For the first few years of our marriage we lived in very tiny apartments, with a very tiny grocery budget, there was no money to buy anything extra to set it aside.
More recently I have had a rotating grocery stash. I've not needed to dust it, if something were to happen to it I would not cry, nor would our family starve, and I don't consider it a part of my family. It is, however, part of my overall money saving strategy.
Here is how to build a grocery stash that works for you!
- Decide what items you plan on stocking up on. You know what items you use day after day and week after week. These items vary by family. Some people will go through a bottle of ketchup a week, while mine goes through maybe four a year. A box of cereal can last your family a week, or a day. We use almost no canned vegetables, as the children prefer frozen, so you won't see row after row of canned veggies on my shelves. However, you will see many canned beans.
- Determine the quantities that you need in your stash. A good rule of thumb is to only stash enough of an item to get you to the next good deal. One of my goals here at BisMan Savvy Savers is to find out what the local sales cycles are, so that we can stock up wisely. Remember that no matter how cheap the items are in your grocery stash, they still represent money spent. Just like a wise business does not carry excess inventory, neither should your household grocery stash. For food items I tend to not store more than three months of an item. So, that would mean I keep no more than 12 jars of pasta sauce. We go through a lot of cereal, and it goes on sale fairly often, so at most I'll stash a month's worth of cereal, which would be 15-20 boxes. I'll store up to a year's worth of personal care items such as toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and the like. But even a years worth does not look extreme when you break down how much you really use. We go through 2 bottles of baby wash a year, for instance. At max we use 24 tubes of toothpaste.
- Once you start building your stash, don't be afraid to use it. Your grocery stash is not a museum, or emergency rations, or even a store for your college aged granddaughter. It should be a easily accessible collections of items used in your daily life. Don't be afraid to deplete your supply. When items go on sale again you will get more. If you ever get to the point where you are afraid to use the items that you stockpile, you may need to examine your motivations.
- If you have a grocery stash, you shop differently. You will find that you only buy items when they are on sale (and hopefully combined with coupons). This means that one week you may buy 12 jars of pasta sauce, 4 chickens, and 8 cans of cream of mushroom soup; and next week you may buy 12 boxes of cereal, 10 pounds of rice, and 20 cans of kidney beans. I tend to spend the same amount on groceries each week (I budget $150 for our family of 8), but the items I buy vary greatly.
- Your stash will vary by season. In the summer my stash tends to contain a lot of pasta for making cold salads, salad dressings (they go on great sales in the summer so I tend to stock up for the year) and potato chips. In the winter I stock up on cake mixes, flour and sugar, canned beans and canned soups.
- Don't let your stash go to waste. Did you buy a lot of an item thinking that your family would love it? Did someone develop an allergy to a certain type of food or personal product? Donate things that just are not being used. I have a friend (hi Eileen!) who brought some baby shampoo and some body wash to my house one day. She had it in her stash and she got them for free or close to it, but knew she would not use it. What a blessing it was to me at the time!
- I, personally, do not stock up on paper products. I can usually find a good deal or a coupon or both on things like toilet paper fairly often. I buy a large package of toilet paper for each bathroom, and replace it when needed. Paper products take up a ton of space, and in our house, real estate is at a premium. We rarely use paper towels, and we end up having to donate more Kleenex to the school than our family ever uses in a year. I buy a three pack of tissue at back to school time and it literally lasts us all year! Your mileage may vary.