Monday, April 18, 2011

Couponing for Beginners Part 2: Why building a stockpile is important (and a Realistic one at that)

In today's installment (since I'm looking on being pretty busy the rest of the week, I'm doing this early) of Couponing for Beginners, I wanted to clear up what a stockpile is and what you should look for when building yours.

Essential to keeping your week to week grocery budget low is to build a stockpile.  And NO you do not have to build a 30,000.00+ stockpile to save you money each week.  You do not need to have a super market in your house to save money.  Seriously!  My grocery budget as it is standing right now is at about 100.00 per week for my family of four and that's with going through a gallon of milk a day (and no, I'm not kidding, although seriously sometimes I wish I was).

The point of building a stockpile is simple.  To buy enough of an item when it is on sale cheap, or within your "target price" (which you'll figure those out when you become more familiar with coupons and sale trends) to ride out fluctuations in price on that item to get you through to another low sale point.  The point of buying more than one of an item is so that you can go quite a while without having to buy that item, essentially, so that in the future you can avoid paying full price (and flinching when you do) for that item.  Once you build your stockpile you'll quickly figure out how to rotate things out and pick up things when they are cheap to keep your stockpile (and you) happy.

Here's an example (I took a picture of mine just because it's the only one I could find that was sort of realistic that someone who is moderately into couponing would have) of a stockpile (or at least most of one since my is scattered around the house a bit)...

My Pantry Shelf
I use just a nice restaurant style shelf I bought at Costco two years ago for my pantry and it works pretty well, although sometimes when I'm stacking canning jars I wish I could set up another one somewhere (there's empty space you aren't seeing here too because I always pull my jars/items forward so that I, being the short little thing I am, can reach most everything without a stool :).  Like 90% of my food items are housed on this shelf in my stockpile (my cabinets are mainly used for "day to day" cooking items since I have to jump a baby gate to get to my pantry shelf, and they also house appliances and stuff as well).  If there is one thing I have is a tremendous lack of room and closets in this house, so I like to call this look the "getting the most out of your square footage to the point of stupidity" deco look.  And, no, we do not have a garage, so I'm not "hiding food" somewhere else ;).

The biggest thing I wanted to show you about my pantry is this.  Every SINGLE thing on that pantry shelf is being used and believe it or not we tend to go through those items within a year (my home canned goods are getting low from using them all winter, but by the end of summer I'll be canning more and the processed foods will take a back seat again to home canned stuff...I LOVE that time of year :).  I'm not big on buying 50 of something I don't need just because it's free (put it in other words I don't really want to buy 50 things of Miralax and than try to figure out creative ways to get rid of it later just because it made me .50 per bottle or something...get what I mean?).  That's my own personal "couponing etiquette".   I know some other people aren't that way, but it's just the way I am.

My Toiletries Cabinet
This is my toiletries cabinet (as I like to call it).  This is actually originally supposed to be the cabinet that you keep your laundry detergents in, but it is pretty high up and mounted above the dryer, so I found it better suited for this purpose instead of giving myself a hernia stretching up and trying to pull down a full 2 gallon thing of Clorox from the cabinet or something (the deodorant and things is actually shoved into the top section, but I was taking the picture at 2:00 am and didn't want to rummage too much to show things for fear of waking my son up...daughter was still awake in case you are wondering ;).

Things like razors, toothpaste and the like I keep in my master bathroom in small rubbermaid drawers (my diaper stockpile...2 boxes ahead at all times if I can help it and my toilet paper stockpile are in the bathroom too). Currently that part of my house is a somewhat hap hazard mess, so I REALLY didn't want to take a picture of that right now.  Needless to say it does all fit in there just fine, and it's a pretty narrow/small master bathroom ;). 

 I also have a supply of bulk foods and with bulk foods the storage is different...I keep bulk things of flour, sugar, rice, beans, wheat and the like on hand at all times, usually in 5 gallon food-grade buckets for things that I buy at the Church cannery, or at Costco or Sam's Club...for me it just seems smart to do that .  Those things are actually stacked right by my dishwasher in my kitchen/dining area (lack of closets remember?), and it works okay.  Not in any means ideal, but it works.

The amount I HAVE may very well seem extreme to a lot of people, but my circumstances are this.  My husband works in construction, which results in periods of unemployment.  Some of those periods have been scary long (3 months with no pay, etc.).  So, to get through those periods of unemployment I like to make sure we have enough food to get by for at least a month if possible for anything non-fresh (and yes, that includes frozen when I can fit it in my freezer :).  And that is a month of living comfortably (I might be making our own bread and the like, but we could still live decently well, except for buying the occasional produce or milk).  I keep a couple of months on top of that "living comfortably" stockpile so that if need be we could live on beans and rice for months on end until we have work again.  It comes with the territory because honestly there have been times where if I didn't have a good stockpile of food it would have come down between groceries or paying our electric bill.  So, I probably keep more around in the way of food than some people.

The biggest thing to remember when building a stockpile folks is to keep in mind how much of a supply you feel is necessary to keep your grocery budget stable in between sale periods on items.  For instance, during the summer I tend to stock up on lunch meat, hot dogs (into the freezer those go!) and condiments (you can usually get SOME type of BBQ sauce free with coupons during the summertime) because those items go on sale CHEAP (I've gotten hot dogs as low as .49 per package after coupon, cheap) and I get enough to last us through the winter so I don't have to buy those items at full price during the winter months. During the fall is the time to stock up on canning materials for me (I buy enough lids to last us through the winter for my canning jars, etc.) and things like canned pumpkin.  After Thanksgiving is also an excellent time to buy Turkey to freeze as well.  Christmas time is the baking supply season for getting those things cheap and stocking up and dividend time...all bets are off on stocking up when those come in ;).

The biggest thing I want to stress here is that each stockpile is going to be different from family to family.  First and foremost buy what you NEED and will USE to get you through till the next sale (and as you coupon you'll quickly figure out when those sales are most likely to hit) and then after that is when I'd stress buying "satellite  coolness" where you can try new products, buy things like sweets and stuff like that.  Once you have your basics covered it will amaze you how much more freedom you have in your grocery budget from week to week and how very CHEAPLY you can live once you have the necessities on hand.

In the next installment of this series of blogging articles I'll get down to the nitty gritty, try to cover the ground floor of couponing, like what are coupons and where do we get them (I'll keep that one relatively short so as not to bore people too much ;).  Trust me, I'm getting to the, "Where is the coupon stacking and stuff, lady!" section of the course.

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