When is it Worth it to Stock Up?

by Katy on February 20, 2010 · 28 comments

One of the basic tenets of frugality is to stock up on needed items when they’re on sale/cheap and then shop from your stash, instead of needing to run out to pay full price.

But this is not always practical or advisable. If your money is being spent stocking up on household supplies, then it’s not available for immediate needs such as paying bills, backup emergency funds or charitable giving. Plus, it takes up a lot of space to store all this stuff.

I am not someone who keeps a huge stash of sale items filling up my pantry. A) I have no pantry, and B) that’s just not my personality. But there are ways that I do stock up.

Items that I stock up on are those that have a long shelf life and are at a rock bottom price. Examples would be 2-pound blocks of Tillamook cheese for $3.99 or $1 jars of jam. Essentially though, it needs to be a loss leader or close to it for me to bother with buying much extras. I will not buy something just because it’s cheap or free. It has to be something I would normally buy. So no weird products, and minimal packaged food. Even if I have a coupon.

One method to efficiently stock up on groceries that I don’t take advantage of is to use a freezer. Yes, I have my above-the fridge freezer, but there’s only so much food that can fit in there. I try to simply not use it as frozen food storage, and it’s usually filled with extra loaves of bread, individually frozen chicken breasts and bits of this and that.

Another time that I stock up on food or household goods, is when the item is bought in a speciality store that I only visit infrequently. This can be the rice wine vinegar from the Asian market, or the three-packs of soap that I buy at the Dollar Tree store. Buying these items away from the traditional grocery store saves me a lot of money, so it’s worth it to stock up. Plus, it’s a pain in the tuchus to run out of these items, so I like knowing that I’m set for awhile.

Are you the type of shopper that keeps a deep stash of pantry staples, or do you buy food and other household items as you run out? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth Kountouris February 21, 2010 at 5:13 am

I do stock on some things. Since I am on foot, I do my grocery shopping with a little red buggy. To get the most value for my limited dollars, I watch the sales at my local grocery store. When there are good sales of long life tinned goods that I use, I will buy a half dozen. Also, there will sometimes be a sale on chicken and I stock up.
I have the advantage of owning a freezer, which helps enormously in saving money on groceries, both at the grocery store and at the seasonal local organic market. Of course, you need to keep track of what is in your freezer, so that you don’t waste or repeat buy. Setting weekly meal plans based on your home stock and the grocery ads combines savings with thrift.


Bellen February 21, 2010 at 6:12 am

As I mentioned in a comment on a post recently, I shop BOGO deals weekly. I suppose I should have mentioned that I track when items go on sale, and they will on a regular basis. For instance we use 8 o’clock coffee and it goes on a BOGO sale every 8-9 weeks. Knowing that we use 1 bag per week we will buy a total of 8 bags or 4 BOGO deals. A terrific deal and we know we will use it.

The same goes for jam/jelly at $1 per jar for Smucker’s – we go thru 1 jar every 6 weeks so I will buy 3 at that price twice a year. Elbow macaroni, shells and fettucini will also go on BOGO about every other month – knowing what we use in that time period dictates what we buy. We watch for 4-pk of tuna, tomato soup and canned corn as they go on BOGO only about 3 times a year.

Best advice I can give anyone – know prices and know how much you use in a month, that way it is easy to plan on ‘stock up’ purchases.


caley June 13, 2010 at 8:39 pm

can I ask you, do you have a list of what goes on sale when? I would love to start tracking when things go on sale, and what to buy at what times of year? If you have a running list I would love to see it 🙂


Saving Her Life February 21, 2010 at 6:17 am

I typically stock up only on items that I am loyal to – especially bath products. I am a huge fan of Noxzema, and although I buy the store brands for Noxzema, I stock up when I find a sale and/or have store coupons. It’s the only product that works on my face.

Food we buy on an as-needed basis unless it’s a sale we absolutely can’t refuse to pass up. Otherwise, I like to just make do with what we have until our weekly grocery trip rolls around.


Raffaella February 21, 2010 at 7:18 am

I don’t really stock up, if stocking up means buying more than 3 pieces of the same items. 🙂
But sometimes yes, I buy more than one pieces if it’s really convenient. Recently there was a 2×1 offer at my usual supermarket, so I chose some stuff I could use and bought softener, tuna, fried chicken (which I froze), chips and frozen soup. It’s nice to think “this was free” when using s/th…


Linda February 21, 2010 at 8:36 am

I usually only stock up on canned goods of things that I use all the time. Also, when laundry detergent, tissues, toilet paper, etc. go on sale I stock up on those because they are non-perishable and we’ll always need them.


Shir-El February 21, 2010 at 9:08 am

A word of caution: some items are on sale for good reason. I learned this to my cost and ALWAYS CHECK the EXPIRY DATE before deciding to buy.

Like Elizabeth I need to watch my expenditures VERY closely, so I stock up when (a) the item on sale is something I use regularly, or (b) if it’s from an out-of-the-way store.

I also have a wheeled schoolbag for shopping: when it’s empty I sling by it’s shoulder-strap, and when it’s full I extend the handle and wheel it home. It’s smaller than a shopping cart and helps limit my purchases to what I can realistically handle (though not always).

I’m blessed with having a neighborhood mini-super and two discount supermarkets within walking distance, so I monitor prices for lost leaders on a regular basis at all three stores.

Happy Shopping & Saving!

PS If you’re shopping for two or more try this:
1. Make up a list of every single item you buy at any time of the year, from Q-tips to kumquats, light bulbs to chicken legs.
2. Re-organize the list into sections according to type or supermarket department, such as ‘paper goods’, ‘dairy’, ‘frozen’, ‘cans’, ‘produce’, etc.
3. Put little check boxes next to each item.
4. Now print out or photocopy a few and tick-off the items you need before going shopping.

The list saves shopping-time, jogs memory and helps track prices.


Lisa February 21, 2010 at 9:34 am

Practically all my shopping consists of weekly specials. I buy multiples of the things we normally use as long as they aren’t perishable. Today I was tempted by a good deal on apples and oranges and bought a big bag of each type. The oranges will go fast, but we tend to be slower about eating apples. So I plan on chopping them up and drying them in the oven…make my own apple chips! You might consider dehydrating some foods. It’s a simple way to preserve, takes little storage space, and is portable, light weight foods for biking or hiking. I usually use solar power in the summer to dry garden veggies and foraged fruits. My high tech method is to slice them, put them on cookie sheets, then put them inside a closed up (non running) vehicle that just happens to live in a sunny spot of our driveway.


Shannon February 21, 2010 at 10:41 am

I’m a stock up shopper, but only stuff that we normally use. I’m ridiculous about cereal…it’s a game to me to find the best ways to work the cereal deals, lol, until my husband makes me stop. Right now I am not “allowed” to buy anymore cereal until we have consumed 10 boxes. I basically go by a rule that I only stock what can fit in the pantry and lazy susan combined. Also we do have a deep freeze, which we mainly use for meat: we get most of our meats bulk from local farmers. And I always pick up the BOGO deals on things like pickles, peanut butter and ketchup, plus I try to stock up on toilet paper and laundry detergent. I just hate to pay full price for that stuff. But again, we basically set limits for stock based on the available space. No matter how hard it might be to turn down the great deal from time to time.


Brenda February 21, 2010 at 4:43 pm

I stock up. First of all I have the space, a chest freezer and a pantry area in the basement. Second, living here in the frozen north you never know when you might be snowed in or just not want to have to run to the store in such crappy weather. I try to take advantage of sales on items we regularly use and stock up what I think we will use in the next 3 to 6 months. Especially is this true in the fall, when stocking up for winter is on my mind. -Brenda


Marie-Josée February 21, 2010 at 5:13 pm

I stock up non perishables that I know we will use when they are on sale, and my husband stock’s up on bar soap, tissue and toilet paper, whether on sale or not. The rest of our food is mostly perishable and organic, and there are no sales or coupons for those in my region.


Maniacal Mommy February 21, 2010 at 6:23 pm

I am with Brenda on the stocking up. I never know if we will get snowed in, plus I have the chest freezer and basement pantry so space isn’t an issue. I have three kids, 6 and under, and most of the time leaving the house for something we have run out of is quite the expedition. I prefer to have what we need on hand, at least in terms of staples. I have been known to get creative so I don’t have to bundle up three kids and head to the grocery store!


Lisa P February 21, 2010 at 8:23 pm

I maintain a pretty regular stock & am fortunate to have the space & shelving to do so as well as a separate freezer. I live in a car-dependent area in New England & it’s about 6-7 miles to the closest grocery store (a real shopping area is further) so like others I like being able to shop in my basement particularly in the winter. I use coupons & stock up on canned goods with a close eye on expiration dates during sales, frozen foods (again sales + coupons), cleaning supplies, soaps, shampoos etc, medications (advil etc) and paper goods (all coupon + sales). I also buy extra flour, sugar and other baking items during the holiday season that will carry me for a while (I store the flour in the freezer to reduce the risk of bugs). Everything is stored according to its expiration date & I’m getting better at having little waste. A couple years ago I splurged on a can rotation system and that’s been worth its weight in gold. I suppose it’s a bit of a nesting instinct but I sleep better at night having extras on hand. (If anyone is interested Bumble Bee tuna is .49 a can this week at CVS, it’s a limit of 10 cans & on some cans there is a peel-off coupon for $1/5 cans so I paid 2.90 for 10 cans that expire in 2013.)


Elizabeth L. February 21, 2010 at 8:29 pm

I definitely stock up. I’m lucky to be back living with my parents who have a lovely pantry as well as an extra refrigerator, so stocking up is easy. (I do all the shopping and cooking for my family in exchange for free rent and food). I keep an eye on the circulars and stock up on things like boneless, skinless chicken breasts at $1.99 a pound, pasta, and things that we like to buy that are BOGO. Like you, Katy, I only buy the things we use and stay away from things that are “just a really good deal”. When I’m stocking up I try to combine sales with coupons, but I’m not always that lucky. That is, however, how I ended up with 12 cans of soup in the pantry. Guess what I’m eating for lunch?


Kris-ND February 21, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Like my fellow frozens, I also stock up 😉 I have nightmares about what could happen with a hellacious ND winter storm, and there just tain’t no way I am going to try and trek into the closest grocery store(well, my dh will be trekking 😉 ) and try and find something, anything worth buying with cleared out store shelves. If you don’t have more than a few cans of soup and a jar of pb with crackers, you are out of luck. You might find yourself fighting with your dog, cat, ferret, fish, whatever, for *their* food 🙂

My dh built a huge pantry in the garage when we bought this house, and we have a big stand alone freezer, so we have the room to stock up. I stock up on staples when they go on sale, and rotate everything, so nothing gets wasted. If something looks like it will become outdated before I think I will use it, then I send it on to the food pantry, where a can of soup or a box of crackers will be used right away.

We buy our beef from a ranching neighbor twice a year, so we are always stocked up on that.

What I find myself stocking up on the most are things that either won’t go bad, or have a very long shelf life. Things that I would want to buy, but if times were to get to the point where it was food or shampoo.

I was at Target a few months ago and they had the soap I buy on an end rack in the back of the store. I would never have seen it had I not been back there buying a travel lotion bottle for my purse. I was able to buy a years worth of soap for under 20.00, because they had the giant value packs 75% off.

I am working up to 6 months worth of toothpaste, floss, toilet paper, etc, and then I would like to get a year(need to check the shelf life of all that stuff).

I have a girlfriend who had a years worth of non food items that she regularly uses stocked up, because their income can be sporadic, and her dh was hurt and couldn’t work, so that stuff all came in handy and they were able to spend very little on food w/o having to forego shampoo, etc.

That being said, I happen to have a garage and a shed on our property that allows me the room to do this. If I didn’t, then I would find another way to find the balance.


magdalena February 22, 2010 at 6:21 am

A friend once thought she would be helpful and bought all the dicounted boxes of my husband’s favourite tea for him. There is no way anyone can drink 15 boxes worth of licorice herbal tea (20 tea bags each) in less than a year – and licorice being volatile, most of it went flat before we got half way through the stash. The rest was composted. So instead of saving $45 she wasted about $10.

I am careful about stocking up, despite having the room here. We eat mostly fresh food, so we don’t need canned stuff. There’s a deepfreeeze, and I stock it with meat on sale. If I buy extra vegetables, I may cook and freeze them to keep them from spoiling. The only thing we stock up is on sale toilet paper.


WilliamB February 22, 2010 at 7:22 am

I think it’s worth it. That said, you need to know what a good price is, be able to use it before it goes bad, and have some place to put it. In my opinion most people have more space than they think, but it does take experience or a helpful friend to max out the storage. My favorite trick was using a large piece of scrap silk to cover a table, so I could store soda underneath it.

I like having Life cereal for $2/box so I bought 15 boxes. I like rice at $.40/lb so I bought 30 more lbs, increasing total stash to about 100 lbs. (We eat a lot of rice, and a lot of different kinds of rice.) I like Quaker Rice Snacks at 25% off (I’ve never seen them on sale before) so I bought the store out – 27 bags and was seriously tempted to hit another in the same chain. I drink soda so I nab that when it’s cheap, too. I need to keep an emergency supply of food on hand, so I stock up on canned fruit when it’s cheap also. (If there’s an emergency I don’t want to go two weeks without produce.)

I don’t usually stock up on meat, although I am looking into buying happy meat in bulk. Does buying half a pig count as stocking up?


Mamie February 22, 2010 at 9:30 am

I stock up based on sales. We have a an extra fridge/freezer, chest freezer, and a good amount of storage in our home, so this is possible. For many years I lived in small, urban apartments where keeping stockpiles wasn’t feasible, and it drove me nuts! My parents always had a good stockpile/inventory on hand, so it’s what i am used to from my growing-up years.

That being said, we are rapidly moving away from eating prepared and convenience foods in our home, so I don’t really need to “stock up” on boxes of Rice-a-Roni or cans of Chefboyardee (how do you spell that???) any more. Now “stocking up” means taking advantage of good sales on whole wheat pasta, or buying good quality meat for our freezer, or buying good ingredients for meals in bulk – like the many pounds of pinto beans we recently bought at Costco. However, I now know how (and have the desire to) cook those beans, so stocking up makes sense.


Jeanine February 22, 2010 at 12:48 pm

I absolutely stock up on what’s on sale. For instance, I just bought 20 seven oz tubs of Land o Lakes real butter. The little tubs were 10 f0r 10 dollars. They are normaly like 2.99. Into the freezer they go.

My husband works at a grocery store and when anything goes on a “good” sale, we stock up. This is especially true for meats. We have two small freezers that we rotate the items, so all I really have to buy on the weekly is staples and any specialty items for a particular recipe.


fairydust February 22, 2010 at 1:48 pm

I’m a stockpiler/couponer/deal-chaser. Part of it is that I really enjoy the “game” and part of it is having the food we enjoy on hand and not paying out the nose for it when it’s not on sale. We have an extra freezer downstairs so a lot of things go in there (meat, veg, ice cream, cheese, butter) and I also have to big shelves in the back room that serve as my pantry – one for toiletries and the other food items such as bottled salad dressing, ketchup, mustard, bbq sauce, rice, cereal, and the DH’s favorite snack foods.


Amy H. February 22, 2010 at 3:10 pm

We definitely stock up — mostly non-perishables, and mostly at Costco. TP, paper towels, wipes, shampoo and conditioner, Kleenex and Ziploc bags (trying to reduce my use of these right now), cases of Pellegrino, 20-lb. bags of rice (basmati and Asian short-grain). We also have a vacuum sealer, so we buy cheese, chicken breasts, pork chops and steaks at Costco, and vacuum seal and freeze most of each package. If pasta is $1/lb. or tuna is $1/can at Safeway or Cala Foods I will stock up and buy 12. Same with large bottled juices for under $2.50.

I love being able to walk back to the pantry and know I have the next replacement item already in the house! Gretchen Rubin had an interesting post about this on her blog:


Kristin February 23, 2010 at 8:41 pm

I stock up, so I can avoid paying full-price for the things we use regularly. I don’t buy anything we wouldn’t normally eat, no matter how cheap it is, so free Ramen noodles or such will never find their way into my larder. I do have a mental price point for commonly used items so if, for example, I find cereal for $2 a box or less, I buy a lot. It’s even better when I have a coupon for the cereal on sale, but that doesn’t always happen.


Betty Winslow January 10, 2016 at 6:25 pm

We stock up on non-food items (soap, laundry soap, dish soap, TP) when it goes on sale, also on certain things I know we’ll use, like Miracle Whip, jelly, coffee beans, baking supplies at Xmas, etc. I stock up on meat to a certain extent, since we have an upright freezer, but only the stuff I know we’ll eat. I pretty much only use the coupons Kroger sends us, based on what we normally buy, although once in a while I’ll run across one for something like Move Free or vitamins, which I save to use when the items are BOGO. When we lived in the country, I worried more about stocking up in case of being snowed in, but now we live in town and it’s less of a concern. However, I do try and keep a few items on hand that can be heated on the gas stove or in the fireplace (soup, canned chili, etc.), just in case, plus a couple of bottles of water.


Jane in Seattle January 10, 2016 at 6:27 pm

I stick. I pay half price or less for the things that are. It perishable and we use in a regular ( weekly) basis. If I have paid 1/2 price, that leaves me the difference for charitable donations ( feed the kids outreach) and other necessities. For example, I paid .38 for a can of diced tomatoes. I bought six. That is the same price that I would have paid for two at the store full price. We get three meals for the same price as one, It maymnotnwork for everyone, but it works for us, My parents always had a pantry, even when force of us lived in a Sears and Roebuck craftsman. Lol


Sharon January 10, 2016 at 7:24 pm

I buy what are standard items at their lowest prices and have a good stock up of shelf stable foods in my pantry and a shelf in the garage. I menu plan on what I have on hand, bought at the lowest possible price. I believe it’s called the pantry principle in the Tightwad Gazzette.


Coral Clarke February 11, 2024 at 2:50 pm

Living in sub tropical Queensland, Australia, we tend to have extreme weather events! This means an intelligently selected, carefully rotated stash of items we use is is essential.some brands of prepackaged wraps have an unrefrigerated shelf life of minimum 3 months, and require little storage space, noodles, rice and pasta also keep well.. Soaring cost of living here makes taking advantage of bargains important, but your BOGOF is almost unheard of here, and is rarely for anything essential! I don’t spend on snacks/ luxuries because they are cheap, unless it’s a really well priced favourite!


BettafrmdaVille February 11, 2024 at 3:09 pm

I have to have a tiny apartment in a different state (for my work) than my smallish condo that I share with my partner, which also has another fridge in the basement and plenty of room for storage. So I do stockpile.
Annual purchase from ShopRite Can-Can sale, and I will buy what I expect to eat in one year: tinned beans; canned tomatoes of various consistencies – whole peeled, pureed, etc.; pasta
Aldi butter: I do not shop here weekly, so I pay attention to when butter goes on sale (seems to be at Easter and between Thanksgiving and Christmas) so I buy enough to last until the next holiday. I think at one point, I had over 20 lbs in the freezer.
Other things, when I can get rock bottom price: Hellman’s mayo (I recently bought 2 for $1.55 each – less than Aldi brand, so I have 5 extra, with best buy date until 5/24); Arm & Hammer toothpaste (I think they are the only two name brands we buy); cans of ginger ale; bacon (just bought 4 packs at $2.65 lb); through Swagbucks, I made money buying laundry detergent, so I bought enough for more than 1 year, likewise, I made money buying rice vinegar and mirin, and I buy in gallon Bragg’s amino, red wine vinegar, white vinegar. I’ll also fill up to my par (3 backups) when I see a good price on EVOO, toiletries, chicken stock (we will make our own but we tend to use more than we can make)
I don’t live near any grocery outlets, etc. so I am less likely to be able to get bargains on food like Katy does, so I have to do it this way.
I don’t think I purchase anything that I don’t normally use just because it is on sale unless—at that moment—I know what I will use it for.
I’ve saved hundreds of dollars and I’ve rarely had to throw out anything. My partner and I keep an EXCEL spreadsheet for all of our freezer contents and periodically look to see if something has been on the list for a while and make a plan to use that.


Katy February 13, 2024 at 10:00 pm

An Excel spreadsheet for your freezer is very impressive!


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