Frugal Living: Building Your Stockpile

 

Stockpiling a a common practice for those of us that live a frugal lifestyle.  It can save you lots of money.  If you are tired of paying full price for your groceries, pay attention and I will give you the steps to help you start building your stockpile and saving money.

1.  Make A Master List

Start by making a list of items that you use on a regular basis such as food, toiletries, paper products, cleaning items and pet supplied.

2.  Create a Price Book

List the items that you use on a regular basis in a notebook.  Begin keeping track of how much the items cost.  Pay special attention to any sales that you find for the product and make a note of the price and store that the item was purchased at.  After a few weeks, your price book will show you that the items that you purchase will go on sale and reach their lowest price approximately every 12 weeks.

3.  Shop the Sales

In order to save the most money, purchase items that you use on a regular basis at it’s rock bottom price or when it’s FREE.  Pay close attention to the loss leaders in your weekly sales flyer and combine them with coupons.  Whenever possible combine manufacturers coupons and store coupons for even more savings.  Be sure to take advantage of any rebate offers available.

4.  Don’t Be Extreme

Stockpiling can be addictive; however, you don’t want to overdue it.  You will need to take in to consideration your families habits and; also, the amount of room that you have for storage.  Some stockpilers buy just enough to get them through to the next sale, while other stockpilers prefer to keep enough of each item to get them through a certain number of months.   Whatever you do, be sure to watch the expiration dates.  From my own experience I can tell you that if you purchase so much that it’s not used by the expiration date, you are not saving money.

5.  Only Buy What You Use

As your shopping skills improve, you’ll find more free or nearly free items.  A good piece of advice is to only stockpile what you and your family will use.  Even if the item is free, if your family is not going to eat it, don’t purchase it.  There’s no need to take up valuable stockpiling space with products your family won’t eat.

6.  Organize Your Stockpile

Once you start accumulating products, keep them organized.  Designate one spot in your home for your stockpile.  Extra closets and basements are great places for stockpiles; as well as, under beds and in empty drawers.

Be sure to keep your stockpile orderly so that you know what you have.  Keep like items together.  Whenever possible, write the expiration date on each item with a permanent marker.  Rotate your stockpile to keep older items up front where they are easily accessible.

By using the above tips, you’ll have your stockpiling growing in a matter of weeks and you, too, will be on your way to a frugal living lifestyle.

Costco Price List

 

Next Stop, Costco!

Photo Credit

In my tips for buying in bulk, I talked about bulk bins and how they have the great advantage of letting you buy in specific quantities. In fact, you can bring in a measuring cup and get just the amount you need.

When you buy food in bulk at a warehouse store, you don’t have the ability to control your quantities. But you can save, and save A LOT!

Here are the prices on items I found at my local Costco. Print this out and use it to compare prices at your store or to compare couponing prices to see if an item is at a stockpile price! In fact, compare these prices to the Whole Foods Bulk Bins Price List I posted earlier this week. You can already see what buying in large quantities can save you!

Costco Price ListStay tuned for my warehouse buying tips. In the meantime, what prices did I miss? How do these prices compare with your warehouse store prices?

Tips for Buying Food in Bulk

Miniature ShopperPhoto Credit: Jackson Latka

Whether you shop at the bulk bins in your natural foods store or buy in bulk from one of the big warehouse clubs, you’ll find buying in bulk not only saves you money but helps at mealtime by having key ingredients always on hand.

There is no shortage of items that now come in bulk. You can buy your everyday staples such as rice, beans, oil, and flour, and you can bulk buy items such as paper products and even cookies!

These tips are ways you can save money while buying your food in bulk:

1. You can buy the exact quantity you need. If you are buying an ingredient for a particular recipe, you can buy from the bulk bins in just the quantity you need. Feel free to bring in a measuring cup to get that exact amount.

2. You can try new products. The bulk bins are full of rices, grains and beans that you may never have had the opportunity to try. The bulk bins allow you to buy enough to experiment and try them without a large investment.

3. You can exercise your own portion control. By buying your goods in bulk, you can then bring them home and repackage them into your own portion controlled quantities. When you buy those “100 calorie packs” from the store, you are often paying a premium for all that packaging! PLUS, as an advocate of Going Green, I often buy food in bulk because it eliminates the need for excess packaging and waste.

4. You can stockpile in a big way! Stockpiling goods when they are at their lowest costs is a great money saver. Make sure you are storing your dry goods in airtight containers to maintain freshness. Washing and using your old peanut butter, jelly or pasta sauce jars is a great way to do this. Also, you can put your flours and rices in the freezer to keep pests out. When you store bulk items like beans properly, they can last for years!

5. You can have meals ready quickly by dividing bulk meat purchases into family size portions before freezing. Being able to pull out just the right amount of meat for a family meal is a real time saver when it comes to meal prep. Don’t forget, you can brown ground meat or turkey prior to freezing making mealtime prep a snap.

One word of bulk buying caution! Use bulk goods before the expiration date. The beauty of bulk buying is some items, such as toilet paper, can last years if stored properly. However, if you are buying items such as beef in bulk quantities, have a plan to use it within 6 months to optimize freshness.

What do you buy in bulk?

How to Save Money on Back-to-School Shopping

Back-to-School Shopping Items

It’s August, so even if you’ve been trying to avoid it, the fact is, it’s here. It’s time for expensive back-to-school shopping. If you fall into the group that cringes at how the dollars add up at this time of year, you are not alone. It is estimated that the average family will spend $600 getting ready to go back to school. Here is how you can save money on your back-to-school expenses.

I’ve already shown you how I saved money on school supplies. But as you are well aware, there are many more items that need purchasing at this time of year. So how do you save on the rest of your back-to-school shopping?

First, invest wisely in backpacks and lunchboxes. Backpacks and lunchboxes should last a minimum of two years if you want to get the most out of your money. In order to get as many years of use out of them as you can, skip the backpacks and lunch boxes that sport this year’s favorite movie character and opt to buy a plain color. After all, it might be cool to carry a princess backpack in the first grade, but by the second grade chances are good your child will have moved on. Buying a plain color is always a safe bet.

Second, consider investing in reuseable sandwich and snack bags. Not only does it make good economic sense to invest in something that you can continue using for several years, it also makes good environmental sense. I’ve found the reuseable bags I’ve purchased not only clean well but they save me several dollars each month over buying disposable bags.

Finally, do you find yourself tempted by all the new back-to-school clothes? The best advice is to resist buying in August. Clothes tend to go on sale after 6 to 8 weeks of being in the store. By waiting until mid-September to buy your new duds, you can reap some significant savings. Have you found that your kids simply can’t fit into the clothes they wore last year? Consider hitting a few consignment stores to tide them over until the retail sales start. If you haven’t shopped in consignment stores recently, the quality might surprise you. If you just can’t seem to get out of heading to the mall for some new clothes purchases, make sure you check your shopping mall’s website. On the website you will find all the current information on which stores are offering sales. Limit your trip to only those stores that are offering the deepest discounts on the items you need.

How do you save money on your back-to-school shopping?

How to Save Money on School Supplies

What do you consider the most expensive month of the year?

In our house it’s a toss up whether December or August is the most expensive month. December is expensive for the obvious reason of the holidays. But I find we can budget for it. We agree to only spend x-amount per person, and I can buy those items all year long. August is expensive because of everything that comes with the start of school – new clothes, replacement backpacks, fresh clean lunch boxes, school supplies… Plus, I find I always get requests for money I didn’t plan on. It might be a school bus or field trip fee, or having to pay more for gym shorts that meet the uniform code because my girl’s legs are so long, or my girls now want “spirit wear” or something.

My strategy to combat some of those expenses is to try to save as much as I can on school supplies. This video – that is not worthy of even a RAZZIE from the critics – shows how I’m saving on supplies this year. (By the way – yes. I really do wish I brushed my hair a little better.)

Can’t see the video? Find it on The Natural Green Mom Channel

First let’s get one thing clear. No, I am not a Walmart representative. I realize they should pay me for this wonderful piece of amateurish advertising, however, I have heard from several of you that Walmart is your only game in town. You know what? I’ve been there. I lived in small town Texas for 3 years. It was either hit the Walmart or hit the road – and drive 3 hours to the nearest town. But if you aren’t a Walmart shopper, you can apply price matching just about anywhere.

Second, in case you are wondering how easy check out was, it was sooooo easy! I laid the competitor’s sales circular on the check-out belt and simply laid the items I wanted to price match right on top. Since I’d taken the time to make certain I was buying the SAME EXACT product, I knew they had to do the price match. I was sorta gunning for the cashier to try to object to the price matches. I’ve heard of those of you who’ve had difficulty. But, what can I say? I was so prepared, there was no need to get huffy. (read that in a smug, self-satisfied tone.)

Third, was it worth it? Oh yes. The items I bought saved me an additional 38% over Walmart’s prices. That said, I did find that Walmart was not stocked well. Some of the coupons I wanted to use and some of the price matching I wanted to do I couldn’t because the product simply wasn’t there. There is not a lot any of us can do about that!

Do you price match? What has been your experience?

Submitted to The Mommy Club and Coupon Teacher

How to Save on Gourmet Items

Brie with peelie coupons

If you’ve been couponing for any amount of time, you know that it is rare to get a good coupon deal on gourmet foods. If you follow your weekly grocery ads, it seems the same products are advertised over, and over, and over.  And it sometimes feels as if we get the same coupons in the Sunday paper week, after week, after week. Fiber One bars, Fruit by the Foot, Yoplait….

Life includes special occasions. Ones for which we want to treat and indulge ~ without causing our budgets to go into nuclear meltdown. Tonight there is a wine and cheese tasting event at my home. Amy from the Vine Sleuth is the one actually putting on the event. It is an “Unofficial Event” before this weekend’s Savvy Blogging Summit I will be attending. Since Amy is coming in from out of town, and the event will be held here in our own beautiful Colorado, I told her I’d do the hoof work to buy all the food recommended – and buy it on a budget. After all – this site is dedicated to trying to “Live the Dream on Very Little Green.”

I was given a shopping list by the wine expert for items to buy:

  • Jarlsberg Cheese
  • Manchego Cheese
  • Olives
  • Salami
  • Crackers

None of those items are showing up in my weekly grocery circulars. Not even in the Whole Foods ad.

What I found is there are ways to save, and there are coupons on gourmet items available, but it helps if you plan ahead and you may need to hoof through several stores to scout out the deals on your own.

The first way I was able to save was by digging into my stockpile. Remember the Whole Foods great deal on Back to Nature crackers I told you about several weeks ago? Every time I went by Whole Foods for the 2 week period the sale was on, I picked up boxes of crackers. Now I’m feeling a wee bit smug because I’ll set out three boxes worth of crackers tonight – and I will have paid only .99 total for them. A box of water crackers costs $2.99/pkg. So having a cracker stockpile is looking a little less like crazy hoarding and a little more like a true saving strategy, wouldn’t you say?

If you aren’t finding coupons on the products you want, does that mean they don’t exist? Sometimes. But I have a few places I’d check for them before coming to any conclusions. Start at home by:

  • Checking out the company website
  • Trolling through a coupon database

Any luck? I didn’t have any for the cheeses I wanted, so I headed out to the stores. I do say stores because I checked all three of my local grocers: King Soopers, Albertsons and Safeway. Were the savings big enough to warrant going to each store? My total savings was over $10 by scoping out and getting the deals at each store. Was it worth it? Given that the wine tasting tonight is for budget wines, and some of the bottles only cost $11 – the savings does add up.

Safeway is where I hit the jackpot of gourmet cheese coupons. The next time you are in Safeway (or really wherever you shop) look for any kind of coupon display next to the gourmet cheeses.

Cheese Coupon Display

Look at the picture! It says “Please Take Some!” The expiration date on these coupons was into 2012! Take some I did.

They also had a coupons for $1/1 deli cheese when you bought olives right next to the olives. Score! However, even after finding the coupons for cheese, my coupon savings only came to $5.

The rest of the savings came from buying Jarlsberg cheese at $7.99/lb instead of at $12.99/lb. Pretty big price difference between stores, wouldn’t you say? Then I added a $1/1 coupon and my cost went down even further.

Conclusions?

  • Having a stockpile is worth it – especially on products you know you’ll use
  • Prices vary greatly by store – it is worth it check them out before you buy
  • There are coupons out there! They just don’t come in the Sunday paper. Look on or near what you want to buy.

More on the wine tasting to come!

Saving Starts on Sunday

The Sunday Paper

photo credit

The Sunday morning paper. Loved for its comics, crosswords and…that’s right, coupons. How many papers do you need each week if you are a couponer?

That depends.

Have you seen Extreme Couponing on TLC? Then you know those couponers are accumulating lots of inserts each week – even if it means jumping in a dumpster to find them.

But lets say you don’t subscribe to that kind of crazy. Maybe you’re more like me: I dig getting free stuff, but I’m not interested in a 3 year supply of Yakisoba noodles. What can I say? I like saving on the things my family will use without having to work 3 cases worth of toilet paper into my living room decor.

Here is how I decide how many papers I need:

I get two Sunday papers delivered every week. One from the closet large city and one from the hometown. The larger paper has better coupons – and more of them – while the local paper has coupons to local stores.

My main rule of thumb is to have as many papers as there are inserts. So this week there were only 2 inserts in each paper. I’m happy with 2 papers this week. If there had been 4 inserts, as there often are at the beginning of the month, I would have bought 2 more papers.

You never want your cost in papers to be more than the amount you save at the store!

Here’s why this works for me:

1. I find I can often print the same coupons that are in the Sunday paper from coupons.com, red plum or smart source.

2. I search out the coupon booklet each quarter from Mambo Sprouts or print coupons from their site. This is the booklet with coupons for products I like to buy for my family. This is the best source for real food and organic coupons – NOT the Sunday paper.

3. I take advantage of the coupons I can find in my stores. These are available for free. I take 2 copies each time I’m in the store – no more. Don’t be a greedy jerk and swipe them all just because you can. Couponing karma will bite you in the butt for that.

4. Free coupons are available all over the store! One of the things I’ve learned is I find organic/natural products put out more tearpads and peelies then they do coupons in the Sunday paper. So take a few minutes to stroll past your favorite products. You may be rewarded with coupons!

5. Both Target and Whole Foods coupons are available to print for free and will save you the most amount of money if you shop in those stores.

Of course, every rule has its exceptions. Here is mine:

1. If there is a coupon in the Sunday paper for a product my family loves and I really want to stock up, then, I buy more papers.

Saving a lot at the grocery store is fun. But coupons are only one part of the equation. If you want to eat real food, there are so many other parts to a solid saving strategy.

So relax. Enjoy that Sunday paper. Take those inserts and organize them. But for goodness sake – stay out of the dumpster!{Unless no one is looking. In which case, I think its ok to peek your head in. Let’s just not make a habit out of it, ok?}