Thursday, March 31, 2011
How to Do the Coupon Thing: Part 6-The Stockpile
Those are pictures of my freezer. Some of the things inside include:
4 boxes of vegetables
5 bags of vegetables
8 containers of apple juice concentrate
1 container of Cool Whip
2 bags of chicken wings
1 3 lb. bag frozen chicken
1 lb. of 96% lean ground beef
2 20 oz. containers ground turkey
1 loaf of wheat bread
1 package hot dog buns
1 large container roasted chicken
Before I started doing the coupon thing, I wouldn't have had half that stuff in my freezer. Some, like the veggies and apple juice, I might have had, but certainly not in that quantity.
What's the difference? I learned the importance of stockpiling. Instead of spending $1.50 or $2 on a container of apple juice concentrate when I run to the store, I bought 12 containers for about $0.80 each (plus I got 2 free freezer bags!). Now I've got enough to get us through until the next big sale. I'm actually low on chicken and ground beef right now; since I know the sales should be right around the corner.
So what is stockpiling? It's buying larger quantities of an item than you don't need right now in order to save it for a later date. It's highly recommended that you have a small stockpile in case of an emergency. For couponers, it means buying a lot of an item when it's at a great price so you won't need to buy more until the next time it's at a great price.
Last week I bought 20 bottles of flavored water. I did it because I got it for free and Dave drinks one at work every morning. I could have bought 5 or 10, just enough to get by until the next week or two, when I'd run to the store and finding that nobody had anything similar to flavored water on sale, I'd buy the generic brand for $1 each (not counting CRV or tax, both of which are charged on that type of water here in CA). By stockpiling, I saved myself $20 over the course of the month and the "DARN DAVE NEEDS WATER" run on Sunday night, saving gas too. Now, the water sits in on the shelf in our pantry specifically for Dave's lunch.
What can you stockpile? Almost anything! The only thing you will have trouble with could be food that spoils (and even most of that can be stockpiled in your freezer). Right now I have stockpiles of tortillas, ketchup, peanut butter, jelly, pasta, canned veggies, canned beans, tea, frozen veggies, roasted chicken, apple juice, chicken wings, Cool Whip, blueberries, strawberries, cereal, flavored water, small bags of chips, flavored drink pouches, coffee cakes, oatmeal, flour, sugar, powdered sugar, vegetable juice, toothpaste, toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, deodorant, pain medicine, cold medicine, cough drops, razors, dish soap, dishwasher soap, laundry detergent, bleach, cleaning supplies and children's toys (for presents). I got all of these things when they were on an awesome sale and now I have less worry about running out before the next sale.
But I don't have space to stockpile stuff! Have I ever mentioned that I live in an 865 square foot apartment? And I share it with another adult (Dave) and 2 children under the age of 6 (Beautiful G & Sunshine). We have a lot of stuff. I don't have a room dedicated to my stockpile. I don't have a garage to put shelves in and hold my stuff. All of my smaller bathroom items (toothpaste, pain medicine, etc.) and my cleaning supplies share a single shelf in my hall closet, between Beautiful G's craft/school shelf and Dave's tool shelf (Oh, the camera and envelopes share the same shelf as the stockpile). The paper towels and laundry items sit on the high shelf above the washer & dryer (also located in the hall, btw). Toilet paper hides in the girls' bathroom and food supplies are spread through the high shelves on my cupboards and in the fridge or freezer. Oh, yes, I have a regular every day upright fridge and freezer, just like your average American. No spare freezer here. And the toys? In the bottom of my closet next to my sewing projects.
If I have space, I bet you do too. Look around. Do you have a shelf in your pantry you could clean out? How about some high shelves in your cupboard? Much of my stockpile sits on the high shelf because I know I won't need to get into it daily. When I do need to get in it, I can bring a step stool or ladder over and pull down what I need. I've heard of people who would store stuff in plastic bins under their bed.
But I don't want my house cluttered with stuff! Well yeah, I get that. I don't like tripping over stuff anymore than you do. Which is why it's put away, in a certain place. If you put everything on a single shelf, organized, it won't be clutter. Let's say you buy 10 boxes of pasta because you got it for free. You can put two or three of those boxes with your normal pasta supply and put the rest up on the high shelf, organized with the other things in your stockpile. When you use the last box of pasta on your normal shelf, pull down two or three more. It's not clutter if it's stored properly and you will use it. If you get something for free and won't use it, donate it instead of letting it sit in your stockpile. If it won't get used, it is most certainly clutter and needs to go!
But I'm not a store; I can just go get more whenever I need it! This was Dave's thing for a while (and he still says it sometimes, until I remind him why I stockpile). You're right, I'm not a store. But if it's 5 o'clock and I'm in the middle of making spaghetti only to find that I don't have a box of pasta, I'm much happier pulling one out of my stockpile of free stuff than I am turning off the stove, getting two kids in shoes and to the car, drive to the store, pick up a box and head home to restart dinner. I'm also happier when I'm not paying $2 or $3 for a box of pasta because I didn't get any (or only got one or two) when it was free. It's less of a hassle and cheaper to stockpile.
Ok, you've convinced me. How do I start? This is a lot easier than you think. First, look at the ads and the deals posted online. Do you see anything you could use in your house for free or will make you money? That is going on your list (heck, if it's free, I'd put it on your list even if it's not something you can use. Instead, donate it!). Next, see if anything else on the list is something you use regularly that is very cheap. See chicken breasts for $1.75 lb.? Add that to your list. Make sure to write down the amount you'll need to get to the next good sale (usually between 8 to 12 weeks, although for some things it will be longer and others much shorter). Once you've got that done, add the other things you have to buy for the week, even if it's not on sale. On those, try to buy fewer since hopefully it will go on sale soon.
Do this week in and week out. As you continue to do it, you'll quickly see your stockpile growing. You won't have nearly as many items on your "I have to buy now" list and more on your "stockpile" list. There are some truly extreme shoppers out there who only buy stockpile stuff and stuff like milk and produce that doesn't store long (I'm not there yet).
At first your grocery budget is going to get bigger unless you are very careful about it. If you can't afford right now for your budget to grow any, then figure out your weekly grocery budget. Once you have that figured out, continue as above, but keep close track of the costs. If you are going to go over budget, I suggest putting back stockpile stuff first (but not all of it, or you'll never get anywhere) or see if there is something you don't absolutely need in your non-sale stuff and put it back. The more you stockpile, the lower your grocery bill will become (or the more stuff you have in the house, which happened to us). Remember that and you'll save yourself some headache.
This is part of the "How To Do the Coupon Thing" Series. Check HERE for all the posts in the series
Look the next exciting installment, How to Do the Coupon Thing: Part 7-CVS