How to Build a Stockpile on a Budget

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Those who coupon are generally very proud of the fact that they have built this masterpiece they call their “stockpile”.  They have a tendency to talk about how to save money on groceries and even go as far as showing off their stockpile as much as possible.  A lot of work goes into building these stockpiles and they are amazing to have handy for emergency preparation as well as hardships that your family may run into. Stockpiles also double your savings when you reuse the bottles most products come in. I upcycle old bottles, find ways to upcycle milk jugs,and more! We even have a list of over 60 items (now) that we stopped buying and started making at home. It saves us money and yes! The majority of them can be made ahead of time so that I can build a stockpile of them!

How to build a stockpile to save money and be prepared - Confused by how to start a stockpile? Don't be! This quick and easy walkthrough will show you the basics of building it (without going broke) and keeping it fresh! Easy peasy and soon you'll have a stockpile to be proud of! Great for learning how to save money on groceries and emergency preparation too!

There is a lot of confusion on stockpiles between people who practice extreme couponing and those who get a deal here and there. Some say it is a beautiful project to have all their savings displayed, others say it is hoarding and a waste of space.  I often get the question of “Will you actually use ALL of this?” Truth be told, yes, my family will use every bit of the stockpile I keep.   My stockpile has gotten my family out of numerous tough times including back in 2014 when our finances tanked and we couldn’t grocery shop for months.  You know the times I speak of, when you forgot to get a new razor, ran out of toothpaste or shampoo.  It’s so much more convenient to head to your pantry versus running all the way back to the store

What is the difference between hoarding and stockpiling?

Stockpiling is defined as accumulating a large stock of (goods or materials).  Organization is key with your stockpile. It’s a form of collecting and perfect for emergency preparation. Generally stockpiles are created with the use of manufacturer coupons from your sunday newspapers or printable coupons.

Hoarding is actually a mental disorder. Hoarding disorder is defined as a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them.

How will stockpiling save you money?

Most stores have an annual schedule of what items to put on sale when.  These sale cycles can save you money and I don’t mean pennies. Retailers use these sale cycles to create their flyers which in turn, brings you into the store and often causes you to pick up several impulse buys.  Many retailers will use the seasonal buying preferences of its customers to their advantage. Soups in fall, eggnog at Christmas Time, eggs in spring also fall in this rotation. They also have a shorter rotation of about 13 weeks to keep merchandise moving off the shelves which is why you see items like tuna go on sale at regular intervals.

Having a stockpile of food means that you can get most, if not all, of these items only when they are on sale instead of having to purchase them impulsively when they’re at full retail price. When you combine this with printable coupons or insert coupons from your sunday newspaper it becomes a powerful tool for keeping money in your pockets.

If you choose to get the sunday paper for coupons but maybe you’re wondering “How many coupons do I need?” The average is four newspapers worth for the average household of four people. Don’t toss the newspapers however, try these ways to upcycle newspapers.  It’s rare that you find meat coupons, but you absolutely can build a stockpile of meats too. You just need to look for ways to save money on meat that don’t include coupons.  If you do happen to come across a meat coupon, be sure that you absolutely do clip them, print them or barter for them.

How to start a stockpile

  • Make up your shopping list. Don’t look at your coupons or sales items yet, just list what you actually need at the current time.
  • Go to your cupboard and circle what is on your list that you have enough of to last you a week or two, depending on your shopping routine.
  • Now get out the coupons and sale fliers for the stores you plan to visit.
  • Look at the circled items on your list and check your sales and coupons. If an item is circled and isn’t on sale, cross it off the list – you have enough for now.
  • Anything on sale or with a coupon add a few to your need count. For example, if you need 4 but it’s on sale, buy 6.
  • If you have a coupon and it’s on sale, double how many you need. For example, if you need 5 then buy 10.
  • Now go shopping. Hit your local stores first and then hit your bulk stores like Sam’s Club or Costco.

After you’ve gone through this process, you are well on your way towards saving money. Keep shopping this way for a few weeks and eat like you normally would and you will never have an empty cupboard. If you need to see even more savings and coupons and sales fliers are helping just not as much as you’d like, you can learn how to earn gift cards to get free groceries. My process for adding $225/mo in extra income is a great place to start.

There are some things to keep in mind when you put the groceries away. Expiration dates matter, so rotate your stock. First bought, first used. Always put the newer stuff in back. This will cut down on waste due to out of date food. If you are concerned that you won’t be able to keep your stockpile rotated properly, picking up a can rotation rack or two can help. I keep them in my house and they’re fantastic for keeping things organized.

When your cupboards are full, it’s time to take an inventory of what you have to make sure that you are happy with the amount you have stockpiled or if you want to go bigger and try to keep a year’s supply on hand to take care of the annual rotations. All  you really need to do for an inventory is take a spreadsheet with one column for the item name, one for your current amount, one for goal amounts and one for expiration.

A lot of stockpilers use a deep freeze as well. Just be sure that you keep in mind the rotation of stock and be sure to freeze it immediately. Picking up a FoodSaver can help here since it allows you to move bulk packages into smaller ones that are more manageable. I have gotten into the habit of using a sharpie and writing the dates on the package before I put it away. You can absolutely use freezer labels, but keep in mind that they may rub off over time or the printed dates smear off.

While having all of your cupboards, pantry, garage and quite possibly a spare bedroom in your home full of groceries may be ideal for you, keep in mind you can stockpile more than groceries. Toiletries rarely go bad and store extremely well. Soaps and other HBA items are able to be stored almost forever. Paper goods as well as long as you make certain you’re keeping pests away so that you don’t end up with a half eaten roll of paper towels due to them. Kitty litter stores indefinitely and can be used in so many other ways than you might expect. Vitamins and first aid items also usually have long expiration dates too.

Once you’ve built up your stockpile, make sure that you don’t leave things there. You might also want to look into building up some freeze-dried food storage too. We have had to live on ours full-time in the past and I can tell you that if we had not had it, things would have been extremely rough. Your stockpile can be a great emergency preparation tool. Using it in conjunction with learning how to to prepare for summer storms, prepare for winter storms, how to build an emergency auto kit and how to build a 72 hour emergency bag. Doing so could literally save your life one day.



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Stacy Ott

Stacy Ott is the face and brain behind the frugal living and lifestyle blog Six Dollar Family as well as The Genealogy Queen and a few others.By the age of 30, Stacy had overcome an alcohol addiction, a drug addiction, divorce, survived domestic violence, and had built a life for herself and her daughter after spending 10 months in a homeless shelter. Stacy is passionate about homeless advocacy and addiction education.  Her first book, also called Six Dollar Family is available on Amazon.

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