Creating a Stockpile 101: Build your stock

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Stockpile 101
Are you working on building a stockpile? See more tips for Creating a Stockpile.

Now that you know why you should stockpile, have some idea how to organize it, have a good idea what should go in it and have your space – it’s time to fill up your stockpile.

Don’t buy it all at once.

Unless of course you have a few hundred dollars laying around that you need a use for. The key to filling your stockpile without breaking the bank is to do it a little at a time. That way you have longer lasting sustainability. Stocking up all at once will save you money for a while, but if you don’t continue to stock and fill it while you are using it you just put yourself back in the starting position.

Do a power hour every week.

Have your budget noted. Sit down with your coupons, Deals in the Mitten and your pen. Start by selecting everything you need for the week. Then, fill in with anything you need. If you are using the match ups provided, an hour should do it. If you are doing it on your own, it will take longer. Whatever money you calculate as your savings should not be pocketed.

Reinvest what you have saved into your stockpile.

If you saved $20, $40, $50 – whatever your amount – you need to reinvest as much of it as possible into your stockpile. What items are at the lowest prices that you have enough coupons to purchase more of? And can it be stored until you use it? After that, if you still have budget money left, still don’t pocket it. Roll anything you have left over to the next week. Since sales vary so much from week to week there’s a good chance you will be able to use it on a rock bottom deal soon.

How long should you reinvest?

It’s going to depend a lot on the size of your family, your eating habits and the sales you shop. In general reinvesting 100% off your savings for 6 weeks works well to get you started. Spend another 6 weeks reinvesting about 1/2 of your savings to continue to grow your stockpile. After that, you should be able to cut at least 1/2 of your average savings out of your grocery budget permanently.

Why 12 weeks?

Because that’s about the average at which types of items rotate on sale. It might not be the same brand each time, but we usually see good buying prices on similar items at about that interval.

Don’t be picky.

Well, not too much. Some brands you just don’t/won’t like. Some are worth trying at least once when the price is right. Consider boxed pasta. How much of a difference is there in Mueller’s vs Ronzoni vs Store Brand? Can you be happy interchanging them knowing you are saving more money?

Watch those dates.

Know what date codes mean. And make sure you don’t buy so much that it will go bad before you can use it. Yeah, if it’s free you want to get as much as you can use before it goes bad, but do you really want to eat applesauce every day to use it up?

How is your stockpile coming along?


Creating a Stockpile 101: Organizing

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Stockpile 101
Are you working on building a stockpile? See more tips for Creating a Stockpile.

Organizing your Stockpile

Confession: The most organized thing in my house is my pantry. It’s the one thing that is always organized. My friends will vouch for me on that, I’m sure 😉

So, being the mostly unorganized individual that I am, what do I know about stockpile organization? I used to work in a grocery store or two and a couple of drug stores. Applying some basic stocking rules to home was pretty easy and they are something that will help all of you get a better grip on your stockpile.


Grocery Store Rule #1 – FIFO (first in, first out) – what comes into the stock room or goes on to the shelf first, leaves the stock room or shelf first.

At Home Adjustment #1 – FEFO (first expires, first out) – Now if you only shop one store, FIFO works. But, if you shop multiple stores that have different supply lines and turn over stock at different rates, you will want to read the expiration dates on the items you put in your pantry and make sure that the items that expire first are in front of items that expire later.


Grocery Store Rule #2 – Keep like items together. Stock rooms that have things just tossed in them with food between household items not only make it harder to find things, but can cause major problems if there is any breakage.

At Home Adjustment #2 – Because your home stockpile is on a much smaller scale, it’s not a hard and fast rule to separate items as much as a store would. However, by keeping like items together, you make it a lot easier on yourself. If all of your breakfast items are together, then you don’t have to look in 3 or 4 different places to take a quick inventory.


Grocery Store Rule #3 – Remove it from the shelf by the date on the package. By law, stores are supposed to do this at first line stores. The rules are different for salvage and other after market locations.

At Home Adjustment #3 – Just because the store has to remove it by the “Sell by” date, doesn’t mean that it item in no longer good. See what expiration dates mean and know what is safe and what might not be the highest quality.


Items in boxes are best stored on a high shelf. They are more easily damaged. However, whenever possible, all items should be on a shelf and not directly on the floor.

Ideally having everything in one room is best, but if you are not able to store items that way, take a moment to create a master list on your computer or by hand for your fridge so you know where to find things at a glance.

HBA storage goes well in a bathroom or closet if you need to make the space in your pantry for food.

No matter how you end up organizing, it’s important to keep it organized. Find a method that works for you and stick to it.


Creating a Stockpile 101: Know Your Date Codes

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Stockpile 101
Are you working on building a stockpile? See more tips for Creating a Stockpile.

Know Your Codes

Sell by. This date means that a first line store (not salvage) must sell a product by this date or remove it from their shelf. Depending on the item, it might be good for a few days up to a couple weeks after this date. This date code is typically used on fresh items such as meat, produce and dairy.

Best by. You will find this date code on shelf stable items like dressings and peanut butter. As long as these items are stored properly, they should be safe for consumption past that date, sometimes for months, but you may see changes in color or separation of the parts of the product.

Use by. Also found mainly on shelf stable items, but this one tends to be found on items that have a longer shelf life. This one also tends to be a little more of a “you really want to use it by then” date. After the use by date has passed, it’s probably edible for a while, but you start to run a higher risk of the packaging breaking down or seals loosening. Either of those things can cause chemicals or air to mix with the product and potentially cause not only quality, but safety issues.

Expires on/Expiration date. Typically this code is not used on items other than baby food/formula and drugs (OTC and Rx). It is recommended by the government that you do not use items after a set expiration date on the package.

Packaging Codes. These will typically include one of the dated codes mentioned above, but also references a batch or production number that helps stores locate specific items in the event of a product quality or recall issue.

REMEMBER. These codes really only pertain to unopened packages. Once a can or jar has been opened, all bets are off and environmental factors can quickly cause spoilage. Proper sealing, repackaging or freezing can extend the shelf life of opened products.


Creating a Stockpile 101: Ten Items to Stockpile in Your Pantry

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Pantry Stockpile Items
These are my favorite items to have on hand in my pantry. They are inexpensive and sometimes free to purchase in large quantities. See more tips for Creating a Stockpile.

Cereal/Oatmeal – Never should you pay over $1 for everyday cereal. Dietary concerns excluded. Cereal can often be purchased for as low as $.50 and other deals have made it free. Usually pretty good shelf dates on cereal.

Canned Fruit and Veggies – $.25 target price for canned veggies, $1 for canned fruit (and I really load the shelves if I can find canned fruit for under $1). Yes, fresh is better in the eyes of many, but canned options are better than going without a balanced meal.

Boxed Pasta – Target price for me is $.25 and I have often gotten it for free. Boxed pasta lasts like what seems like forever! There are so many things you can do with it. Main course, side dish, but I don’t suggest it for dessert 😉

Canned/Jarred Sauces – Target price varies by type, but tomato based are the least expensive to start. Pasta sauce price ideally is under $1 for a jar. Stock up at $.75 or under. Tomato based sauces also make a good “veggie” serving.

Canned Meat – Tuna – $.50/can is a good price, stock up in a big way if you can find it for less. Shelf life is long. Though I’m not a huge fan, there are many ways to prepare it.

Canned Soup – For things like Campbell’s Ready to Serve varieties, you can often get them for $.75 each after sales and coupons. I majorly stocked up last spring when I found them for $.25 each.

Boxed Potatoes and Rice – Rice can be purchased inexpensively almost any time. Boxed potatoes are a buy at $1, grab a few extra at $.75, and stock up at $.50 – I’m still holding on to a bunch from a rollable OYNSO where I got them for free last year.

Peanut Butter – My target price used to be $.50-$.75, but we haven’t seen it that low in a long time. $1.50 is a good price these days. It usually has a good 1 1/2 years date on it and it’s a great source of protein.

Crackers – Again, another one that I don’t pay more than $1 for. There are so many varieties available so it’s not too easy to get sick of them.

Dressing – Mayo, mustard, ranch, bbq. Target prices will vary by item. Pretty long shelf life on many.

Is there anything you would take off or add on to this list?


Creating a Stockpile 101: Finding or Making a Space

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Stockpile 101
Part 2 in the Creating a Stockpile 101 series. See Part 1, Why Stockpile? here.

Finding or Making a Space

The number one issue most people have about stockpiling is their perceived lack of space. Media has made a big deal out of “impressive” stockpiles that have taken over whole rooms, garages and even every spare space in some houses. What you need to do is take a realistic look at the needs of your own situation. How much money do you need to save? How large of a stockpile (in months) do you need to meet your goals? Do you have or can you make the space to store it all?

Sometimes it’s about thinking beyond typical.

I personally gave up two extra feet of my family room in our downstairs when we built the wall so that I had storage space in my utility room. Not many people have that option. But, if you are remodeling, moving or building and can build it in, it makes planning easier. We had a strange cut out space in our bathroom downstairs so that’s where our “use first” HBA items go. Any extra after that go in a storage tote in the bottom of the closet.

IMAG0673[1]       IMAG0675[1] 
Many people have converted coat closets. Some go all out and remove everything but the pantry, some make it dual purpose with extra shelves. Converting hall closets into pantries is also popular. Just remember that whatever you take out has to go somewhere else!

For small spaces, consider storage and decorative totes and boxes. Can clear containers double as storage and decoration? Under the bed storage totes (in clear for easy identification of items) are also an option. Can you store items in decorative baskets on top of your refrigerator or cupboards in your kitchen?

Sometimes you just have to make the most of the space you have. Will adding a wire shelf let you stack more boxes in your cupboard? Can you add a pull out unit under your cupboard? Can you combine boxes of cereal bars, pasta or cereal? Have you maximized your freezer space by removing bulky boxes and marking bags? Can you repackage items to avoid air pockets that take up space? Can a junk drawer be cleared out? Can some non food cupboards be combined to make extra food storage space?

For non food items, does it have to be accessible visually and daily? Can you tuck it in a tote in the back of a closet? If it’s not a liquid can you store it in a box in the garage year round? Ask yourself where you have space, or make some.

Be sure to think it through.

If you are storing under the stairs, in a utility room or a garage you will want to invest in a basic shelf system. Be it stand alone or built in, you will want something to keep items off the ground. Keep in mind any issues in the area, if your utility room floods every spring you will want to avoid using the space or want to consider additional plastic storage totes on the shelves to keep your stockpile safe.

Pick your battles.

Remember as you take a look and start making decisions that you have to find balance. Figure out what items you need/want more of on hand and how you can store them. If you are limited on space you will have to make some choices so your stockpile doesn’t end up owning your space.


Creating a Stockpile 101: Why Stockpile?

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Stockpile 101
Why stockpile?

By purchasing items at well below retail prices and holding on to them in your home until you need them, you avoid having to pay retail price. When you acquire two or three products for the price of one, and will use them up before they go bad, you significantly stretch what your budget can do.

You save money when you buy at a lower price. You avoid extra trips to the store when you have things on hand. You have more flexibility in your budget and your cooking decisions.

Common misconception: You must have a huge stockpile that over takes your home and will last you for years.

It’s not so much about buying everything in sight and holding on to it for years to come to save money. It’s about knowing that the sales on any given type of product cycle to a stockpilable price about every 3-4 months. It’s about paying attention to how much of something your family uses on average and purchasing enough of it at that low price to last through the average sale cycle for that product.

It makes a lot more sense for most families to create a reasonable stockpile that will support their budget over time.

Stick with me over the coming weeks as I help you build a stockpile and system that will put you on track to savings.