Building a grocery stockpile is one of those topics that divides money-conscious shoppers. Some shoppers feel that a grocery stockpile is a use of time and money that could be better spent or saved elsewhere. Others feel that having one is a hedge against rising prices or last-minute emergencies.
I’m on the side of the “others” because I stockpile, but I do it well.
Eight steps to grocery stockpile the right way – and avoid overspending
- Why do it: Did you ever have unexpected company, kids and parents on different schedules, a job loss, natural disaster or last-minute emergencies? A full pantry can save you; it was indispensable for me when my mother was hospitalized for nine weeks I was working and driving many hours to see her. It’s not about getting the most for less; it’s about getting the most out of what you paid less for.
- What Items to buy: Every food item has an expiration date, even bottled water! Your stockpile should contain nonperishable foods that can last up to a year, and these foods should require minimal work on your part to prepare. Look at what your family eats the most often, build an inventory list and shop with it, so you can watch for sales.
- How to store them: I use restaurant-grade wire shelving, which allows good airflow, good access and easy viewing. Take care not to store items too many deep, or you can lose track on what’s in back. An easy way to see expiration dates: use a black marker to write the dates on the labels.
- When to rotate: Writing the dates on labels makes rotation makes it easy to use oldest items first. But time and temperature take a toll even on non-perishables. Buy with an eye towards using food within six months for best flavor.
- Where to shop (big-box vs. regular grocery store): It shouldn’t cost you extra money to commit to a grocery stockpile. You shop when and where you get the best deals, double coupons and BOGOs. It’s temping to buy a stash at a big-box grocer and call it done, but it may not be the most economical method. Know when grocery items cycle to their lowest prices, so you can take advantage of sales.
- When to say “Enough!“:Stockpiling can be a fun challenge, until you run out of pantry space and start stashing canned tuna in the shower. An adequate grocery stockpile doesn’t need to be that extreme. Set aside shelf or pantry space, fill it, step back and have confidence in knowing you can handle the next emergency.
- How about perishable foods?: You’d be surprised at how many perishable items can be added to your grocery stockpile. Eggs (remove them from the shells first), milk (it can separate in freezing, but a good shake takes care of the problem), cheese (shred it before freezing, so you have it on hand when you need it) and cottage cheese, yogurt and sour cream (freezing alters the texture, but they can be used in recipes after thawing) can all be stockpiled for three to six months.
- Stockpiling as a good deed: You can donate food to a food pantry or homeless shelter. I do this several times a year to keep food rotated and help my community. You can help a neighbor by fixing meals for them in their time of need. You can have a “stockpile swap” with friends, trading what you have too much of for something you need. If you stockpile pet food, many animal shelters will accept canned and bagged food.