Holiday Food Sales? Stock Your Pantry

If you stock up on food for the holidays so you can feed family and friends, why not do that year-round for yourself?

The food ads are mighty attractive at this time of year. A few items are being offered at decent sale prices: bacon, eggs, cheese, soup, canned tomatoes, flour, chicken broth, coffee, yams, canned and plain frozen vegetables, crackers (I’m partial to the cracked pepper and olive oil Triscuits), potatoes, butter, apples, and canned beans.

The idea is to get us to buy extra ingredients for holiday meals and those homemade sweets. But why not buy extra ingredients for ourselves?

This may seem like an obvious idea, but not everyone thinks along frugal lines. They buy the way they usually do – week to week. The trouble is, food prices go up from week to week. By locking in at current prices, you’re investing in food futures, so to speak.

Having extra food on hand also means you’ve always got something to fix for lunch or dinner. This helps you not to rely on takeout. Worst-case scenario: If your fortunes go south in the new year, you’ve got what my MSN Money colleague Liz Pulliam Weston calls “the emergency fund you can eat.”

The sunk-cost menu

Your budget may be stretched thin during the holidays (or maybe year-round). But anyone with even an extra dollar or two per shopping trip should be looking to stock up.

The canned tomatoes and beans can be turned into a 20-minute chili that will warm you on a cold January evening. With some cheese and a mug of tomato soup, those Triscuits will make a simple but satisfying weekend lunch. That loss-leader flour is the centerpiece for a night-before-payday event known as “breakfast for supper,” i.e., pancakes or waffles.

Best of all: These will be sunk-cost meals. So stock up for January and beyond, when you’re receiving a higher-than-usual utility bill due to a cold snap – or the credit card bills from holiday indulgences.

Position yourself now for a little after-the-fact frugality. Keep your favorite chili recipe handy too.

More stories from Donna Freedman:

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