Burning Desire For FIRE

Financial-Independence-Retire-Early(er). Achieved the first two letters of FIRE, now onto the rest!

Having a stockpile. Sin or sensible?

Panic buying fence paint and potting mix at Bunnings.

With all that’s been going on around the place with people panic-buying toilet paper and the like, I thought I’d share my views on having a stockpile of food and non-perishables around the house. I’ve had a stockpile for the last 2 decades and I find it a really useful and economical way to run my household.

Going back 20 or so years, (in the time before Aldi), I started building a supply of food and other things when things were on special. I was living on a single parents pension of around 18K/year with 4 small boys to feed, so money was incredibly tight. Over the course of a year or so, I gradually built up the supplies in my pantry so that in the end, I was pretty much buying as much as I could when something was on special.

In other words, we were eating most of our food at a discount. When baked beans, for example, were half price, I’d buy 10 or 20 of them, depending on how much leeway was in that week’s budget. Then we’d gradually eat them down until the next time when they were on sale, when I’d buy the same amount again.

Short-term, this was a more expensive way to run the household, but I’ve rarely been a short-term thinker. Over the course of a year, I’d easily save a few hundred dollars on meat, groceries, pet food and cleaning products. I was so poor that a few hundred dollars made a HUGE difference to our quality of life. The stockpile was worth doing.

When Aldi came to our neighbourhood, it was different. They had no ‘specials’ as such, but their prices were so much lower that I gladly started shopping with them.

And I still kept a stockpile. Why?

I realised that liked having reserves of food and other staples around. I liked not having to run to the shops every time I ran out of an ingredient, because I almost always had a replacement in the back cupboard. It gave me a sense of security and comfort in the fact that if something unexpected happened, I knew I could look after my boys and that we wouldn’t have to go shopping if people were out there acting crazy.

When ‘The Walking Dead’ came along, I christened my stockpile ‘The Zombie Apocalypse Cupboard’ and that’s its name today. Hearing the supermarkets run on a “just in time” policy of stocking their shelves cemented the idea that having a small stash of necessities wasn’t a bad idea.

So, seeing as I’m a bit of a prepper, how has the Jones household been acting in this time of Coronavirus?

I’ve so far been ahead of the wave. I’m a teacher and sooner or later it appears that Australia will have to close the schools down. The only question is when. I fully expect to have to self-isolate at some stage, given that I work in a school with nearly 2,500 kids and 200 teachers. That’s a lot of bodies that the virus would love to inhabit! Given all of that, it made sense to me to get ahead of the game and make sure that we had everything we’d need if we couldn’t leave our house for a while.

Years ago I read an article about the people of Sarajevo when they were caught in the middle of a war zone. It included a list of all the things they most prized. The number one item? Toilet paper, closely followed by matches and perfume. I’ve never forgotten that, so the Zombie Apocalypse cupboard has a dedicated shelf to the old bog rolls. Back in early February, when stories started to surface about this new virus but it was long before any panic-buying, I quietly stocked up on loo paper.

Then, in the next week or two, I bought a few extra tinned and packaged goods. Things like tuna, chickpeas, pineapple chunks (for pizza) and paracetamol. Grain-free dry dog food and the raw meat patties I feed Poppy, Jeff and Scout were also on the list. Dishwasher tablets, aluminium foil and baking paper came soon after that.

By the time I noticed toilet paper shelves were starting to empty pretty rapidly, I was feeling like our food situation was ok. But what would I do with my time if I had to self-isolate for at least 2 weeks? Remote -teaching my students would take up a bit of time. But there’d still be extra hours to fill…

Reading is my #1 passion. I have at least 15 books piled up beside my bed and a huge number waiting to be read on my kindle app. I have Netflix and Foxtel, so the tv viewing and book reading situations will be fine. But what about other things?

While everyone in the last week has been going crazy in the supermarkets, I’ve been at Spotlight quietly buying quilting supplies and at Bunnings buying fence paint for my new front fence, along with decking oil and potting mix.

Stockpiling doesn’t have to be just about the food. I’ve brought the paint buying forward a month or so, but now it’s done.

Though it hasn’t been all fun and games.

Two days ago, David26 and I went to Costco. It was a Tuesday morning, 10 minutes before opening time. David26 was worried about his girlfriend Izzy’s family and wanted to buy a few staples for them. Against my better judgement I agreed to take him.

The premier of Victoria had issued a state of emergency the day before. S**t was starting to get REAL.

It was incredible. When we arrived, there were easily 1,000 people ahead of us in the queue. It snaked around the carpark. David26 and I looked at each other.

“Well, we’re here now,” I said. “We probably won’t be able to get toilet paper for them, but we can get other things. And while we’re here, we need a 3L bottle of milk and I could always top up the dogs’ grain-free food. Then, if we’re isolating ourselves at home, the dogs’ll definitely be ok.”

It took us 25 minutes to even get to the front door. By the time we got there the signs were up saying ‘NO MORE TOILET PAPER.” By the time we reached the front of the queue, it was almost twice as long as when we got there.

Mini road-rage spats, with honking horns, were happening in the car park. Just as we reached the front, a police van quietly drove through and parked on the corner, clearly to keep an eye on things. Anyone trying to push into the queue was quickly told where to go… and by that I mean down to the end of the queue, not to go straight to hell!!!

Once we were inside, those massive Costco trolleys were racing around in all directions. People with a wild look in their eyes were grabbing everything they could lay their hands on. There was a limit rule of 2 cans of Glen-20 per membership, but at the cash registers I saw quite a few people who, like David26 and I, had come in a pair, trying to argue that they should be able to take 4 cans. No one got away with it though.

As we were waiting to pay, I whispered to David26, “If this is what it’s like on a Tuesday, imagine what the end of the week will be like if the news doesn’t get better? Not sure I’d want to be here then.”

So, what with my normal preparedness and yesterday’s Costco run, I guess I’ve seen both sides. So which is best?

If you’re an adrenaline junkie who likes to pit themselves against the odds, then yes! Leave everything till the last minute and go out and take your chances.

Personally, I don’t think it’s a sin to be prepared. You don’t want to be THAT guy who has 4,000 rolls of toilet paper lining his garage, but I think it makes sense to have a place set aside for things that you regularly eat/use as a back-up. When things are going wrong, the fewer people who are out on the streets competing for things, the better.

If any (or all of us) gets the virus and feels sick, it’s a comfort to know that we have everything we need to look after ourselves well within reach. By having the Zombie Apocalypse cupboard, we’ve eliminated that anxiety from our lives. If Tom28 has to come home if he has no work and can’t pay his rent, there’s food enough to cover him.

Having a stockpile of the basics eliminates that awful fear of not being able to provide for my family. Twenty-two years ago when I left my husband, I had $60 in cash, 4 small boys and no job. I did a Scarlet O’Hara and vowed that, as God is my witness, these boys will not suffer for what I’ve done. I would provide for them, no matter what.

Having a stockpile is, for me, an essential cushion against misfortune. Or a pandemic. So if you don’t have one at the moment, how do you build one up?

DON’T do what all the frenzied shoppers at Costco are doing. Going by the overloaded trolleys we saw, there are going to be lots of people with a massive credit card bill to pay in the next month. Obviously in this time of Coronavirus, buy what you need to get you through, but as for a stockpile for the future?

Do what I did when I was young and poor. Do it gradually.

Buy extra of the things that you’ll eat when they’re on special. If money is tight, buy an extra one. If you have a few more dollars free, buy multiples. Store them in a line in your pantry/zombie apocalypse cupboard. This is so you can keep track of use-by dates.

If you happen to buy more of a particular item before you’ve used up everything in that particular item in your stockpile, PUT THE NEW CANS/PACKETS AT THE BACK AND MOVE THE OLDER THINGS TO THE FRONT.

This is called rotating your stock. It may not be a sin to have a stockpile but it’s certainly a very bad thing to waste time, money and shelf space on food that you have to throw out because you didn’t use it in a timely fashion.

I’ve read that some people mark their stockpile items with a permanent marker of the date they bought them. Me? Nah. But if that idea floats your boat, go for it.

Over time, as various items come on sale or you have a few extra dollars and can buy a few extra things, your stockpile will build up. It’s a beautiful thing.

Only buy what you and your family like to eat and make sure you rotate your stock. This way, there’s no waste and you always have stores available in case something unexpected happens. It’s the most immediate way to provide a safety net for the ones you love. Having a paid-off house comes second.

Anyway, these are my thoughts on stockpiling. I’m proud to say that my two boys who are living on their own also saw which way the wind was blowing and stocked up on a few non-perishables before the supermarkets got crazy.

I normally don’t ask for comments, but I’m curious as to what you all think. I’ve laid out my history and why I’ve always had a store of food and such in the cupboards. Are you like me? Or do you have another way of navigating the world?

20 Comments

  1. I think it makes sense to have a few extra bits and pieces in the cupboards to cover emergencies. I have enough food to get me through for a few weeks. The problem with the behavior we are observing, once you go to the supermarket and the shelves are bare you start to question whether you need to be binge buying everything as well and you have to fight to resist doing so. I hope things in the supply chain return to normal quickly and those awful greedy people who have bought with the intention of reselling are caught with large amounts of goods they can not sell. People need to think about community.

    • I saw a news story on FB about a guy in (I think) WA selling hundreds of toilet rolls off the back of his ute.
      Brazenly parked by the side of the road, openly doing this. Some people are vultures.

  2. we usually have plenty of food in a pinch, especially non-perishable like dry beans and flour and corn meal. knowing how to cook something decent from scratch is a big help. mrs. smidlap went to the market today but there were no available onions. that’s where our 2 secret weapons come in: a full spice rack (onion powder isn’t perfect but works in a pinch) and corn meal. potatoes were sold out too but the europeans eat plenty of polenta.

    stay safe over there.

    • Funnily enough, on our Great Costco Run of 2020, two of the things we bought for ourselves were dried onion flakes and granulated garlic.
      I’m not fond of using them, but they’ll last forever and a day and will be very handy if we need them.
      Great minds…

  3. A pantry cultivated is the best protection tool against emergencies and “life happens”. Lesson learned in the past. Today I insist on having 6 months of staple food, 3 months of products for animals and 3 months of medicines. Husband is against it, complains about the “stuck money”, but I will not give that up. We are not young. We no longer have health. And we are the primary caregivers of animals and elderly parents. Politicians sent the economy south. It’s a matter of survival, pure and simple.

    • Maybe, unless you’ve been through a period of insecurity in the past, it’s hard to visualise bad things happening to you?
      I don’t know…
      All I know is I never want to be in a situation again where I’d open the pantry and see lots of bare space.

  4. Well I can’t say I was thinking of a global pandemic as being something which FIRE would help me get through, but here we are!

    We tend to have a pretty decent stockpile of stuff a lot of the time anyway. As cheap as Aldi is for most thing, Coles and Woolies 50% off specials usually are better and we buy up big when those are on the items we regular need. Plus with two young kids it can be hassle going shopping all the time so we try not to do it too much. Which means that we have a pretty fully stocked pantry and freezer right now thankfully. So between that and a fully stocked emergency fund we’re hopefully going to manage to get through this ok.

    I’m really feeling sorry for the people out there who can’t afford to stockpile though or have just lost their jobs, because it is going to be very tough going for a lot of people unfortunately.

    • You hope those people have some sort of safety net.
      My oldest casually mentioned that if he gets laid off and can’t pay the rent he’ll move back here.
      I raised an eyebrow and said, “Um… you know I’ll say yes, but it would have been nice to have been asked!!”

  5. When I was single I used to do a big pantry/grocery shop once a month [we got paid monthly] and then weekly I would just buy milk and bread. I loved it because I wasn’t at the shops all the time. Over the last few years with shops open all the time I shop every few days and stopped stockpiling because you can buy things when you are at the shop next. I never buy meat and put it in the freezer as I buy it fresh cook a double batch and then have the extra meal in the freezer. This week is the first time I have bought meat and put it in the freezer as I bought a couple of roast chickens and some mince. It’s if we have to be in isolation for 2 weeks I needed to have something in the freezer. We have cans of tomato, beans, corn etc. and we can make home made bread, pizzas, pasta etc . We have chickens so we get 3 eggs a day. I do buy a couple of bottles of dish washing liquid when it’s half price as I never want to pay full price for that. It is ever changing times day by day and no one in our life time as seen the world basically shut down in all aspects. I felt the pinch of the GFC when it cost $60 more to fill both my tanks of petrol in my 10 year old prado back in 2008 – the car is now 22 years old. I filled up both tanks in the last couple of weeks and kept topping up by $25 or so while the petrol was $1.18 – now it’s back up to $1.58. These are uncertain times. Stay safe.

    • Wow. Being paid monthly makes a monthly ‘big shop’ seem like the right way to go.
      I know what you mean about no one seeing this before. I felt really weird when on Monday, our principal mentioned in a briefing to staff that the states could be closing borders. Then – 4 days later – Tasmania does just that.
      Interesting times…

  6. It’s eminently sensible, given the current state of affairs.

    Personally, I’ve avoided the stockpiling simply because my diet primarily consists of fresh foods, which aren’t able to be kept for too long. Luckily I subscribe to Who Gives A Crap, and had received my regular carton of TP only a couple of weeks before the excreta hit the oscillator, and I’ve bought a couple of packets of pasta and extra eggs. I also don’t have a chest freezer, so I don’t have enough room to stock up on frozen foods. I might have to consider getting one, though – it would be great for batch cooking and freezing.

  7. I have been waiting for the zombies to come for decades now, so always have a decent stock, I call it ‘deep larder’. I think it stems from being poor at one time. Up until a few years ago, I use save and roll loose change. Never did anything with it, just saved it up, hundreds of rolls. Old Habits, but I have always liked the expression ‘Chance favors the prepared mind’ Louis Pasteur, I think.

  8. We have a bit of a stockpile. It probably started when the kids were little and we would make them a ham and pineapple pizza every Saturday night, but the shop in our small country town didn’t always have pineapple in stock, so I kept a case on hand.

    One of the things I love about out current house (despite all of its flaws) is that there is a good amount of space for a stockpile. I just did what you said, bought things when they were half price, or when we happened to be going past Costco. As it happens, we went through Canberra back in January and I wasn’t sure when we would get there again so I bought a bunch of toilet paper to see us through. I’ve definitely been grateful for that this month! I saw toilet paper at the shops here a week ago and that was the only time in the past 14 days or so. Also out are hand towels and serviettes.

    One extra thing I have done is to keep the cloth nappy wipes I used to use when my babies were little. Maybe I am a hoarder. But I like knowing I have that back up. I also have a stash of old hand towels that I’ve kept just in case. Maybe I will end up using them as rags, but they could come in handy in this current situation. I’m glad I have very basic overlocking skills.

    Yes, skills are the most important thing here, I think. I went to the shops yesterday and there was almost no meat. All the easy stuff like chicken breasts, mince, steaks and ready prepared stuff has been out of stock for a while now, but there were three or four pork shoulders still in the meat case. Maybe people don’t realise how easy it is to cook in the slow cooker? I’m just going to rub it in cumin and oregano, then throw it in the cooker topped with a chopped onion, crushed garlic and 3/4 cup orange juice. Then after 6-10 hours break it all up with a fork and fry it in the leftover juices. Yum!

    I wonder if it is a lack of basic cooking skills that is leaving our shop empty of garlic bread, pasta, pasta sauce, meat pies, frozen chips, etc. And then that leads me to wonder how much of the current empty state of supermarkets is less to do with hoarding and more to do with people not eating out. I saw an article today that said a cafe/pub in Sydney said trade was down 40%, but the Coles next door had a massive line up out the door.

    • Funny you mentioning reusable toilet paper. Expect a post later this weekend on my other blog! Just walked away from my sewing machine 5 minutes ago. 🙂 I’d post here but I’m not sure that the FI/Re crowd is quite ready for it.

      Love the slow cooker recipe. What a great idea! Having owned a thermomix for the last 7 or 8 years, I always have ingredients on hand rather than ready-made meals. At the moment we’re using up things that we’re growing. The tomatoes are finished (but I have literally 50kgs of diced tomatoes in the freezer) but we’re using squash, beans and zucchini fresh and free form the garden. I’ll save the tinned and frozen stuff for when the garden starts to shut up shop for winter.

  9. I love this timely post! I grew up poor, and my mother bought only things on sale. I followed the same path, to the point my girls were shocked when they finally went to grocery stores and saw you actually can buy things “not on sale” LOL.
    I’ve always had a full pantry of extras purchased on sale and like you, quietly added in February. My husband is responsible for all non-food purchases and is a bit of a packrat. But this paid off when the request came this week from a local hospital for donations of bleach, masks, sanitizer etc, he was able to put together a box of needed items for them. So I really can’t tease him any more for packrat tendencies!
    Stay safe and thank you for well written posts in these stressful times!

  10. It’s a great idea to have a stockpile. It really helps in times of pandemics, financial insecurity, and extreme weather (hurricanes where I live.)

    • Hurricanes??? omg.
      Melbourne is a temperate climate – we get about 4 days’ worth of different weather every day (haha) but no real extremes – except heat in summer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *