When you stockpile effectively, you never have to worry about running out of a common item and needing to pay whatever outrageous price your local store happens to be charging for it that day. If you walked into my house today, you would find 10 tubes of toothpaste under the bathroom sink and 15 jars of peanut butter in my pantry. This isn’t because I’m crazy (although my family might beg to differ)—it’s because I only buy these items when they’re at their absolute lowest price, and I buy them with coupons. I’m never going to have to go out and pay $3.50 for a jar of peanut butter or $3 for a tube of toothpaste. Instead, I stocked up when they were nearly free and bought enough to last us until they hit their lowest price again. When we run out of something, we just go into the cabinet and grab a new one instead of running out to the store to replace it.
Just as important, if there are no good sales at the store this week, I might skip buying anything but perishables. This is because I stocked up on everything else at its best price, so I don’t actually need to shop. This lets me shop much more strategically. I can easily cook a week’s worth of meals (or more) out of my stockpile, and no one would notice the difference. Stockpiling saves you time and gives you many more meal options each week, even if there aren’t any good deals at your local stores. It also cuts down on those midweek trips to the store, where many of us are likely to pick up impulse items.
If you have limited storage space, you might want to start just by stockpiling a few of your family’s most commonly used items when you see a fantastic deal. For many people, this may include things like cereal, peanut butter, diapers, deodorant, toilet paper, toothpaste, and shampoo. (But think creatively here: Risers can create under-the-bed storage, and over-the-door shelving can turn the insides of closets and cabinets into a pantry.) Organize your items so that those with the earliest expiration dates are in front and keep like items together so that it’s easy to see what you have at a glance.
Depending on the types of items you purchase, you may also want to invest in a separate small freezer. Watch craigslist (www.craigslist.com) and garage sales for deals on gently used freezers. We eat meat more often than I’d cook for just myself, so I buy and freeze extra chicken, hamburger, and the like when I see it at a great price. I also often buy the large “family packs” for an extra discount, then immediately repackage them into smaller sizes and freeze them when I get home. You can also freeze some types of produce, cheese, even milk (pour out a bit first so the container doesn’t burst)—you can stockpile almost anything!