Thursday, May 08, 2008

More May recession proofing ideas

I was out yesterday, completing my once a month stock up. Hubby could stay at home since we did most of it earlier. I stopped by T. J. Max while in the "bigger town" near me to see if they had any good deals on shoes and was absolutely thrilled to find a pair of Reeboks for $29.00.

The old pair was looking so bad, I was embarrassed to have anyone see them. They are still wearable, though, so I'll keep them to use during lawn and garden work to extend the life of my new tennies.

I don't shop in department stores very often... very rarely go to the Mall (perhaps three times a year?)... so I don't know if this was usual or not on Wednesdays. But T. J. Max and Gordman's were both nearly empty... and these are stores that have discounted!

I decided to stop at the gas station on the way to town since we had heavy rain moving in later. Gosh am I glad I did! It was $3.56 on the way there, $3.86... yes, that is eighty-six... on the way home. Hubby did the math and said by getting gas in the morning, it was like getting one gallon free.

I thought you might like to know how I prioritize my "stock up" on a tight budget. It comes from having gone through this before, both in the last period of huge inflation and when we were out of work. There are a few items you know are going to continue to go up for various reasons... the increasing cost of petroleum, the decline of the dollar, and crop shortages. So... what does this mean in my pantry?

I first stocked up on basics needed for bread and baking. Bread is the staff of life. Baking is comfort food for you and those you care for. I have made a priority of purchasing flour and other items used for baking for awhile now. I still need to debug the flour I've bought, probably going to start that later today and then mark what has been done already. (Debugging is when you put a sack of flour in something to protect it and then put it in your freezer for a couple of days... it kills any "bugs" which are usually in flour... just don't think about it the next time you're eating bread.) I had wheat already but I still wish I'd known about this doubling of prices last Summer, I would have bought more.

Yesterday I bought an extra vanilla to put back as Target has the brand I like $4.00 less than my usual grocery store. It is a nice, large size, too. I started replacing old spices last autumn, most of them are now fresh. I noticed Hershey's chocolate chips were about a dollar cheaper than Nestle's so I stocked up on them this week. I already have plenty of cinnamon and butterscotch chips, purchased on sale a couple months ago. Last month I purchased an extra can of my favorite non-aluminum baking powder since the expiration date was two years from now. I also have been freezing butter when I can get it at a good price (two one-pound packages slipped into a gallon size Zip Lock bag... which can be reused over and over).

Anything that has to be imported will most likely continuing to get more expensive and that is an area where you may eventually have trouble getting products. Coffee has been a priority, it can only go up. It was one of the products that skyrocketed in price during the last big period of inflation. I remember when you could go into a restaurant and get a cup of coffee for a dime in some places, a quarter in nicer restaurants.

If I remember correctly, there is only one company that grows tea in the U.S. (I think Harney & Sons bought it out to keep it going... vaguely remember reading about that?). So... tea can only go up in price. Those sealed in individual packets store the best but I've found my favorite teas where the entire box is sealed in plastic last awhile, too. There is a reason this blog has coffee and tea in the title... definitely a priority and most tea is still very inexpensive and an easy stock up item.

Anything made with petroleum will continue to skyrocket. I bought an extra big box of my favorite tall kitchen grocery bags this week. Even though we live in the country, our trash pickup service is like most... the trash has to be in plastic bags... so that is a priority. (We do compost and are becoming more careful about using containers to keep trash down.) If you have babies at home and you use disposable diapers... stock up now. I would also suggest using cloth diapers when at home and saving disposable diapers for when you need them. I know, that is easy for me to say since I'm far beyond that stage in my life. :)

One of the good things that came out of the last huge recession/inflation period was people simplifying their lives. It is a good thing to learn new skills like bread making, baking from scratch, gardening, finally using your pressure canner (ouch!). Yes, for the sake of my friends from the Christian women's forum I've known since the 90's... Brenda is dusting off her pressure canner... the one she bought years ago and never got the nerve to try.

I was just reading an article that meat prices are artificially lower than what they would be right now because farmers are taking their livestock and chickens to market instead of feeding them the higher priced grains (and they are still high!). They suggested freezing and canning what meat you can buy now... hmmm, perhaps I should finally try pressure canning some chicken? I hear it is delicious canned this way.

Anything you can purchase ahead now will free up money to be used for items like milk, fresh veggies, fruit, etc. in the future. If there is a job loss ahead, you can eat your savings. Should you ever have to go on food stamps, you will be THRILLED you are stocked up on nonfood items like laundry detergent (I'm ordering more Charlie's Soap next month), disposable diapers for babies, toilet paper, trash bags, heavy duty aluminum foil, dish washing liquid, cleaning supplies, batteries, extra bags for your vacuum cleaner, filters for the furnace, (well, you get the idea) because food stamps can only be used for... food. Which is a smart idea.

What are other items I'm looking for at Goodwill, garage sales, book sales, etc.? Well, there is also a reason books are in the title of this blog. I have a box of "comfort food" kinds of books put back... light hearted fiction I'll store to read at a later time. I carry a list with me of books by Debbie Macomber, one of the only secular writers of light hearted novels I trust (although I heard she is a Christian). I have a few of her Cedar Cove series and one of her Blossom Street series (about a yarn store) in paperback. (I also like Laura Childs' mystery books.)

The list tells me what I still need for the next book sale. (I guess one could put Jan Karon in this category but I so think of her as a "Christian" writer that I don't.) I'm always keeping an eye for my Christian fiction authors (modern fiction is the ONE area I'm very careful about using recommended authors and titles, I've started too many and had to throw them aside because of smut and/or language, otherwise). Of course, there are favorite authors of "old books" that I'm always on the lookout for... Miss Read, Elizabeth Goudge, etc.

I didn't start reading much fiction until we were going through severe trials. I have always preferred good nonfiction but a great novel is what it takes to "get away from it all" for many people. There is nothing like living in Mitford for awhile or getting a chuckle over the antics of a British Vet (with James Herriot's wonderful books and DVDs of the PBS show made from them).

Why would books be a priority? Well, you probably know already if you read this blog. :) However, when we were out of work for long periods of time, good fiction became a life saver. That's when hubby started reading again. (When he finished his Master's Degree, he said he didn't want to open another book... ever.) I'll chat more about this at another time, perhaps an upcoming Sunday Afternoon Tea?

Along with this I'd suggest searching garage sales for good children's books, family DVDs and CDs, board games, card games, old fashioned outdoor games (like badminton or croquet), a basketball hoop installed with a couple basketballs and air pump, etc. I'm even thinking of buying a horseshoe game... they were big time when I was growing up. Believe me friends, should things get bad in the economy, you will be ever so grateful for such items. No more getting in the car and driving into town for play dates (I could never figure out play dates, anyway) when gas is $3.86 a gallon and rising.

One item I was glad we had for my son? A Game Boy... yes, you saw that correctly... on a book blog! A Game Boy with kid friendly games and plenty of batteries, especially if you have an only child or kids with a huge age difference like mine.

I have a few more ideas running through my brain but they are for a later post (misquoting Alton Brown of the Food Channel).

Picture: Apple Pie Harvest;


Daughter of the King said...

some good and timely ideas....and I love Grace Livingston Hill find most of her books on Craigs' list or Goodwill...wholesome and when they get saved, there is a life change, like it should be...

Sandra said...

Thanks so much, Brenda, for these tips and encouragement.

Recession-proofing is a great term. Prices have always been high here in Canada but have steadily increased in the last few months. It just costs more to buy the same things. Utilities and taxes have increased too so we are feeling the pinch. Yet, an amazing thing happens...we always have enough. God always provides and we're so thankful for that.

Nita in South Carolina said...

The only tea plantation here in the US is about 12-15 miles down the road from me - Charleston Tea Plantation. It's now owned by Bigelow. They are having a big festival next weekend (it's the first harvest of the tea leaves for the year) and we're thinking of going. The tea is marketed as American Classic Tea. I don't think it's any cheaper because it's local, unfortunately!

Lady-in-the-Making said...

I love Grace Livingston Hill!!! :o)

Karen said...

what great advice. I hadn't thought about the meat thing. I shudder to think about prices going higher on chicken and so forth. I guess I will be stocking up too.

Cheryl (Copper's Wife) said...

Good for you getting out the pressure canner! I've not used mine for several years, but it will be used again this year. That first batch of canned chicken coming out of the canner will have you hooked!

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

What a wealth of information and my eyes nearly "bugged out" when I read about your debugging flour. I will definitely try that the next time I get some. Oh my!

Ackk about the gas prices...up thirty cents in such a short few hours.

Good thing that we have a Savior who loves us and tells us not to fret.

Linda said...

I have all of Miss. Read's books. I love going back and rereading old favorites. I get a series called Tales from Grace Chapel Inn by Guidepost that I love. It's kind of pricy but if you can get them used they are lovely stories. I love my Netflix because I can watch All Creatures Great and Small and other British tv movies that I love. It's a small cost but not too bad. I'm also really cutting back on food trying to stay on budget. I bought a freezer last year and that has helped a lot. I can make a meal out of my freezer and pantry and keep the trip to the store to a minimum. I also started shopping at the cheaper stores. I also love tea, coffee and books.

Tracy said...

Great tips! Thanks for sharing!

Firefly Nights said...

You must have a HUGE pantry to store all that you stock up. Thanks for the tip about freezing flour. I'd forgotten about that.

The U.S. tea plantation is the Charleston Tea Gardens owned by Bigelow.
It's nice to have some tea grown in the U.S. but it's not high quality.

Re: tea. One pays for the convenience of the individual packaging of teabags. Boxes of 20-24 bags seem to run $3-$5 and have about 20-24 bags per box. A permanent tea filter and a pound of average loose tea at about $16-$18 per pound can go a LONG way. Depending on how you brew it, a pound of tea is good for 200 or more cups of tea. And, most loose leaves can be steeped at least 3-4 times. I use about three scoops in my permanent tea filter and brew tea all day from the one group of leaves. And, I drink a lot of tea. That amount will also make me a couple of gallons of iced tea. Just thought I'd pass this on.

Firefly Nights said...

Whoops, I didn't edit myself well. One sentence in my previous post has some repetitive information. Please forgive me.

Anonymous said...

Great ideas.
AS a farmer I have no idea where we are heading with the cost to run a farm. It takes over $700. to fill a tractor and we fill it so many times over the summer with bringing in the hay, corn and wheat.
Here on the farm we are down sizing animals because we can't afford to feed them. The money keepers stay the losers go.
But your ideas are all real and something we sound all thing about.


Crossroads Cottage said...

Flour debugging! I've never heard of this. The thought of creepy crawlies in my flour makes me instantly want to put in in the Freezer. Thanks for the advice, and all other recession proofing tips. :)

freetobeme said...

Oh my, I've never heard of debugging flour here in the U.S. I'll guess I'll start now. Thanks for the tip!

ElizabethB said...

I like to take the tea out of the little boxes and store it in a ziplock bag--it takes up less space in the pantry and helps it stay good longer. I tear or cut out a panel of the box to put with the tea bags so you can tell what kind it is.

That being said, I can no longer drink tea--they all have soy lecithin, I'm now allergic to soy.

Firefly Nights--

Where do you find loose tea? I wonder if that has no soy lecithin in it. I would like to find some tea I can drink again.

Brenna said...

Brenda, this is all soooo helpful. I could use some tips/recipes for baking from scratch and making (ack!) my own bread. Never done it before. But anything with cinnamon, butterscotch or chocolate chips sounds delish!

the feathered nest said...

Great tips as always! I've heard a few other people say that the price of gas in their town has changed sometimes by the hour! I haven't seen that happen yet in Atlanta.

I took advantage of the Kroger extra $30 on their $300 card offer they have going. They said you could use it on gas too.