Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Estimating Your Needs

Photo Credit: Lyn Lomasi
One of the biggest pains in the rear end when it comes to stockpiling groceries is trying to determine how much we need to buy. Ideally, you should be buying enough to tide you over until the next sale, or to meet specific goals you have set up (having an extra two weeks' worth of food, for example). But that can be difficult, especially if you are working on long term goals like having six or twelve months' worth of food in the pantry.

The most basic way to calculate your family's food needs is to use a food storage calculator, like this one. This food storage calculator tells me that I need 827 pounds of wheat for my family of six, for one year. I also need 22 pounds of peanut butter, 165 pounds of dry beans, and 28 pounds of salt. It's not, however, perfect. It says I only need 84 gallons of water. At the recommended 3 gallons per day, per person, 84 gallons of water wouldn't last a month. But it is a starting point.

A more realistic way to determine your family's needs is to take a look at your meal plans for the last month. Let's say you made four casseroles that each used 1 pound of ground beef, 2 dinners of roast chicken, one roast, chili cheese dogs, 2 dinners of beans and rice, tacos twice, spaghetti with meat sauce twice, 4 dinners with boneless, skinless chicken breasts (3 pounds per meal), 4 dinners with chicken thighs (4 pounds per meal), leftovers twice, turkey tenderloin, ham steak, and Italian sausage. For the other three nights, you went out.

Photo Credit: PinkMoose
For a year, you could extrapolate that you would need 120 pounds of hamburger meat, 24 chickens, 12 roasts, 12 packages of hot dogs, 144 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 192 pounds of chicken thighs, 12 turkey tenderloins, 12 packages of ham steaks, and 12 packages of Italian sausage for a year. You would also need the ingredients for everything that goes with those meals: starches, vegetables, breads, etc.

Sales cycles generally run quarterly. So you could further estimate that each time boneless, skinless chicken breasts went on sale, you would need to buy 36 pounds of chicken breasts. 40 pounds of hamburger meat, 6 chickens, 3 package of hot dogs, and on and on.

You could take that even further by doing a tentative plan for the year. This would take into consideration seasonal meals (how many times do you do burgers on the grill during the summer? For us, every few weeks!), and availability of fresh produce. Tonight, for example, we're having tacos for dinner, which uses a bit of lettuce. During the summer, I do taco salad, with more lettuce, plus tomatoes and avocado. We'll have beans as a side tonight, along with spanish rice. When I make taco salad, the beans are more of the protein base in the salad than the meat is, so we use less meat with taco salad.

Right now, I'm looking at a local sale ad that has green bell peppers on sale for 4/$1.00. I haven't seen a price that low on green bell peppers in months-maybe years. So I'm going to buy a year's worth, which, for us, will be 8. That isn't really many for me, as my husband can't eat too much green pepper. I will dehydrate it and use it for seasoning throughout the year. If he could still eat stuffed peppers, I would buy many more, and make a bunch of stuffed peppers and freeze them for later.

Trying to estimate your family's needs can be time consuming. But it is well worth it to make the best use of your grocery budget. I'll be working on a project that should help with that, so make sure to check back often at The Real Deal!

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