Simply Living: Stockpiling, Part 2

In this article last week, I discussed the difference between stockpiling and hoarding. As a reminder, there is a difference between the two.

Hoarding basically is the accumulation of items unnecessarily or an urge to gather as many of an item as possible—generally to excess. This could partly be in fear of scarcity, or perhaps to keep others from having it, or because it is an uncontrollable compulsion.

Stockpiling is different. While lately, due to Covid-19, some panic-buying may have sneaked into our buying habits, generally stockpiling is associated with simply being prepared to have food or other necessity items (hygiene, toiletry, paper products) on hand for the future. There may be many reasons for doing this, and we will explore some of those in this article.

Today, I want to share my approach to stockpiling. I consider it my safety net. Perhaps you may find some of my ideas useful for your own situation.

I think the very first question to ask yourself is:

1.       “Why do I want to stockpile this item?” There should be a reason. If you don’t have an answer for that question, then perhaps you don’t need to stockpile that particular item—but, you might want to dig a little deeper. I’ve listed nine additional questions below that you may want to consider.

2.       Do I use it? Is this an item you use regularly, or an item that is familiar to you? Stockpiling an item that is new-to-you, just because it looks like a good deal, may not be a good approach, particularly if it is a food item. Stockpile items you know you are going to use, not maybe use, or want to try out.

3.       Is it on sale? I stockpile items on sale that I know I will use before the expiration date. Watch grocery sale ads and be aware of prices from retailer to retailer. In 2019, I tracked all my food spending for six months at several different grocery-selling retailers. At the end of the six months, I was able to determine which retailer kept food products I buy at a consistent price, or if prices rose and fell over the period (for example, the price of Miracle Whip seems to fluctuate from store to store in my area), and which retail store sells consistently at the lower price. Knowing the normal prices of food products helps you spot great deals when prices are slashed.

4.       Do I have a coupon? I’m not a super-savvy coupon shopper. I don’t do rebates and scour  internet for coupons. But I do take advantage of my in-store digital coupons where I normally shop—along with the paper coupons I receive in the mail. Occasionally, I will come across manufacturer coupons in magazines or online and “clip” those too. Store and digital coupons are generally tailored to my buying habits, so why not use them?. This is why I have currently stockpiled 10 bottles of Kroger salad dressings in various flavors in my pantry. For several months, they sent a coupon for $.50 off two bottles. So yeah, I save the $.50 and buy two. I know they will not go to waste because they are items I regularly use.
My pasta stash and more...

5.       Is it less expensive to buy this product in bulk? Maybe, but do the math to be sure. How to do the math? If you can price compare in the store, you may not have to. Check the store shelf labels for the product and determine the “price per unit” (ounce, pound, serving, etc.), then compare. If the bulk product is less “per unit” than the regular-sized products that you generally buy, then yes, it is less expensive. But then, second question—do you have the space to store it? And, will you use it all before the expiration date? (if there is one….).

6.       Is there any combination of numbers 2, 3 and/or 4 above? Can you score a double or a triple whammy? You need/use it, it’s on sale, and you have a coupon? Stockpile away!

7.       Do I have space to store this item? Those ten bottles of salad dressing? Yeah, maybe that was overkill, but I finally carved out a space for them all. Think about your pantry and cabinet space, along with your refrigerator and freezer space. If stockpiling is something you want to do, pay attention to your storage spaces. Do you need to refresh and reconsider how to use the space you have? Do you need to plan ahead and add storage space in a garage or basement?

8.       Will the product go bad before I can use it all? Watch those perishable items to make sure you use them before they go expire. I generally do a once or twice weekly check on those items in the refrigerator and consider how to work them into the weekly menu. Foods that go bad before they can be used are not a savings to your budget.

9.       Is this an item I need for my personal health, or my family, and there is a possibility of scarcity? Food scarcity is not something that many of us have had to deal with in our lifetimes—until Covid-19. Others, say those in poverty, the homeless, and those who live in the many isolated and rural areas of our country, experience it often. If there is a problem of scarcity, purchase what you need and can afford, and also remember the needs of others. There are many items that we need for our health and those vary from person to person. Know what you need, plan ahead, consider your situation, and be comfortable with your choices.

10.   Do I have a solid reason to stockpile at this time? Considering all the above, is there anything else going on in your world, or in the world around you, that would be important to consider. The current pandemic is definitely a relevant consideration. Remember, though, that we live in a world with others. Stockpiling for future personal use and thinking just far enough ahead to feel comfortable with your purchases is perfectly fine. Going overboard and maliciously keeping needed goods from others without purpose, or for your personal gain, is not an acceptable practice.

Overflow pantry storage
Things I stockpile and why

Well-stocked pantry, for me, is essential for meal preparation. I live in a rural area. I do not rely on fast food or restaurant take-out. I plan and cook my own meals and I eat in a certain way—gluten free and dairy free. I’m also living on a retirement, fixed income. If I can buy two bottles of salad dressing for 50 cents off, and they are on sale too, you can bet I am going to stockpile because I know I will use it, and save money in the process.

What about you? Do you stockpile occasionally, and why? I'd love to know your thoughts.