Due to the airing of a certain show on cable television, people who stock up are now often called hoarders. There is a difference between a well stocked pantry and that of a hoarder. A hoarder will never use everything they buy. A well stocked pantry is the result of being frugal when shopping so that all of it is used in a timely manner. The second lifestyle is my goal when shopping. What is a well stocked pantry for me, will not be the same as what you need. I know what I go through over a 3 month period and those are the items that I want stocked in my pantry. Depending on the item, I want it to last from 3 to 12 months.
I believe everyone has a food budget, even if it is not written in stone. Perhaps it is $100 a week, $500 a month, or the money leftover after paying the bills. Whatever it is, figure out how much of it you need in order to cook for the week. We all have money that we use for splurges and that is what we will use to begin stocking your pantry. I suggest starting with 10% of your food budget. Use that to invest in at least 1 good buy. The more stocked up your pantry and freezer becomes, the more of your budget you can dedicate to this process. This does take a commitment on your part! However, giving up a little now will produce far greater rewards later on.
How will you know it is a great deal? In general, anything 50% or more off the everyday price is worth getting a lot of. Buy one get one free deals are the bomb. For example, Safeway had Mt Olive pickles on sale as a BOGO and I had coupons for $1 off each jar. By the time I was done I had received 63% off my pickles. If an item is 15% to 35% off, generally it will be worth buying a few extras, but don’t get too excited. The exceptions to this rule is when it is an item that you never see go on sale, so even %15 is a bargain. However, a good deal is no reason to purchase something, make sure it is an item you will actually use.
Think a few months ahead when you see deals. I knew for a year that we would be throwing The Boy a graduation party, and began stocking up on those food items early. There was very little I had to purchase at the last-minute, it was all perishable foods and his cake.
The use by date is very important in this process. Many foods are good up to 2 years if properly stored. Other items only last for 3 months. Before you buy a year’s worth of an item ask yourself four questions. First, will it hold for a year and still be good quality? Second, do I have the room to store it? Third, will I use it? Fourth, will it go on sale again in the next several months?
If you step back and think about the food item you want to purchase, you can consider when it is typically used. Most people are not going to bbq in the middle of winter, but from Memorial day through Labor day they will on a regular basis. Those times are when you should pick up bbq sauce, relish, ketchup, mustard, hotdogs and charcoal. People love to bake for the holidays so those items go on sale starting in October. Chinese new year, Cinco de Mayo, Earth Day and New Year’s resolutions also produce very specific sales.
This includes clearance items. November 1st Wal Mart drops all candy by 50%. What is left a few days later is dropped by 75%. Why would I want a ton of candy in my house? I do use some of it year round in my baking. Butterfingers for popcorn balls, Whoppers crumbled on ice cream and milk chocolate for all sorts of things. I picked up chocolate Easter Bunnies for 90% off and that chocolate melts just as easily when chopped as it does when I chop up a candy bar.
Before you begin stocking up on items, make sure you know where you are going to put it. A cluttered kitchen is one that is avoided. Items you have to dig for will never get used.
Which leads into rotating your product. If you have ever worked in food service this concept is probably already a habit for you. Lets say you come home with 20 cans of vegetables and still have 7 left on the shelf. The new ones should be placed in the back and the old ones pulled forward so they will be used first. One trick is to have a Sharpie with you when you are putting away groceries. on the top of each can or box, write the date the items come home on top. This allows you a quick peek to make sure the old items are being used first. It also makes sure if the kids are helping you put items away they are rotating product as it needs to be.
Another part of planning ahead is emergency supplies. Families should always have some bottled water and foods that do not require cooking just in case something happens. Once again, be sure to rotate those items as so you don’t have items that expired 2 years ago in your emergency kit!
I hope you are encouraged to begin stocking up your own pantry. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.