Having just returned from my local grocery store with what appears to be a very unbalanced shopping trip, I thought I would share the method to my madness; a proven method of consistently slashing our grocery budget by hundreds of dollars a month.
The art of stockpiling groceries combines coupons, rebates, and the understanding of loss leader priced items. Consumer consultants and grocery chains operate their stores on the premise that most households only have a three day supply of food. Americans are impulse purchasers, and that is most evident in people’s food budget.
The goal of stockpiling (buying items in multiple quantities at rock bottom prices) is to create a personal mini-mart of staples, so that there isn’t the need to grab a few things at the store for a recipe.
Typically, consumers run to the grocery store throughout the week to grab 3-5 items that have been forgotten. Those few items every week, multiplied by 52 weeks can equal thousands of dollars. I saw this first hand when we were hosting our recent family reunion. I had been out of town leading up to the visit and so my food planning was not what it should have been. We ran to the store too often for a few items that were needed for that day’s meal, but they were not on sale. I was paying top dollar instead of loss leader prices. and my typical budget was blown. Some of the items that I purchased full price for $3-5, were $1-3 just one week later.
By understanding the sales cycles, holding onto your coupons until the loss leader prices come around, and then pairing the coupons with the rock bottom prices to stock up, hundreds of dollars a month are freed up into cold, hard cash. Some of you aren’t up for clipping and organizing coupons yet, well I have begun highlighting coupons to print a few times throughout the week. Start there. I know the sales cycle enough to understand what coupons will soon be loss leaders. 75% of the ones I highlighted, I have already used.
Pictured in this post is a perfect example of a typical stock pile grocery trip for me, so let’s walk through it and see if it makes sense. Poptarts are a child’s dream treat which I “never” buy, unless I get them for free, which I did. Trust me, this is one way to get to my teen boys heart…;) Our kids will enjoy these while they last because they know I won’t buy them again unless a deal like this comes around. Delayed gratification is one of the building blocks of stockpiling and has been a great life lesson for the kids.
Nationwide, Kellogg’s is running their big back to school promotion which is typical this time of year. For about one month, there is a BUY 10 Kellogg’s products, receive $10 (OYNP – on your next purchase.). Most of these kind of deals are advertised once (when the products are NOT on sale), but then never mentioned again, and that is the problem. People forget and then NO WHERE in the store is this extra Catalina deal mentioned. Unless you read a blog like mine that reminds you, or you save old sales fliers, most shoppers will miss out on free food.
Often deals like this are very specific. Since all ten products need to be in one purchase, I did my first days transaction of 4 boxes of Poptarts, and 6 boxes of cereal. I had coupons for six out of the ten items. My total for those ten items after coupons was $8 OOP (out of pocket), but I received a $10 Catalina Coupon for my next order, so basically, all items were free with $2 to spend on my next order.
The next day, I shopped and bought six boxes of Poptarts (yes, I know they are full of preservatives and horrible for you, but with five children, these are a treat every once in awhile) and four boxes of Cereal with coupons for six of the items, again, making it nearly free, PLUS I used the $10 Catalina from the previous shopping trip and received ANOTHER ten dollar catalina which I will use tomorrow. I keep rolling the $10 Catalina. Tomorrow, I will stock up on more cereal, but this time some Cereal Bars for quick snacks.
My goal is to always have at least ten boxes of cereal in my stockpile at all time. My price point is to never pay more than $0.75 for cereal, but I will average between $0.25-0.50 on these boxes. I recommend new couponers shoot for $1.
I am able to get items nearly free with my coupons, but even if you don’t have any coupons cut, there are often deals to be had by stocking up on the loss leaders. This week, those Poptarts are on sale for only $1.09 at Harris Teeter. If you were to purchase ten boxes of Poptarts, your total OOP would be $11, BUT you would receive a $10 Catalina Coupon good for your next purchase, so in reality, you paid ten cents a box with no coupon cutting at all. Is that clear as mud?
When I wrote the post, “Are Coupons Worth It?” (please read that first for a complete understanding,) I detailed the statistics of how, when and where coupons are beneficial.
Coupons are only beneficial 8% of of the time. Yes, you read that right. 92% of the time, coupons are NOT worth it, but this is a prime example of that 8%. Obviously, this is not all we will eat this week, but it’s a shopping trip I took to specifically stock pile on Kellogg’s products.
While I was there, I also took advantage of some more peaches, marked down produce, marked down Organic Chicken and three marked down roasts. You know I love saving money on meats. Scroll up to the first picture and notice all that I purchased. The total out of pocket cost for all of this food was only $30, PLUS I have a $10 Catalina Coupon to use tomorrow.
Real Cost? $20 for basically the fruit, meat, butter and bagels. Yes, this works for me!
Have I peaked your interest into the world of Stock piling?
In my next stockpiling post, I will share a list of items that area MUST for stock piling such as deodorant and toothpaste, cover some of the common misconceptions, as well as how you can stockpile in a small space.
This is just brushing the surface, and I have lots more to share, but I’d love to answer any questions that you might have in the comments.
I love back-to-school time! I’ve been stockpiling as much of the Kellogg’s products as possible. They should last us for quite a while, and you definitely can’t beat the price! I did 4 transactions in one day because our Harris Teeter is about 20 minutes away, and I didn’t want to drive that far every day. They all look me like I’m crazy for buying 20 boxes of cereal and 20 boxes of Pop Tarts at one time, but hey, they’re the ones that are crazy for not taking advantage of such a great deal!
I love this post. Look forward to the next one about stock piling and your target prices for certain items. Thank you!
Loving this Kellogg Deal at our HT! I’m glad I’m not the only one who searches for the reduced meats there either 🙂
Way to go! They had a similar deal at our Giant PA last week. Eggos and sandwich crackers were free with no coupons! After my initial investment of $10, I just rolled. I got 50 packs of crackers, 30 eggos and 10 (12 pks!!) of poptarts. I gave some to a friend and will donate some to our food pantry too.
I was JUST at HT yesterday and did use my coupons and bought 7 boxes of cereal BECAUSE I did forget about the Catalina deal. I am so bummed! Maybe I will go back:) can you use the $10 for anything in the store? Not sure how long cereal will stay fresh? Thanks for the reminder!
@Shayna, yes, you can use that $10 for anything in the store. You can go today and buy ten boxes of poptarts for $11 and get a $10 catalina. You could turn around that minute and go use that if you wanted.
Jen this is such a great post!! I REALLY want to learn how to do this!!…..we waste SO much money on groceries………
How do I know if stores in my area offer these deals?……I do know our stores don’t triple, and doubles are usually only up to .75
@TidyMom, Even if your stores only double up to $0.75, you can still get some great deals. For instance, in yesterday’s paper there were 3 coupons for Kellog’s cereal. Even if your store wasn’t doing the extra special, you could use those any time your cereal goes on sale for $2.00 and under and get that cereal for $0.50. I stock up on papers, so I have multiple coupons of the items I need.
My stockpiling has changed alot! Most of my shopping now is done at our local farmers market or stores that don’t really offer rock bottom sales (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods). So I’ve had to change my strategies – my stockpiling now is mostly for dried, organic beans, rice, etc.
@The Working Home Keeper, So true. It’s amazing though how many Organic companies are coming out with great coupons. I’ll do a post on that. I got 20 pounds of organic bananas a bit ago at Whole Foods for $5. I noticed they were ripe and just asked the produce manager if he’s mark them down. He was happy to. 🙂 I split some with my sis and we frozen them for bread and smoothies.
Great score on the organic bananas! I’ve been buying extra in-season veggies from our local farmers market and putting away in the freezer for winter. I so missed my local veggies last winter!
great post! I love stockpiling too 🙂
Once again, I have to climb up on my “It’s all locality” soapbox: When I lived in the Midwest, I could get amazing grocery deals:
* We had an Aldi
* We had 3 additional (major) grocery stores within a 10-mile radius.
* We had a year-round Farmer’s Market.
* We had double coupons, with no limits.
* We had Menards’ hardware store — great promos; once I got a year’s worth of laundry detergent free-after-rebate. (If you’ve got a Menards in your area, check out
Once I asked how Menards could afford to do this. And I heard an interesting story: Mr Menard owns a race car. He gets advertisers to sponsor his car by funding rebates in his store. Don’t know how true it is, but it sounded like a win-win.
Oh, I remember those days: Produce from Aldi and the Farmers’ Market. Double coupons at Kroger, yielding shredded cheese for $1/lb. (Once only, but I froze 15 lbs of it). Ordering coupons from a service, with my friend Sharon. Getting canned tomatoes for 4-cents a can after coupons — Sharon and I each bought about 4 flats worth! And then there was the time we got cake mixes and frosting for pennies. DH built me extra shelves in the basement. Good times. Those were some dazzling deals.
Then we moved across the country to a small town. There are other quality-of-life issues that compensate. (300 days of sunshine! Superb thrift store! Good work environment!!) But the grocery situation in our one local store … limp cucumbers … strawberries that mold overnight … EXPENSIVE blueberries. No double coupons. Sigh.
So, we learn to adjust. I invested in a large freezer, and I drive an hour to Sam’s Club once-a-month. I’m learning to do more with frozen veggies. My price point has gone up to $2 for a box of cereal. But I get great meat markdowns. And, occasionally, a loss leader to pack my shelves.
Reading posts like this one makes me realize, maybe I can’t get the exciting deals anymore, but it might be time to re-explore manufacturers’ coupons.
Thanks, Jen. Keep up the inspirational posts.
@Jora, Yes, you are so right. Living in the country,there are always trade off’s, for sure! But great mark downs on meat, that’s awesome. 🙂 I drove 30 minutes one way three days in a row to stock up, but it was worth it. 🙂 I just planned some other errands as well.
Absolutely excellent advice. I do the same thing with the items that make up our emergency pantry and our staples. It works well for flour, oils, butter (freezes beautifully and can be canned), and other items. The coupons for those items? Well they may be hard to find if they even exist, but it’s the exact same principle. You just buy when the prices are as low as they get in a cycle.
I give thanks for my freezer 😉
We are a family of four living in a 1100 sq.ft. home built in the 1960’s and we stockpile… It is amazing how creative one can get when storing items when you know you will save THOUSANDS per year! 🙂
Help me! We live 20 miles from any grocery store, so I make it a point to ONLY shop once a week. We do have a decent size pantry, but my problem is finding coupons for things we actually use – I don’t buy “convenience foods” like dinners in a bag. I cook meals from scratch. All too often, there are not coupons for the things I buy.
AND, how do you keep the foods “good” – w/o bugs? I know & do the First In, First Out, but we still often end up with weevils in our dry goods.
I need a MENTOR!!!
@Elaine Pool, I wish you lived closer, Elaine..I would totally go with you. 🙂 I store all our dry goods in our pantry created under our stairs. I have only had problems with moths once a few years ago and it’s because I didn’t rotate and use the older things first. I’ve never had any get in cereal…it’s sealed very well and it’s stored in a low humidity area.
You’d be surprised though at all the new coupons coming out. I always thought it was only for convenience foods but many organic companies are offering coupons now as well. I never pay for condiments any more either. Salad dressing – max $0.50. More companies are offering a variety, so that has been great.
@Jens, How do you know what’s a loss leader from the ads? And, what means this “catalina?” Thanks for your help!
Thanks so much for all the sharing. I just began learning about couponing and stockpiling this year when we adopted our daughter. I have maximized my space to accomodate several “stores” in my home where I can “shop” for items as I need them…bathroom items, laundry items and food items. My hubby thinks I am nuts when I lug in 4 hug packages of toilet paper at a time or 50 cans of baby formula because I found a deal or steal…but…I LOVE IT! It’s like a game for me. I am not very good at it yet, but getting there all the time!
@Charity, I am the same way Charity! I literally clapped my hands because I was so excited at Walgreens one day. About a month ago I got a pack of diapers for .99 cents. You would have thought Christmas came early.
I have learned so much. It was pretty intimidating at first and I messed up several deals. I have learned to stick up for myself. I now question “Why cant I use this coupon” when a cashier shoots me down. It is a game and a confidence builder. Now that I am a stay at home Mom I still feel like I am contributing to our family in a monetary way. Super fun!
Great post, Jen. After years of couponing and thrift shopping, this mother of four is finally learning the grammer of grocery promotions…i.e. catalina and loss leader. Very practical and helpful!
Great post! I stockpile and have my price points, too. It works so well!!! It nearly kills me if I have to pay full price for something, so I always try to have the necessisties on hand. Last month I was able to get mayonaise cheap… now my cupboard is full. I limited myself to a dozen jars since the expiration date is March 2011… but I am pretty sure we will go through it and I will be glad I didn’t pay full price. Off to get some Kellogg’s… the paper yesterday had some great coupons! blessings!
I just came home with 23 boxes of cereal that were on sale, plus rebates, plus I had coupons. They were CHEAP! We go through a LOT of cereal around here!
We don’t call it stockpiling, we call it “Preparedness”. It is a program taught in our church in an effort to be self-reliant, which includes using your resources wisely. I love learning about it and doing it right. Doesn’t mean I haven’t made some mistakes over the years, like any tomato product in a can and not checking freshness dates, but it sure helps. Great post and now seems to be a really low price on cereal. It should be going up really soon as wheat crops have failed around the world. I will be getting out there.
Thank you for this post. I went yesterday and am going again today!
Thank you for the wonderful post. I was wondering, is there any way to find out the upcoming Catalina promotions? Also, are they the same across the country for the stores that have Catalina promotions?
I know that envy is one of the “top ten” but seriously it is H-A-R-D not to when seeing the deals Americans get with coupons!! UUGGHH!!!!!!! In Canada, we have coupons, but generally for things like body wash and razors. I do get on the stockpiling bandwagon for these items, but how I wish I could save on food like you do. Coupons for food are limited and doubling and tripling is non-existant here. Any tips for saving money on food without coupons is always welcome. I do the reduced meat thing, I have saved tons and no one in the family has gotten sick yet! LOL
I really like stockpiling (my favorite is liquid detergent). How do you store all these food products? We have limited space in the kitchen for storing. I really don’t want to store things in the cellar.
Great post! I stock pile shop as well. We have three boys ages 11, 7 and 3. It is like feeding 6 boys and then my husband. Honestly he travels full time and the company buys 15 of his meals a week so I am not even feeding him most of the time and I still feel like I can’t keep food in the house. We eat 8-10 boxes of cereal a week so my cereal stock pile is around 20-25 at any given time and like you I shoot for the 75 cent range. It is a great feeling to know I can accomplish this task for my family. It is work but worth it. My kids even get in in the sales and coupons and figuring out how much we are saving and if we are getting a free item… they love that part. Yesterday at HT the middle one was begging for Toaster Strudles, I had a cart full of Pop Tarts which are a luxury afforded by deals just like you explained. While I had a coupon for the strudle he wanted I told him he would have to wait for HT tripples to come around, it was a 75 cent off coupon and they were not on sale. A lady standing near with her big coupon book just giggled as if to say, “You go mom!” I like that it is teaching them to think ahead and plan for things they want, we can’t have it all right away.