0

How to 'shop at home' more often

Last week, I introduced you to the concept of stockpiling groceries and spilled the beans on what's hiding in my basement: a small-scale "grocery store" at home.

Like many people, I'm always on the lookout for great deals. But unlike the typical shopper, I think nothing of buying 5, 10 or perhaps even 15 of an item when it is on sale.

To really save money at the grocery store, shoppers need to break the habit of buying what they need each week and, instead, look beyond the current week's needs. If shampoo is on sale for $2 and you have six $1.50 coupons, how many bottles should you buy? Six! While you might only need one bottle now, shampoo is an excellent item to stockpile. It has a long shelf life and is easy to store. Six bottles of shampoo will probably last your household the better portion of a year. At 50 cents each, a very low price, they're a great deal.

What if you decided to buy just two bottles? Not only would you miss out on the opportunity to save in the long run on this item, but you also would essentially be throwing money away in the form of the four coupons you chose not to use. Think ahead: after you use up your second bottle of shampoo, what will happen? You'll head to the store when you need more shampoo. The chance is slim that it will be at its lowest sale price on the day you need to buy it. Your next bottle of shampoo may cost you $3.50 when it could have cost just 50 cents. And, instead of simply going to your stockpile and "shopping at home" for the next bottle, you might also have to make a special trip to the store.

While we'll always need to go to the store for fresh produce, dairy and bread, a large portion of the groceries we buy are easily stockpiled for later. Boxed foods, snack foods, canned foods and bottled beverages all store easily and have expiration dates almost a year out from the time of purchase. Personal care products -- such as shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant and shaving cream -- have an even longer shelf life. And don't forget household cleaners and paper products, both of which can be stored indefinitely.

You don't have to devote a special area of your house to stockpiling. And you don't need to stockpile on a large scale. If toothpaste is on sale, buy several tubes and store them under the sink. If trash bags and paper towels are on sale, store them in the garage on a shelf. I enjoy having a corner of my basement devoted to my pantry, but you can stockpile wherever you have the space.

A friend of mine once confessed she stored cereal boxes in her son's bedroom closet once when it went on sale. She purchased 15 boxes, got them home and realized there wasn't room in the kitchen! But again, what's the harm? A little cereal in the closet never hurt anybody. And she paid less than 25 cents per box during that sale, so buying in quantity made sense.

And remember, too, that while your stockpile grows, it's also constantly in rotation. Old things come off the shelves as quickly as you add new items, just as they do at the regular grocery store. At one time, I had 40 boxes of granola bars in my basement pantry, which elicited lots of jokes and comments from friends. But what they don't realize is that my children are quite aware of Mom's home pantry and they run downstairs and help themselves whenever they'd like a snack. So as the granola bars start to disappear into hungry little mouths, Mom may be bringing home cans of soup to take their place. And my stockpile continues to rotate and evolve.

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.