Friday, January 7, 2011

Stockpiling Strategies: A Series

I am sure I am not the only person who has reached for the shampoo in the shower... only to realize suddenly that the bottle was used up during the previous shower. Or to simultaneously discover that I am out of both workout clothes AND laundry soap at the same time.

Before I had kids, these pitfalls were no big deal. I could easily run to the store whenever necessary to pick up shampoo and laundry soap... often paying full price for the item.Now that I have young kids, a trip to the store has become more challenging to impulsively add to the schedule. It seems like the hardest shopping trips are the ones when I only need a few small items.

In the past year, I've managed to simplify my errand list by purchasing large quantities of each item that we regularly use all at once--at a discount price. This has helped me to cut down significantly on:
  • stressful last-minute dashes to the store when we run out of something crucial
  • paying full or high prices
  • trying to keep track of everything we are 'low' on
  • getting stuck in the parking lot trying to wrangle kids and large items (toilet paper packs, etc.) at the same time
By removing the pressure to purchase something that we are going to use immediately, I am freed to purchase stockpile items when it is convenient for me to do so (aka when the kids aren't with me) and to wait for lower prices. Often I am only actively looking for 2-3 types of items at a time during any given month, rather than buying 10 different items each month. It feels almost luxurious to nonchalantly reach into the cabinet and produce a fresh toiletry when the one my child is using has run out--definitely less stressful that searching for an alternative or adding an unexpected shopping trip to an already hectic schedule!

Here are a few stockpiling tips that I've found to be helpful:
  • Identify stockpile-friendly items. For my household, these items include paper products, laundry soap, dishwasher soap, certain cleaning supplies, dental hygiene supplies, certain non-perishable foods, and my special brand body wash.
  • Test before stocking up. Be sure that you and your family like the brand of the item that you are planning to stockpile. I tend to stick with familiar brands when stockpiling as I want a quality product that my picky eater and soap-sensitive kids will tolerate.
  • Focus on stockpiling only 2-3 items at a time (or fewer!) The idea is for stockpiling to simplify your life, rather than overwhelm your shopping trips and your budget. Look for sale prices, and start getting a feel for what is a 'good price' and what is a 'great price'. Stop buying the item when it costs more than you want to spend.
  • Don't forget to shop online! Especially when shopping for items that don't typically go on sale, I check online and see if I can get a better price at an online retailer. If I can use a discount code and get free shipping, I can sometimes find prices that are better than what I would find in my local stores. I also shop online for certain items that local stores may or may not carry. This reduces my time spent going from store to store looking for the correct size vacuum bags, for example.
  • Store your stockpiled items together in a logical, accessible place. The stockpile won't be effective if you don't remember where you put it! It will be even more effective if other family members know where to look for things, and will help cut down on the, "Honey, do we have any [item]" conversations.
  • When the storage area is full, stop purchasing the item. Other great discounts and sales will come along eventually. Don't let your stockpile exceed the size of your storage space and spill into your living space (and your life!).
  • Rotate your supplies. Use older items before using newer items. Check expiration dates and make sure that you will use the item before the deadline passes.
  • If you can't use it, donate it. Desginate a spot in your storage areas for items to donate. Items that we decide we don't like, or don't use anymore, or that we develop allergic reactions to, or free samples, etc. can be passed on to someone who CAN use them, which I love to do.

 Next week, I'll share my 10 favorite items to stockpile, as well as a few of my stockpiling failures, and my new stockpiling ideas for 2011!

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