Minimalists in a Pandemic

By Melissa

(As I was getting this ready to post, my oldest started experiencing a terrible ear ache. Thankfully we have plenty of Children’s Tylenol and I could give her some. That is one of those things that is so important to me to have on hand, and something we definitely couldn’t live without.)

We had a friend text us yesterday asking how minimalists survive when stores are out of everything. Our answer: GOOD QUESTION! And since we aren’t technically minimalists, I really don’t know how to best answer. What I can say though, is that Minimalism isn’t just about getting rid of all your stuff, or not keeping things you need on hand. It’s finding what is valuable to you. And luckily, Charmin is valuable to me. Anyway, I thought it could be helpful to go through how I typically do my grocery and household shopping.

Household goods

Admittedly, I’m a little bit of a hoarder. Or maybe more of a doomsday prepper? Or maybe being raised in a culture that stresses preparedness has rubbed off on me, but in really weird ways. I don’t really know. What I do know, is that one of my biggest pet peeves in life, is running out of something that doesn’t expire. For example: toilet paper. In my mind, it’s never a bad thing to have that on hand, it isn’t going to go bad if I don’t use it on time, and it makes sense to stock up on TP and other items while they are on sale. I used to joke that in the End of Days, I would be able to barter my Charmin Ultra for anything I needed, and turns out, I might not be too far off.

So in the future, whether it be two weeks or two years from now, I encourage you to do the same. Whether it be toilet paper, paper towels, Clorox Wipes, Dawn dish soap, Bath and Body Works handsoaps, baby wipes, toilet bowl cleaners or muffin tin liners, IF IT DOESN’T EXPIRE, GET EXTRAS. Obviously, the stores are a little wonky right now so it doesn’t serve anyone to try to stock up at this point. But as things get back to normal, it would be good to have those staples on hand. I used to think it was just for if there was a natural disaster, but financially it has come in handy also. When I was on on maternity leave with Maren (when we still had hefty student loan payments) it was helpful that I could cut almost all toiletries out of my budget for those couple of months, because I had a decent little stockpile of them, ready to be used.

Today, I’m not as prepared as I used to be, especially since we have more people in our house using more things (including a baby who cannot get enough of washing her hands), but I still follow this tendency. If I need one, I buy four. Or if it is on sale or there is a coupon at Costco, I’ll buy more, even if I still have some at home.

Groceries

This section gets a little trickier. While I still stock up on sale items, I have to be a lot more careful about how many I’m actually buying. For example, last January, Costco had a coupon for $5 off the big boxes of Kodiak Cakes pancake mix. The limit was 10, so guess how many I bought? TEN. Like, why?! In my mind I was thinking, “I just saved us $50 on these!” But here’s the thing, they expired in October and I still have two boxes left that I’m baking into muffins every couple weeks to try to use them up. It isn’t saving money if you aren’t going to use it. So don’t be like me. Don’t be a slave to the Costco coupons. Only buy things you need. And not so many that they’ll expire.

But in general, this is helpful for your essentials. Like mentioned above, I am a slave to the coupons at Costco, so if it’s on sale and we use it, I’ll buy an extra. Typically I focus on staples like applesauce pouches, beans, Cheerios, and snack foods like Rice Krispy Treats, Cheez-Its and Ritz crackers and such.

At my normal grocery store (I favor Fry’s), I buy peanut butter like it is going out of style. Which is helpful, since my family uses it like it is going out of style. The kind we use goes on sale every few months, so I will buy ten at a time. If I ever get down to three or less, I panic and buy a couple more, and then keep my eye on it for the next sale.

For items we don’t go through quite as quickly though, I will still buy extras. If syrup is on sale, I’ll buy three. Bread and eggs? I usually have some in the kitchen and some in our extra garage fridge. Apples? You guys, apples stay good in the fridge for such a long time! And when Honeycrisps go on sale all winter long, I BUY DOZENS AND DOZENS! And then with other produce such as berries, peaches, bananas, spinach, etc, whatever I don’t use, I throw it in the freezer to be used for smoothies later.

I have a couple of recipes that are my go-to meals when I want to actually cook, and not just make pancakes or muffins for dinner. For those, I tend to have a few extras of the ingredients on hand. Does it always work that I have everything I need? No. But at least I have most of it and only need to grab an item or two. Or worst case scenario, I make do with what I have!

Life after COVID-19

Obviously, now is not the time to try to start getting a few extra pantry items. We’ve all been to the stores, seen the empty shelves and waited in lines. But! Hopefully in a few months, we are out of the dark. As life returns to normal and normal shopping begins, I encourage you to just add an extra item or two to your shopping list each week. If you have the means to go nuts, then go to Costco and buy ten boxes of Kodiak cakes! (Kidding, don’t do it.) But really, take inventory of what you actually use and eat, and make sure to have those on hand.

My parents always had a year supply of food growing up. But when I first got married and was trying to figure out how to get my own, my mom gave me the advice to get things that I actually use! So refried beans it was! 🙂 Honestly though, it was the best advice. If you gave me a can of wheat, I would use it as a doorstop. I just have no use for it because I don’t know how to use it! And sure, I COULD learn. But let’s be real, I kinda don’t want to. I mean, I will if I need to save my family, but for now we are good with our beans and peanut butter. Not together obviously. Don’t be gross.

Considerations

I realize that not everyone has the ability the afford extra food when they shop. I also know that not everyone has a place to store it. For those, I say, try one thing at a time. Maybe its an extra package of ramen the first week. And perhaps that extra jar of applesauce can be stored not in the kitchen? Again, if I think of my parent’s year supply, we are talking dozens of five gallon buckets and #10 tin cans. None of which I would have the room for! So start small, and it can work.

How are you doing?

Has everyone been able to find the foods you need? Did you have most of what you needed on hand? We were lucky enough to have most of what we needed. Sure, I could use more yogurt and some bowtie pasta, but it isn’t the end of the world for either. And you want to hear what I really want? Top Ramen. It’s so gross and so good and when I’m stressed it’s my favorite food. And guess what? None in the stores! Ha! Serves me right for being disgusting. 🙂 Hang in there guys, we will get through this!

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