Thursday, August 15, 2013

Piece of Advice #108: Be prepared

In general, my philosophy is "Have less stuff."  But for the stuff I do have, I try to buy quality, hold onto it, and take good care of it. 

Actually, I'm not really a very good minimalist.  I've spent the last decade or so stocking up on old lady detritus picked up dirt cheap at rummage and garage sales.  Sometimes I think if I died and they held an estate sale, people would wonder how old I was?  75.  80?

Except the decor's not right. 

I have a sewing machine and a fabric stash I got mostly second hand.  I've got all kinds of canning equipment.  I have flannel sheets and enamel pails, old guy tools, jars of herbs, and a set of World Book Encyclopedias from 1954.  I have wooden train tracks and camping equipment and garden tools and walls and walls of books.  Children's books, history books, books about politics and geography, economics and science.  I've got books on raising rabbits and books on herbal remedies, I've got books in Russian, dictionaries in 7 different languages and a small collection of old hymnals.  No, I'm really not the poster child for minimalism. 

But in my defense, I got nearly all of this stuff second hand, most of it is sturdy and exceedingly practical and has been used (by me, even), and I've carefully organized it so that it's at hand when I need it.  If my son needs a costume for school, I can make it.  If he grows out of his size 10 pants, I've got the next four sizes in boxes, by size, for him to look through.  If my kitchen faucet develops a pinhole leak that, hypothetically say, sprays you in the face when you turn the water on, I've got a reasonably comprehensive set of tools, or, failing that, a decent selection of duct tape.  My pantry's stocked and my freezer's full.
A long time ago, I read about The Pantry Principle in Amy Daczyczyn's The Tightwad Gazette.  She talked about it in reference to cooking.  She said that she never cooked by recipes, in the sense that she had to assemble all ingredients in order to cook a meal from a magazine page.  Instead, she stocked her pantry over time so that she always had the basics and cook a decent meal from them, making substitutions if necessary.  Like Amy, I don't cook from recipes.  I take a trip down to the freezer in the morning and pull out a roast (or some brats, or a whitefish fillet) and while I'm down there I look to see if I've got any frozen green beans left or if the potatoes in the pantry look like they might need to be eaten sooner rather than later.  Later, when I'm making mashed potatoes, I'll think about what's in my herb garden that could be used and I'll grab a handful of parsley or dill and throw it in there.  I'll buy butter, olive oil, or honey in bulk and mentally keep track of how much is left.  I am continually in the process of stocking up.  And I never run out.  I mean, really, almost never.  Before a storm I don't have to go to the store because I know there's plenty of toilet paper and batteries and blankets and water in the house already.  My challenge is using up the stuff I have, turning the pantry over so nothing goes past date or completely stale.  Not that you can't use stale.  There are a hundred good uses for stale, if you can think out of the box.

I've extended The Pantry Principle to most everything, and it does save time, money, and peace of mind.  About the only thing I can't do this with is our cars, except for adding oil and antifreeze - I just don't know enough about auto repair.  So when my car leaks coolant like it is right now, I'm at the mechanic's mercy, more or less, because I'm not good with cars and I haven't stocked up.  I keep thinking I should do something about that.


  1. You don't want to ignore a coolant leak. Your car engine could melt or get damaged if it gets too hot. Find a mechanic who won't charge you for a diagnostic scan. (A mom and pop garage is most likely to be reasonable in this regard.) Your problem is most likely a bad hose and your mechanic can find out where the leak is and replace the hose for about 20-30 bucks. It's a lot cheaper than a fried engine, believe me.

    (Has a mechanic for a brother. It's a lot like having a doctor in the family. :D )

  2. Thanks, Amethyst. I do plan on getting it fixed. Fingers crossed that it's not too expensive. I do have a nice mechanic (but not in the family - you are lucky).

  3. I do love that book. It's one of my faves. I definitely try to keep my pantry stocked!

  4. I remember you wrote that you and your husband own your house, although you are quite young. Could you perhaps do a post as to how you managed that? Did you buy young, have a huge deposit, funnel all your salary into it? There are cheap houses where I live but they are in bad areas. How did you choose your home and how did you manage to pay it off so young. So sorry to hear of your husband's job, I will pray for your family. God bless and thanks for all you do. S.

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