Wednesday, October 19, 2011

{31 Days to a Functional Kitchen} Day 19: Stockpiling Basics

For me, having a functional kitchen means having a well stocked pantry, freezer and refrigerator.  Meal planning is much easier when I have the ingredients that I need, when I need them.  This is a real look at my pantry.  Yes, we are a family of four (or 2.5 considering we are 2 adults and 2 young children who don't eat much).  Yet having a good supply of items is crucial for putting meals on the table on a moments notice.

Smart shoppers fill their cupboards by buying low, buying lots and thinking long-term.  This is the art of stockpiling products you regularly consume or use so that you never run out.  Impulse and “need it now” shopping is a budget-conscious shopper’s enemy.  Reactive shoppers buy only what they need, when they need it despite the price – which is usually full retail.  For example if a pasta your family uses is usually $2 a box and between coupons and store sales you can get it for $.50 a box you would stock up on that item.

Here are a few things to consider when beginning to stockpile…

  • SPACE – You need to understand what and how much space you have available for your stock-pile. Extra shelves, a spare closet, garage space, freezer space, etc.  Think about space for food, cleaning products, toilet paper, toiletries and more.  You may want/need to look in to shelving to keep your stockpile organized and accessible.
  • CONSUMPTION – What products does your family go through quickly, use daily, weekly, monthly?  This is important when allocating space for your stockpile.  It doesn’t make sense to buy 12 boxes of cake mix if you only make a cake once a month.  However, if you go through 2+ boxes of cereal a week, you can easily buy 15 boxes for your stockpile.  Generally speaking you want to have a 2-3 month supply in your stockpile.  Be mindful of expiration dates on items so you don’t buy too much.
  • BUDGET – Building your stockpile will take time and is an on-going process.  If you have a set amount of money you can spend per week on shopping, set aside a portion of this to put towards your stock-pile and pick up a few extra of the “great” deals that week.  Over time, this stockpile plan will free up more of your budget because you are not having to buy “cereal” this week because you bought 15 last week when they were $1 a box – this week they are $3 a box.
  • WATCH FOR THE DEALS - Most items are on a 12 week sales cycle with the “best price” for an item or category of items to be offered every 12 weeks.  They may be on sale more often but their lowest price will occur about every 3 months.  The best sales will be around 50% or more off of the regular price.  Coupons are also cyclical and will generally follow these seasonal cycles.

  • Generally speaking, you want to purchase enough of an item to last you about 3 months.  This is the typical sales cycle for most grocery items.  More non-perishable items like toilet paper can be stockpiled longer if you have the space.
  • Shopping may cost a little extra in the beginning until you have built your stockpile.  Once you have filled your pantry and freezer, you may see a significant drop in your weekly shopping bill and will find that you are having to buy fewer things at full price.
  • Be mindful of expiration dates.  You don’t want a year’s supply of something that expires before you can use it all.  Also rotate your items and place the new stuff in the back and pull the older items to the front. 
  • The more coupons you have for an item, the more of that item you can purchase.  This is where picking up multiple copies of the paper can come in handy.  When you stockpile you want to buy multiples of the item, needing multiple coupons.  Trading with friends is another way to get your hands on coupons for the items you want.
  • Don’t stockpile items that are new to your family until you know that the item is something that you will use and enjoy.  The last thing you want is to have 10 of something that your family won’t eat. 
  • Don't get caught up in all of the packaged foods and overlook the basics.  Items like pasta, canned tomatoes, beans, rice, spices, condiments and baking supplies can be used to make a wide variety of meals.  Keep your favorite vegetables (canned or frozen) on hand to quickly add to a meal (if you only like fresh vegetables then this is not an item you would stockpile).
  • Don't forget to plan your menu (at least a little bit).  The last thing you want to do is come home from the store with $100 worth of groceries and nothing to eat for dinner.
  • Think about how your eating habits change seasonally.  If you bake more in the winter, stock up on more of those supplies.
I hope that this information gives you the motivation to stock your pantry and save a few dollars along the way!

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