Extreme Couponing and the Art of Stockpiling

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Just typing the word stockpile makes me twitchy so you can imagine how I'm handling the fact that this extreme couponing experiment has turned me into a stockpiler. I have moments when I'm on the verge of hyperventilating. Or when I want to just throw in the towel and say enough already. When TW put a Stuff to Stockpile list on the whiteboard I almost had a heart attack.

TW still teases me about all of those times, when we first got together, and I ranted about how much food was in our pantry. She rolls her eyes at me when I rant about why in the heck we have six cans of tomato paste in our cabinets when she might, maybe, use one can of tomato paste in a month. She just plain ignores me when I tell her we do not need anymore cans of black beans, or that we cannot buy anymore salad dressing until we use up the six bottles we already have. Prince J laughed aloud when I told him he could not have another jar of hoisin sauce until we used up the two we already had.

I've just never seen the point of having overly full cupboards and freezers. Why buy 15 cans of anything when you go to the grocery store every week. It's not as if they'll be out of canned refried beans and if they are, we can just eat something else. Right?

In my experience, particularly when you have teenagers in the house, the more food you have - the more they are going to eat. This was proven by our weekly trips to Sam's Club when we lived in Gainesville and had tons of teens in and out of the house. We weren't buying bulk foods so that we didn't have to shop next week. We were buying bulk foods every darn week because people were eating all of the food!

Yet here I am creating stockpiles of food, even though my early extreme couponing posts (and comments within those posts) have me saying "I don't think I can be a stockpiler." Boy was I wrong.

After reading four books about couponing, watching numerous videos about couponing, and reading blog post and forum post after blog post and forum post about couponing, I've finally wrapped my head around the idea that stockpiling is good. Or it can be good if you're stockpiling food (and paper products and health & beauty items) at their lowest possible cost. By stockpiling when prices are low and you have coupons that bring those low prices even lower, you avoid having to buy foods that you need when the prices are high. That's smart shopping, not stockpiling for the sake of stockpiling or stockpiling in order to over-feed your family.

I get it now. I totally get it.

I have six jars of pasta sauce in my cabinets, all purchased at less than $.75 a jar. This means that we won't have to buy jar pasta sauce again for quite sometime - unless there's a big sale and we have the coupons to bring that cost even lower.

We have ten microwaveable lunch meals in the house, all purchased at 75% of the normal price and that's enough to last us a full year. Now there's no need to buy those microwaveable lunch meals again until the fall, and even then we can hold out until there's another big sale - and we have plenty of time to collect coupons that will help us bring down the cost even more.

There are eight boxes of whole grain or low carb pasta in the cabinet, all purchased for $.50 a box (or less). There are six boxes of cereal in the cabinets, all purchased for less than $1.50 a box. We won't be buying either past or cereal for quite some time, unless we can get it for that price - or lower.

Our freezer is full of meat, all purchased at a significantly lower cost than the meat we were buying week over week last year - because we never selected meat based on price (or used coupons for meat purchases), we always just bought whatever we had decided to put on the menu for that week.

That's the art of stockpiling. That's the art of extreme couponing.

It isn't about buying what you need this week, with coupons. It isn't about filling carts with 100 candy bars or 50 boxes of high sugar cereal every week, regardless of what you see on TV. It's buying what you need at the lowest possible price and only the lowest possible price. And for many couponers, it is also about buying food and health & beauty items at the lowest possible cost and then giving it away to those who need it.

I don't think the media has done a very good job of explaining stockpiling, as it is done by real people -- or of showing the rest of the world that extreme couponers give away a lot of products to animal shelters, homeless shelters, women's shelters and food pantry.

Now that I understand stockpiling, I find I'm a lot more comfortable with it. Now that our cabinets are overflowing because we're buying food at the lowest possible prices, it makes sense to me. The part of me that is extra-thrifty can really appreciate knowing that all of that food is being bought at extremely low prices while ultimately saves us money. I like saving money. I like it a lot.

Here's a look at our spending and our savings from last week's purchases:

  • At the commissary, we spent $92.87. We used 31 coupons and saved $21.41. We bought chicken thighs because they were super-low priced, not because chicken thighs were on the menu. We bought two bottles of salad dressing, for $.45 each. We bought one jar of pasta sauce that was $.45. Those were our stockpiling purchases. The rest, typical weekly grocery shopping.
  • At Walgreen's, we bought a tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush that ended up costing $.45 a piece. We also used some of our cash register rewards to purchase Valentine's Day candy and gifts for the kids and TW's mom and sister. A trip that should have cost us more than $25 was only $5.00.
  • We made two trips to Jewel to take advantage of the big ConAgra sale that I talked about last week. We bought $95 worth of food for $16.45 and we'll be receiving just under $14 from a mail-in-rebate for two of the items purchased. Most of those items were for the stockpile.
  • We wandered over to Target to buy the new Philadelphia Cooking Cream Cheese. Target marked it down to $2.21 and we had coupons that allowed us to bring home two packages for $1.01.

We have plans to go to Walgreens and purchase Campbell's Tomato Soup (something TW's mom really loves) for $.25 a can and some BOGO vitamins that we'll actually pay for with the rest of our cash register rewards from last week's shopping trip. We'll also be visiting CVS to add more Coke, toothpaste, and mouthwash to the stockpile. Last but not least, we're researching food pantries and organizations that accept donations and plan to begin dropping products off regularly. If we can save money and help members of our community at the same time - that's a huge win, don't you think?

If you take nothing away from this extreme couponing experiment that I'm sharing with you, I hope it's an understanding of what real stockpiling is and just how many members of the couponing community DO donate products to those in need. I hope you'll look past those extreme videos of people with carts full of junk food and look at the real people who are helping people in their communities.

Did you use coupons to save money last week? Did you get any good deals? Share your photos here or your stories in the comments!



~Denise
BlogHer Community Manager
Life. Flow. Fluctuate.

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