Grocery Geek Presents: Learn to Build a Stockpile

Time was long ago, that I would go to the grocery store with a list of all the things that I wanted to buy. Today, I decide what I want based on what’s on sale.This reversal in my thinking has helped us trim our grocery budget enormously. Three years ago I regularly spent $800-1000 each month to feed our family of then 7. I’ve shaved that down to about $600/month on average.

This new way of doing things can be a little restricting sometimes, but overall it works out.

You see, I practice what some people call, stockpiling. I buy things on sale before I need them and keep them on hand in the pantry.

What Stockpiling Is Not

Now let me clarify between what I do and hoarding. You’ve probably heard plenty of horror stories about people who died with closets and closets of food and other belongings that they didn’t really need. Due to fears, some probably very real, they didn’t want to be without. And so they bought without as much purpose as they did compulsion. They bought when they didn’t need it, and they never used it.

Frankly, I call that waste.

In my mind, a proper “stockpile” is one that is used. I may buy 10 boxes of cereal at one time at a great price on sale and with coupons, but they get eaten within a couple months, avoiding waste and avoiding a bigger bill at the grocery store.

You see, I could buy two boxes of cereal for five weeks at pay whatever the going rate was, usually about $2 a box. That turns out to be about $20. OR I can buy ten at one time for about $0.50 a box and spend a mere $5. Over five week’s time, I’ve saved $15.

That is stockpiling.

Important Guidelines for Stockpiling

There are some guidelines to keep in mind when you’re building and maintaining a well-stocked pantry on a budget.

  1. Don’t buy something you won’t eat. Unless you’re sure you and your family are going to like it and use it, don’t buy it. Even if it’s a great deal. Even if it’s free. Don’t buy it. The only exception to this rule is when you are sure you can and will donate it to someone who will put that product to good use.
  2. Check the expiration dates. Make sure the item is something that you can store for a reasonable amount of time.
  3. Make sure you have room at home to store it. It’s not a deal if it drives your family bonkers as they trip over said “good deals.” Only purchase what you can reasonably store.
  4. Don’t eat it all at once. In the above scenario, my ten boxes of cereal should last five weeks. Well, my kids could eat ten boxes of cereal in one day. So, you need to have some kind of control over your stockpile. I have a very tall closet pantry where we store our dry goods. If I have excess of an item that the family could consume too quickly, the extras go way up high where my kids are least likely to get them. The 20 cans of tomatoes which they will not open go on the bottom shelves.
  5. Make sure it does get eaten. Once you get a stockpile going, you may forget what you have. Rotate your stock frequently. Tidy your cupboards weekly. Build your meal plans from what you already have. And eat from the pantry yearly. It’s not a deal unless you use it.

Stockpiling Happens Over Time

If you’re just starting out in building a frugal pantry, your grocery trips will look kind of odd.

  • You’ll be shopping from the sales.
  • Items may or may not go together in an obvious way.
  • Multiples of one item will look really funny in your cart.

It’s okay if the checker doesn’t understand the method to your madness. You do.

This past week a recent trip to Walmart produced these items in my cart:

3 bottles of Genesis Today juices ($6 – $1 coupon = $5 ea)
3 bottles of Hunts Ketchup ($1 – $0.20 coupon = $0.80 ea)
2 packages of La Creme Mousse yogurt ($2.19 – BOGO coupon = $1.10 ea)

Now that’s a weird combination. Sure, I also bought a gallon of milk and some birthday party stuff. But, I browsed the aisles and saw these items on rollback. I knew I had coupons in my coupon box which greatly reduced the prices of these items. I checked the expiration dates and I knew that I had space to store these items so we wouldn’t feel like we had to eat them up quicker than need be. While it may have been a weird combination, I was building our stockpile, saving us money on those items that we enjoy and will use over the coming weeks and months.

Do you practice stockpiling? Or does this sound totally wacky to you?

See ya in the comments.

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Comments

  1. I tend to buy non-processed foods in bulk (grains, pastas, flours) from Costco so in that sense I stockpile. I avoid processed foods as much as I can and sadly those tend to be what is usually on sale.

  2. I love stockpiling…. as a single parent who works full time (and then some), its nice to go the pantry and easily be able to throw dinner together…without having to stop at the grocery store on the way home from work. My daughter has problem skin and scalp, after trial and error, we finally found products that work for both…. and none are especially cheap! I definitely stock up when I can get a super deal on them. This avoids having to ever pay full price for them. I keep a basket in the bathroom closet with just the stockpile for those products in them. I can tell at a glance if we’re running low (I prefer to keep at least two of each product “on hand”). So, its not just foods you can stockpile.

  3. I have a stockpile of toothbrushes, toothpaste, lotion, shampoo, body wash, razors etc. These are all items I have purchased for a really good price or received free since I play the drug store game at Walgreens. These items tend to be quite expensive if you just run in the store & grab them as needed. So, this is a great way to stockpile. Again, just make sure you dont go crazy & have room to store the surplus.

  4. I TOTALLY agree! I have a shelf in my pantry for food @ any one time I may have 30 boxes of cereal, 10 jars of peanut butter, & 10-20 cans of soup! I also have a closet in my master bath for non-foods. I also use sales & coupons to my advantage for cleaning supplies, hygiene products, & body wash, shampoo, etc. Some of my friends think I’m crazy & have even compared me to that hoarding show (which I’ve never seen-we don’t have cable), but like you said, I know how much we use & stock accordingly. I used to spend $20-$40 bi-weekly getting trashbags/soap/non-foods, but now (thanks to stockpiling) I’d say it’s more like $5.

  5. I definitely stock pile! There’s no other way, right?! :)

    I am painfully behind on my stockpile, however. I have at least 2 months of coupons to cut and file – oh the shame! But my goal this weekend is to get it all sorted and back on track.

    While battling this bout of morning sickness, out stockpile has completely saved us. Now it is time to replenish!

    -Lauren

  6. Though my husband likes to shop at Costco, Sam’s etc, we never “stockpiled.” Now that I am looking for ways to save money we are starting the stockpile process. My big question, is how do you figure out how many to have on hand? My husband thinks I’m crazy to have more than 1 extra item on hand, but that’s not stockpiling IMHO.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Over time you should get a sense of what you need. I haven’t had to buy toothpaste in months, years for shampoo. I built a huge stockpile 2 years ago and over the last year quit buying.

    • It all depends on your family needs…I started stockpiling when I had one kid and now I have 4 kids. I can buy so much more now. I think look at what you can use in the next 3-6 months or easily use by the expiration date whichever comes first. When starting to stockpile you may want to just start buying enough for the next month not for six months, just to ease into this whole stockpiling thing.
      ps. my family thinks I’m kinda nuts too :)

  7. Theresa says:

    Have you found that you use things more liberally because you know that you have more items stockpiled? If I buy more, my family goes through things faster than if I just buy when we run out. How do you get around this happening?

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Well, that is one of the risks, so you have to have a good rationing system for it to work well. I try to keep things on the top shelf where the kids aren’t liable to get at it. They are pretty respectful of the limits.

  8. This is me. To a “t”.

    I love, especially, the comment about putting things where the kids wont see them. I have a few hiding spots for food (as well as some for next years birthday/Christmas gifts) that the children don’t know about. It’s fun to see the look on their faces when I pull out a “new” cereal or their favorite cookies – seemingly out of thin air!

    My older children (11, 9 and 7) are already on the lookout for coupons and watch magazines for them, or tell me about coupons that they hear about that are available online!

  9. I have always stockpiled. Probably because my parents did when I was growing up. They grew most of our produce and preserved at the end of the summer. They’d also buy 1/2 cow or other meat from a butcher in the fall and we’d use it all winter.

    It is true there are plenty of sales on processed foods but those aren’t the only things on sale. Every fall I buy a dozen HUGE chickens from a local farm and keep them in our downstairs freezer. When that runs out I stockpile from the store. I buy expensive meat, compared to most people, and will buy several weeks worth when I see a sale at our local natural foods coop. The same coop has been running deals on 5lb bags of bulk beans and grains so I’ve taken advantage of those sales. The also have a yearly truckload sale with cases of tomatoes, beans, juice, and other items for very good prices. This is packaged food, which I would love to wean us off completely, but now isn’ t the time. Some day!

  10. While I would like to, we live in a tiny one-bedroom & just don’t have the room to stockpile. Hoping that’ll change in the next few years (especially since we have a 2nd kid on the way).

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      I feel ya. We lived in a 250 sq ft cottage (one room!) when we had our first. We built LOTS of shelves for every kind of storage. The landlords always teased hubs since he was constantly building boxes to hang on the walls.

    • Heather says:

      I stockpiled last night on cereal! combining store sale and coupons, I only paid 75 cents per box of Mini Wheats!!! What a deal!! I also stockpile on toothpaste and toothbrushes.

      • Heather says:

        I wanted to comment on the 1 bedroom apt, we but a bookshelf in a small closet and kept all our pantry items in there. Think under the bed storage boxes also. I agree, shelves everywhere saved us, I laugh b/c now we bought an older home and even though it’s larger space there are few closets.

  11. Rachel K says:

    I love stockpiling!! I started really getting into coupons in October. At first the whole concept seemed overwhelming, but it just took a little while to get the hang of it! I love having extra toiletries on hand when we need it. It is definitely better than having to run to the store all the time to get a product. Plus stockpiling allows our family to donate items. We save money getting things when they are the cheapest, so we are then able to give those items away, without feeling the burden of the item’s price. (If that makes sense :) )

    • Heather says:

      I recently did something similiar, gave toliet paper rolls that I got for free with coupons to my brother who is really tight on money. It made me feel so good to be able to help him out a little. I also give him many of the samples I send away for!

  12. i do a bit but there’s some obsessive compulsive hoarding the family genes here (like we found 50+ year old food in my grandfather’s pantry when he passed away) so i try not to let myself get carried away. i’ll only stockpile something if i already know i like it and it’s my preferred brand.

  13. Coupons are limited in our area paper and tend to be for processed foods, so I rarely bother with them. I shop the sales, stick to basics, etc. Our bill for 6 for the week last night was $67 and I think our groceries are expensive out here since we live in the country and it’s 2 hours from the distribution centers. Now no real meat was purchased, only fresh vegetables, staples (flours, yeast, sugar, oil, etc), the complimentary things that go into meals, such as sour cream, cheese, seasonings and milk, butter, etc. But I have meat in the freezer from a friend who butchered a cow, chicken bought previously on sale, so no new meat was needed. By shopping for mostly simple foods, we have managed to weather many a bad paycheck on $50-75 per week.

  14. I LOVE using coupons to stockpile–you can save SO much money! If you need extra coupons, go to my website http://www.couponkutters.com to find what you need to go with sales, etc!

  15. danielle says:

    I am a total stockpiler – especially since my husband took a 15% pay cut. I had a freind say to me a few months back – ” You know that show Hoarders? That totally reminds me of you!” I was totally mortified. I in no way think I am a hoarder. In fact I am often accused of throwing things that are needed out. It bothered me so much that I told my husband, he got a good laugh out of it. He said if that friend would look at herself she would see she is way more of a hoarder than I will ever be. I am just a smart shopper and I have been preparing our family in case we get into some real financial trouble at least we will be able to eat decently for a few months.

  16. Building a stockpile has saved our budget! This along with couponing has helped me to save $150/month! It took a while for my husband to be okay with it. He thought it was crazy to buy so much, but when I explained to him and he’s been seeing the savings, he’s become better with it;)

  17. Excellent post! I usually stockpile a lot of health and beauty items, like toothpaste, body wash and shampoo when they are on sale. I have limited space in my kitchen (meaning worst cabinets EVER), so it’s rare that I’m able to stockpile food really well. I do buy mandarin oranges in bulk for my son’s lunchbox and Splenda packets by the 1000’s. If I find a food sale I can’t pass up, I just stockpile food items in my linen closet behind the pillowcases!

  18. I was using this method a bit at Costco, but overspending my budget because I’d buy on top of my “regulars” I just started trying this method about two weeks ago. I’m finding I’m a little tight on my budget right now because I’m just now stocking up, but from my understanding, it will even itself out. I already have plenty of meat in the freezer, so I should be able to stretch it out with all my other things. I’d love to read more on this too. :)

  19. I’ve been stockpiling for a year and learning lessons along the way. What to buy a lot of & what we don’t need/use. You’re right in terms of passing up a ‘free’ item when you don’t use it or need it. (but that’s hard to do sometimes!) I just bought shelving and plastic see-through bins with lids for our stockpile area – it’s been extremely helpful. To help rotate our stock, I mark everything with the month & year of expiration with a sharpie marker so that I can see it better.

  20. I’m a huge advocate of stockpiling… but you make great points that anyone wanting to stockpile need to remember. There is nothing worse than have to toss out an expired item because you didn’t rotate stock. Even if you pay less for an item, waste is still waste!

  21. elizabeth says:

    I haven’t been shopping for 3 weeks. Now I have BAD sinus infection, so here goes another week.

    Because I have been able to stockpile, we are all still eating. Not necessarily our “usuals,” but we are eating nonetheless.

    THIS, even if I never saved a dime, is why a stockpile is a very good thing :))

    Liz

  22. I appreciate stockpiling because it makes me look like the hero when my husband forgets to tell me he ran out of something! I’m not great at remembering to check shampoo levels, razors, etc., so it used to be that he’d have to make do or do without until I got to the store again and I’d feel bad. But with stockpiling, I have them ready when he runs out AND at a great price.
    I especially love to stockpile favorite snacks and treats. Fun to pull something special out after my husband has a hard day or when I want to give the kids a special treat.

  23. My “ah-ha” moment came when I realized it was MUCH cheaper to start watching for the sales on pop and get three, four or five at a time … than to buy it as needed every week.

    Reason: my husband brings his own pop to work rather than use the vending machine, and we often pack our own drinks when traveling.

  24. I am a total stockpiling. My mom was and now I am. My garage is full. Totally organized. That is what I love about it. We probably have more food and beauty suplies in our house than the whole neighorhood and my kids still say, Oh no there is nothing to eat in this house. I giggle everytime. My sons are both very thin and play alot of sports. They grew up with all this stockpiling so they dont tend to waste or gorge on foods. My family loves my holiday gift baskets:)

  25. atsquared says:

    We definitely stockpile. We buy a split half of beef and an entire pig from our farmers every year (pastured on an organic farm… *so* good!), plus we buy several whole chickens from them. This year I’d like to buy a few more, as long as I have the freezer space. We also do a lot of canning, and did tomatoes for the first time last year. We used a tomato press to make sauce, and also did whole tomatoes, salsa, bruschetta topping, mustard pickles, garlic dill pickles, plum jam, peach jam, peaches, red onions, roasted red peppers, applesauce and apple butter. :) From the store, we stock up on whole wheat pasta, canned beans for when I’m too rushed to cook dried beans, canned tuna and salmon, and various other staples. We don’t get many coupons in Canada, and stores don’t tend to double them, so I just watch for sales and pick up things when they come back to the lowest price.

  26. want to get more involved in stockpiling

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