To Do List – Getting Started, Step One

Getting started is the biggest change you will make. Everything you do from then on will make more sense as it goes along. The biggest change you will need to make is to commit. Whatever you have been doing to this point isn’t working, so try something else. Spending less money and continuing to live well and be prepared for the future is a skill. You aren’t born with the ability, and you’ve received good, bad, conflicting, and useless advice and information your entire life, so it is not your fault that you haven’t mastered it yet. All that you have done to this point is behind you, whatever mistakes you have made are done, but the sooner you commit to move forward and start now with your new plan will mean the sooner you will be living better. Once you have the skills, you will have the confidence, and you will know that whatever is thrown at you – job loss, emergencies, natural disasters – you can be ready to handle it and recover after the problem has done its damage. Learning the skills is an ongoing process, but fortunately, every step along the way is going to save you money and get you closer to your goals. If this is all new to you, start small.

Everyone is crunched for time and money. We all face those choices. Everything we do is a balance between time and money. If you want to save money, you will have to invest some time in the process. You DO have time to do this, you will have to find the time. I can outline what it is that I do, and I’ll try to note how much time each step takes. If you can just start with some of the smaller, easier tasks, you’ll find they make a difference right away, and once you have mastered some small steps, you can keep going to the more complicated and time-consuming ones. I have found with most people if they try to take on too much at once, they get overwhelmed and discouraged when they can’t keep up. It’s a common pitfall that leads to failure. As eager as you may be to jump in, start simple and get your confidence up. You’ll reach a level you can handle, and you’ll know when you are ready for more.

Making informed decisions is the only way to gain control. Without first having the information, you’re flying blind. There’s no way to plan unless you know what you already have, what your capabilities are, what your needs are, and what you need. So, start with information you already have.

The easiest way to start is to first evaluate your purchases. You’re only going to do this once on a large scale, then once a month or two, you might tweak the list. But the first time you make your master list, it’s going to be long and involved. You don’t have to list brands and quantities, but at least list the items that your family needs and consumes on a regular basis that you need to keep in the house and have at the ready. I’ll give you an example below, adjust as needed.

  • Flour, sugar, salt, pepper
  • Baking soda, baking powder, corn starch, yeast, vanilla, basic baking spices and extracts
  • Specialty spices – garlic, turbinado sugar, chili powder, poultry seasoning
  • Rice and pasta in sizes and varieties you eat on a regular basis
  • Oatmeal, cereal, granola, pancake mix, powdered milk, syrup
  • Canned soup, vegetables, fruits, sauces
  • Cooking oils, non-stick spray
  • Foil, plastic wrap, trash bags, storage bags
  • Storage containers, cooking utensils, eating utensils
  • Socks, underwear, t-shirts for all members of the family
  • Shampoo, soap, hair spray, deodorant, baby supplies
  • Emergency supplies (72 hour kit) batteries, candles, flashlights, etc. – see list
  • Toilet paper, paper towels, reusable towels, hand sanitizer, liquid soap, hand wipes
  • Laundry detergent, bleach, dish soap, cleaning products
  • Car supplies – windshield washer fluid, motor oil, gas treatment, wiper blades
  • Travel supplies – coolers, zippered bags, backpacks, outdoor cooking supplies

And on and on, all of your consumables that you will have to purchase on a regular basis, or things that you do not have but you need to stockpile. Start with this list and be as thorough as possible.

Once you have your list, make a guess at quantities. If you want to stock your home and family for three months of preparation, note how much you will need for that period of time. In most cases, I’ve seen a recommendation of a minimum of a year’s supply. It makes sense to me not just for security, but also because the nature of sales cycles will make keeping a year’s supply pretty easy. Whatever your budget is, you can work a year’s supply in to your purchases in addition to your needed regular purchases using money saving techniques. Some sales cycles are seasonal – which means you might have one shot at the sale per year. That would hold true for camping and outdoor cooking items, winter clothes, holiday baking supplies, and related items. Planning is what will make this possible. Most consumable items will go on sale approximately once every six weeks. Cooking oil, foil, cereal and other basic everyday items go on regular sales, so it will be easier to work your stockpiling methods on those items the quickest.

Within twelve weeks, by working in your stockpile purchases with your regular grocery purchases, you should have a SIX MONTH stockpile of consumables and depending on what time of year you start, maybe some of the one-time things as well. Your budget will be the same and you will be spending the SAME amount of money each week, but you will be adding anywhere from 40% to 70% additional goods to your stockpile as you go along. After the initial twelve weeks, your spending will drop b approximately 25%, but you will be maintaining the same amount of groceries and regular purchases every week, and adding to your stockpile as the sales allow. At the end of a year, you will have made all your regular grocery purchases every week, you will have added up to a year’s worth of items to your stockpile, having spent much less throughout the course of the year. At that point, you will start rotating and replacing your stockpile items, using the oldest ones and replacing them as you go along. At this point, it’s going to become a normal part of your life and you will have the skills to do this quickly and with confidence. No matter what happens from that point on, you will have your stock to sustain you if times get difficult.

At my house, we go through three phases regularly

  • Expansion
  • Contraction
  • Transformation

About twelve weeks out of the year, I am going through the expansion phase, as I seriously chase the deals and pursue stockpiling and add what we need. Contraction occurs as-needed. Challenges present themselves without warning, crunches in either time or money or both, and that’s when we live off the stockpile and use up the items until things get normal again. Contraction might also occur when another family member has a personal challenge – moving, changing jobs, who knows what – at different times I have packed up large portions of my stockpile and set up another family member in need. Transformation also occurs at different times – sometimes random, sometimes planned. I evaluate the stockpile, maybe make a donation to charity, or pass through phases in our life when we clear out a room or have lots of items we don’t need any longer. Now and then you re-think decisions and adjust. You’ll see what I mean when you get there.

But I’m getting ahead of the task here. Start by taking a serious look at all the items you have, that you buy, that you use regularly, that you want to have in case of emergency, that you don’t have but want to have, and that you didn’t think of until you re-read the 72-hour kit list. Make that list and then determine what level of storing you are comfortable with accumulating. For the purposes of my discussion I’m going to use my numbers for one year. You can adjust yours as needed. Get that list together and then get ready for step two.

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