A lot of people are buying a little extra. While I am not advocating hoarding, I do think it is wise to put back a little extra to have on hand while the pandemic does what it is going to do. We can argue with others all day and the truth is that no one knows exactly how all this is going to play out over time.
No matter how serious or not serious you may think that the actual disease is, you are going to be affected by the societal changes and market disruptions that are already happening. Now is the time to go through your preps and see what you are short on.
I have to say that shopping online is now more time consuming because of all the shipping delays, overall availability, and rising prices. It is also super annoying that companies are sometimes advertising items for sale but not keeping good track of inventory. They fill orders in the order they were received and so when they run out then your order has been put on hold even though the money has been withdrawn from your account.
There are some very reliable and honest companies that I have found that are selling foods that are shipped in a reasonable time frame. Just to be clear I don’t expect to get things in just a few days like before the pandemic. It is always a surprise when items come in the same amount of time that they did in the past. I am impressed that some suppliers have managed to offer good availability and shipping during this time since so many have had to limit their staff while dealing with a big surge in orders.
I am going to share with you the companies and some products that I have found that make a good addition to your pantry. I have tried to include items that are in different price ranges so that even those on a very strict budge may be able to put back a lot of calories for their dollar.
This place is amazing. They have a ton of bulk foods at great prices and they offer free fast shipping on orders over $59. Here are some of the foods from them that offer some of the best calories and flavor for your money.
Right now you can get 25 lbs of sunflower seeds that are already roasted and salted for just $2.29 a lb. They do offer smaller sizes but you get a better discount on the largest bag. At 190 calories per serving, a single pound of sunflower seeds has 2764 calories. That means you are paying around $0.83 for 1,000 calories. That is amazing. While you don’t want to just try to live on one thing or eat it as too much of your diet, foods like sunflower seeds are an excellent way to add calories and variety.
Buying a 25 lb bag adds a month’s worth of calories for a single person. If you want to you can add different seasoning powders to sunflower seeds. Of course the link I included will send you to the salted version so you will want to be careful about adding a lot of seasoning that is salty.
My husband and I really like figs. While whole figs can be expensive, fig pieces cost considerably less. Another advantage of fig pieces is that they are easy to put into trail mixes and baked goods. For those that have a bit of a sweet tooth, the fig can help satisfy cravings while providing valuable fiber and other nutritional benefits rather than just hollow calories.
Honey Roasted or Regular Peanuts
I was surprised how affordable these are in bulk. We like the sweet and salty flavor of the honey roasted variety but some may want some that are plain or just salted. You can also get them that have a buttery candy coating. The calorie count is high and you can get a 30 lb bag to put back. I plan on vacuum sealing some with moisture absorbers so we can keep them fresh and well-stored throughout the year. This is so much better than buying the occasional 1 lb container. There is less garbage and waste to deal with and you can stock out without wiping out a whole store shelf and still not getting that many peanuts. I like that these nuts don’t have high fructose corn syrup as a sweetening agent.
Another fruit that has a lot of fiber, is tasty, keeps well, and in bulk they are quite affordable. We recently started buying them occasionally but they were kind of expensive in the small bags that you find at the typical store. Finding them in bulk was a real game changer.
I sometimes get bags of bananas at the grocery store and dry them in the dehydrator. They always turn out chewy though which is fine at times but something I would like to change the next time I get fresh bananas. Since we are staying at home all the time, dried bananas are what is easiest for us to get. A 14 lb bag of dried banana chips is currently under $35. You can choose to buy them that are sweetened or unsweetened. We like these just to snack on but they are also great for baking, creating trail mixes, or using to top off cereal. They are an excellent healthy snack and if you want an affordable dog treat, they are great for that too.
The foods below I have found at a variety of online retailers. Links are within the post where applicable.
Cheese and Cheese Wax
You can buy cheese online and via Instacart if there is a good deal. My friend at Modern Refugee shared a pic showing how he takes store brand cheese or any affordable cheese he finds at the grocery store and then dips it in wax. This will extend the life of your cheese considerably. Remember that sharp cheddar is aged so if you start with mild, it may turn sharper over time.
Cheese wax goes a long way and can help you take advantage of a good price when you can find it. Also keep in mind that some places sell cheese that is already waxed. Ashe County Cheese sells 2 lb blocks of Cheddar that is coated in wax, vacuum sealed and then placed in a box in case you want to give it as a gift. This cheese keeps for a very long time and is an excellent example of how you can package your cheese to extend the shelf life.
You can freeze butter. Although some grocery stores seem to have low stock when it comes to butter, there are many different places that are selling butter online. Troyer and Ashe County Cheese are both examples.
I would be willing to bet that you can find a place in your region that will ship butter to you. If you can pick some up at the store and it is extra, remember that butter freezes very well. I just throw it in the freezer as is and use when I need it.
I have left butter in the freezer this way for 6 months or more and it has tasted just fine. You can always vacuum seal the sticks of butter if you are worried about quality but I have never had a problem. If I was keeping some for a year I might vacuum seal some just because I have not left any in the freezer for that long before.
There are a lot of cooking oils to choose from. I encourage you to explore some oils that you may not normally use. Remember that you just need a few tablespoons of oil to saute or fry a lot of foods. Grape seed oil and coconut oil seem to both have good availability at the moment. Also, look for blends such as sunflower and olive oil. I try to stay away from Canola oil or anything that is labeled as vegetable oil because that just means it is canola and soy usually and both of those are not oils that I recommend eating in any major quantity if you have a choice.
At the moment you may also be able to get pork fat that you can render into lard. It is a very easy process. The last time I rendered lard I paid a mere $50 for 25 lbs of fat. Here is a link to my article on rendering lard with detailed instructions on how to do this using your stovetop or a crockpot.
Regular white sugar in any decent quantity can be challenging to find online at times. Molasses is a sweetener that is widely available and more affordable than honey. You can get a slightly better price per gallon if you buy two at a time. I am including the links to single gallons and the two-gallon deal if you are interested.
I have definitely bought a few of these myself. The jugs are really heavy duty and excellent for reusing around the home and farm. We use them to carry small amounts of water for animals but they also work for storing lime sulfur in that we make at home to spray on the grapes.
Whole Powdered Milk
I have been purchasing whole powdered milk and using it to make yogurt and cheese at home. I really cannot tell the difference in yogurt made from Hoosier Hill Farms Whole Powdered Milk and the yogurt I used to buy at the store. Although I cannot drink regular liquid milk, I did taste Hoosier Hill’s Whole Milk briefly and it really doesn’t taste at all like something from a powder and the price is right for the quality you are getting. Even without repackaging, the printed shelf life is over a year which quite good for a dairy product!
Personally I think almond milk takes up a lot of space in the pantry if you try to put a lot back. This is part of the inspiration behind trying to figure out how to make my own at home with greater ease. I found that it is really not much cheaper or cheaper at all than buying the premade stuff through the mail. So there you have it.
There is a trade-off that is important to note. At the beginning of the pandemic, almond milk disappeared from online retailers but I have noticed that it is back. Here are a few links with the best deals I was able to find.
Despite the fact that it takes up a bit of space I will probably still buy a bit of it to put back, I just might not try to keep it all in the actual kitchen. I did find a concentrated product that you can buy as well and mix as needed. It is called Joi and the cost comes to about what you would expect to pay at the store but you can store a lot of jars in a small space. This may be the most practical approach for those in apartments or that share living space with roommates.
These come in many flavors and styles and the quality can vary a lot. I am going to link out to the brands I have found to be easy to get and of consistent quality. There are some organic options if you want to pay the premium. You can catch sales sometimes at places like Vitacost.
For short to mid-length food storage, it is nice to have the large shakers of Parmesan cheese. Kraft is usually available via Wal-Mart’s online shop. If you take it out of the shaker and vacuum seal it then it will stay good even longer. I reuse the shakers for spices and herbs. They last quite a while even if they are made for one-time use technically.
Tomato Powder and Paste
There was a point during the pandemic shortly after I bought a can of Augason Farm Tomato Powder when price gougers were asking over $90 for a #10 can! I paid around $28. Thankfully the price has gone back down and this item is in stock again. Tomato paste is another item that was harder to find than usual but now it doesn’t seem to be a problem.
I like to keep both around because there are times when opening up a whole can of paste is too much for what I am cooking. Tomato powder is really tasty and convenient. You can cook a lot of recipes with a tomato base to build on. Tomato paste generally has a decent shelf life but I have run into a situation where the price was really good but the best by date was approaching sooner rather than later. Paste and powder is also much more space-efficient than storing a lot of tomato products with water in them.
I found 3 lb bags of Ocean Spray Cranberries on Amazon for a very good price. You can save even more if you do the Subscribe and Save option. These are great for snacking, baking, and making your own trail mixes. For some reason, this size is a better deal than what a lot of bulk food places offer.
Buy In Bulk and Vacuum Seal
I have been buying food in larger bags and then vacuum sealing it into smaller portions so that it can be eaten over the course of a year or more while maintaining flavor and freshness.
My vacuum sealer was not up to the task so I bought a Foodsaver Gamesaver Wingman Vacuum Sealer. I have been really happy with how fast I can vacuum seal foods for long storage using this machine.
Rice and beans seem to be back in stock online. Maybe that will last but I personally don’t believe that there will not be more times when people stock up a lot and deplete shelves again. As much as I would like to tell you that I think the COVID-19 crisis will start fading soon, the results of what has already happened are going to have an impact for a very long time. I also do not think we are even past the first stage of the crisis regardless of the severity.
There is another issue about food supplies that people are not always considering and that is the ability of shipping and transport companies to get it to you.
I have not been in a grocery store since January 31 but from what I can tell, meat is what is running lowest at the moment. There also still appears to be some disruptions in the supply of paper towels, napkins, and toilet paper but it really varies a lot by where you live.
Do you have any other good foods to add to this post? What have you been adding to your preps for the coming months?