Groceries and other household items we use are expensive. We all know that. We can do all we can to save money on food, but I am certain we all know that there are times in our lives where we may have trouble paying for those things as well even though we know they are necessary items. The answer to those tough times is learning how to build a stockpile on a budget. This stockpile of groceries and household goods is there to give you and your family a buffer should times get tight. Learning how to stockpile is a great way to help yourself if you’re trying to stop living paycheck to paycheck. Because learning how to stockpile household items and groceries can be downright expensive if not done right, I wanted to throw together a few stockpiling tips for you.
First, let’s clear something up; 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 while 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.
How to Build a Stockpile
My stockpile has gotten my family out of numerous tough times including back in 2014 when my finances tanked and I 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. No matter how much we may use it though; anyone will a stockpile will almost always be accused of hoarding at some point or another.
What is the Difference Between Hoarding and Building a Stockpile?
The simple fact is that stockpiling is an organized method of building a storage for your family. Hoarding is a recognized mental condition that causes people to accumulate trash and other useless items. Hoarding causes issues and sometimes harm for the people around the hoard while building a stockpile – if done correctly – helps those around it. Know the difference if you plan to learn how to start a stockpile on a budget because you will most likely have to defend your decision at one point or another.
Stockpiling for beginners
When I decided to write this post, I knew that I needed to give a few stockpiling tips that would help everyone. I want this post to be a guide for how to stockpile without coupons and how to use coupons to build a stockpile. I want it to be a guide for those who are looking to stockpile food for emergencies but also those who are just trying to save a few dollars each month. If I do things right, by the end of this post, both groups will know how to do it successfully.
Because I want this post to be a complete guide to stockpiling for beginners and a guide on how to stockpile on a budget, it is a long post. I want to be sure I give you everything you need to help you build your stockpile and I can’t do that with just a few words.
How to Set Stockpile Goals
Before you even begin building your stockpile, you’ll need to know exactly what items you are trying to stock. I prefer to use a spreadsheet to track things, but you can use whatever works for you. I have seen others use ledger books or just a simple pen and paper. No matter what stockpile tracking method you’re using, sit down with it and make a list of commonly used groceries and household items your family uses. As you’re making your list, be sure to set a goal amount for each item.
Your stockpile goals will likely be different for reach item. For instance, we don’t eat a lot of canned peas, but I stockpile a few cans just in case. My goal amount may be a simple 10 cans. We do, however, eat canned green beans a lot when we don’t have fresh on hand. My goal amount for green beans may be 40 cans. Your amounts will vary per item and that is perfectly okay. It makes no sense to stock a ton of an item your family uses very rarely.
How to Start a Stockpile on a Budget
Once you have your goal list completed, you can begin to stop. The best way to start a stockpile without coupons is to do it slowly. Try to avoid the impulse to run right out and drop $1,000 on getting your stockpile going. It can be tempting to want to build things quickly, but you will spend far more money than is necessary if you do so. Instead, keep these general stockpiling tips in the back of your mind as you go:
Always use every outlet you have
It can be easy to get stuck in a shopping rut where you’re only shopping at the same stores. This is one surefire way to spend more money than you need not only in your regular grocery budget but also when you’re learning how to stockpile. Instead, use every resource available to you to save money.
For instance, in addition to your local grocery stores, you could sign up for a Sam’s Club membership. This would give you the ability to buy in bulk which may or may not be a better deal.
You could also sign up for Amazon’s Prime Pantry. I recently added quite a bit to my own stockpile for a final cost of less than $1.00 per item using Prime Pantry coupons and a Prime Pantry sale. If you’re not a current Prime Pantry member you can save even more by taking the time to sign up for a free 30-day trial of Prime Pantry before you shop.
Always shop for the deal
As I said, getting blocked into shopping in one location is a great way to waste money. Instead, shop for the deal at all stores in your area. Get the sale ads or visit the stores website to check prices. If you are unfamiliar with regular prices at your local stores, take the time – before you start shopping for your stockpile – to make a price book that will help you keep track of those regular prices. Stores are great about advertising something as a sale when it really isn’t.
As I mentioned above, I recently did a huge amount of Prime Pantry orders. The reason was a sale where you saved $6.00 on qualifying items when you bought five qualifying items. I used these deals to stock up on cereal and other breakfast foods, drinks, snacks for Steve on the truck and more. Since I knew what my stores regular priced and sale prices generally are, I was able to buy the things we needed at a deal and avoid spending money or getting caught in the “it’s a deal” trap.
Always look for a way to save
Even if the store or website you’re shopping does not offer direct ways to save money, there are almost always ways you can save a few bucks. You could earn free gift cards to help offset your out of pocket cost for your stockpile items. This is something I do daily so I almost always have a good supply of them to use. If you’re new to earning gift cards online, there are over 40 ways to earn free gift cards that you could use. Find a few you like and stick with them.
For shopping online, be sure you sign up for an Ebates account. Ebates is a cash back shopping site that will quite literally pay you cash back when you shop online. They have a special relationship with thousands of websites and when you make a purchase through Ebates, they get paid a small commission. They in turn pass a portion of this commission back to you as cash back. When you first sign up for an Ebates account, they will also give you $10.00 free on your first purchase of $25 or more.
For in store shopping, you’ll want to sign up for an Ibotta account. Ibotta works like Ebates except with regular groceries. When you sign up for an Ibotta account, you will add rebates that you want to redeem to your account. Once you have gone shopping, scan your receipt and/or the item barcode and your rebate amount will be added to your account. When you reach $20.00 in your account, you can cash out for Paypal cash or gift cards. Both are paid instantly.
Always look for the free option
Despite what most people think, you can get something for free these days and you should always look for that option when you’re first learning how to build a stockpile. I have already mentioned earning free gift cards to use to pay for your stockpile, but there are other options too. Anything you can get free is going to do more good for your budget than anything you pay for.
Referral programs are great ways to not only earn free credits that will help you save money, but to help your friends as well. For instance, sign up for a Grove account and they will give you a free $10.00 credit when you refer someone. You get the free $10.00 Grove credit that you can use to “buy” things such as toilet paper or detergent and your friend gets a free 5-piece Mrs. Meyers cleaning set when they sign up.
If you have a baby, Honest Company has a great referral program you can use as well. Not only will they give you a free trial of Honest Company diapers and wipes when you sign up for an Honest account, but you will also get a referral link. Your friend will get the same free trial offer you did and you’ll get $20.00 in free credits for each friend you sign up.
Always add just a little bit extra –
There won’t always be a true deal or sale for you to find. This means there will be times when you must pay retail prices. To prepare for this, always add a few extra items when you do find a sale. If you would normally buy 5 of something when it is on sale, buy 8 or 10 instead. Put the 5 on your regular shelf and the rest in your stockpile.
Doing things this way will ensure you always have what you need, but will keep you from spending more than you want or can afford. You can do this with freezer and refrigerated items too as long as the products you are buying are safe to freeze. It may surprise you the number of foods you can freeze to save money. All you need is a chest freezer with a bit of room in it.
How to Keep Your Stockpile Fresh
Once you’ve started working on how to stockpile household items and groceries, you’ll need to know how to keep it fresh. The short answer is rotation. The long answer is that you need to learn the difference between best by and expiration dates first. Knowing these dates will help you keep track of when something really needs to be used by before it goes bad.
When you purchase new items for your stockpile, you will need to rotate them. The easiest way to do this is to use a permanent marker to write the date of purchase on the item. When you go to put it away, put the new items in the back so that older items are pushed forward and used first. This ensures that nothing will spoil before it is used and that you always have a fresh supply in your stockpile.
How to Stockpile fresh fruits and vegetables
You may not think you can stockpile fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables, but you can. They just take a little bit more preparation to do so. You will need to buy a dehydrator before you shop. Once you shop, slice your produce into manageable pieces and dehydrate them.
Dehydrated fruits and veggies last years provided they are kept in air tight food storage containers. Ideally, you would want to learn to use mylar bags and oxygen absorbers if you wanted them to last more than a few months. To use them, simply re-hydrate them with a bit of water.
Dehydrating foods can be a great way to avoid food waste from your own garden or to stock up for the year when you find an amazing sale. I recently found white button mushrooms for $0.99/lb and because I dehydrated them, I was able to pick up enough to last my family a year. Now when I need mushrooms, I won’t have to pay $2.00 more per pound since I already have them in stock.
You can also dehydrate certain meats, but to be honest, I find that they do not re-hydrate as well. I prefer to preserve meat by home canning it. This is, of course, a personal taste choice so you may want to give it a try before you write it off for good.
Managing your stockpile over time
As you build your stockpile, you will slowly start to get a true idea of what your family actually uses and how much of it you use. You may find that your initial goals and thoughts were way off base. This is absolutely normal and totally okay. If it happens, simply adjust the amount in your tracking method and move on.
As you rotate, be sure to keep your stockpile clean. Our food – especially food in cans – comes to us dirty enough already. Allowing dust, dirt and other issues to happen to your food is only begging for trouble. Throw away cans that rust or are dented. Take a damp rag and wipe off dust and dirt. If you are home canning to preserve, check your seals regularly and toss any food that has a popped seal.
There is no reason to risk the health of your family just to save a few dollars. That defeats the purpose of learning to stockpile and will very likely cost you far more money in the long run than the bad food did in the first place.