Thursday, June 5, 2008

Stockpiling Can Save Time and Money

The idea of stockpiling may seem at odds with one of the tenets of frugal living -- simplicity.

To live frugally is, by definition, to live simply. The goal is to purchase only those things that you need and to fulfill only those most precious wants. It follows that if you don't buy a lot of extraneous things then you won't be emptying your bank account.

And this certainly makes sense. However, one of the best ways that I know of to save money in the long run requires me to horde certain things.

I'm talking, of course, about stockpiling -- that notion that when you see a great deal on something you use regularly that you should buy as much of that item as you can afford/use/store.

Please note my wording -- a great deal on something you use regularly. That's important. A great deal, not a good deal. Something you use regularly, not something you use every now and then.

In our family, those items that we use regularly and that we stockpile include:

  • diapers
  • baby wipes
  • toilet paper
  • paper towels
  • toothpaste
  • toothbrushes
  • deodorant
  • detergent
  • dishwashing and dishwasher detergent
  • Shampoo (conditioner, not so much. A bottle lasts me a long time!)
  • soap
  • cereal
  • apple juice
  • salad dressing (especially in the summertime)
  • frozen vegetables
  • frozen shrimp
  • meats
  • occasional convenience meals (for when I'm too tired to cook)
  • soft drinks (or sodas or pop to those of you living outside of the South)
  • dog food

Actually, the list could probably go on for awhile. But you get the idea.

I like to keep these items on hand, so I don't run out. Just today, I tossed out an old tube of toothpaste and ran upstairs to my toiletries stockpile to grab a new tube and a new toothbrush for myself.

That was so much easier than wrestling the empty tube for one last squeeze and then trying to remember to swing by the drug store for a replacement. And thanks to some great deals I've found at CVS and Walgreens and the Grocery Game, that toothpaste and toothbrush didn't cost me a cent. Not one cent. (If you're a super frugal shopper, you know how I did it. If not, I'm happy to share my secrets with you. Just post a comment or a question.)

Because of certain circumstances, I have stockpiles of other items, as well. These are things that I don't use as often, but I've still got a lot of them thanks to a variety of reasons. (Remember, I'm a reforming shopaholic. Also, it seems that certain items have a way of multiplying because they're such popular gifts. What woman doesn't have more candles than she can use? And my skin would have to be drier than the Sahara for me to use up all the body lotion that I've amassed.) I'll use these things as I need them or I may pass them along to friends or donate them to charity.

By keeping these items organized together, I always know what I have and what I need. Ideally, I should never run out.

Sometimes even I get fooled. For example, I thought we were stocked up on toilet paper last week, but my husband informed me that we were completely out. I'd mistaken our stockpile of paper towels for toilet paper! Ouch -- and I mean that literally and figuratively.

To remedy the TP disaster, my visiting father-in-law ran to the store to pick us up enough rolls to last us a week or so. Since then, I've stumbled on a great ExtraCare deal from CVS, so I'll be buying a bunch of 9-packs of Charmin this week. We shouldn't run out for quite a while.

Stockpiling How-To

If you're contemplating starting a stockpile, I'd love to share with you some tips on how to create and organize yours. I've found that you really don't need to devote an incredible amount of space to your stockpile (or stockpiles, if you spread them around the house, as I do.)

  1. Group like items together. That way, you know at a glance what you have and what you need. I struggle with this often -- not because of my own organizational skills but because of others who live with me. My toddler loves to get in the stockpile and rearrange things. Apparently, it's fun for almost 2-year-olds to load baby wipes, dog food and canned goods into their wagon. And my husband, bless his helpful heart -- never seems to sort things quite right on the shelves.
  2. Keep items handy. Like everyone else, my time is tight. So, I like to be able to grab something and go. I hate searching for something or having to traipse halfway across the house to get something that I need right this minute. For that reason, I keep things like cosmetics and shampoo and hairspray and body washes stockpiled on a small shelf in my closet. If I run out, it's easy for me to dash in the closest and grab something while my toddler is sitting on my bed reading or watching Curious George.
  3. Consider a second refrigerator or freezer. As I mentioned, we keep a stockpile of certain food items -- lots of frozen meats, veggies and convenience meals in the freezer. Since we live in the south, we never like to run out of cold drinks, so the second refrigerator comes in handy. Ours is in our garage, and we've only had it for a couple of months, but I couldn't live without it. I suspect it will become even more essential as my son gets older and his appetite grows. (When my brothers were teenagers, my mom had to keep her second fridge packed.)
  4. Shop your stockpile. When I find great deals on groceries, I stock up. However, I don't have room in my relatively small townhouse kitchen for all those extras. So, I repurposed an old bookshelf as a secondary pantry. It's in my garage, as well, and I keep nonperishable, pest-proof foods and household items there. (Think canned and bottled goods, toilet paper and paper towels, plastic bag and laundry and dishwashing supplies.
  5. Keep pests away. I learned this the hard way. Apparently we are -- or we were -- providing rent-free housing to a family of rodents in our garage. Before we got rid of the problem once and for all, we lost a tremendous amount of food to these vermin. They were attracted to anything sweet and anything in a box -- macaroni and cheese, cereal, rice mixes, hot chocolate in foil packs, and even Splenda. Now, we don't keep any perishable food unprotected in the garage. If I need to stockpile these items, I'll store them in the pantry in my kitchen. In the case of snacks and cereal, I keep a few items in a small plastic bin on top of the refrigerator in the garage. I only buy what will fit in there. Depending on your storage conditions, you may have to contend with ants or other insects. But there are ways to prevent these invasions.
  6. Let your stockpile guide your cooking. Every now and again, I'll find a recipe that I just have to try. But I usually plan our meals around what we have in the stockpile. Tonight, we grilled chicken (marinated in an expensive grilling sauce that I got for less than $1), a noodle side dish (bought on sale for less than $1) and some steamed frozen peas (bought on a super sale with a coupon.)
  7. Try other brands. I'm brand loyal to a few things -- Coke Zero, for example. But since I've started stockpiling and bargain shopping for basics, I've relaxed some of that brand loyalty. It is possible to stockpile only your beloved brands, but it will take longer, and you probably won't be able to keep as robust a stockpile. But if you're willing to try other brands, you'll save a lot of money. And you may discover that your brand allegiances weren't so deserved. For example, I used to use only Degree deodorant and Finesse hairspray. But since I've begun stockpiling, I've given some other brands a try and I've been pleased with the results. My pits don't stink, my hair looks great, and I have extra money in my purse. As for Coke Zero -- I always have to have some in the house, but if I find a good deal on Diet Cheerwine or Diet Dr. Pepper or Diet Mountain Dew, I'll buy a few. But never Diet Pepsi. Ick!
  8. Know when to say, "Enough!" Nearly every week, I find toothpaste on sale for nothing or next to nothing (when combined with store and manufacturers' coupons and rebates). But I won't be buying any for quite a while. There are just three of us -- and Jackson doesn't have a full set of teeth yet! -- and we probably have enough toothpaste to last us the year. Even when you stockpile, you much set a threshhold of how much is enough. Your threshhold will be different from mine, and it will likely vary from product to product.

Do you stockpile? I'd love to hear your comments on how you make this budget-trimming tool work for you.


  1. I'm yet to get free toothpaste/toothbrush (been doing this for a week and a half). I had to cave the other day because we were low. I paid 50c for a tube.

    How is it done?!?! :)

  2. I have also found that stockpiling is the easiest way for my family of six. Right now, I buy everything at Sam's once a month, because shopping with twin four year olds is challenging, lol. When they start school, next year, I plan on trying the CVS-Walgreens plan to see what we can save. I also have area for organizing our supplies, and an extra freezer outside. I freeze bread, chips (out of sight out of mind), meat, veggies, cheese, etc. It works quite well for us.

  3. We stockpile on the most used items, as well. I recently organized stuff into categories, and I was completely embarrassed to realize that I had 22 bottles of lotion. Yikes! All the women in my family will be getting lotion in their stockings this Christmas, for sure!
    I also try to cook 1 meal each week from my pantry or freezer, as a reminder to use what we have on hand! This helps our grocery bill and it helps to keep the amount we have stockpiled under control. After all, what is the point of buying all that food if you forget to eat it?!

  4. Maeyb:

    I think you did pretty well getting your toothpaste for 50 cents a tube, especially when othes are paying $2 and $3 for it. I'll try to do better each week posting these freebie deals. After I go through Sunday's ads, I'll post a roundup of great free (and almost free) deals.

  5. Feed the Moose:

    How do women end up with so much lotion? You inspired me to do a count, and I've got 10 bottles, not to mention what's spread out throughout the various bathrooms in the house and in my nightstand. I'd venture to guess that I have at least 22 bottles. (And I'm ashamed to admit that I bought another bottle today specifically to treat my dry, cracked heels. I'm so ashamed. My name is Amy, and I'm addicted to lotion...)

  6. OK, you girls made me count... and I have 9 lotions right now (not including the one by the bed that use just before bedtime)

    I can't imagine not stockpiling, especially as the price of gas keeps going up! No more making a quick run to the store because we just ran out of something. (which, I have to say just depresses me. I do love any excuse to shop!)

    One of the things I have to remind myself is to check on my stockpile every couple of weeks and make sure I have what I think we have. We were almost at the bottom of our shampoo stockpile and I had no clue until DH asked for a new bottle.

  7. Thanks for this post, I just shared it on Frugalness 4 Mom at Freebies 4 Mom.

  8. I've been doing the Grocery Game for a couple of months and I'm so happy with the stock pile I have! We had a garage sale, cleared out a lot of junk, bought shelves with the proceeds of the sale and moved a bunch of boxes out to the garage to make room for a food storage area under our stairs. We still haven't filled all our shelves, which is fine. My grocery bill is going down and we have more food than ever. I just wrote a list of meals that I can make with the things I have stock piled and I was impressed with the 10+ meals that I have the supplies readily available to make. Someday we'll get a freezer chest for our garage so we can stockpile more frozen foods. :)

  9. I just got a garage freezer second hand a month ago, busy stocking with .88 cent ham from Walmart, free Crabmeat from Tom Thumb, and BOGO chicken from Kroger. I think I could make about 25 meals with my stockpile, all with meat. woo hoo! After playing this game for 3 months, I'm down to just hitting stores for things I can get free or less than $1 and fresh fruit, which I get from Fiesta for about $8 a week (6 bananas, 3 grapefruit, 6 apples, 3 kiwi, 3 pears, 5 peaches, a cantaloupe and some grapes). Weekly, I get 3 Cottonelle toilet paper for .44 cents and 3 .44 cent rolls of Bounty at Kroger which keep the stockpile piled.

  10. I stockpile as much as possible, and when our storage limits are reached, I donate the extra to the local food pantry or send overseas to soldiers. If I can get it free, I always do. Someone else can always use it! :)

  11. My number one goal is to simplify and be organized. The one area I allow excess is in stockpiling. It is just the smartest way to shop! I love the Grocery Game, too, and between that and CVS, I am getting our household bills lower and lower. We have a pantry (shelving) in our garage, right by the door to our house, so I can grab what I need quickly. Most items are split around my house, too, for convenience.

    Planning your menus from the stockpile is really the best way to keep your grocery bills at their lowest and use up all those great deals.

    I recently read one Wall Street analyst quoted as saying that you are better off stockpiling food right now than putting your money in a money market - as the prices of food continue to rise, your return on investment is greater. And he was talking about regularly priced food - shop for free or very little an you are making money!

  12. I haven't started stockpiling food yet. That is my ultimate goal. I am just having a hard time finding "really good deals". None of the stores around here double coupons and there is only one grocery store in my area on the grocery game, and I feel that store is much more expensive than say, winco? IDK.

    I started stock piling other items about a month ago. It is really fun. I have enough toothbrushes and toothpaste for about a year I think. So, I am going to be moving on to other items now :)

    Thanks for your site and feel free to stop by mine sometime.

  13. I stockpile anything I can get my hands on cheap also. I have a bathroom full of stuff that will last atleast a year or more. I also have a side by side fridge and a chest freezer that is stuffed to the top! Mainly with all the .50$ bacon I got last week... LOL

    I am about to post pictures of my stockpile on my blog within the coming week, I hope.

  14. What a great post! I am on the same page as you! :-)

  15. Okay, so I'm all up on the basics of stockpiles.. we shop in bulk and end up with a bit of one by nature. However with our limited space unfortunately do not have much variety, only a few staple items and things such as a few bulk foods. However, I'm really wanted to learn more about how to do the couponing, CVS and Walgreens stuff you mention. This is very interesting!

  16. One more addition to your list that we stockpile when it's on a great sale: Peanut Butter!

    Especially when the name brand stuff is less than the generic! Then look out for me with my dozen jars! :)

    Great post, I totally concur.

  17. Tip for stockpiling peanut butter if you live in a city with both a Fiesta and a Kroger: Go to Fiesta, pick up some of their .35cents off coupons on Jif which are in-aisle hanging on the shelf ALL THE TIME. Take those coupons to Kroger when Jif is on sale, they will triple to give you another 1.05 off each jar.

  18. I forgot about peanut butter -- probably because we're still working on the million or so jars I bought about a year ago when Harris Teeter was doing triple coupons. OK, I didn't really buy them, I got them free.

    I can't wait until Jackson is 2 years old and can eat peanut butter. I figure then he can help us power through that stockpile.