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Reader mail: Bright ideas for stockpile storage

This week, I'll answer two e-mails from readers with stockpiling issues.

Q: "I enjoy your weekly column and am fascinated by all the deals you manage to put together. Do you have any advice for the single people who don't cook for large families or who don't have the capacity to store multiples of products as the current coupons require? Any thoughts on couponing and the single lifestyle?"

Q: "I live in Southern California and the summers are very hot. I can't store canned goods in the garage because the heat causes the cans to bulge. A basement would be nice, but out here we just don't have them. Do you have any ideas for us out here in hot country?"

Sure! Stockpiling groceries at home is a fantastic way to "beat" the price cycles at the grocery store, which typically run on 12-week cycles. When you know that an item you would like to buy will not be at its lowest price again for almost three months, buying enough to last your household three months ensures that you won't have to run to the store and pay a higher price. You'll "shop from home" by using items from your stockpile, and the next time a sale comes around again, you can stock up once more.

But what do you do if you're space-challenged? Believe it or not, stockpiling can be easier if you're a single person. While living in a smaller residence may limit your storage space, the upside is that storing three months' worth of cereal for one person is going to take up a lot less room than three months' worth of cereal for an entire family would. And, when household cleaners go on sale, you could easily get by with buying one or two instead of four or five -- again, you're going to base your stockpile on your usage needs.

Now, where do we put all of this stuff? My cousin started Super-Couponing last year. He is single and lives in a one-bedroom condominium where space is at a premium.

I've watched with great interest as he has come up with some of the most creative places to store his stockpiled items. He's utilized under-bed boxes and drawers for everything from cereal to canned goods.

Another often-overlooked place that he's embraced is the space above his kitchen cabinets. If you have open soffits, there is a lot of space up there that just sits unused. As a single guy, he doesn't mind the visuals of having jars and bottles stored on top of his cabinets. If this bothers you, you could always camouflage them. Someone in a recent coupon class told me that they keep silk plants on top of their cabinets for aesthetics, and for a very practical reason. Behind the plants are cans of soup and jars of peanut butter.

Furniture can be a great place to "hide" stockpile items. Many people have re-appropriated old armoires, china cabinets or buffets to store stockpile items inside. Kept in the dining room, they're still close to the kitchen and can give you some overflow space to store more items.

Don't feel like your stockpile items have to be limited to the kitchen area. During one good sale, a friend of mine filled her son's bedroom closet shelves with boxes of cereal. I know one couple that decided to keep their sheets and towels in their master closet to free up the linen closet for use as a pantry. Clear plastic storage totes are good places to store stockpile items, too. They stack well and can sit on the floor of a closet.

Even in a warm climate, you can store non-food items in the garage. Paper products such as paper towels, plates, toilet paper, facial tissue and napkins all store well on garage shelves.

The key to stockpiling in any situation is to stop stockpiling when your allotted space fills up. Sales do come around again and again. It can be easy to get lured in by a great sale and take home much more than you need or use.

If this happens, remember your local food pantry. Pantries will take food items, personal-care and cleaning products. This is a good way to prune down your stockpile too, if you find it's starting to get too large.

Jill Cataldo, a coupon-workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her web site, www.super-couponing.com. E-mail your couponing coups and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.