Bank Your Foods

Strategy One:  Bank Your Foods

Buy enough food so that you are not at the mercy of the supplier!  Always think ahead.  A profitable business knows how to buy and store their supplies. If you are producing a product that takes, say, 18 years to grow and are buying and storing a week’s worth of supplies at a time, that defies all logic. A ‘bank’ of food in your pantry and freezer allows you to ‘shop’ sale prices all time from you own home, and the freedom to shop the best specials at the store.

Hamburger $2.69 this week?  You don’t have to buy because you have six pounds left bought at $1.49 a pound.  Noodles $1.38 at the store?  That’s okay because you have three or four boxes in the cupboard bought at $.98 cents each.  If you can do this, you will always eat better and for less than you did in the past, even if you have to start out small, only buying an extra item or two on sale.  (Price figures below were October, 2011 – they’ve changed in the past year, but the concept is still the same.)


A freezer is one of the best ways to bank your foods:  see also:  Freezer Options.

There are tons of ways to organize your freezer.

  • Invest in a home freezer and fill it with sale priced proteins, vegetables and made ahead meals.  Double your lasagna, your meatloaf, etc, and double your time.  It will pay off in no time, maximizing your dollar and your time, especially when you count the times you’ve had to resort to higher and less healthy options because of time restrictions.  My freezer has saved me literally thousands of dollars a year, each and every year, and I have a small family.  I actually found it became even more important to have a freezer as my family dwindled – first I made an effort to empty it, but then I found that when I was cooking, I needed to store the excess.  (For instance, lasagna – I started making it in two small pans, and freezing one.)
  • As far as the cost of a freezer, think of it this way:  The average the cost of running a home freezer is less than buying one Big Mac a month.  I saw a freezer at a store last week $405  for 14 cu feet, enough storage to take advantage of a LOT of sale prices.  (I didn’t shop around – I was looking at dryers.)  You’ll  find a better bargain by shopping around and there are often incentives for buying energy star appliances.  Just using this figure, though, and factoring the cost of the freezer out over a year it’s $33.75 a month.  (That’s a pizza and tip and a trip to Burger King for two using the “value menu” assuming three items.)  
  • When you think about the cost, factor in what the savings might be.  Let’s say a family of four has chicken twice a week, six ounces per person, totaling 156 pounds a year.  Chicken might go on a really good sale several times a year – last week chicken breast was $.99 cents a pound, regularly on sale for $1.99 a pound, and normally priced at $2.68.  A home deep freezer set at the proper temperature keeps chicken at its peak for at least a year.  Over the year, the cost for the three scenarios work out like this:  At  the lowest price, you’d pay $154.44, on the normal sale price, $310.44, and at full price you’d pay $418.08 – all for the same chicken.  On chicken breast alone, you would have saved $264.04 – you only need to save another $141 to pay for your freezer.  And that’s just the savings on Chicken!
  • If you have a freezer, though, it’s not unreasonable to assume that you might very well be able to procure an even better price from a butcher or dealer for even more savings.  And that chicken might very well come wrapped and portioned at no or low cost, and could very well be better quality than you could buy at the store.  You will especially notice the quality difference when you take care in purchasing your beef.  Makes you think, doesn’t it? This math is just chicken, not any of the other proteins or fruits/vegetables, etc., and this doesn’t even begin to count into the budget the value of your time in meals you’ve made ahead, etc.  To tell you the truth, even if all you buy is frozen dinners, pizzas and ice-cream, you will still save money, and maybe even a greater percentage if you buy on sale with a coupon – junk food ALWAYS has lots of coupons!
  • Be sure you know what’s in your freezer – do a freezer inventory now and then, or if you’re really organized, every quarter.  I keep my copy upstairs on my kitchen whiteboard/corkboard combination, because that’s where I use it.  Here’s a link for a freezer inventory from Organized Home.  Knowing exactly what you have saves money and time.  You’ll know exactly what sales to look for on items running low and won’t be picking up items you are already have well stocked.  You’ll save yourself time looking for things while thinking “I’m sure I have such and such in here.”


Banking your foods without a home freezer:

Not pretty, but it works…

  • If you don’t have a home freezer, and can’t buy one, (don’t use credit!) think of your refrigerator’s freezer in a new way, as more than just a place to store ice cream.  Maximize the space, break down large items into compact packages, for instance, debone your chicken, make a concentrated broth to store, and put the meat into zip bags for storage in quantities you use for recipes such as casseroles.  You can still double up on items like meat loaves, etc., just be very conscious of how long items are stored and how well your packages fit.  Freezing is never the place to skimp on storage wrappers and containers, and it’s even more important to use good quality ones in the refrigerator/freezer where it may not be as cold, or the door is opening/closing more often.  Think shorter term storage to preserve quality.


When stocking your pantry items, buy staples in quantity at the lowest prices, and rotate and store properly:

  • There really is no reason to pay regular prices on items that store well. 
  • Keep a price book so you know the rock bottom prices for your stores and stock up when these items hit their lows. 
  • You should be thinking in terms of quarters because most pantry items go on sale at a rock bottom price every quarter, and generally those sales are incented by discounts or coupons from the manufacturers or producers.
  • There are certain many items you’ll want to think about stocking up on in enough quantity to last you for even longer than a quarter:  a lot of baking items are on sale prior to Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, for instance.  Dried beans, legumes and peas are often on sale after the same Holidays.  Pop (or Soda) is often on sale at rock bottom prices before any Holiday and especially prior to large sporting events like the Superbowl.  Condiments are at rock bottom prices in the summer.  These are Cyclic Changes (Strategy Four) in the market you’ll want to pay attention to.
  • When you keep a price book, you can readily identify these trends in your own area and take advantage of the drops when they happen.

Consider some light canning as a family project:  It’s a great way to control your quality.

  • Speaking of value and quality, it may sound old-fashioned, but some light canning as a family project can be a fun, cost-effective way to store when fruits and vegetables are inexpensive in the summer. 
  • I’ve noticed lately there seems to be a resurgence of interest in some of these lost arts. 
  • I’ve found “specialty” products seem to make the most sense for me in this day and age, since most the basics you can buy for so little in the stores.  Think your ‘special’ barbecue sauce, homemade jellies and jams, hot pickled beans, etc. 
  • Any homemade specialty items are always welcome for housewarming and hostess gifts.
  • Hot water bath canning (for items with a higher acidic content) is easy and straight forward, and even pressure canning isn’t difficult – it just needs more equipment.  Small batches of items are quick and take very little time.  Of course, a full out canning to preserve a harvest is a whole ‘nuther animal in terms of time.


When banking your food, it’s very important to manage properly:

  • No matter what methods you use, remember to properly store and rotate your food, and try to never, never, never buy more than ou need, or allow food to spoil.  (I”ll say it again before I’m done here, but make sure you give away or donate your food before this happens.  Give back to the Community, Strategy 6.) 
  • Keep your cupboards well organized and refer to the information under Strategy three:  “Know and Control Costs.”  If you don’t have adequate storage in your kitchen consider converting a nearby closet with shelves.
  • Know what the dates on food mean – it may differ from state to state, but most are not “expiration dates.”  
  • Meat usually has a use by/freeze by date, it may be bad before that date or fine for a while afterwards. 
  • Dairy products generally have a “buy by” date, which means it should last in your refrigerator for several days or weeks depending on the product.  The store generally will not sell the dairy products after that date, not because there is anything wrong with the item on that date, but because you, the consumer, should be able to buy the product and know that it will last at home.  It’s their way of ‘rotating’ their dairy products. 
  • Many products have a “best if used by” date, which is the date the manufacturer decided would be the last date they will guarantee the product. It may still be good after that date, depending on the product, or may be bad before then if improperly stored. 
  • Know the difference between a deterioration in quality and a food safety issue.  Use your judgment – do you really want to try to eat a six year old can of sauerkraut?   Lets face it, a trip to the emergency room or lost days from work for food poisoning is never frugal. On the other hand, a bag of rice doesn’t know that it’s good on August 14th and bad on August 15th. 
  • Always avoid stockpiling large quantities of things you will never use because they were “cheap,” or buying so much you’re not able to locate where it is stored so that you buy it again, perhaps at a higher price. 
  • Also, think carefully about how you organize your food so it’s easy to access…if it’s too difficult to cook, always a hassle shuffling and locating items, you’re more likely to consider cooking a chore, and an unpleasant one at that.  Making a dinner that might take 25 minutes can take 35 if you have to stop what you’re doing to sift through items in your pantry or cupboard to locate that one can or box you need.


Strategy Two:  Pay Attention to the Bottom Line

Links for The Twelve Strategies: 

3 thoughts on “Bank Your Foods”

  1. This is such great advice. I just got a 7 cubic foot chest freezer for $150 on sale after my kitchen freezer had become so unruly due to me trying to do what you are describing…plus, I was limited in how much I could buy when I did find a great sale, which was always a bummer. I live in a small apartment, and had to put the chest freezer in the bedroom! Ha! Totally worth it! I’m looking forward to it saving me plenty of money as time passes!

    • I couldn’t live without mine, so kudos for you for makng it work! Plus, a lot of healthy foods are “slow” foods to make, so it makes a lot of sense to double or triple recipes. I also like to freeze all my nuts and some of my grains. Especially my homemade Muesli.

      Plus, you now have an extra space to pile your clothes~!

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