Super-couponing: Stockpiling can build up savings if you have the room

Dear Jill,

I've seen the light! I have embraced stockpiling. I've seen how much money I can save by shopping sales cycles and stocking up a little bit at a time. I usually buy about three months' worth of an item, as you recommend, but there are times I wonder if I should stock up even more. Do you ever purchase groceries in quantities that last longer than 12 weeks? — Sheila R.

Dear Sheila,

Since most supermarkets run on a 12-week sales cycle, buying 12 weeks' worth of a sale item helps us save money. If my family eats two boxes of crackers each month, I try to buy six when our favorite goes on sale. That's enough to last us until the next time the price drops.

Have there been instances when I buy even more than 12 weeks' worth of something? Absolutely! Sometimes a store may offer a special price break or a product may be discounted during a seasonal promotion. Here's how I decide if it's worth buying more than usual.

— When is the expiration date? If the product doesn't expire for many months, it may be worth buying more than my usual stock-up amount. I remember a sale on organic canned tomatoes for 69 cents per can. For every five cans purchased, a shopper received a $3 Catalina coupon, the type generated at checkout. I spent just 45 cents for five cans: 9 cents each!

Since they didn't expire for almost two years, I bought 30 cans, certainly more than I'd use in three months. But I recognized that this fantastic deal wasn't likely to repeat itself in three months. For a $2.70 investment, I have plenty of tomatoes on hand for a year or more.

Of course, if you find a deal on a product with no expiration date, such as paper towels or toilet paper, stock up on as much as you're willing to store. More on that in a moment.

— Is the product's price slated to rise soon? It's worth watching the news and keeping track of commodity prices. When the price of raw coffee beans skyrocketed, I bought more coffee than usual in an effort to avoid paying the higher prices sure to come. Sooner or later, the increase in raw material prices will trickle down to the store. (This also made my husband, our family's big coffee drinker, very happy.)

Similarly, when peanut butter prices started to climb, I stocked up more than normal. The expiration date on the jars was a year away, and we go through about a jar a month. Instead of buying my usual three jars, 12 weeks' worth, I purchased 12 jars, a year's worth. I lined the purchase up to a great coupon deal, so I paid an even lower price per jar.

Now, we'll enjoy our favorite brand of natural peanut butter for an entire year. We won't have to spend more regardless of how much the price climbs in the next few months.

— How much storage space do you want to devote to the item? This is an important factor. Most people don't want to turn their home into a mini supermarket. No matter how great a deal is, if your grocery stockpile starts to creep into your living room, it may be time to limit what you bring home. Who wants to look at stacks of paper towels in the living room? Buy what you know you'll use and are willing to store.

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her website, http://www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.

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