Before I started couponing, I thought a stockpile was just a big stack of laundry! But no, it’s actually a stash of food and toiletries that can sustain your family for months, if you learn how to live on your stockpile.
The cardinal rule of couponing is to buy items when they are at their cheapest. This means that when the cereal my family likes can be purchased, with coupons, for less than $1 a box, I buy as many boxes as I can with the coupons I have. Why? Because I know we will eat the cereal, whether we do it next week, next month, or three months from now. And when we do eat it, I know I will have gotten it for the best possible price.
Buying groceries in this way requires a different system of organization than what you may be used to. Don’t panic—you don’t need to devote an entire room to your stockpile; you can work with the space you have. In my case, I put up three, 6-foot long wire shelves in my laundry room. On these shelves, I organize the groceries by type: cereal goes in one section, pasta in another, BBQ sauce and salad dressings in another area. Always keep the items with the earliest expiration dates to the front, to ensure they are used first.
When setting up your stockpile, take the time to set up a list of critical items, so that you can track them when you run low. You don’t need to do this for every item—the world won’t end if you run out of BBQ sauce, but hey, the family cat will notice if you run out of cat food! You can have a countdown for these items, so that when you get down to two bags or so, you know it’s time to look for the next sale. Family members who pull from the stockpile should understand it’s their responsibility to cross off the checklist as they use items.
Here are some ways your stockpile can benefit you:
- Work with your stockpile as you plan meals. Did you get a great sale on chicken last week? Start looking for recipes that can stretch that chicken a dozen ways.
- For those of us who live in disaster-prone areas, we know how important a dry-goods supply can be in times of hurricanes or other natural disasters, when grocery stores may not be accessible.
- Don’t be afraid to see your stockpile as a sort-of savings account. On more than one occasion, when we have had an unexpected setback, such as a major car repair, we took the money for the repair from the grocery budget and simply lived off the stockpile.
Find some space you can call your own for the stockpile and start organizing. Your family and your wallet will be glad you did.