Do you have enough food in your pantry and freezer to feed a small town for six months to a year? Are you a pantry or freezer over-stuffer or do you know someone who is? If a disaster ever happens, whose home would you go to because you know there is food for an army?
Yes, it is a good idea to have some extra food in your home for emergencies, but enough to open your own corner grocery store? You might want to reconsider your shopping habits if the number of people living in your household has been reduced lately.
You may be guilty of having just a few extra cans of tomato sauce or peaches or boxes of cereal stored in the basement or garage because you don’t have enough room in your kitchen. You justify your extra purchases because, after all, you might need it someday. You are prepared for an emergency, but you have also prepared your neighbors, friends and relatives without them having to do any of the work!
Let’s see if we can make some small adjustments to your shopping habits. How many of you while out grocery shopping found a great deal on canned vegetables or frozen bread dough and stocked up -- and up again? After all, what a deal! You go home and stuff your freezer or kitchen pantry with your frugal find. You think, “Wow, did I find a bargain!”
A year or two or three later, you go to the freezer or pantry to retrieve something and that 48 ounce size of pizza sauce is still sitting on the shelf. You think, “Boy I should really use that or I wonder where that came from or did I buy that – and when?” Was it really a bargain?
Finding food items on sale and stocking up on them is a great idea, but if you don’t use them or have space for them, why buy them? So many people fall into the trap of trying to save money, stock up, and have every possible food item on hand. It can work only if you use what you buy. Our lives change and so should our shopping habits.
When my daughters were young, I bought a huge amount of cereal. Ok, my kids loved cereal and I bought it when it was on sale -- sometimes 15 boxes at a time! I kept shopping this way as my kids grew up and noticed that I had more cereal sitting on the shelves for longer amounts of time. I forgot to adjust my shopping habits to fit the needs of my growing and changing family.
Sometimes it is difficult to accept that your life changes and you don’t want to change with it. Now I don’t buy nearly as much cereal as I used too. (OK, I confess. Sometimes I still buy a little too much.)
Many people forget to make this adjustment, especially seniors. Janie, a former client of mine, had a large family. She had been married for 48 years and raised five children. Her husband passed away a few years ago and her children are l grown and have moved away. Janie lives by herself and has occasional visits from grown children, grandchildren and friends. She was so accustomed to shopping for a large family, finding great bargains, stocking up on favorites, she forgot to make a shopping adjustment.
Her pantry overflowed with her children’s favorite foods and snacks. She continued to shop for her family of seven. She knew she should stop, but was having trouble making the adjustment. So her children help her un-stuff the pantry and extra freezer periodically, tossing out strawberries picked three years ago that have not been used yet or expired cans of vegetables.
Janie justified her purchases and the need for the extra freezer because, “I just don’t have room in my kitchen freezer and you never know when you will need extra strawberries.”
Think about it: Has your lifestyle changed and do you need to make the adjustment?
Food spoils after spending some time on the shelves of the pantry and in the freezer. Next time you clean out your freezer and have to throw out your bargains -- think about it in terms of dollars. For example, you paid $5 for that frozen bread dough and now you need to throw it away because it has freezer burn. You are not just throwing the frozen bread dough in the garbage, you are throwing away $5 and wasting food. As simple as it sounds, it might help you realize you are overbuying. When you find that can of tomato soup that has an expiration date of 02/05/89, do you really want to pop open the top and heat it up?
If you really find some great bargains and cannot pass them up, go ahead this time and buy. Keep some for yourself that you know you will use, and pass the rest onto your local food pantry. In this way, you are helping out someone who could use extra help. You may want to consider going through your food monthly and giving food to the food pantry on a regular basis. It is a great way to teach kids the power of giving and helping others in need.
Life goes through so many changes and cycles. It is important to adjust and change with life as we change. Next time you are in the grocery store, think before you buy and change your shopping habits as your lifestyle changes.
By Vickie Dellaquila
Vickie Dellaquila is a Certified Professional Organizer and owner of Organization Rules, Inc, located in Pittsburgh, PA. Her company provides senior downsizing, relocation and residential organizing services. She is also the author of the book, Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash-A Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Seniors Downsize, Organize, and Move. For more information, visit www.OrganizationRules.com or call 412-913-0554.