0

Super-Couponer's Secret Weapon

I've got a secret.

If you were to walk through my kitchen, nothing would seem out of the ordinary. My refrigerator is well-stocked with food, as are my kitchen cabinets. It looks very much like I'd imagine your own kitchen looks.

But take a look at my basement pantry, and prepare for a shock. The room looks like a small-scale supermarket. Stocked shelves line the walls. More than 30 boxes of brand-name cereal will greet you, along with 20 bottles of apple juice. Towers of paper towels and toilet paper rolls reach toward the ceiling.

There are so many packages of baby diapers in here that, stacked, they'd completely conceal the pantry door. And the shelf of household cleaners -- everything from furniture polish and dishwasher detergent, to glass cleaner and carpet sprays -- will leave you wondering why my house isn't spotless. (Hey, I do have three kids who make it their daily mission to undermine my housecleaning efforts!)

People's reactions to my pantry never cease to amuse me. They ask, "Are you worried about a food shortage?" "Who will eat all of this?" "Did you buy all of this at one time?"

But, once I explain stockpiling, most people begin to get it. Wouldn't you buy a lot of cereal if it were only 6 cents a box? How many bottles of apple juice would you buy at 25 cents a bottle? Both of these products have a long shelf life. And my family of five goes through a lot of cereal and juice, among many other things.

Stockpiling and couponing go hand-in-hand. When you stockpile groceries, you buy as many units as you can afford to buy, using as many of the coupons that you have collected for the items involved. As consumers, we're just not conditioned to buying large quantities of the same item. And yet, it makes good financial sense to do so.

Grocery stores price all items on a revolving cycle. Everything in the store reaches its lowest price point just once in a three-month period. A Super-Couponer waits until the price of a certain item is at its lowest point, then buys enough to last his or her household for the next three months. The Super-Couponer saves money compared to the shopper who buys only enough of a sale item to get through one week, then returns later to buy more of the same item when it is not on sale.

Twenty bottles of apple juice may seem like a lot to buy at one time, and it is. But at a quarter a bottle, those 20 bottles cost me just $5. The juice's regular price? $2.89. So, for less than the cost of two regular-priced bottles, I bought 20.

If I bought what I thought our family would drink in a week during the apple juice sale, I'd leave the store with just three bottles. Once those bottles were gone, I'd be back at the store paying $2.89 apiece for the next three. Instead, I stockpile. The quantity I bought will last our family about seven weeks, and we've saved a lot of money, too.

Stockpiling is a simple concept. Once you start, you'll wonder why you didn't shop this way before. Of course, you may also wonder where all your pantry space went. Next week, I'll share some of my stockpiling tips with you.

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.