The Importance of a Rotating Food and Supply Storage

If your routine involves shopping once a week or every couple of days for some random items you’re supposed to make into meals, this couponing thing is never going to work for you. That’s especially true if you find yourself going to the store even more often to fill in the holes for the meals you didn’t plan in advance. What’s the problem exactly? Those last-minute purchases, and very possibly your entire grocery list, aren’t on sale and you probably don’t have a coupon for those particular items. Sure you can buy store brand and it might be cheaper, but is it cheapest? Chances are the answer to that question is no.

The thing about making couponing work for you, and the key to mastering frugality, is buying what’s on sale with the best coupon possible. That means shopping for what’s on sale each week, and not for what you want that week. There will be a few exceptions, mostly fresh produce, but I bet you can learn to save money even in that department with a quick perusal of the weekly ads and some forethought.

When you buy on sale, you might buy 8 cans of olives at one time. Yes, in a way, that is excessive, but it’s how you’re going to turn pennies into dollars in the long run. When you buy what’s on sale, you’ll start to realize that sales happen on cycles and that they are also particularly good at certain times of the year. By stocking up when it’s a good sale, or better yet, a GREAT sale, you’re going to save the most money possible. When you combine the coupons I know you’ve been learning to save with the sales you’re learning to look for, you can decide which sales to buy on, how much to buy, and which coupons to use. Once you have mastered the flow of sales and coupons, and then matching the two together, it’s time to start stocking up.

Yes, this is going to take some storage space, but you can do it. My husband and I live in a 700 sq/ft. apartment that has truly NO kitchen storage. My dishes don’t even fit, so I’m sure you can only imagine where the food goes. We have a small pantry cupboard that houses a very few food items and a single cupboard that houses things like tea, seasonings, vinegars, oils, and some drink mixes for my husband. Short of those teeny spaces and the fridge, every other food item in this house is outside of the kitchen area. My solution: the dining room. At first I bought a 6 cubby wire rack with a few cloth baskets. This worked for a while, but my dear mother-in-law sends us copious amounts of Asian cooking ingredients much more often than we can ever use them. Yes, we are guilty of having 8 packages of somen noodles and we never eat them. However, one other problem was also that the bins are smaller than each cubby they go in so we were losing space. As I started to create a food storage I realized this arrangement would never work. However, with a small tweak here and there we’d make do just fine. I turned the wire rack on its side and left the baskets out of the bottom three cubbies which gave us A LOT of extra space. I used the extra bins to make three extra areas on the top shelf. I also pushed the three bins together which made room for two Tupperware storage containers to stack on top of each other. The only other food storage besides these two areas we use is a 5 gallon food safe bucket that houses the majority of a 50 pound bag on rice we buy every 16-18 months. This lovely display sits along the far wall in my dining room but I manage to keep about 66% of it covered with an extra table-cloth and a single safety-pin. This arrangement provides a colorful and simple cover to my open food storage.

Now how do you make a food storage work for you? First of all, what we’re shopping for are non-perishables with a long or decent shelf life. Keep in mind that this same method applies to finding things like hygiene products, cleaning supplies, batteries (if you don’t use rechargeable), and even medications. The important part is to check the expiration date before you buy. Don’t buy 5 packs of batteries on clearance that are going to expire the same month unless you truly are going to use them before they expire. Remember, expiration dates are there for a reason. It’s because quality and/or freshness does run out eventually.

So next week, say the ads come out and they have the best sale on shampoo, canned green beans, and a decent toilet paper you can find. You look in your saved coupons and see that you have three really good coupons for the shampoo, two decent coupons for the beans, and two standard coupons for the toilet paper. Read your coupons carefully before you go to the store, but as long as there are no restrictions this is your best buy.

  • Just say your shampoo is regularly $4 a bottle and it’s on sale for $3 each and you have three coupons for a dollar off of each bottle. That means you’re getting three bottles of shampoo for $2 each which is 50% off. That makes this is the perfect time to use all your coupons because the savvy shopper in you knows it’s the best deal you’re going to get. You also know that stocking up on three bottles allows you enough time to wait for another really good sale.
  • Now let’s say green beans are on sale for 50 cents each, they’re usually 75 cents each, and you have a coupon for 25 cents off two cans and you have two coupons. The total for four cans of green beans before coupons would be $2 but you have two coupons totally 50 cents which means you’ll get 4 cans of green beans for just $1.50 or 37.5 cents each. You know that around Thanksgiving time you’ll be able to find green beans for 25 cents each but until then this is as low as they’ll go so it’s worth using your coupons now, before they expire, and only getting a few cans to last you until the rock bottom price is there.
  • Now picture you’re arm and a leg toilet paper is 50 cents off for the sale price. It’s not good but you can’t go without toilet paper and you didn’t stock up enough last time, but you know there is a good sale coming in the next couple of weeks. Let’s call the regular price $5 (we’re making this easy, not realistic) and that would make the sale price $4.50. Your standard toilet paper coupon is only 25 cents off and while you have two, you know neither the store nor the manufacturer will let you double. The final price would be $4.25 which isn’t a great deal, and maybe not even a good deal, but again, you can’t go without toilet paper. If you know one pack will get you through until the really good sale, just get one, but if you have a large family or it’s a small pack, it might be worth it to take what little discount you’re getting now on both packs so that you don’t have to pay full price on a second pack later because the really good sale wasn’t quite soon enough.

If you bought everything at our imaginary regular price in this scenario, it would cost you $25 plus applicable tax. However, on sale it would have cost you $20, not bad, but no great. By combining the sales with your coupons you’re total cost came to $16 plus tax. That’s a total savings of $9 or 36%. If I am not going to save at least 33%, I don’t buy it, and I will take just about anything at 50% off, unless I know I have enough to get me through to the rock bottom price, assuming the sales get better than 50% off. But by watching the sales, buying enough to get you through to the next great sale, and combining that with coupons, you can easily save 50% or more on your grocery costs.

The next step to creating a rotating storage is having an organized place to keep everything. You can use whatever system you want and that works for your particular living space. However, keep things grouped together so you can quickly see what you have and how  much of each item so you know if it’s time to watch for sales again or so you can decide if you have enough to pass up this sale and wait for a better one. Once you buy items to add to your storage it’s imperative that you add it to the back of the storage area. That way, you use what you’ve had longest first, and the new stuff goes in back. This prevents both spoilage and loss of money. The last step, which you may or may not choose to partake in, which I recommend you do, although to be honest, I don’t, is keeping a catalog of what you have so you don’t over or under buy. You can use a chart from the computer (whether it’s on the computer or you print it off), a piece of notebook paper, a small whiteboard, or whatever is easiest for you to keep track of what items you have and how many. If you want, you can also keep track of expiration dates, but you don’t have to.


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