, whereas we fed our family for 100 – 200 dollars a month for decades, we are now spending more because food costs have risen over the years, I’m not able to grow as much, we’re all adults, I’m not able to do as much, and bulk buying options are not as available. We use minimal personal hygiene and cleaning products since I keep us as chemical free as possible. This does keep the costs down for sure.

    I love that you have price points, no buys and a price book. These things are essential to know to keep costs in hand. aren’t they. Having recipes for inexpensive yet tasty dishes on hand is so helpful. I don’t usually decide on a main dish we are going to have, but instead approach the menu based on ingredients that I want to use. I’ve been experimenting with new recipes recently to expand our meals and continue to use the less expensive ingredients, and to add variety. There have been some winners.

    I’d much rather have the food in my house ready for anything and bought at a lower price point than scrambling to shop amongst crowds. I think better when I plan ahead. I did learn that having 3 months of most food and TP on hand is just not enough. It went by more quickly than I expected. Always tweeking the systems here.

    I agree with all who are preparing for some possible turbulent times ahead. Who’d a thought that we would experience a pandemic, social unrest, economic concerns, and weather one after the other? Guess it would be wise to take advantage of this window of opportunity as best as we can.

  19. Where I live food prices are 150% on average to that of the US. We also eat a lot of meatless dishes, lots of chicken, and low meat dishes. Unfortunately beans are not cheap. Spam is somewhat affordable but I cannot eat preserved meats in any form. Most of the fruit and vegetables are locally grown which makes them very seasonal and in limited supply. Canned and frozen foods are seen as unhealthy as well. Sometimes I can find asparagus for $7 for a big bundle. Last time I was at the market it was $15! I have to go to the fresh market every week to stock up. The good thing is I can see what is the cheapest. The bad thing is I don’t always know what I’ll find. Last week it was bananas and celery. Next week it might be tomatoes and watermelons. It makes meal planning a challenge sometimes but I try to keep recipes on hand with our favorites. I wish I had a garden space but I live in a high rise and I have a black thumb.

    1. Piggykr,
      If you live where Azure Standard has a drop, beans and other bulk items are pretty good deals, I think.

  20. I am thrilled to see this series starting! Thank you Brandy; thank you SO much!

    I am the ONLY person I know personally who has a strict food budget or even knows exactly what we spend on groceries! Because I know prices well, when I see what my friends buy, I know they spend at least double what I do on food and grocery items, and the crazy thing is that I have 6 children, they mostly have only 2! I also only see their groceries, but know they order in two or three times a week, which raises the cost even more! It’s crazy!

    I was one of the pioneer followers of The Prudent Homemaker, and was inspired to get serious about stockpiling and building a pantry sometime around 2011/2012. I now have very few items I am willing to pay full price for, and prepare meals using the staples we have on hand combined with whatever fresh food is selling cheaply or coming out the garden. This is helped us get through harder times, and enjoy life with more to spend in other areas when work is good.

    The only thing that really has changed as a result of the pandemic is that I started keeping even more on hand than previously and simplified our meal rotation to make a range of meals from a basic set of easy-to-store, inexpensive ingredients. So we don’t have quite as much variety as before but no one has complained.

    I do a large shop once a month when I usually go to three different stores. I sit with the sales flyers (online and paper) and make a list of what is on sale. My children help me count up what we still have in the pantry to decide how many of each item we need, and what we simply will have to pay full price for. I shop for fresh food every 2-3 weeks at a nearby market that sells quality produce in bulk inexpensively, but stretch this out as long as possible in order to spend less time away from home and lower risk of exposure to the virus. I last went well over a month ago, and have made do with potatoes, carrots, butternut, tomatoes and oranges that were on sale from the supermarket I was already at for other items.

    I have learnt to be flexible. Once I looked at the cucumbers and they were expensive. I commented on it. A man beside me said “Sure, but what can do about it?” I said “I’ll make a salad without cucumber!” He looked amazed and promptly put the one he had in his hand back on the shelf! My family know they benefit from my sometimes unusual additions to or omissions from recipes, so they never complain!

    I struggle to find time to cook every day. I realized back in 2011 that I was relying on easier meal choices that were fast to prepare but cost more. That began my journey with bulk cooking. Every month I work a few freezer-friendly meals into the rotation and always have a few meals in the freezer as a result. This helps a lot. In South Africa restaurants and fast food places were shut for almost 3 months. People practically went into depression over having to actually make their own food! Nothing changed in my home!

    I am proud to see my children learning from me. My eldest is a bargain shopper like no other (except may be your eldest, Brandy! She’s incredible!). I feel glad when they notice that others are wasteful and poor stewards of their resources (but encourage them not to judge). It gives me hope for their future in an uncertain world.

    I can’t wait to read more!

    1. Tracy, your comments really resonated with me. I have friends (and even my mother-in-law) who scold me for watching my pennies so closely. They go to the store and buy whatever catches their eye. They spend amounts that seem amazing to me — and they waste a great deal of food because they have no plan to use what they buy. Thankfully, my husband appreciates my efforts and will brag that we eat very well, and very healthy. (And he was able to retire early because we saved and live modestly.)

  21. I’ve always gotten excited about the seasonal canned food sales that typically happen in November, but in the last several years since discovering this site I’ve rethought its purpose and now purchase canned goods, pasta, etc to reflect what we might use in an annual or shorter basis depending on the frequency of the sales rather than just getting a few items at a time. My husband didn’t really jump on my band wagon when I started keeping extra canned goods in a dresser drawer (it even sounds odd as I type it, but it’s the only place that is available), but when the lockdown began we were in a good place overall. I believe the lockdown convinced him that stocking up isn’t such a bad thing after all. We took inventory of the two freezers in the garage and had a good stock of beef, poultry, pork, and seafood along with some frozen fruits and vegetables and even walnuts and pecans. I wasn’t stocked up on baking supplies like baking soda and powder, salt, sugar, or yeast, and several dairy products. I now know what I need to be mindful of in that regard. We just happened to plant the garden the weekend before the lockdown, which was really helpful. We had just enough toiletries to see us through, but would have begun to run out of soap if the lockdown continued much longer.

  22. I ordered the poultry seasoning you posted to try – thank you. I have been ordering groceries delivered here in NY since we shut down, but supply was challenging and prices have been high! My ‘monthly fee’ to the shopping service we’ve used [gave us the option of several stores, including Aldi which is new here] is renewing on Sunday so I’m getting my last delivery tomorrow and will not renew. We’ve gone from a rate of 20% positive tests to 1% and I’m willing to risk the stores again to save the expense of having someone else do it. Plus the inflexibility of not having a choice about substitutions LOL. But I’m grateful we had the option when things were so frightening here.
    I’m working hard on not having waste, and adding a dinner of random bits and pieces as they build up in the fridge. I tend to cook a lot of extra inexpensive chicken and sausage [as I find sales]to have on hand in the fridge. This and eggs round out salads and veggie stir fries for breakfast or lunch. as I have several family members who avoid carbs for health reasons.
    One is my 20yo son who will have his own kitchen next year at school, and he has learned to prepare his favorite veggies [spinach, mushrooms, brussell sprouts] in ways that he enjoys, adding a bit of protein to create a meal – this will be extra helpful when he’s feeding himself in the fall x.

    1. My parents said that sometimes the substitutions were good and they found some new products that they really liked. They also had some not go so well; they ordered a box of cereal and the substitution was one they did not like at all. They gave it to us and it was gone in one meal.

  23. We were pretty well stocked prior to the pandemic. I try to buy staples only on sale and meat that is short dated and marked down in combination with the first Tuesday of the month which is 15% off at Safeway- and will fit in my fridge freezer. For eg the coffee we like is regularly 18,99 per can but frequently goes on sale for 9.99 so I stock up. Only once so far has the sale coincided with the 15% off at Safeway so I stocked up.

    We try not to waste food so if I have extra eggs and milk on hand I will make pancakes or muffins and freeze them. I also use sour milk in baking. I make lots of homemade soups as my Mum taught me to use veggie cooking water, bones etc. DH bakes whole wheat bread and pizza dough.

    I do check the flyers every week and price match where I can. I watch as the groceries ring through and if overcharged by a scanning error we get the first item for free( up to $10) and I have used this many times-particularly on Fridays which is the first day of the flyer and some prices have not been changed yet.

    I love to travel and through a combination of home exchange and getting credit cards with bonus air miles we are able to keep costs down. Some people say applying for multiple credit cards lowers a credit score but we don’t have debt so I don’t worry about that. Of course we do pay them off each month.

    It is very interesting to read about food prices in various places and how you all keep prices down.

  24. Before COVID, I had gotten lax in keeping a stocked pantry, and also had gotten into the ungood habit of stopping at the supermarket that is about .5 mile from our house a couple of times a week for one or two items, in addition to my weekly shops there and Aldi. (we are in way upstate NY.)

    I’ve used this time and some of the money we are not spending on gas for our cars and other things to beef up the pantry and create a simple system to avoid multiple trips to the supermarket each week. Meat has been short here, so I haven’t been able to stock up on that. I especially haven’t been able to get whole chickens except for rotisserie or beef roasts. Nevermind getting a good price. They just aren’t available.

    One tip I have for saving some money – buy things in nontraditional places. For example, our local drug store chain has a large grocery section, and I was able to get some jam on sale at a much better price than the supermarket.

    Looking at my paltry pantry back in March when the shutdown began, and things seemed quite dire, I actually thought, “I should have listened to Brandy!”

  25. Since your mother goes to Costco, you might check out their store brand of bar soap. It is comparable to Olay or Dove (I actually prefer the Costco brand), and quite a bit less expensive. I believe it usually runs $9-$11 for a 16 pack although I have seen it on sale as low as $6 sometimes.

    We stay pretty stocked up, and fortunately in February and early March, saw the writing on the wall as others here have mentioned and made sure we were stocked up on things. I live and work in a large city, and so have access to quite a few grocery stores in a very short distance (Costco, Sam’s Club x 2, Tom Thumb x 3, Walmart x 3, Target x 3, Dollar Tree, 99 Cent stores, Aldi x 3, Sprouts x 2, Trader Joe’s, Winco). I try to watch the weekly ads and sales and if something is an exceptional buy, I will stock up.

  26. That was an amazing summary of your grocery shopping. Thank you! Even though I live in a large metro area (Minneapolis), I feel that our grocery store options are somewhat limited for the size of the Twin Cities. The lowest priced items for me are found at Trader Joe and Aldi. We also have a moderately priced chain, Cub, which I try to avoid and Whole Foods (Whole Paycheck!) plus a couple more high end type stores. Of course, we have Target and Walmart. (I never enter the latter!)

    For me, the best store overall is Aldi. Their prices are quite consistent. They don’t have a huge variety like other stores, but that makes it easier to shop, in my opinion. They also will add seasonal items, and I like that I can find authentic German food. You seem to have more of a selection in Las Vegas.

  27. Brandy,
    Thank you so much for covering this topic. I think the best thing to come out of this time for our family has been sharing. I am fortunate that I live very close to my 2 adult children and my elderly parents. During the last months, we have learned to share what we each had. This week my dad was wanting the small macaroni noodles which were not available in the only store in our small town. I had to go out of town for another reason and brought back 2 packages for him. My son who lives alone recently bought a fresh pineapple and shared with us. This has eliminated food waste and has also provided us all with more variety than we would have had otherwise.
    I am working on stocking up my pantry but food prices are very high where I live and jobs are being cut or hours reduced so I have to really hunt for food I can afford to purchase. I no longer see any sale prices in weekly ads here. When I do find something I buy more of it than I normally would but also leave some on the shelves for others.
    My children are teaching me how to cook food that is cheap but also tasty. Foods I wouldn’t previously consider eating such as enchiladas. We all got together last weekend and made two huge batches sharing the ingredients we all had. This was enough to feed all of us for several meals. My mom especially liked them and requested this to be a repeat.
    I am not sure what the future holds but I am happy that I have learned some new cooking skills and recipes and we have learned to work together as extended family taking care of each other.

    1. Our sale ads all but stopped, but they have started again here. The ads literally got much smaller. They are now closer to regular size and the stores appear to be well stocked.

  28. I grew up in Minneapolis and now live in southern Minnesota. I’m am surprised that you never enter Walmart. My shopping choices are limited of course living in a rural area (25 and 35 miles from larger grocery stores). I find Walmart prices very competitive and the items I have ordered online have been extremely well packed and promptly delivered. And frankly I am proud of them for hiring workers that for various reasons would be likely for find employment in other stores.

    1. Walmart stores come into many small towns and communities and undercut the local businesses with lower prices. The other stores fail and then the Walmart dominates. Many of those store owners have to work at the Walmart to make a living. Then, so often, the Walmart pulls out and leaves the town as a veritable food desert. Read “The Town that Lost its Walmart” from the New York Times.

      Additionally, I have never found Walmart to be a pleasant shopping experience, even if the prices are competitive as you say. Overall, I have found the employees rude and unhelpful, if you can even find one! Fortunately, I have options where I live. I also forgot to mention that we also have Sam’s Club and Costco, but I may drop the Costco membership since we recently moved further away from the store.

      1. What is the difference between shopping at Costco and Sams vs. Walmart? They are all warehouse type stores. Am I missing something? If you need to save money to feed your family you shop where the prices are better. My small town experiences are so different than yours. I’ve found no rude employees are poor service. I certainly count my blessings to live where I do.

        1. One difference is that Costco has very affordable high-quality health insurance benefits even for PT employees. That’s a striking difference from a corporation which chronically under-compensates its workers, leaving it to the American taxpayer to subsidize corporate profits via SNAP and other public assistance programs said workers need to survive.
          All that said, the nearest Costco is 3 hrs. away from me. WM has hollowed out my small town’s downtown, and is now my only option for many local purchases.
          Wrestling with what’s the most ethical choice consumes a great deal of personal bandwidth these days.

      2. I agree, Isabella. We boycott Walmart as well. They treat employees badly and force their suppliers to to keep costs down, They then shipped jobs over to factories in China. Sometimes cheaper is more costly in other ways, unfortunately .

        1. Walmart is no different than most American corporations, it’s just fashionable to berate them now. And no one is forced to work there. Corporate America changes all the time. I have worked at many places in my half century work life. Nobody ever put the employee before the corporation.

          1. WalMart has been coming under attack for decades; dollar stores are now getting the heat. When Dollar General (and similar chains; that’s the only one I have read news stories about) moves into an area, it changes shopping. They have many grocery items, but not fresh produce or meat. Their business model challenges local stores, in rural and urban areas. They are smaller stores but certainly much more common than WalMart, and growing, a thousand new stores a year. They are now ubiquitous in small towns across the Midwest, which have enough economic challenges already, including because of the rise of QuikTrips, Caseys, and other gas/convenience stores.
            So part of shopping for me is determining whether or not, and how often, I can support local independent merchants or smaller chains. Locally owned and managed businesses provide different benefits to a community. Shopping locally even once or twice a month is important.

            1. I actually work at Walmart, to get insurance for my family. It is better insurance and my portion is cheaper than Target’s insurance. My brother in law works at Target for almost 17 years, while my nephew works at Walmart. Nephew makes more than brother in law and all 3 of us are lowly employees, not even first level management.

  29. Thank you for this series! I am really looking forward to it.
    I live approximately 45 minutes from shopping — we have a City Market (Kroger), Safeway, Walmart, and a small Target (limited groceries there.) The town I live nearest (8 miles away) does have a grocery store, but it is a tourist town and prices are two and three times what they are 45 minutes away. The town where we shop is also where our dentist, doctor’s, vet, hardware store, etc. are located, so we save up errands and tend to make one trip every couple of weeks. I like to stay stocked up and when quarantine first started was able to go almost a month without shopping. Now I try to go three weeks, and mostly shop for dairy and produce and to fill in gaps in my pantry. I made an inventory last month and have been stocking up on items we use the most.
    The closest Costco is 6 hours away, but three or four times a year we travel to that area for various reasons and will stock up. On the way home from camping, we stopped at a Costco for the first time in 6 months and purchased many of the items we prefer there. I have ordered online from them too, for things like dog food that are a better price than anywhere else.
    I also have several items on Subscribe and Save from Amazon: coffee, avocado oil, coconut oil, black tea and powdered whole milk. I am building up my stocks of these items and will not order as often when my supply is where I want it to be.
    I have been focusing on eating meals with no meat or that stretch meat. We are revisiting old favorites and discovering new loves. There are only two of us and we’re not real big eaters, so I can stretch things pretty far. I am also trying to grow even more in my garden, though the weather is making it hard. I freeze and can as much as I am able of our garden produce. We do live within an hour of farming country and in August and September it’s possibly to buy bulk quantities of many fruits and vegetables. I always buy and can and freeze items, but my goal this year is to do enough to take us through to next season.

  30. I started hearing reports out of China in December about a mysterious flu that was killing people and I thought it was SARS starting up again – Toronto was particularly hard hit when it arrived here a few years ago – so I paid attention. Instead of letting my winter pantry run down I kept restocking – a bit at a time over the next few months. Being out and about almost every day in a large city I had lots of places to choose from and when panic hit on March 12 (when they announced that the following week’s school break would be extended by a further two weeks) I was already well supplied. I stopped at the grocery store that night just to pick up milk, cream and some frozen fruit & veg – hit the Express desk and got out!

    I didn’t go back to the store for almost 3 weeks but it’s a very different scenario. I live in a bit of a valley and stores are located one subway stop to the west and two subway stops to the east (but there is a stop right across the street which makes it easy and a quick trip). I now shop mostly at our local NO Frills supermarket – it’s the bargain version of the Loblaw chain which is the largest in Canada – a bit like an Aldi or Lidl. I don’t drive and I walk with the aid of a cane so I use public transit with a bundle buggy. I subway over and then normally walk back to combine the shopping with exercise as I’m then walking downhill so it’s a bit easier for me.

    I normally know within a dollar or two what I’ve spent when I get to the cashier but at the moment I just shop! Some of the amounts have been a bit shocking! And that is even with a well stocked pantry – those empty shelves were a bit of a shock so I had a tendency to grab something if it was available! I’ve settled down a bit now as most things are back in stock – the only thing I really want and need is something other than All Purpose flour! I keep checking for Whole Wheat, Bread flour and Cake & Pastry flour. In the past I always kept a good supply of these items but I’ve been eating very low carb for the last year or so and had let these run out. I’ll just keep checking and I’m sure that I’ll be able to replenish them over the summer for winter baking.

    I do have to remind myself that it’s just me (although I take meals to an elderly neighbour a couple of times a week) and something like a small can of fruit is 4 servings for me and a bag of frozen fruit would be at least 6 servings so it’s not quite the need of someone like you Brandy with so many children. I have spent time during lockdown to reorganize my pantry and to create a small – longterm pantry – items marked as BB past 2022. It is helping me to use up things in proper rotation.

    The most frustrating part from me was not having a variety of shops in my immediate neighbourhood – lots of fruit & veg shops and a few delicatessens but only the one real supermarket. Normally when I go into the office I would make a point of hitting some other stores that were on my subway run but since I didn’t want to travel far on public transit and didn’t want to find that I had to stand in a long line once I got somewhere – I just stuck close to home. I now go into the office about twice a week – just for a few hours – but it gives me the chance to hit a couple of others so that I can now get a bit more variety into the pantry. I go for early opening for seniors & disabled and only once have I had to wait to enter a shop and that was only for about two minutes so that hasn’t been an issue. The only shop I haven’t gone back to is the big Loblaw store where I usually buy my meat – I often get great bargains with a lot of meat 50% off (cook it that day or freeze it) so I have missed that. But at the moment I have more than enough meat for probably the next couple of months and I do want to eat it down quite a bit before starting to restock. Beef was a bit scarce for a few weeks but things seem to be back to normal now.

    Toronto still hasn’t moved beyond Stage 1 Reopening and even some places who are allowed to reopen haven’t done so as yet – we are being very cautious. Most people fully expect a second wave along with normal cold & flu season so I intend to be ready. I have about a six month supply of non-food items (like you Brandy I use non- scented and often hypoallergenic due to allergies) and try never to pay full price for these sorts of things. When there is a deal I stock up – but again, just being one person means that I can keep a six month supply on just two small shelves. I have a small unit on wheels due to arrive from Amazon this week and these sorts of toiletries will go into this so that the shelves will be freed up for the bulkier paper towels and boxes of kleenex – which I’d like to have more of in stock.

    My family and friends used to laugh at my pantry but no one is laughing now!

    1. Hi Maggie,
      I have read that in Canada we don’t need to buy bread flour as our wheat is harder than American wheat used for AP flour. At least that’s what my bread machine book told me!

  31. It’s been so interesting to read everyone’s comments, and the beautiful photos of your local area are amazing Brandy.
    My go to store is our local Aldi which is 5 minutes away and I try and get most things there. One plus is being able to pick up cauliflower leaves people have broken off as I feed them to my chickens.
    My take home message from the last couple of months is working on making my garden more productive. I planted a dwarf lemon tree on the weekend and I will look our for more dwarf species of fruit trees. I am still preparing my raised garden bed and hope to be ready in the next month or so to start off some spring crops.

  32. Great info! Another thing I do to cut costs is just use what will work. Soap is soap is soap; I really don’t need 20 different kinds for washing hair, clothes, dishes, babies, hands, cars, etc. The blue Dawn is my favorite, and I use it on almost anything. So, buying fewer products saves us money.
    Other things I’ve stopped buying: cotton balls (use a clean rag), trash bags (resuse other plastic bags, and/or just clean out the plastic can), stain removers (I use blue Dawn mentioned above), lotion (use small amount of veg oil if needed), paper towels (use rags, and paper grocery ads/junk mail to drain bacon). A lot of this is more environmentally friendly, too, but I will admit it’s financially motivated.
    Making a focused effort to avoid food waste really helps us stretch the pennies.

  33. I have really seen the value of a having a pantry these past two years. First my son and his family moved ‘for six weeks’ as they renovated one house and sold another. Six months later…They’d started out helping with food purchases and paying a very nominal rent but due to circumstances beyond their control (silly little things like the house they were trying to sell wasn’t on the lot it was deeded to be on) they ended up with a messy situation. My pantry carried us, four adults and two small children. Then my daughter’s marriage broke up during that time and she ate here daily. When every one moved, both households stocked their initial pantry stock up from my pantry and freezer. And we restocked ours as we could. Then unemployment for one of the kids meant they were dependent upon us for groceries…Restock. This past December I was insistent that i buy enough paper and cleaning supplies for a year and went through a heavy period of restocking pantry. I didn’t get as far as I’d hoped but when this lockdown hit and no one could get items, Mama’s grocery pantry was open and provided for four households (mine, daughter’s, son’s, mother’s,).
    Locally we have a dollar general and an IGA store. In the past I avoided shopping locally due to poorly kept produce but it’s now under new management and while the selection has decreased in some ways it’s got some decent prices. I seldom go into the dollar store but it’s a viable option.

    I tend to drive the 35 miles one way to go to Aldi which best suits our budget. I am curious to get to Sam’s and see if I can save on flour as the price you mention would be like getting a free bag from Aldi!

    My husband retired this past February by the way. And we when we went to cash out our retirement monies the stock market crash put paid to that…So we’re living off considerably less than when he was working but we’re managing. I continue to stock my pantry as I can. I do some online purchases rather than spend hours and miles running to too many stores. It makes for a very long day and as you say going into stores more often means spending more. I am careful with online purchases. I keep track of what I’ve spent monthly so I know where I am with my spending.

  34. I forgot to mention that one of my biggest money savers is rarely having my husband go grocery shopping-case in point today he went and he paid $2.91 for 1 yellow pepper!! I would never do that-perhaps for a whole bag. I guess I better continue doing the shopping-mind you his whole bill was only about $30 but…

  35. When i go to the basement to root around in the freezers, or check the shelves, my husband calls it ‘shopping at Debbie’s IGA’. We’ve had some kind of pantry for many years. Like many others have mentioned, we were paying attention to the news reports and shopped accordingly. We probably have too much flu medicine but that’s kind of how it was reported in the beginning. Our best shopping is over an hour away. There’s an Aldi which i love! We also order half a pig from our mechanic. His Father grows them every year. I do not eat meat so we usually share with our two sons. We’ve also recently found someone who butchers their own cows into burger. It sells for 3.50 lb. which is better than the stores. I’ve bought chicken over the past weeks and months whenever i saw a sale. So, we’re pretty stocked up on that. Our prices have always been high but they’ve gone higher. I order from walmart for cereal, fiber, wipes, and several other items. Before we were shut down, i had ordered two cases of toilet paper from ebay. They came in at just over 50c a roll and they don’t plug the toilet. We still have about 2/3 of a box left. I have been buying toilet paper whenever i see it. The shelves are still not back to pre-virus days. The ebay sellers are out, as well. (A lot of price gauging, there!) I see more gardening going on around here. So that’s encouraging. I’ve put kale and spinach seeds in every little bare spot i could find. Beans, too. I canned carrots when i saw bags on sale. We’re doing the best we can, i think. We believe it’s going to be a long road back. It’s nice to hear everyone’s tactic in this. We’re not alone.

  36. Hello Brandy and I so agree that you have to compare prices between stores to keep our grocery costs down as low as possible and particularly if you have a large family such as yours 🙂 . Prices in Australia have also risen dramatically mainly on meat and fresh vegetables but also on dairy and tinned goods.

    Fortunately we had been building up our stockpile before the pandemic and were up to 9 – 12 months ahead. I am happy to say we did survive well on mostly everything but our meat supplies we obviously couldn’t store much of. We did buy only a little meat and ate more tinned long life meat and vegetable meals along with inventing lots of new and different ways to use spam in meals.

    We have also changed the way we shop in regards to a lot of price rises here and now look more for markdowns, weekly specials, buy bulk staples online from places like party and restaurant suppliers such as herbs and grains which are much cheaper in general. With supermarkets we shop between many more and check prices online for the cheapest prices for everything. Also places like eBay we have found a lot of bulk cleaning staples we use often far cheaper too.

    Also another thing that saves us a lot is coupling our e-gift cards we can buy from our roadside assist that gives us 5% off groceries and fuel. With groceries we couple this saving with any 50% off weekly sales, any money off promotions by spending x dollars that suits our spending budget and or markdowns we may find.

    Living in the country our round trips to the nearest supermarkets are 90 km from home and to larger towns over 130 km round trip so we plan our shopping trips carefully and do multiple trips so we don’t travel as far.

    Hoping everyone is finding ways to save in this challenging time where prices are rising everywhere. I do agree Brandy if you look for the sales they are still out there and should be taken advantage of.


  37. Since I don’t drive, I used to go shopping once a month. I would go to two different stores — one expensive store for meat and a bargain store for everything else. I cannot have a flu shot so during flu season a variety of friends would pick up a few things for me if they were going. Now I diligently read the flyers every week and usually about twice a month, I ask my YYC, free grocery delivery volunteers for seniors and others at high risk for covid, to shop at the store of my choice. In stocking up a pantry, I ask a combination of friends and volunteers to go. I try not to ask friends too often nor my volunteers. So I read the flyers for No Frills, Superstore, Safeway and Calgary Co-op. I try to eat 5-7 servings of fruit and vegetables per day. I usually don’t eat a lot of meat but more chicken and turkey than beef or pork. I have a lot of food allergies which is limiting (fish, shellfish, eggs!, peanuts, nuts etc). So when I read the flyers, I also search for the ingredients. This week Superstore is the best bet for 10 kg of sugar, a 9 can pack of Heinz baked beans but No Frills beats it for fresh yogourt 3 for $2.88. It’s hard to choose which store. During May/June, I treat myself to fresh asparagus from the farmers market. I have spent more than usual as I restocked a pantry starting in January. Now has been the time of year when canned soups go on sale — I try not to eat them a lot because I prefer low sodium foods but they are good for the pantry.

    1. I make soup from scratch so I have things like dried celery, dried onions, and dried carrots on hand, along with canned tomatoes, dried beans, rice, pasta, and barley. Those will items will work for many soups and are less costly than buying canned soups. They would also keep your sodium low.

  38. Kind of an awkward question but… I want/need to do more meatless meals for my family to use up stored foods and for our grocery budget (I have six children) but I hate the GAS that comes with bean meals and so I avoid making them. Is there a trick to cooking them that would alleviate that problem?

    We have stored up beans/rice/wheat berries for years but with COVID, I realized that there are certainly things that I should keep more of on hand… Coffee. Sugar. Toilet paper! Things like that. I wanted to avoid the stores so I would go shopping once every two weeks or three. And now, I am pretty terrified that as things play out, food shortages and the economy is going to make the prices of food skyrocket. So, I am trying to stock up on things that may get expensive later. We bought four piglets last month to butcher in the fall, we have a cow who is milking and chickens for eggs, so I guess I am as insulated as possible. But there are plenty of things that I can’t produce and don’t really want to live without. (CHOCOLATE! haha!)

    1. The more you eat beans, the less of a problem it is, as your body gets used to them. Presoaking them can also alleviate the problem. Make sure to drain the rinse water. That said, I never pre-soak mine and we don’t have problems with them–but we eat them 3-4 times a week.

    2. You could try Beano– an enzyme that helps you digest beans better We soak our beans for 48 hours, changing the water whenever it gets frothy. That helps digestibility as well. We pressure-cook them to break down lectins. We eat a lot of beans!

    3. You can also cook them with herbs and spices that aid digestion – and make them more flavorful! Do a search for “carminatives” but ginger, dill, and fennel are good places to start.

  39. I’m in the UK and come from a long line of women who planned ahead and preserved foods. My 15th birthday present many years ago was a jam (jelly) making kit which I still use 40+ years later. When I was the same young age my mother had to go away somewhere for a few days to be with an elderly relative and taught me how to bottle (can) produce from the garden in her absence. I still do this today and am currently taking advantage of good prices on summer fruits. I do grow some of my own crops and bottle them / freeze them or dry them. I live in an agricultural region and last year I called a tomato pack-house and asked if they would sell to me at the back door. They did and I saved a fortune on supermarket grade tomatoes. I will do this again this year. I keep a reasonable stockpile because you just never know when illness or weather issues will crop up. I was stockpiling for Brexit earlier this year as retailers never seem to miss an opportunity to raise prices so was well prepared for the pandemic lockdown and was able to avoid the stores for ages. I think over the last year I have begun to source more things on line and in bulk – for example dried beans which I cook and freeze so they are always available. We have a running joke about storage ( we live in a 800 square foot bungalow) that starts with hubby or I saying “And where’s it going to go?” and the answer (usually sung in the manner of an old Vaudeville act) is “In the rubber-sided cupboard under the stairs”.

    In terms of stockpiling and preserving, this is a great time to practice and to learn. Teach children to cook and preserve – my learning as a teenager has been a wonderful investment. I have always cooked from scratch because that is how I was brought up. ( Funny story – I once made a rice pudding dessert from scratch for a roommate and she said it was nearly as good as tinned! Lol!).

    Also take a little time to sit and think deeply and set yourself some challenges: How would I cope if there was no ……(fill in the gaps e.g. petrol / gas / electricity / supermarkets / anything local to you). We did this and it led us to moving from the country to the outskirts of a small town where we can access everything on foot from food to medical services. We are now positioned that we could manage without a car if we had to. I know everyone is not in a position to move or would even want to – but it is an example of getting the thinking clear so that you can plan ahead and stockpile accordingly.

    Finally I do find this blog inspirational and enjoy the contributions. Although the US is different from the UK in a number of ways, I do find the blog and comments to be an excellent source of ideas.

  40. The experience of living on Guam for 3 years back in the early 90’s has led me to keeping a well stocked pantry. Many was the time basic items would be out of stock for months. I do not wish to repeat any of my previous Guam posts, but living without for extended periods of time while trying to feed young children does change one’s perspective. I learned to stock up carefully then and continue to do so today. When the lockdowns began I did not need to shop for anything for at least 2 weeks, and even then it was just for milk and fresh fruit. We had plenty of everything to get us through. Like most of you, I also cook from scratch most of the time, use up leftovers, buy loss leaders, can, dehydrate, freeze, and garden. My family buys a cow once a year and share the packaged meats with our adult children. There are a couple of orchards within a half hour drive from us so every fall we go apple picking at least twice, once for my favorite early apple variety, Liberty, and later for my favorite late variety, Arkansas Black. I also get a few other varieties to make applesauce and to can . I check the store ads weekly and buy only what is on a good sale in order to replenish the pantry and what few items we need.
    I have access to several grocery store chains; Kroger, Food Lion, Walmart, Target, and assorted other chain stores like Dollar Tree, Dollar General, and chain pharmacies. We have no member stores like Sams, Costco, BJs. One thing someone else mentioned was to check alternative stores. I buy my bread flour, spices, dried tvp, and other things from the Amish and Mennonite stores which are within a 30 minute drive. I only go once or twice a year. I also suggest to try looking in your Asian and Mexican/Hispanic markets. Our area was out of dried beans and cornmeal for weeks. Then I passed a Mexican market on the way home one day and thought to stop in. I found beans galore! and cornmeal. Their prices were quite reasonable. The one other place I shop whenever I am near to a military base is the commissary. I live exactly 4 hours from any base in all directions so I only go once or twice a year when I visit family near a base. As my husband is retired military we have this benefit. Unfortunately, since the privatization of many military facilities such as base hotels, restaurants and the PX and commissary, the prices have really gone up. I can still find some items for excellent prices and that is when I buy A LOT of the item. It’s not unusual for me to come home with 20 pounds of “fake” butter from the commissary. I can’t help but wonder what the checkout people think when I go through their line!
    Brandy,, I am wondering what your price book looks like. How do you organize it? I once tried to do one but became so overwhelmed by it all I stopped the project. Any suggestions? Advice? I “keep” a price book in my head, but these days that is not by best idea.

    1. I used a spreadsheet by store with the lowest prices (you could use Google Sheets for free and then update it on your computer or your phone when you see a lower price). Items listed on one side by department (produce, dairy, baking, etc.) and then stores across the top. Now I just keep things in my head–but there are free price book apps you can use on your phone as well.

  41. Brandi,
    I stepped on a Yellow Jacket nest and was stung multiple times. They bite too. Benadryl helps a lot.
    We were starting to Prepare for lockdown in December. We had friends telling us about China then and said it is coming to the U.S. prepare now. I stockpiled food, tp. anything I thought we would need. I had a freezer full of meat. Canned goods, sundries etc… We got extra propane and filled all our gas cans. I have shared things with family and neighbors that were caught off guard. I will never forget going to the local market and seeing it stripped clean. I took pictures with my cell phone. I’m going to print them and put them up in my pantry. So if I ever think I don’t need to be prepared.

    We planted a pandemic garden. We have onions, tomatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers. Variety of peppers, mammoth Sunflowers. Corn and tomatoes. Zucchini and Yellow squash. and potatoes. We have several farms in our town that sell produce, eggs, milk and meat. Local honey, wine and olive oil it is very delicious but more expensive than big box stores.
    I believe the turmoil and unrest we see now will intensify up to the election in November. I read that Truckers have said they will not deliver to areas that don’t have law enforcement. Our supply chain could become impacted by this.
    I wonder Brandi do you have Co ops in your area ? I know that used to be a good resource for staples.

    1. I know that Azure Standard has a drop off site here, but other than that, I don’t know.

  42. We have kept a stocked pantry since Y2K. Although that was a non-event, it raised my awareness about how dependent on others our country has become for basic survival. Through the years, I have learned as much as I could about becoming self-sufficient if the need should arise. That doesn’t mean we do all of those things now (like keeping chickens), but we have tried it and learned from it when we could. This past year, I let our pantry stock get low as all of our children have grown and we were eating differently. When we started to see the virus developing in January, I took inventory and stocked up. I’m glad I did before purchasing was limited and shortages started. Winter wheat was hard to find. We have used it for our bread for years, but I hadn’t paid attention to how low I let my stock get. I was thankful to hear about Azure Standard from this blog and have placed two orders with them for items I can’t get locally. We live a fair distance from large stores, so stocking up has always made financial sense. I also have a Plus membership for Sam’s which gives free shipping and that has been wonderful. The cashback option usually pays for the price of next year’s membership. A lot of items are out of stock, but I put them in my cart and check fairly often to see if they are available. Over the past two months, I have been able to get almost everything I needed. I don’t keep a price book and know I need to do a better job. One thing this pandemic has made us realize is areas of life where we have been wasteful. Although we are more frugal and conservative than most who live around us, we have found many areas to improve.

    I have always had a large garden, but the past few years we have been gone during the summer a great deal. A change in jobs led to more work for me during the summer, so I simply turned the garden under and mowed for the past few years. This year we knew we would be home so a great big garden it is! I love to garden and have enjoyed doing it again. Our neighbors have expressed interest in learning, so I am thankful I can share the little bit of growing wisdom that I have with them. I’ve dusted off the canner and we are ready to go!

    We have a restaurant meat distributor near us and were able to fill our freezer before prices went crazy. He was glad for the business when we went (before processing plants closed) because his sales had been so slow with closed restaurants. I have spent more on stocking up the past few months than usual; not just food, but also household items that may be in short supply at some point. I think we will see many disruptions over the next several months. It is amazing how much we have taken for granted. We have been blessed to be able to fill our pantry and take care of some other purchases we had been delaying. I also decided to finally spend the money on a nice dehydrator to help deal with some of the garden produce that will be coming in soon. Now that we are stocked up, I’m looking forward to frugal months ahead, replacing what we use from the pantry in small trips.

    I have always been a goal setter, and have worked to build a life I think the Lord wants me to lead. This pandemic and all that goes with it has given me some introspective time to evaluate where I need to make changes. I am thankful for this blog and look forward to reading input from around the world. Brandy, your blog is a ministry and I am so thankful for it. It is a high point of my week to sit and read your post and the comments.
    Blessings to you all!

  43. Brandy…thank you for your time sharing this. There are something I have upped the price point others I won’t buy probably again ever unless it comes down a lot.
    I won’t pay more than $2.50 for a pound of butter… I can’t eat margarine. I found it for $1.89 and every time we went to town (Hubby goes daily for work) we stopped in and got the limit. Right now I won’t be buying butter the rest of the year.

    I have a dog budget (we have 3 large dogs) that includes food, meds and treats (part of that is actually meds) of $150/ month..meds for the two old dogs give my meds costs a run for it’s money.

    Medical budget includes OTC meds, bandages etc. That’s $50/month

    I have what I call the harvest budget… canning lids, freezer bags, food saver bags…of $25/ month.

    I have a garden budget which includes seeds,plants dirt, weed killer, fertilizer,and fruit and veggies I buy at the produce auction or from Amish of $100 /month.That should drop to half that amount in 2 yrs. This fall/winter we will try to grow some cool weather crops in the hoop house we bought(we had a frame just needed the rest). The soil here was completely drained of any health..So I went with raised garden beds.

    I have a non food budget for paper products, foil, plastic wrap, parchment,cleaning, personal items of $50/month. That should drop as I have some silicone covers that fit my dishes I use to store the most in.

    I have a food budget of $250/month that includes any meals eaten out.

    Ham and turkey can be gotten at holidays for less than $2/lb… otherwise the rest is over $4/lb. I buy meat when it is on sale especially if I have a coupon. I got 1 lb smoked sausage for less than $1 so I picked up 20 of them. The kids paid for an order through Perdue for 2 racks of lamb chops, 2 ribeye steaks and a 3 pack of chicken wings as a Mother’s day/Father’s day gift to us… meat we love but do not buy due to cost.

    I did save up money from some odd jobs I worked to restock my herbs and spices since we moved here I had not started an herb garden… I did an order through Penzey spices as they are a local company here.I have herbs planted and am just now starting to have enough to dehydrate some.

    I was stocked for 18 month if not 2 yrs when covid hit ( I figured something was up when Warren Buffett pulled large amount of cash last winter, yes I watch what a rich guy does LOL)… By time 3 of our kids that were off work and 2 still have not seen their unemployment checks and one didn’t qualify because she is a server and doesn’t average the min amt to get unemployment, raided the “mom’s grocery store” (garden is called Mom’s in ground grocery store) we were down to 6 months … I still didn’t panic until I couldn’t find toilet paper ( can only use certain brands) …
    We are stocked back up, Hubby told me to pull it from the savings. His new business held steady through it all, not as good but was making the bills from the first of the year until June… June and July are slow months so he won’t make the bills for the business but that’s okay as it is covering most of it during those 2 month. Most businesses don’t make money until the 2nd or 3rd year…especially a hauling business .
    Mean time we are stocked (I just finished with toilet cleaner, wipes, Kleenex and trash bags) we will need dairy and that is it. Probably until hams and turkeys come on sale.

    Blessed be everyone

    1. Juls, we have dogs with special needs and expensive medication. We found that ordering one dogs inhaler from Canada Drug was far cheaper than getting it in the US. The medication is from NZ and then comes through Canada. We also found a cheaper alternative to a compounding pharmacy (used to use Diamondback Drug in AZ) and now use Monument Drug in Monument CO. Chewy was also far cheaper for the generic of remadyl for one dog. And Walmart (and many other pharmacies) now have Pet discount meds as well. Human medications that pets take. We found the most expensive was our Vet’s office!

      1. If you google “Canada Drug”, you find interesting articles about how their domain website was transferred over to the U.S. government which also fined them millions of dollars. this was because an associated company (not Canada Drugs themselves) had supplied a counterfeit cancer drug into the U.S. This happened to another company for supplying fake Liptor but that company’s domain was not seized. The Canadian government has a website on how to choose a safe online pharmacy. and then safe-use-online-pharmacies.

        As before, your people should be using votes to ensure affordable medicine for all. Companies may have money, people have the vote.

  44. I have not seen any posts from “Lillianna” in some time now. Am I just not finding them, or has she not been posting? I always enjoy reading her comments. Sincerely hope that she and her family are alright. Penny S.

  45. We have moved 3 times in the last 12 months, so food storage isn’t what it used to be. We have had insufficient kitchens in each space, so cooking has been very make-do. We are mercifully in a permanent house now and are in the finishing days of a kitchen remodel (old kitchen was original 1960’s with precisely 2 square feet of counter space TOTAL, so the remodel was entirely for function, not so much style or ‘upgrading’). Food has been stashed all over the house. The week before our shelter-in-place order I bought about 100 meals worth of freeze dried, mylar packaged survival food. Organic and gluten free. So I felt like I always had that as a back up. We got very low on TP, stores didn’t have any. Son on east coast said he’d send us some, they didn’t have any shortages of anything where he lives. We finally found it thought. I usually buy Costo’s store brand.
    I have more in my garden this year, and I had more time to plant it while staying at home. My husband is a teacher and taught from home March through June. He doesn’t know what school will be in August, and there’s chance that his job is not stable. I try not to worry about that. We lost our health insurance, but found something affordable through our state’s healthcare marketplace. It is really good to know that is available. If his job does not continue in August, we will be ok for a bit. I am working really hard at my Etsy shop, to hopefully fill some gaps in income.
    Thank you for all the work of this post, Brandy, and for everyone’s comments. It is interesting and gives me a few ideas.

  46. I love these posts and the comments — I learn so much! Our family eats a lot of meat and vegetables, some pasta and rice, no beans. Just before the pandemic closures, our spring break trip was cancelled. We used the refunded money to stock up on food, household items, and buy a second chest freezer. Then we bought a half side of beef from the butcher. I’ve also been buying chicken and other meats to keep in the freezer. During the time off work, I learned to can and have been able to preserve jams and some fruit. It’s fun!

    We are moving soon due to a job change. Just waiting for the closing to fall in place on both ends (the sellers of the house we’re buying need to find a house, and the buyers of our house need to sell theirs.) I would like to continue to restock the pantry and freezers in anticipation of a covid surge in the fall, but not sure if it’s smart to do it now that we’re moving. Is it better to wait until we get settled in the new house (hoping it’s not too late to get a fall garden started by then)? Whatever I buy now has to be moved if we don’t eat it. However, I want to be stocked up if another wave hits. What would you do?

    1. It depends on how far you are moving. If it’s just in town, you can drive the food in your car. And a fall garden will depend on your zone. Many places in zones cooler than mine start in July/August. Here, I plant in late Septemeber/beginning of October.

  47. Hi Brandy and everyone
    We live in a rural County in the south of England. We have to get in the car to travel to shops. When we first moved here and started our family decades ago we had frequent power outages which led to a ‘ preparedness’ attitude to heating, cooking, supplies on hand etc and this has stayed with us. The pandemic has brought our many blessings into focus and also highlighted areas where we need to improve.
    Blessings first. Our house was built in the 1920s and has a walk in larder facing north to keep it cool. There is a tiled floor with space for large items and shelving on three sides to the ceiling. We were well stocked up before this all started with food, toiletries and paper goods. We have lasted well through these months but need to start replenishing soon.
    Second blessing a good size garden and my husband loves gardening. Last year we had a bumper crop of soft fruits and tree fruit, particularly plums and apples. I preserved so much we still have fruit to eat up and the soft fruit is now producing again. Now the power supply is greatly improved we have three freezers which we fill and eat from. We have greatly extended the range of fruit and veg we are growing this year and it is such a help to our health and budget to do this. We have also stocked up on Kilner jars etc for bottling in the autumn.
    Third blessing is an old fashioned door step milk delivery.
    Fourth blessing is an independent local shop in our nearest village which does doorstep deliveries from phone orders. We have made use of this and also click and collect from a supermarket about twenty minutes away. My husband is asthmatic and we are both 60 so we’ve reduced contact with other people to almost nil although the lockdown is easing now and our infection rate in this area has always been low.
    The big issue is that grocery/ food prices are rising and online deliveries etc are expensive. Sales and special deals seem to have disappeared. Our grocery bill has soared and it can’t go on! I need to start going to a supermarket in person to look at prices, choose carefully and pick up reduced items if I see them. We also need to be proactive about finding places which will sell in bulk – it isn’t as common in the UK as it is in the US. Some supermarkets have sections catering for ethnic minorities and I could buy bulk rice at least – I need to look more carefully. I worked in a school for many years and was given thank you presents from parents so we have a stock of soap, handcream etc which we are still working through. I can restock paper goods, tins etc before the autumn and the possible resurgence of the virus. The big lesson I’ve learnt is that I must have a regular supply of eggs ( we used to keep hens but foxes got through all our defences) and bulk buys of flour and other baking ingredients. This and bringing the grocery budget down are my priorities now and I thank you Brandy and all your contributors around the world for their sensible, grounded ideas. Thank you!

    1. I hope several of my readers in the U.K. have some sources for bulk buying. I know a friend of mine from Hull drove south to make bulk buys before, but that was many years ago.

      I also read about the growing number of foxes in the U.K. just the other day. I hope you can find a way to have chickens again and keep the foxes away!

    2. Do you have Aldi or Lidl near you? I found their prices very good when we visited England 4 years ago-I am actually sad that we have neither in Canada.

      1. Hello I,
        We have Lidl fairly close and in normal times I shop there first and then top up at another supermarket with things they don’t stock. However they have not been too good in our area for social distancing and hygiene measures so I have stayed away .

  48. Thanks for a lovely post, Brandy! We’re currently spending $600-800 per month on food. This is very high for us (family of 10-mom, dad, kids ages 2-15). But the reason is two-fold. One is that we live in an area where real, locally grown foods are prevalent. So we’re spending extra to buy in season and store for later. The second reason is that my husband is laid off from early December-mid April each year. That means that we shop when he’s working and don’t buy much during the time when he’s laid off since unemployment insurance is only about half of what he makes usually. We have a Mennonite bulk store about 6 miles from us. We can order bulk items through them. The next closest stores are 15 miles from us. We also shop farther away at discount stores (some a couple of hours away). We try to shop at one each month. We pack a lunch and make it a family fun day! Our major “policy” in regards to food is…buy whatever is cheap and eat that. We just don’t usually buy things that are expensive, instead choosing to stock up on whatever we find that is cheap. We will find new ways to prepare those items and our family views it as a fun challenge!

  49. We live in the FL keys and our local markets are very expensive so I save by placing a grocery order at Walmart once every 2.5 weeks, which is a 30 minute drive for me. I usually only buy ground beef and chicken breasts and always buy in their large value packs, then portion and freeze until I need them. I’ve cut back to only 2-3 dinners with meat per week for health and savings. I’ve also recently potty trained our twins so our need to purchase diapers and wipes has stopped almost completely (we still use them at night). I’ve switched to a cheaper brand of bread and have started making more bread from scratch and yogurt from scratch. We’ve also been able to get free lunches for the kids daily if we want, although the lunches were very nutritionally poor and my kids quickly got tired of the same thing everyday. The school has also been distributing large free boxes of produce to all families and although some of the items we things I’d never buy, I learned to use them because I didn’t want anything to go to waste. I recently bought canelinni and pinto beans in bulk and also flour and yeast. I’ve never been able to bulk store food because we were military for 20 years and moved too often to have a large food store. We will likely move again next year for one last time so I am only buying what I know I can use before then.

  50. We were in the midst of restocking my pantry when the pandemic hit. As we finished out our extensive list, we noticed prices going up and supply going down. We had to spend more than we expected, but with perseverance, were able to finish up our list. Because I am severely gluten-free to the point that our entire family eats that way due to cross-contamination, getting those kind of flours was important. When it became apparent that there was going to be a meat shortage, we stocked up on chicken breast from Cash and Carry, the restaurant supply store. Not only was it still inexpensive, it’s cut into smaller pieces so the portion sizes are better for us. Every fall, we get 1/4 beef from a local farmer, and we’ve already been contacted by him, basically saying that if we didn’t want it this year, he had plenty of people who did! We want it, and will be glad to get it.

    I have a large stockpile of home-canned preserved foods as well, and put in a garden as usual. But, I filled it even fuller with veggies in every crack and corner! I’ve already started preserving for this summer. I’ve picked quite a few strawberries and raspberries from our garden and froze them. I was given some strawberries and made jam. Just the other day, my husband was given a box of cherries by a friend, and I canned and froze them. Another big difference in this year is that I’ve noticed that every bit of the crops I’ve grown have been used, such as boc choi. On a normal year, we never eat it all. This year…all of it was gone! I picked the spinach 3-4 times until I finally had to pull it.

    I’ve ordered 2 orders from Azure Standard, something I had not been doing very often. Our old drop is 45 minutes away, and the drops close by are full. I was able to get most of my ordered items, and my husband just had to drive up and collect it from the drop site, minimizing contact. We are going to the store less often, and making out fine. Now that the garden is getting more productive, we will do even better at staying out of the stores.

  51. I had to laugh at your memory of your mother wrapping lunch sandwiches in waxed paper. I know my mother did that in the ’50s but you are much younger than me.

    There was a bonus to being a child in the waxed paper era. When we kids went to the park and wanted to go down the slide, we looked around for a discarded piece of waxed paper and rubbed it on the slide. It made the descent faster.

    1. I remember her doing it when I was in preschool. So, in 1979. She packed his lunch in one of those lunch boxes that took a thermos in the lid. I have a lot of memories from when I was very small. My dad would drop me off at preschool on his way to work in the morning and we would pick up one of his coworkers on the way.

  52. I have planted my little garden very tightly this year. My husband helped me cut small branches off of a tree that we cut down to make stakes for in the garden to stretch twine on for the cucumbers to climb on instead of spreading across the ground. We also made a tall teepee out of branches for vines to climb on to free up more space. We live in the country so the homestead look is happening here on less than an acre. I have many plants growing in the compost where I have loosened up the dirt to add to the garden. I keep transplanting them. I am going to smooth out some of the compost area and thin out many tomato plants that have come up on their own. We shall see if they will produce. I got 4 strawberry plants that were very healthy from the green house. They have quickly produced runners and now I have about 12 plants in just about a month’s time. They are everbearing so they will produce in the fall too. They are in a raised bed so I can put up protection from all the little creatures that love them too!! I have planted lots of string green beans to freeze and can. We do pay around $4.00 a pound for local grown beef hamburger. It is the 2 of us so I have been saving money by putting less burger in the recipes. Up to a quarter of what I used to use. I am very thankful we started buying off of a local farmer about a year ago. They are saving back a meat supply for their regular customers. I am diligently reusing plastic bags. I had gotten lazy.
    Since we are not in code green here in Erie County Pa yet, we definitely have saved money on getting our haircuts. I have trimmed my husbands a couple of times. I braved trimming just a tiny bit off my bangs by lookin how on you tube. So I had to purchase clips to restyle for a bit. I have been stocking up too as I can. I finally found a big bulk bag of Macaroni noodles. So they are divided and in the pantry.
    You have been a real inspiration to me. Have a blessed week!

  53. I saw the writing on the wall back in January. I started stocking up then. Seeing what was happening in China and then Europe along with watching the stock markets around the world it wasn’t too hard to decipher that something unusual was coming. Trader Joe’s by us has lots of great deals on nuts and dried fruit. I also love their organic peanut butter, both the salted and unsalted variety. I would say that I did not have enough flour. Who would have thought stores would run out of that? I have six 5 pound bags but with a family of six adult theaters (4 kids 13-20) one uses a lot of flour making muffins, dough and the like every day. We were able to purchase and have delivered a chest freezer. This proved invaluable once I decided to venture out of the house in late April. We are lucky enough to have a turkey farm nearby and could bulk up on a lot of great frozen turkey products.
    While we did pretty well with food, I would have to say I am most proud that we did not listen to the “financial experts” who advised us to stay the course and not move our money to safer investments. We moved our retirement savings and were able to maintain most of what we had in there before the crash hit. It definitely pays to be watchful and be prepared. Love this blog!

  54. The evening before lockdown started in Portland (March 12th, I believe), I had time to go to the grocery store or the library, but not both. I went to the library to panic-borrow as many books as I could fit in my bike panniers. I still have all of those borrowed books lined up on my shelf, all read and ready to return (library is still closed – we just entered Phase I today). I don’t regret choosing the library at all, but it definitely shows you my priorities. We’ve always lived in small urban spaces, so I never got into the habit of stockpiling food. I also bike to the grocery store, so I only buy what I carry. We survived those first few weeks, but we were forced to do a lot of substituting when we couldn’t find basics. I have started to create a deeper pantry. I wish I had done it when prices were lower. I reorganized my smallish kitchen to add more pantry space. I also take our car to the store now so I can buy more food and minimize trips. I did take your advice, Brandy, and I put as much food as I possibly could in our garden this year. I’m already reaping some of those rewards with peas, strawberries, raspberries, lettuce, kale and spinach.

  55. I feel like I have told so many that I was royally caught out. I live on the eastern seaboard of Australia. Our fire season started very early last year. As a result our fruit and vegetable prices had begun to rise before the global shutdown. I had taken a long hard look at our stock at home and declared that we needed to use the items in the pantry rather than waste them. Next thing it seemed the world had gone shopping crazy. I had two daughters who were caught out too. IN the initial stages I was shopping every second day or so to cover our basic needs. Within a few weeks we were in a much better place and some lessons have been learned.

    !1. I have planted some herbs and veg.
    2. I will keep more paper goods as it seems Australians love to hoard great stashed of toilet paper.
    3. Even though the government rules about medication make it difficult to keep little ahead I am going to try.
    4. I have never kept masks, big stores of disinfectants etc as I believe hot soap and water with friction are great cleansers, form now I will.
    5. Long life milk and foods need to be stored and used in a timely fashion. Two ladies do not need as much as families.
    6. I have always bought meat on markdowns and for now it is the only way we can afford meat.
    7. Taking inventory needs to be done often and should include non food items too.

    1. A late reply here. We are in north east country Vic, Australia and fortunately were not very caught out by lockdown. We moved from the city 5 years ago but I grew up on a farm and part of the reason we moved was so we could be more self sufficient. I buy ‘who gives a crap’ toilet paper and had accidentally double ordered at some point as we own and operate a holiday rental so I had around 100 rolls of toilet paper to hand and was able to share it with folks who did not. Folk who were still allowed to travel (we are a tourist town so some city folk own houses here and were allowed to travel sometimes) were coming here and stocking up and going back to the city. Obviously I had no guests so I had plenty to share. My biggest problem was the instruction to shop as little as possible but when shopping items like GF pasta and tinned tomatoes were limited. I have a fussy coeliac 12 year old so that required some management. The government gave all out of work folk $750 per week so I was fortunate to gain more from that than I ever did while working my part time job so on the money front we were fine.

  56. I am child-free and live with my 83 yo mother. The only thing we stock up on are Reese’s when they go 90% off after holidays and Diet Coke and Sprite.
    Before pandemic I had no regular grocery shopping routine or budget. During pandemic I go to local (17 miles away) Kroger at 7am on Tuesday for senior hour. They are far fewer people at that hour and most including myself are masked. Plus now that it is June the whole loading and unloading car routine goes much smoother before heat and humidity of afternoons.
    I start with a list but add any paper products that might be available since they are stocking store at that hour. My mom and I swap off weeks paying. In addition to our list I might buy good deals from the sale paper once I look at it in the store. Don’t keep track of what we spend on groceries but know we are spending a lot more because we are cooking more during pandemic.
    I don’t like corporate meat so after Kroger I go to locally owned Piggly Wiggly where they have real butchers. They put out fresh meat all day long and will gladly cut things to order. Example my mom’s spaghetti sauce calls for exactly 3 pounds ground beef. Normal packing is approximately 1 and 2 pound packages. My mom wants exactly 3 pounds so I ask for it when I first get to store and they have it for me before I’m finished shopping.
    I absolutely hate cooking and am looking forward to being on the other side of this pandemic when it doesn’t consume so much of my day.

  57. We are a family of 6, all but one have food allergies. Three kids have dairy allergies, two have gluten allergies and my husband has such a long list, he is gluten free but can’t have any grains of any kind, including gluten-free rice and oats, no nightshade vegetables, no dairy, no eggs, no beans, no seeds or nuts, no refined sugars plus lots more. All of his allergies have come up in the last few years after several autoimmune diagnoses and undergoing chemo. It makes me have to really plan ahead because he especially, but also 3 kids can’t eat just anything. I make almost all of our foods we eat but a lot of things I used to make to stretch our food budget he can no longer have, so I’ve had to make adjustments to recipes and create new ones altogether. It also means my grocery budget is so much higher than it used to be. I have to use very different alternative flours, like tapioca, Cassava and coconut flours for hubby and they are so expensive. About 2 years ago we were planning to move closer to his family for more help due to him being in and out of the hospital and several things fell through, it was like we were being guided to stay where we are, so we did but I had almost emptied our pantry prior to moving so I’ve been very slowly building it back up. In February I knew I’d be going in for a hysterectomy quickly so I started ordering more online. We had a little more of a cushion so I tried to get close to 3 months worth of staples of things I cant get locally being in a very rural area. I’m so thankful I did.

    Our house we live in now in on about a half an acre and I’ve only had a few small raised beds as almost all the yard is shaded from 40+ ft tall oak, pine and hickory trees. This year we had tree trimmers come and cut down some of the larger branches on several trees that my husband couldn’t do himself so we could put in a much larger garden. We haven’t gotten a lot from it yet but its growing good and hope to get a good amount from it. Going into the winter I really would like to have 6 months put up. We canned our first set of peaches and hope to can throughout the summer. My freezers are stocked with whole chickens, 1/3 of a beef we split with my father and sister’s family, a turkey and bones for broth. Hubby tilled another garden bed for me this past week so I will be working in that and get a late summer crop before I put in a fall garden.

    I have read your blog for many years, maybe 2011/2012 and look forward to your posts and all the comments. Thank you for sharing with us.

  58. My pantry needs restocking, but right now I am in an extended stay hotel while our new home gets a renovation. Most of my pantry is in storage right now, but I know I will need to buy regular and bread flour, jasmine rice, oats and nuts when I have the capacity to store food again. And with the loss of all the food in my freezer, I want to stock up on fruit, butter, nuts, and make homemade jam and pasta saute. I need to store veggies and some meat in the freezer too.
    We are a household of two and I spend about $30 a week for our groceries and paper products, and about $20-$30 a month as needed for personal care items.
    I shop primarily at Winco, but do augment with Sprouts and a couple of times a year go to Sam’s Club to get bulk paper products and laundry soap.
    I have a community garden plot this year but was unsure what it might yield. So I bought a share in a CSA that starts next week. I did that as a hedge against not being able to get to the store if quarantines are extended.

  59. Thanks so much for your information, Brandy, and all the comments! Just a question for you and anyone else who is able to do this- how do you buy so many pounds/packages at once- like 80-110 lbs of pasta? Do you have multiple orders in one trip? Order ahead of time? Where I am, in CT, we are usually limit 4 packages per purchase. Sometimes, like pasta, is is 4 per type of pasta (so 4 spaghetti, 4 penne, 4 rotini, etc) but even then, there is no way I could buy 80 boxes of pasta in one trip. Even the case-lot sales are only 12 cans per person. Is there a way around this?

    1. There are no limits on this sale. Also, the store usually has about 500 pounds in stock or more every time I go. I have gone sometimes to two stores to get enough, but only because a few years back one Smith’s caries some shapes from American Beauty and the other store carries different shapes. Other sales will have limits, but this one never does. Many readers east of the Mississippi have this same sale (also no limits) on the Creamette brand. It’s usually at the same time as our sale.

      1. Wow, thanks so much for a personal (and quick!!) reply! You’re so lucky that there are no limits! The only store that I know of that has no limits around here is Aldi (well, pre-pandemic, anyway. Nowadays, even Aldi has limits.) BJs or Costco may not have limits, but, even buying bulk, the prices aren’t as cheap as the loss leaders at the grocery stores.

  60. Thanks for the great article. I am definitely working hard on getting better, although there are some things we have always done.
    Since we had a health emergency I was one if the ones not prepared for lockdown, etc
    We used grocery service for awhile; we’ve noticed lately they’ve been saying out of stock even when they have plenty on the shelf. My husband asked me to carefully shop in the store myself. By doing so, I was able to shop Walmart and our local Kroger affiliate and catch up on a lot of items. Many of those were clearance as well. I feel we are pretty well back on track now.
    I bought in bulk as much as possible. We spent a good deal more than we had been, but the payoff is less spending until we start seeing sales again.
    Our closest stores are 5 miles away, which is both good and bad. It helps me to try to remember everything.
    Bad if something unexpected comes up that we need quickly.
    I have been going back through your articles to re-evaluate our deals, recipes, price points, and storage. Thank you a lot Brandy!!

  61. Some stores let you purchase your items and then just place then in another cart, and we can bag them in our reusable ones when loading into the car. I just load heavies onto the belt to be rung up first and into the cart first so they’re not on top.

    Working on figuring out a better method for keeping track of my pantry.

  62. I’ve read this site for years but only posted once before to thank Brandy for all of her advice on keeping a pantry. We were exposed to COVID and spent 14 days in self quarantine right before school shutdowns/panic buying began. I did not shop for 21 days and when I finally did the store was almost entirely cleaned out. We still had enough.
    I discovered I need to keep more eggs, milk, and yeast in the house. Now I buy 5 dozen eggs and freeze extra milk. To limit my exposure I shop at fewer grocery stores. I now only shop at Grocery Outlet and Costco. I miss Winco’s bulk section but understand why it isn’t available. Grocery Outlet (mostly West Coast) still has low prices! Another change is that my family and I shop for each other and hand food through our gates like Brandy does. My brother does all the shopping for my parents and one aunt, and I will send a text before I go to Costco to ask if I can buy anything for someone.

  63. I am in Arizona ! So not too far from you. Winco is also my go to. You might check back with them as now the bulk bins are back ! Also if you go to their website you can click for coupons to save you additional money AND don’t forget to sign up for their texts. Once a week they send a great sale to me. This past week hotdog buns were 48¢ each limit 2, the week before a 6pk of bagels in any flavor were 98¢ each limit 2.

  64. Some schools are offering free food programs at this time. Our district started this in the summer and it is continuing through the school year. Free breakfasts and lunches are available for pick up once a week. It’s worth contacting your resident/local school district to see if this is available. Our school’s food director says she is encouraging all to participate as it benefits our district if we have greater use of the program. Much of the food is prepared stuff, but also includes fresh fruit and vegetables and a gallon of milk for each child per week. Thank you, as always, for your beautiful website, full of useful information!

    1. That’s nice that you only have to drive in once a week. Parents have to drive in daily here, and they have to be registered with the public school. Charter school children, private school children, and homeschooled children don’t qualify. I know a lot of parents in our district (the fourth largest in the nation) have been surprised to find out that their charter school children don’t qualify. They are individual meals here and are also available for purchase for parents. They are very healthy meals, which is great; it’s nicer than the regular public school offerings. I know several parents who receive them.

  65. I find the best bargains at the same time of year. Our kids start school after labor day (mine are way past school age) and the best deals seem to start then and go until about Christmas time. Best coupons then too. I try to keep a certain level of the items I use year round. My shopping is stocking up on things I’m low on and replacing items I have used. Good deals are always snatched up if it’s something I use regularly. I’ve never had anyone agree with me on this, so I was happy to see you agree.

  66. I was living in St.George for a year when lockdowns happened. Yikes, my food storage was in Idaho. So I had to go to the stores and lds home storage to get a small supply to last until my year was up in St. George…….I loved it there by the way!!!!! Having to go to the stores really frustrated me as so much was gone from every shelf. Also, I did get a few staples at home storage at first, but they ran out fast as people realized they didn’t have any food storage put away, and bought by the thousands of dollars to catch up. A happy thing is that, months before, I had put free food storage recipes online (from my years of teaching how to utilize it in daily meals) and that has helped a few people use what they either had, or ran out to buy. (I keep business cards with my free site info, in purse to give away).

    Personal goal for meals, even now is: under a dollar a day per person ($30 a month per person/bulk buying/sales/garden/etc.)……. eating healthy by using
    basics of wheat, whole grains, beans, lentils; meat sparingly, vegetables/fruits/garden. Seeking even now to keep that goal going, and soups can keep us way
    under the dollar a day per person. Dessert is fruit, or a dessert made from on-hand ingredients, such as a yummy apple lentil cake.

    Daily menu goal is: one grain based meal, one legume based, one vegetable based meal……very easy to interpret…..for example…….
    Breakfast: oatmeal/fruit
    Lunch: lentil tacos with lime and cilantro
    Dinner: homemade vegetable soup/biscuits

    Breakfast: brown rice n’ raisins
    Lunch: salad (from garden when possible)/homemade dressing
    Dinner: chili/cornbread

    Breakfast: cooked cracked wheat/fruit
    Lunch: creamy mac n’ cheese/broccoli
    Dinner: red lentil tomato soup

    Breakfast: blender wheat pancakes/applesauce
    Lunch: baked yams with butter and sea salt
    Dinner: black beans n’ sausage over rice

    I love the challenge to eat healthy for least amount possible using nutritional basics.
    This will pay off even more as food prices rise from the planneddemic going on…..


  67. I’m so curious how your prices compare now that prices are sky rocketing. I shop much the same as you do (we do have Aldi, a local chain, Sam’s Club and Costco. I wish we had a Winco or a Kroger’s but I suppose it’s always like that where you want what you don’t have. I’m grateful for what I do have. My daughter only shops at Aldi and occasionally Walmart but she does well shopping the loss leader sales etc. It works for her situation) and I find it very valuable to shop loss leader and spontaneous store sales for meat etc. I figure the principlse are the same but things are definitely increasing. I noticed that dried apricots from the bulk section went from $3.88/# several months ago to $6.58/# the other day. I found a new source for them which was only 2.99/#. You just always have to be watching.

  68. I just wanted to pop in and say that if you are looking for cheap unscented daily moisturizer (and hair and beard oil) then I would also look at 100% almond oil. Then if you want to add a fragrance you can add some drops of essential oil (store lotion has chemical fragrance which is essentially micro drop of poison -no big deal if you smell fab!!). I buy one 14oz bottle at a Kroger for 12.00 and last me all year slathering it on. If you can find a wholesaler (zenith soap making supply) then you can buy larger and cheaper. Your family can customize to their own liking.

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