In the past few years, stockpiling has really received a bad rep thanks to a certain TV show that glorifies excessive stockpiling. While I believe in the “to each his own” thinking, I personally do not keep more than a 3-6 month supply of things in my house. Once you start stockpiling (and couponing!) and looking for deals you’ll begin to notice a pattern of when things go on sale. Things typically have a 3-6 months sales cycle so there’s very little point to keeping much more than that on hand. I value the space in my house and I find that keeping a minimal stockpile helps keep my house more organized. I also don’t have to worry so much about things expiring or not being used within a reasonable time frame. Sometimes I get a little nervous when I’m about to run out of something but it always seems to go on sale again before that happens. I often think, “Wow that was a nice coincidence” but the truth is, I’ve just learned over time on how much I need to keep on hand before the next sale.
Anyone that coupons for a significant amount of time can learn the tricks of getting so many items for free or nearly free. But with this knowledge should also come the ability to only truly buy what you need. Yes, I could fill a cart full of free or nearly free items but I’d rather just buy what I can use within the sales cycles and use the time I would have spent on extra shopping on other things; like preparing healthier meals for my family. Usually to get all those deals, you’ll need to go to multiple stores sometimes several times a week. Typically I make one trip each week to one or two stores and pass up on other deals that pop-up throughout the week. The more trips you make, the higher your chances for more impulse buys. This also saves me gas money and all those extra miles on my car that can add-up throughout the year. Another thing one must be careful of with coupon shopping is how easily it can be to buy unhealthy foods. We can easily be lured to buy things because, “hey they are free” but cheap food always has a hidden cost–and that’s the potential for extra health issues down the road. So be careful of being influenced too much by “cheap food.”
What I do realize is this–our economy is tough. Sometimes it’s hard to make ends meet and sometimes, that free unhealthier food may be necessary to get us the savings to switch to healthier options–to help us pay for that Organic produce, dairy and meats. When I started switching to healthier and Organic foods, this is what I did in the beginning, too. I’d buy some of the free/cheap food, the ones that were the least harmful, until gradually I had enough money saved up to start the cycle of buying meat shares each year and freezing in-season foods at the lower price and ending the need to buy much processed foods at all. I am not completely unrealistic in thinking that, starting off, everyone can afford all the healthier options that they’d like. For most, it may only happen over time. To which I say, be patient, save up and do that best you can. Opt for the produce and skip the unhealthy snack aisles!
The key to stockpiling sensibly is this: You need to know what you use, how much of it you use in a 3-6 month time frame and what items you buy that are the most expensive and/or rarely go on sale. There are some items that one can easily stockpile at first:
~Condiments (ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, salad dressing, etc.)
These are just a few of the higher marked-up items that you can find a good price on when you pair a sale/deal with a coupon. One of the first things a couponer will learn is that you should never have to pay much more than $1 for cereal and you can almost always get toothbrushes and toothpaste for under $1. Each of those things are regularly around $4 each so you can see where it can start to add up a little here and there. Just watch for deals at the drug stores like CVS, Walgreens and Rite-Aid to take advantage of deals like the ones I mentioned. You’ll often find them there.
One of the most important things you must remember when stockpiling is this: Space = Money. Each person has an allotted amount of space for stockpiling. Each inch of that space should have a value. I learned this the hard way when I first started. I had coupons that I turned into around 15-20 free bags of steamer vegetables. I thought it was a great choice for the family. And then I had to pass up on a huge meat sale because my freezer space was filled up. Instead of saving $2-$3 a lb on meats, I only saved $1 on veggies. You see the difference?
Pastas often go on sale for next to nothing. But if you fill your allotted space with them, you may pass up deals on other items that rarely go on sale that could save you more than the $1 or so of a pasta box. Just pick and choose carefully what you stockpile. Obviously the best things to stockpile for food are the freshest of meats, fruits and vegetables. Buying in-season fruits and freezing them for when the prices more than double is a great plan. I often use frozen berries in my smoothies. Instead of paying the $4 for them, I often pay the $1.50 – $2, saving me 50% on them and having them frozen at their freshest time. Just make sure you balance your freezer space for the fruit/veggies and meats!
Another thing I stockpile are things that you need to throw away–I hate to pay much for them! These are things such as toilet paper, paper towels, feminine products, etc. But while you might be able to get a deal on these, you need to be careful of the space they take up, too. The key to stockpiling is balance. And the simple formula I use is this:
Best Price + Most Savings + Least Space + Only What I Need = Sensible Stockpiling : What this means is I find items at their best price, I stockpile the items that will bring me the most savings, the items that will take up the least space for those savings and I only buy what I can consume/use within the sales cycles.
Don’t get frustrated when you are first starting off. It’s a learning process. And with anything worth learning, it takes time and patience to learn it! Over time, you’ll easily know when to buy and when to wait.
Here are a few pics of my stockpile. It’s a little under-stocked at the moment as I pulled out most of my unhealthier and processed foods. I am working on gradually filling them with healthier options.
This is my laundry/utility room where I store my cleaning/laundry supplies, non-perishable food and a freezer for Organic meats. The freezer is often stocked full of beef, pork, chicken and some turkey. In the summer, I stock it full of veggies/fruits that I’ve grown/picked. I’ve found that I usually use them up by the time my meat shares are ready–typically in late fall.
In this picture you can see both of my food storage cabinets and two Spice Racks. I have a third Spice Rack in my kitchen with the common spices I use most. Spices are a great way to flavor food without all the unwanted preservatives and extra fat of some other options. I store my paper/plastic goods on top of my cabinets; things such as Ziploc bags, garbage bags, paper plates, plastic silverware, etc.
This is a picture of my cabinet that has some things to aide in quick meals or side dishes. I keep my canned goods, such as beans & tomatoes in this one. (Always try to look for canned goods that are BPA-Free. Eden Foods is a great brand for this.) I’m working on making my own pasta sauces but in the meantime, I kept a few I already had stockpiled.
The second cabinet holds my baking goods, condiments and back-up spices of some of the ones I use the most. I’m really low on some baking goods right now so this is the cabinet I’ll work on stockpiling more of next.
This is my prized-possession as a stockpiler–a freezer full of Organic meats. I buy locally from farmers and also take advantage of some sales at places like Whole Foods Markets for some of my poultry and seafood. One of the best ways to save money on Organic foods is buy meat in shares. We often buy 1/4 beef and 1/2 hog throughout the year. If you don’t need that much, you could always split it with a friend/family member. One thing you’ll learn as you switch to more healthier foods options is that you’ll need less cabinet/pantry space and more freezer/fridge space. You’ll start learning how to make recipes with the freshest and real foods.
This is the freezer attached to my fridge. I store my fruit and veggies in here. I also keep a container of meat on hand so I don’t have to continually dig through my other freezer. Randomly, I’ll treat the family to some ice cream. We are switching to making homemade versions now, though. I’ve had decent luck with the containers in my freezer for organization. You just have to make sure you don’t block the freezer vents in the back. (NOTE: I can’t say you’ll have similar luck with these in yours as all freezer models vary.) A great way to save money is to stockpile in-season fruits and vegetables. Fruits can usually easily be frozen using a “flash freezing” method. This is where you put them on a freezer-safe container/plate until they are frozen and then put them in Ziploc bags. Vegetables usually have to be “blanched” before freezing. This is where you boil them for a set time and then cool them in ice water before freezing. Cooking/freezing times vary by vegetable.
And this is my bathroom closet stockpile. I try to keep things separated in containers by “category.” Things such as medicines (adult, children’s and vitamins), personal care (deodorant, razors, etc.), lotions/lip balms, beauty items, first-aid, dental care and shampoo/conditioner. I store our Kleenexes, extra toilet paper, baby wipes, batteries, etc. in here too. I also usually keep a bucket for freebies that I get in the mail. I pull these out when we have visitors to share with them. I keep a Stick Vac and empty basket in there, as well, to help with an easy clean-up of the bathroom. I use the empty basket to clear off my bathroom counter-tops so I can clean them faster.
Here’s the re-cap for How to Stockpile Sensibly:
1) The first thing to do is figure out what you use, how much you can use in 3-6 months and how much space you have for stockpiling.
2) Figure out what kind of budget you’ll have for stockpiling and try to stick to that budget as best you can.
3) Start with items you use the most and that are the most expensive but you can find a good deal on
4) Space = Money – Remember that each inch of allotted stockpiling space adds up. Only fill it with useful things you can use within the expiration dates
5) Patience – Stockpiling doesn’t happen overnight. Take your time. Keep track of what you use and what wasn’t a good buy.
6) Best Price + Most Savings + Least Space + Only What I Need = Sensible Stockpiling –In the end, create the formula that works best for you!
I’m hoping that if you are thinking about stockpiling that this post has helped you with some ideas of where to start. Overall, I just tell beginners to pick a few items that are the most expensive that they can find a great deal on and start there. Gradually add a few more items each week/month until you have a nice stockpile built up. Over time it will just be second nature of what to buy and what not to buy. I’m hoping you’ll find savings through your stockpile, too!