I’m reprising an old post today since this is a question I hear frequently from my readers: How do you afford to stockpile all those good deals? Especially if your grocery budget is already stretched to the max with your weekly list?
Here’s one particular question I got from C in California:
I know you talk about stockpiling and I love those pictures of all your cereal, but I’m wondering how you have money to do that, plus all your regular shopping, too. I’d love to start stockpiling, so that I don’t have to pay full-price on my groceries, like you recommend, but then I don’t have enough left over to pay for the stuff I need that week. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.
When I first started couponing, I often wondered the same thing. It was enough of a struggle to cut our budget by $50 a week. How was I was supposed to buy more groceries on LESS money?! It seemed impossible.
I still don’t have the world’s most amazing stockpile, but my weekly shopping has gotten to the point where I can mostly focus on buying fresh – fresh dairy, produce, poultry, fish and meat. Boxed or canned goods almost never make it onto my list, because I just go shopping in my basement.
Here are some steps I took that got us here:
#1. Start with toiletries and household items
I started by focusing exclusively on the CVS deals (and occasionally the ones at Walgreens). By rolling ECBs (or Register Rewards), I was able to spend less than $5-10/month and stock up a year’s worth of toiletries, over-the-counter medications and first-aid supplies, cleaning supplies, lightbulbs and more.
This took me about four or five months, and then I was able to take a step back from CVSing and turn my attention to the grocery store. The baby step approach worked for me – and if you’re feeling overwhelmed by trying to fit this all in, I think it might work for you, too.
#2. Put aside a small sum of money for stockpiling
I suggest setting aside a small amount of money each week to cover stockpiling – no more than $15 or $20/week, although less is certainly fine!
You can even put it in a separate envelope marked Stockpiling. That way, when you find a good deal, you know you have the money to cover it without negatively affecting the rest of your shopping budget.
At the beginning, your budget is going to be especially tight, so you may only have $5 to set aside. Even $5 can make a dent when you’re couponing. In fact, if you can combine a BOGO sale with a BOGO coupon, you will be able to stock up for nothing out of pocket!
#3. Focus on the Freebies
If your weekly budget is especially tight, now is not the time to stock up on brisket. Yes, even if it’s marked down. Remember: There will always be another mark-down, another sale, another clearance. If you can’t afford it right now, it’s not a bargain!
Instead, look at the stuff that is free (or almost free).
If it’s something you use – even occasionally – go ahead and stock up. If BBQ sauce is free after coupon, pick up a few bottles. It may not seem like a huge savings, but the next time you plan a cook-out, that’s $1.50 less that you’ll have to spend!
#4. Update Your Pricebook
Before you go all out and buy 20 bottles of salad dressing, you’d better be good and sure that the salad dressing is actually a good deal! Free is obviously a good deal , but any other price might require the use of a price book. (If you’re new to keeping a price book, you can read my tutorial.)
But why? Isn’t the sale price the best price? In a word: No.
The same store can put bananas on sale three weeks in a row – one week for $.45/lb, the next week for $.39/lb and the third week for $.29/lb. If you aren’t keeping a price book, you might just assume that the first week’s sale of $.45/lb is a rock bottom price.*
#5. Don’t trust the store’s sales. Trust your price book!
(*If you need bananas, $.45/lb isn’t a bad price — but it’s hardly worth stocking up and baking a dozen banana breads for!)
#6. Follow the Momentum
As you slowly build your stockpile, an amazing thing will happen: You will have more money every month because there will be fewer things you need to buy.
Instead of buying one box of pasta each week for $2, you can buy 3 or 4 for the same price — and be set for a month (or two weeks, if your family eats like mine!). Instead of buying one box of cereal for $4 each week, you can buy 4 or 6 or more boxes for the same price.
Even starting small, stockpiling will create margin in your budget – and that margin has momentum. Once it starts building, all you have to do is follow it!
I’m sure I’ve only skimmed the surface, so let me turn it over to you: What other stockpiling tips (or questions) do you have?
Do you have a question about keeping kosher on a budget? From menu planning to couponing to stockpiling, I’ll do my best to share my strategies. Feel free to leave me a comment or contact me. And stay tuned for a Reader Q&A about how to get the best prices on meat, coming soon!