The average family of four spends over $1000 a month on groceries, based on USDA data for a moderate food plan when all meals are eaten at home. The same data shows that even the thriftiest families spend about $550 a month on food. This doesn’t count other things people buy at the grocery store like paper products, pet food and supplies, and health and beauty products like shampoo, soap, razors, and toothpaste.
Right now, my family is only feeding three people on a regular basis, but I take every opportunity I can to save money on groceries. I actually use a variety of strategies to beat the moderate food plan cost of just over $850 a month that the FDA projects for my family, but one of the biggest ways to save money on groceries that I have found is stocking up when prices are low, which easily saves my family $100 a month on groceries even though we buy healthy foods including some organic items.
How to Save Money With Stockpiling
Stockpiling means buying a larger quantity of items than you need until the next shopping trip. Most stores offer sales and often they have what they call loss leaders, which they sell at a big discount (sometimes at a loss). Buying enough of these to last until the next sale, or for about 6 weeks if you don’t know when the next sale will be, is how I usually stockpile items. If I see a lower price than I have ever seen before, I may try to buy as much as I can for my stockpile, usually several months’ worth.
When you stockpile groceries, you are paying lower prices for the items in your pantry, which saves you money compared to buying them at regular price. If you buy 6 weeks worth of breakfast cereal when it is on sale with the buy one get one free offer, for example, you save half the cost of that cereal. If your family eats one box of cereal per week, and cereal normally costs $3 a box, you will save $9 on cereal by stockpiling, for instance.
If you can do this with 11 comparable items in a month’s time, you will save just about $100 on your groceries for the month. I would estimate that stockpiling probably saves my family closer to $200-300 a month. Here’s how we do it.
Ways I Stockpile Groceries
The most common way I stockpile groceries is at my regular grocery store. Each week I decide which items in the circular are worth stockpiling, including meats, boxed and canned foods, beverages, and frozen foods. If coupons are available for items I regularly use, I try to get as many as I can in order to save more on those items.
In addition, I check the clearance aisle at the back of the store and keep my eye out for clearance items throughout the store that can be stockpiled. I’m not brand-loyal on most items, so I have gotten lots of things for half price or less on clearance, including baking chips, seasonal candy and baked goods, and K-cups for my hubby’s (non-frugal) coffeemaker, among many others.
When buying clearance items, be sure to check the expiration dates, since sometimes the reason items are on clearance is because they are about to expire. I typically stick pretty close to expiration dates, although for some items they are more of a suggestion than a hard-and-fast rule. The bottom line is, don’t buy more than you can reasonably use before they expire because that is not saving money, it’s wasting it.
I sometimes stockpile by going to different stores than where I normally shop and buying the items that are good prices there. I normally stick to just the one grocery store that I find has the best overall prices and selection because I find that when I shop multiple stores, I spend more money on groceries in total, but I do go to other stores occasionally. When I do, I tend to stockpile to limit the amount of times I visit each store, which keeps my spending down.
Buying In Bulk
I do buy in bulk for some things when I can save a significant amount of money by doing so and when I have the space to store everything. About every 6 to 9 months, I buy a quarter of a cow from a farm at approximately half the price the same meat would cost in the grocery store.
My last quarter was about 200 pounds, which I store in my extra basement freezer. In addition to the cost savings, the meat is hormone and antibiotic free and mostly grass-fed, so it is a lot healthier than most grocery store meat. If you can’t store or afford to buy that much meat all at once, you may be able to split the order with another family who also wants to stockpile but can’t buy a whole quarter at once.
I also shop for some items at a warehouse club (where I save the cost of the membership just by getting one medication and some of my gas there each year, so it’s worthwhile). I’m careful to check my prices there because buying in bulk doesn’t always save money. I’m good at doing the math in my head, but there’s no shame in taking out a calculator and making sure that the item is a lower price per unit than in other stores where you normally shop.
How I Store My Stockpile
Truth be told, my kitchen is on the small side and we have removed a few cabinets over the years to put in a dishwasher and reconfigure the space. I installed wall to wall shelving in the nook where my table sits, and these shelves hold some of my stockpile. I also have some shelving in the basement where I put the overflow until I have used up what’s in the kitchen.
Rotating your stock is important to avoid having it expire before it is used. Keep the items with the closest expiration dates at the front of your shelves, including freezer shelves, so it gets used first before it expires.
While many other strategies are part of my grocery shopping arsenal of money-saving tips, stockpiling is probably my biggest moneysaver over all, and it is one that almost everyone can use no matter what their situation.