How to organize your stockpiled riches

Last week, we talked about the importance of stockpiling, a topic that certainly shouldn't be lost amongst all the coupon talk. Simply put, stockpiling involves purchasing more of a product than a household immediately needs, when the price of the item hits its lowest point.

Most products at the supermarket go through a price cycle. Buying when prices are lowest and using coupons for additional savings ensures we pay the lowest possible prices for the items we need.

In any discussion on stockpiling, two questions inevitably crop up: Where do I put all this stuff I'm buying in larger quantities? And how do I know when the price is at its lowest point? Let's tackle both topics.

Once you shift your perspective and begin to shop based on price versus your household's immediate needs, you will find yourself dealing with larger quantities of your most frequently purchased items. I've found it most convenient to set up a small area in our basement to devote to my "store," where shelves hold items I most often purchase in multiples. Organizing my stockpile on shelves reduces the footprint of the storage area. I arrange my stockpile much like a traditional store, with cereals and breakfast items shelved together and designated spots for snack foods, pastas and sauces and drugstore-type items.

However, when a good sale strikes, my stockpile has been known to creep out of its designated area. Past great sales on paper products have led to toilet paper and paper towels stored on shelves in our garage!

If you don't have a special room or area where you can set up shop, storage options abound throughout the house. Many crunched-for-space Super-Couponers use under-bed boxes or drawers to stockpile all sort of items, from canned goods to cereal boxes. Other coupon shoppers clear space in closets for stockpiling items. One couple I know decided they needed a pantry more than they needed a linen closet. Now they keep sheets and towels in the master bedroom closet and the linen closet is filled with food! Still others appropriate old armoires, china cabinets or buffets to conceal their stockpiles.

Don't necessarily limit yourself to inside the house. In moderate climates, consider storing cans, jars and paper products on garage shelves. I've heard from many apartment dwellers who use outdoor-accessible storage containers to store more than bicycles and lawn chairs.

With stockpiling, the key is to strike a balance between the bargains you bring home. Any time my stockpile begins to grow too far beyond its designated home, it's usually time for me to do a "sweep" for any products we are not likely to use in the near future. We donate our extras to a local food bank or pantry. I like to think my stockpile benefits my family and others, too.

Now, how do we know when the price of an item hits its lowest point and becomes a "buy?" Typically, anytime a sale price is at least 50 percent off the regular, non-sale price, it's a buy. Last week, I discussed a sale in which crackers went from $3.29 to 99 cents a box. This would be an excellent example of a cycle low, since 99 cents is about 70 percent off the regular, non-sale price. But, if the crackers had been on sale for $1.65, they still would have been an excellent buy -- that's half off. When shoppers are Super-Couponing, part of the strategy is to learn the best prices for the items we commonly buy.

The Internet offers many useful tools for coupon shoppers. Many web sites offer detailed lists of all items that will hit their lowest prices for the current week at your store of choice. These grocery list sites also help shoppers match current sales to the coupons they need in order to reduce prices even more, listing exactly where the coupons appeared and when to use them. Find a list of these on my web site, www.supercouponing.com site, under the heading, "Getting Started."

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.supercouponing.com. E-mail your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.