Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How to Start Stocking Up

The key to success at the grocery store is knowing when to buy, when to pick up an extra item, and when to stock up. There's a simple bit of math that will answer this question. I've been using this system for a year now and it is great.

When to buy an item:
  • Feel free to buy any item you need for affordable family dinners. Guess what? It's OK to buy one box of Zesta crackers if you are planning to have soup for dinner. And you can buy one tub of sour cream if you are going to use it to make tacos or enchiladas. But that's the key. Just buy what you need...that would usually be ONE item. 
When to buy an extra:
  • Weekly sales. Generally the savings here are 35-40% off regularly priced items. When these items go on sale (and they are items your family will eat) buy TWO or THREE. This works best for non-perishable items, like spaghetti noodles or boxes of cereal. These sales usually cycle through the grocery store every 4-5 weeks. It will feel like you are spending MORE than usual when you do this, but it really does pay off in the long run...just make sure that you stay within your budget.
When to Stock up:
  • Big sales, seasonal sales, or sales price + coupon. Any time an item is more than 55-60% off, THAT'S the time to stock up. When you can find regularly used products at these prices you should buy FOUR or more, depending on your budget and/or how many coupons you have.
Here's the trick. You have to BUDGET for items to stock up on. I couldn't figure this out for quite some time...I kept thinking, "How am I suppose to budget extra money for items that I don't even know will be on sale next week?!?"

Ready for this? It's so simple:
  • 90% of your weekly/monthly grocery budget should be used normally.
  • The other 10% should be set aside, kept in your wallet, ready to use when you see a sale. If you don't use that money one week, keep it! Now you've got even more money to use to stock up on the things you usually use.

With this system last month we were able to buy 12 large boxes of cereal for about $18. Sure, there are even crazier deals out there, but come on...these boxes were about $1.50 each. Compare that to the normal price of $3.99 and you can see that the savings is around 62%.

Here are a couple examples so you can see how this really works:
 You can also see the best months to buy:

 The more often you are able to stock up on items, the less money you will spend overall. You'll even find yourself at the store much less often. After a year of doing this I am to the point where I only buy cereal 4 times a year, and I probably spend a total of just $80/year on cold cereal instead of the $140-$200 I use to spend. Imagine always having something to eat in the morning! No more reaching for a cereal box and realizing there is less than a 1/2 a bowl left.

We buy flour and sugar once a year.
Meat: twice a year
Pasta: twice a year
Tomato Sauce: once a year
Yeast: once a year
Soup: twice a year

And we have set this up without spending ANY extra money.

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