A stockpile is a collection of nonperishable goods beyond what you need for day-to-day use. People rely on stockpiles to sustain themselves during tough economic times and natural disasters. They also incorporate them into their daily usage to lower their monthly expenses and eliminate last-minute trips to the store. (With the increasing cost of food, stockpiling is becoming more important, for more read 5 Grocery Staples That Are Going Up In Price.)

TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics

Anyone can benefit from building a stockpile. Even if you live in an apartment and have a limited amount of space, by changing the way you think about food shopping, you can use your regular pantry space for stockpiling.

The key to using stockpiling as a money-saving method is to acquire the goods at the lowest prices possible.

What Should You Stockpile?
A stockpile should consist of food, household items and toiletry items that you use on a regular basis and that have a long shelf life. You might want food items like bottled water, protein bars, canned goods, dry goods and pet food; household items like paper towels, cleaning products, batteries, light bulbs and trash bags; and toiletries like shampoo, toilet paper, contact solution, medicine and first aid supplies.

Your stockpile might also include items that you don't use regularly, but that would be helpful in an emergency. Make sure to have items in your stockpile that don't require cooking for just such an emergency.

How Much Do You Need?
The size of your stockpile should be based on the number of people who will rely on it, how quickly you will go through the items and how much space you have to store it. Any stockpile is better than no stockpile if you have exactly one cabinet shelf to spare, create a mini stockpile that's focused on the most essential items. If you have an entire spare room for your stockpile, you can include non-essential items like mustard and barbecue sauce.

There is such a thing as a stockpile that's too big. You don't want a stockpile that's larger than the space you have to store it, and you don't want a stockpile that will spoil before you can rotate your way through it (many "nonperishable" items still need to be consumed by a certain date). (To help you set a budget and decide how much your require, see The Beauty Of Budgeting.)

Storing Your Stockpile
Being organized is key to keeping your stockpile fresh. Each time you buy something new, put it in the back so you're always eating the oldest items first. Items have expiration dates on them, but they're often hard to see. You may want to use a permanent marker to write the expiration date prominently on the front of the package.

Store your stockpile in a cool, dry, dark place to prevent spoilage. The basement or the garage might work (depending on your climate). If not, you can designate a portion of your pantry, a couple of cabinets or a portion of a closet. For items that will never go bad, like paper towels, under the bed will do nicely.

Amassing Your Stockpile
Unless a hurricane is imminent, you don't need to go to the store one Saturday and spend hundreds of dollars to buy your stockpile. Not only would it put a significant dent in your monthly budget, but you'd be overpaying for most items.

Strategic shopping is the best way to acquire your stockpile. By combining coupons with sales, you can purchase items at extra-low prices. Since it will take several months for sales and coupons to pop up for everything you want to buy, you'll be able to spread out the cost of creating your stockpile.

Maintaining Your Stockpile
Stockpiling is an ongoing process it's not something you do once and forget about. To avoid spoilage, occasionally use items from your stockpile and replace them. That's why it's important to stockpile things that you use regularly. Keep an eye on coupons and sales to replenish your supplies.

Stockpiling Pitfalls To Avoid

Don't buy items that will spoil quickly. Loaves of bread don't belong in a stockpile.

Don't assume that nonperishable items will never go bad. Rotate through them on a regular basis so that everything gets used before its expiration date.Don't buy things you don't like. Unless you end up in an emergency situation, they're likely to go to waste.Don't neglect nutrition. Many packaged foods are lacking in nutrition at best and outright bad for you at worst. Just because something is cheap or for an emergency doesn't mean you should buy it.Don't pay full price. Stockpiling isn't supposed to be expensive.Don't buy more than you can store. It's okay to get creative about where you store your stockpile goods, but you shouldn't have to look at a collection of soup cans when you're relaxing in the living room.Don't be afraid to go through your stockpile when times are tough. That's what it's there for. You'll replenish it when your situation improves.

The Bottom Line
Stockpiling is a great way to provide for yourself and your family. When times are good, it's convenient; you'll always have what you need on hand, and you'll never have to make a last-minute trip to the store. You'll also cut costs on an ongoing basis by purchasing items on sale and with coupons. And when times are bad, your stockpile means one less thing to worry about. (To help you save while building your stockpile, check out A Map To Grocery Store Savings.)

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