Buy more to spend less, advises Melissa Jennings, co-author of "Savvy Savings: Couponing Secrets from Stockpiling Moms."
Ask any “extreme couponer” what the key to saving money on groceries is, and you’ll likely hear about shopping from your stockpile. But if you’re not about to stash 100 mustards in your garage, how does “stockpiling” really add up to savings?
Counterintuitive as it may seem, buying multiple quantities of an item your family regularly uses when it’s at a rock-bottom price will save you money.
Here’s how: Let’s say you typically buy two boxes of cereal per week at $5 each ($10 per week for a total of $40 per month). But by matching a sale with a coupon you find cereal for $.88 per box. Instead of buying just two to last the week, purchase the entire month’s worth (remember, you could buy 11 boxes for the cost of what you usually spend on two, so your out-of-pocket cost is not any higher than it would be normally). You’ve just saved yourself $30 for the month. Now apply this concept over several of your most-used items and suddenly your grocery bill is slashed in half.
According to Melissa Jennings, co-author of “Savvy Savings: Couponing Secrets from Stockpiling Moms” and the popular Stockpiling Moms blog, even the average grocery shopper can benefit from the principles of stockpiling food. “Just by watching the sales cycles and keeping a price list, anyone can save money. But if you match those sales with coupons, you can take your savings to a higher level,” she explains.
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“Instead of purchasing a quantity of food you need on a weekly basis, like many of us are accustomed to doing, you watch the sales and match those items with coupons. When the product cycles at rock bottom, that is 50 to 70 percent off, then you purchase enough to last your family until the next sale,” advises Jennings. Shopping this way can take some getting used to, but it ensures you don’t have to pay full price. And that’s when the savings add up.
If you’re ready to give stockpiling a whirl but don’t know where to start, note the essential items your family uses most and focus on stocking your pantry with a three-month supply of those staples first. Here’s a list of grocery items you may want to consider:
• Pasta: It can be used in endless ways, and it’s often free when a coupon is matched with a sale.
• Peanut butter: At full price it can be expensive, but it’s a staple in households with children, so stock up when you find a good deal.
• Canned tuna, salmon and chicken: Great for adding protein to a meal in a pinch.
• Bottled water, sports drinks and juice: Lifesavers when you’re running late for soccer practice or gymnastics.
• Granola bars and power bars: Matching coupons with a sale will often make these free, so stock up for snacks and lunches on the run.
• Cereal: Never, ever pay $5 for a box of cereal again — even organic or gluten-free varieties. Stock up when you can get it for under a buck (preferably $.50 or less).
• Nuts and trail mix: Nuts have a good shelf life.
• Beans, canned and dried: Beans have a long shelf life and are more versatile than many people realize.
• Canned and frozen vegetables: Come winter when produce prices skyrocket, you’ll be glad to incorporate veggies into your meals, courtesy of your stockpile.
• Salad dressing, marinades and soy sauce: These items are regularly free with a sale and coupon matchup, so stock up.
• Crackers and chips
• Coffee: If you brew Starbucks or Seattle’s Best at home, you can find it for $4.50 per pound or less by combining a sale with a coupon.
• Olive oil, seasonings, herbs and spices
• Condiments, such as ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce and relish: These can often be purchased for free or less than 30 cents a bottle in the summer months. Purchase enough to last your family until the following year, when they hit the sale cycle again, but be sure to check the expiration dates on the product.
• Gum and candy: Drop $50 each October on candy? Not anymore. Pick up sugarless gum through the year when it’s free and stash it away until Halloween.
• Flour, sugar, yeast and other baking essentials
Jennings recommends planning meals around what you have on hand and shopping your pantry weekly. Once you have established your stockpile, don’t forget to rotate items regularly and check expiration dates to avoid spoilage.
Andrea Dashiell is a freelance writer.