‘Stockpiling” is the term couponers long have used for shopping ahead of sales cycles, then storing groceries and supplies until the next sale. It’s a great strategy for shelf-stable, nonperishable or freezer-stable items.
Buying at a low sale price with coupons ensures that we never have to pay full price. Need another box of cereal? Tube of toothpaste? Roll of paper towels? Grab it from your stockpile versus running to the store and you’re saving big.
However, for some people, the word “stockpiling” has become synonymous with “hoarding” or “buying big.” And based on some of the email I’ve received, I think we need a new word for what we do! Thanks to extreme couponers, the word seems to be scaring would-be couponers.
Q: I know couponers are saving large amounts of money on everything. But I have seen those TV shows where people stockpile a whole bedroom of things. We don’t want that much in the house. Don’t these people want to live in their living spaces? Show me couponing without stockpiling and I might sign up.
A: Notes like that make me want to scream from the rooftops, “MY house isn’t full of cans and toilet paper!” My stockpile fits on a set of shelves in my laundry room, and it’s rotated regularly. For most items, I’m buying only in quantities that we can use over about a three-month span. But couponing without some form of stockpiling is tough as we “win” the couponing game by buying when prices are low, then using our on-hand inventory when prices are high.
I try not to stock up on anything that we won’t use before its expiration date. Completely nonperishable items, such as paper products, never expire. Even when I’ve hit a great deal on paper towels (and ended up stashing extra rolls in the garage!), I think the longest that stock-up lasted was close to a year. And the paper towels were on a shelf in the garage, so they weren’t taking up living space. Most times, I buy in three-month quantities. It’s not as much as you might think — for our household, three months of ketchup is three bottles. Three months of a favorite cereal is about nine boxes.
But for other items, it’s good advice not to buy more than you can use before a product spoils.
Smaller stock-ups, replenished every few months, ensure that your inventory remains fresh.
So what should we call these “smaller” stock-ups? Readers, I’d love to hear from you!