Sunday, April 19, 2015

Save money with a Home Food Pantry

Economic common sense is lacking in most people. While they dislike paying high prices for things (in the context of this blog things = food or related items), most have no idea how to avoid doing it. They may accidentally ‘stumble’ on a good sale and smile to themselves, but that is luck not skill. They may even be astute enough to read the ads and go to the store and buy an item at a reduced price. However, even while that is very good, it still is not efficient or sufficient.

The answer lies in the development of a HOME FOOD PANTRY. This is not a new concept as the pioneers of old all had a food pantry or food cellar. Their need for one came from necessity in that stores were often large distances away and they had to preserve their home grown food products so they would last until next year when they were available again. I remember reading about a man from that period who said he never ate an apple that was not going bad, because the better apples could still be kept longer and they only ate those at the end of their storage life.

Now in ‘modern’ times with food products available year round and easily accessible from local stores, the use of the home food pantry has gone by the way. DOES THAT MEAN THEY ARE OBSOLETE? The answer is ‘no’, but the justification has changed. The real benefit of a home food pantry today is to save money and secondarily to have food stores in case of a natural disaster or worse.

The bottom line is that in order to reduce your food costs you must BUY IN QUANTITY – ON SALE. This principle also applies to items that are preserved at home, in that you must go through the preservation process when the food item is at its lowest price or when it is available from your own garden.

The other aspect of a home food pantry is managing what is in it. As with the apple story, food items will not keep indefinitely. However there are items, like paper products, that can last indefinitely if stored properly. The ‘first in - first out’ rule will apply, but also restraint is required. You should only stock items that you will use in a designated time frame. Over stocking is costly, takes more work, and valuable space may be taken up. I keep an inventory sheet and mark off items as they are used, and I have a restocking point where I begin to look for the next big sale on that item. In a larger home pantry, the shelf life of an item will come into play and rotation of stock is required.

Funding a home pantry must be a consideration. The larger the pantry the more it will cost to establish. You must set aside funds for this purpose. The buying of home pantry items cannot be taken from your weekly/monthly food allowance; because you still are consuming food will you are stocking the pantry. However once the pantry is stocked, you can use your food allowance to facilitate stock rotation by eating the older stock when replacing it with newer stock.

There are two final issues. What is a good price for an item? Do you have to know the prices of everything? That would be a difficult task. Actually you only need to be familiar with the prices of items you and your family use or plan to store; and with experience you will learn what is a good price and what is a GREAT price and buy accordingly. The other issue is do you have to buy inferior quality items because they cost less? My philosophy is to only purchase items my family finds acceptable. We will always try the store brand or off brand, and many times they are acceptable and we continue to use that brand. However, other times the quality is inferior for our needs and the brand names are the item of choice. BUT we still can buy the brand name item IN QUANTITY – ON SALE.       

            Everything I have discussed is really just economic common sense. If you don’t feel you have that skill, it doesn’t mean you cannot learn it. In all aspects of life, some people have a natural talent and some don’t. Some have economic common sense and some don’t. Those that don’t just have to work harder and they can be successful. As a wise person once said, “It’s your attitude not your aptitude that determines your altitude”.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


Yes my last name is Commander, so my blog title comes to me honestly. My name has created much interest throughout my life. I was raised in Norfolk, VA, which houses the largest US Naval Base in the world. ‘Commander’ is an officer’s rank in the navy. Any interaction my family had with the Naval Base or sailors was enhanced by our last name.

 I attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute AKA ‘VPI’, AKA ‘VA Tech’. In my time there, the military Corps of Cadets was very prominent and I was in the ROTC/Corps for four years. My senior year in the Corps, I was the ‘E’ Company commander, so I was Commander Commander. Pretty Cool!
Being in ROTC, I agreed to serve two years in the army. My initial rank in the army was Lieutenant Commander. This caused quite a stir.

So where did the name originate? Our family lore says it was of French origin and was spelled Commande’. The family history tells us that three brothers came the US in the 1700’s. Their names were Joseph, Thomas, and Edward Teach Commande’. The lore contends the Joseph settled in North Carolina, Thomas in South Carolina, and Edward Teach ‘sailed the seven seas’. In other words our ancestor was the notorious Blackbeard the pirate. So can I prove that? I am from the Joseph lineage. A number of years ago, I met a Commander cousin from the Thomas lineage, who asked me whether our side of the family thought they were related to Blackbeard. Proof? I think so.

Returning to a non-military life did not diminish the comments about the name Commander. Many times when I give my name there is a reaction of ‘what a cool name’. But as the late Paul Harvey would say, ‘now for the rest of the story.’ I met my wife while in the army and we were married in 1970. Now when a woman marries and changes her name, it can be positive or not so positive, depending on the ease or complexity of her new name. Also the tradition is for her last name to become her middle name. In my wife’s case, this created any amazing and often unbelievable full name. You see my wife’s maiden name was Imperial, therefore her legal name is Jeannine Imperial Commander.

What is your budgeting personality?

I shall center this article on budgeting, but my analysis applies to all aspects of life. I suggest there are three types of people, which I shall call Type 1, 2 & 3.

Type 1. This type has an innate understanding of the need for budgeting. I am a Type 1. Growing up my parents never discussed how they managed their money. I think they had a quasi-budget. I got married at 27 and up until that time, I did not budget. However, on the day I brought my first pay check home to my new bride from my new post-army job, I knew I had to budget and I did. As with most TRUE budgeters, our family had minimum, if not zero, money issues. Both my daughters, were taught to budget from a young age and did not experience many of the money challenges their peers did.

Type 2. This type likely has had money issues along their way, but did not know how to do things different. They had surely heard of a budget, but have no idea how to do it. So they had money stresses and tried various methods to fix the problem, to no avail. When taught budgeting, they immediately saw its value and embraced it. Although, I have taught numerous people, individually and in classes, budgeting techniques, I do not often know whether they did or did not embrace the idea in the personal lives. However on the ones that I do know that decided to budget, they found their lives changed for the better. J

Type 3. This type knows they need a better way to manage their money and struggle with money stress. Once they learn about budgeting they are taken by the potential help this would be for them; and even though they see value in it, they cannot make it a permanent part of their lives. They may try for a while, but do not stick to it. Their financial life soon deteriorates and the stress that they hoped to eliminate returns. Some blame it on unforeseen events or loss of job, but these can usually be helped by modifying their budget. Often they come to me too late for real help.L