6 Tips for Fitting Stockpiling Into Your Budget

6 Tips for Fitting Stockpiling Into Your Budget

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!

free cereal stockpile

#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!


  1. Stockpiling only works well if you have an organized way of storing what it is you have purchased. Otherwise you lose track of all your great buys. Sadly, our pantry does not look as neat as the photos – I wish it were. It is my goal to get more organized with our dried goods and our freezers (we have three). Our toiletry closet though is very organized and I can look quickly and assess that we have plenty of this or we are running low on that. So stockpiling and losing track of your par levels or having food go bad or freezer burnt does not save you time or money. (and it makes me very very sad!) You have to work the ‘baby steps’ together – as you learn the coupon techniques, make sure you are developing a storage system and rotating your stock simultaneously.

  2. great great article – thanks Mara!

  3. I have to agree with Dana. There needs to be organization or you can’t find anything and you buy things you don’t need.

  4. This is so helpful – Thank you. My SO and I (who keep strictly kosher, and I am gluten-free) were moved by your blog to order Dave Ramsey’s book and, even before getting his book, to start putting ourselves on an austerity budget so we can get out of debt and eventually start to save. I used to do the CVS “game” and we have a veritable pharmacy in one of our closets! But my SO felt I was spending money to “save” money (I wasn’t always totally effective in ONLY using ECB’s to buy things) at CVS and isn’t thrilled when I come home from the grocery with lots of extra boxes and cans because it means I spent more than what was in our budget. I am totally a stock-up type of person, but it’s time for me to BUDGET for it. It is helpful to hear how others do it. I think while we are on our “austerity” budget I am going to start budgeting $5 or $10 a week on “stockpiling”. I can pay for it, if need be, through online surveys I complete. I am such a sucker for a good deal – I know that’s such a Jewish stereotype, but I just love saving money! Speaking of which, my SO (who, although an observant Jew, is blond and doesn’t “look Jewish” …whatever that means) was standing in line at ShopRite and two people ahead of her was an obviously frum man using a lot of coupons. The person in front of my SO turned and said to my SO “that’s how THOSE PEOPLE [read: Jews] get all their money.” BTW, this was in Englewood, a town with loads of religious Jews and right next to Teaneck. Amazing.

  5. BTW, we are apartment dwellers. But we recently had to rent a storage space because of being foster parents and therefore having boxes and boxes of kids’ clothes in various sizes. We have decided we can put some of our Costco stuff (such as excess toilet paper) and some of our stockpile stuff in our storage space and go “shopping” in our storage space! It’s very accessible. The other thing we can do is use under-the-bed plastic bins with wheels to store stuff in the bedrooms. We also use high, hard-to-reach kitchen cabinets for stuff like this.

  6. In business, they say you can have 2 of the following: fast, cheep, good. One is going to have to sacrifice.

    In our home (a 2br condo with 2 boys under 5 and a work-FT-from-home mom), it’s always a trade-off of the following: time, space, money.

    So, I try to find a middle ground on them- I currently have a ‘stockpile’ of 13 boxes of cereal, which is just about as much as I can fit in my galley kitchen. So, no matter how good the deals are, as Mara says, “If you can’t afford it, it’s not a bargain” – I can’t afford the space, so it’s no bargain.

    I’m such a Mara fan. *{blush}*

  7. If you already have a stockpile, do you keep buying more? Particularly if its something on the pricier side? i.e. there was a sale on kosher chicken, $1.50lb less than usual, so I bought 10 packages and put them in the freezer. I havent begun to go through it all yet when I saw another sale at $2 cheaper per lb. Do I buy more? At what point is your stockpile complete?

    • Mara Strom says

      My general rule of thumb with stockpiling is “enough until the next rock bottom price”. Since that happens about once every 3-4 months, that’s how much stockpile I get. If with a specific item, you know it’s not a matter of a cyclical sale but a random mark-down, I might get more – especially if I had room to store it. (And room in my budget to buy it.) I hope that helps, Shana!

  8. Mara, we have a problem with pantry moths, and stockpiling is not an option–any grain- like items in cardboard or even cardboard cans w/lids (matza meal, oatmeal)are subject to “invasion” by the larvae. Its horrible and I”m working on finally ridding our cabinet of them , but in the meantime I’d never stockpile anything in a box againb because of that. that’s my lament… anyone else have this pest?

    • Mara Strom says

      Ewww, I’m sorry 🙁 Can you store in tuperware containers? Like empty out the bags into bulk containers. We’ve been fortunate and not had to deal with that. I do freeze flour first before storing on my shelves, which I have read will kill any larve. (Ew, again.)

      • I have stored cereal boxes, bags of chips, oatmeal, coffee and lots of other items in the freezer both long and short term. Works like a charm. I like to keep a large stockpile of rice because it is so cheap and we eat a lot of it. So, I don’t store all my stockpile in the freezer. I’ll put maybe a half dozen bags of rice in the freezer for a few days after I buy it, then get them out, let them come completely to room temperature and lose all excess moisture in/on the bag. Then I store them in empty plastic coffee “cans” with tight-fitting lids marked with the contents. Just had pantry moths last year and after cleaning out and starting this new routine have had no reoccurrence. Thanks for the helpful info. Mara!

  9. Mara, Can you comment on bugs, rodents, and power outages? I want to stockpile but I am worried about losing it all. We have already had ants and mice this spring. Thanks!

    • Mara Strom says

      The majority of my stockpile is non-perishable, so I don’t worry too much about power outages. That said, I’ve read that food in chest freezers lasts for 5-7 days after a power outage, while the tall ones only last 3 days. Ants and mice (ew, sorry!) are another story. Can you store in plastic bins or containers? If I knew we had a problem, I’d probably put my cereal boxes (for example) into Rubbermaid tubs.

      • One has to be careful with any plastic with mice. They are strong gnawers and can even get through some “Tupperware” that might not be very thick. They can get through the disposable types of storage containers. Glass is a good option if the kids aren’t going to handle it. I keep all flour, sugar, etc… in tall glass mason jars.

        We moved into a house with mice. It was worth the expense for us to have a contractor (family business, great guy, reasonably priced) plug every spot he could find by which critter could get into our home. We also hired an extermination company that laid mouse and glue traps. They come fairly quickly when we call with a “problem”. It has been six months (I know seasons can have an effect) and at least twelve visits, but I think the problem is under control. We feel both investments were worth the cost.

        • Mara Strom says

          You are a brave woman!!

          • Thanks, Mara. It would have been nice if the seller disclosed the little critters. They also didn’t disclose the leaking dishwasher. It worked, so the inspector said it was ok. Caveat emptor – if you are considering a house with a dishwasher, try to have it run a full cycle so the seller can fix any problems! Also, have the air tested and get an exterminator to check the house for droppings, etc… It may cost, though it may save in the end! We love our house, but hindsight is 20/20.

          • Mara Strom says

            Glad you got thru it… we found a mouse in my garage once (it was actually in the toe of my shoe, which was by the garage door… ewwwwww… and I put my foot into the shoe.) I did not handle it well 😉

          • That is a huge ewwwwwwwww!!!

  10. I don’t know if my previous comment was received but if you have an older family member, take them shopping on senior discount day. Walgreens has it today and I know that Kroger has one. Ask your store when they have senior discount day. I saved a lot at Walgreens today when stocking up because I am BH, 58 and the cutoff is age 55.

  11. Mara,
    Thanks for posting this article about your stockpiling. I also started with the deals on shampoo, toothpaste, bodywash, etc at CVS and Walgreens. I don’t think I’ve paid more than .25 for toothpaste or toothbrushes(most were free) in a few years now. Even if you don’t have multiple freezers or much space, you can start your stockpile small and still see a big difference. Regarding the person who wrote about the price of chickens – I would buy at both prices as kosher chicken doesn’t usually go on sale as often as other products. As long as you have the freezer space and are pretty certain you will use it in a time, go for it. I wish I could get that price where I live!

  12. Avigayil says

    great tips! i am new to this and feeling overwhelmed I will start slow with cvs!

    • Yes, Avigayil, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. I was like that at the beginning too. It helps to remember to only attempt one or two baby steps at a time. My tendency is to want to “get it all taken care of”!

  13. You mentioned combining a BOGO sale with a BOGO coupon. I have never thought of doing this and I’m intrigued! I can’t seem to wrap my head around how the math would work. Could you give me a “for instance” and elaborate on this? Thanks!

  14. I’ve found that whenever I stock up on something, I tend to use that item more than if I had bought it week by week. For example, if I have a bunch of frozen meat in the freezer, I’ll start using meat in my menus more, because we have it around. This makes stockpiling an expensive habit for me!
    Anyone have similar experiences? What do you suggest?

  15. Thank you for the tips, I have been wanting to start stockpiling. You mentioned certain stores, like cvs…have you ever tried to stockpile at Costco or Sam’s? That is what my husband and I were thinking of doing, and shopping there maybe once a month or so.

    • Mara Strom says

      Connie – You can definitely stockpile from Costco or Sam’s — the key is having an updated Price Book, so you know that you’re stocking up at a “buy now” price.

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