Stocking Up On Sales- When Is It Worth It?

 photo IMG_1915_zpsf6762fae.jpg
A view of my currently half empty stockpile...
why I don't mind stocking up on more things.
(Pic taken before shelving today's shop.)
My husband, Mike, and I, have a disagreement when it comes to a certain frugal strategy, and I know that both his opinion and mine are valid. I decided to share both perspectives with you, share the rationale behind them both, and hear what you think about it.

Lets say you go to a store and see that a certain (consumable) item is on sale. Do you buy it? Do you stock up? If so, how much do you buy?

Today, I went grocery shopping, and I saw that the gluten free pasta that I buy on a semi regular basis is on sale. Usually it costs $2.80 per bag, and for the first time ever, I saw it on sale- for $2.14. My kids love pasta, I like it because it is a variation from our all too frequently eaten rice as a starch... and though I do know how to make my own pasta, that is just not happening at this point in time- pasta is my lazy supper. But I feel guilty about serving it because it is so expensive. But I do serve it anyhow. I just try not to do it so frequently because of the price.

Recently, when I went to the "scratch and dent" store, they were selling gluten free corn flakes (without lots of crazy ingredients) for only $1.42 per box, instead of $5.71 a box (or more) that it usually is.

I stocked up on both.

For the pasta, I bought about 10 bags. For the corn flakes, I bought 20 boxes.

Today, at the store, I saw red lentils and chickpeas and split peas at an incredible sale- 60% of their usual price. Again, I bought as many as I was allowed to, because of the sale (maximum 4.5 lbs).

If you asked my husband, he'd say that I bought too much. That just because something is on sale doesn't mean you should be buying a lot of it. That maybe because of a sale, you should buy one or two more of something, but not a ton.
His reasoning?
It takes up a lot of space in a small house.
And, because even if it is cheaper than it would have been otherwise, it still costs more money than just buying what you need and not stocking up, and raises your monthly grocery total.

In the past, I've bought things on sale and then regretted it, from a financial perspective.
For example, I bought chocolate chips in bulk. Chocolate chips are very expensive, and buying them in bulk was much cheaper than buying them otherwise. But since I had chocolate chips in the house, "on demand", I ended up using them pretty often. And even though I bought them cheaper than they would have cost otherwise, altogether, in a short period of time, I used many more dollars worth of chocolate chips than I usually would. Simply because it was available.

And then there are times that things are on sale, that I wouldn't even consider buying, because even though on sale they are cheaper than they usually are, they're expensive items that I wouldn't regularly buy, so I shouldn't add them to my cart "just because", simply because they cost less than they regularly do.

In my opinion, things should only be bought in larger quantities on sale... if they are things that you anyhow would be buying, and you are now buying them to use over a long period of time, and don't over indulge on these items just because they are in the house.

The cereal, for example, that I bought.... I bought it in larger quantities because I was aware that my family WAS buying cereal regularly, and paying more for it than I wanted to. Now that I bought those 20 boxes, my kids aren't eating it more frequently than they were before- they eat it the same, but at a much lower price.
As for the pasta, that is something I do need to be careful with.
Even though I do buy it, I don't use it at such a fast rate because of the price. Even cheaper than usual, it is still a more expensive starch than rice or buckwheat or polenta. My challenge will be, although I have it in larger quantities, to use it at the same rate as I would had I not bought it on sale.

I agree with my husband that because of limited space, there's a limit to how much I should buy sale things in large quantities. We have a set storage space for food and groceries. I will not buy more than what can fit there, because then our home would be more cluttered, and then I'd end up feeling like this space is too small to live in, and then want to move to a larger home to accommodate all my cheap stuff, and then pay extra to store things I buy cheaper. Same concept as why I consider decluttering frugal. So no, I didn't buy 50 boxes of cereal- 20 boxes was all I could fit in my home without overtaking the food storage area.

The other thing I agree with my husband is that you need to not spend money you don't have to stock up on sale items. If you end up paying interest because you are so short on cash that you need to borrow, because you spent your money on "cheap things" then that is a silly decision. It is wise to try to avoid getting into such a tight spot financially, because buying cheap things in larger quantities does save money in the long run....

What do you think? Is it financially wise or foolish to stock up on sales? Which perspective do you agree with more? Mine or my husband's? Why?

If you liked this post, you might also like:
Bulk Buying- When It Pays and When It Does Not
Decluttering? Frugal or Not?
Stockpiling 101
Bulk Buying With No Extra Money

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. I think it is frugal to stock up on things that your family consumes regularly when they are on sale. For some things, you may have to force yourself to ration them (chocolate chips, rice pasta in your case), but if you can do that then you aren't actually raising your grocery bill over time, although one week or month might seem high. Avoid buying more than you can use before it goes bad, or more than you could possibly need to use before the next time you find these items on sale. In the case of your chick peas and red lentils, I'd have bought the 4.5lb limit because even that amount takes up a minimal amount of space, and even if you eat them more frequently because you have them, you're probably saving even more money over cooking with other kinds of protein.

    We don't have quite the space limitations you do, but I'm also not willing to donate huge amounts of storage beyond my kitchen pantry for food and my bathroom cupboard for personal hygiene items. When I see those extreme coupon shows with whole rooms dedicated to storing stuff they've bought on sale, I tend to think they're bordering on being hoarders.

  2. I tend to agree with your husband's point of view. I think we need to respect our husbands' viewpoint on things as they have rights, too, but that isn't why I'm agreeing with him in this case.

  3. I'm closer to your point of view, and luckily my partner is too.

    We do sometimes buy things on sale that we would not buy at full price. An example is dried cranberries: When the bulk organic ones go on sale at the food co-op, they are less than half the price of non-organic ones at the supermarket. At that point we buy about 2 pounds. We do NOT start using them in place of raisins in everything just because we can! We continue to use raisins faster than we do cranberries, while the cranberries are more of a special treat. Our son's trail mix for school snack has cranberries in place of maybe half the raisins, not all of them. We sometimes choose cranberries to sprinkle on our cereal instead of raisins, but not every day. The trick is to stretch them out over a period of time and really enjoy them, without saving them TOO long so that they get dried out and aren't as good.

    But when bulk organic raisins go on sale? That's a lower-than-normal price on a food we always keep in stock. If the savings is more than $1/pound, we buy 5-6 pounds, which will last us for months stored in tightly closed glass jars in the basement. When they are at normal price, we buy only about a one-month supply (because we go to the co-op about once a month) to minimize raisin expenses until the next sale.

    Sometimes I do choose to use a lot of raisins because we have a lot--for example, if it's my turn to serve the coffee hour at church, I might decide to bake raisin cookies instead of brownies. This is not wasteful; I'm substituting an abundant food for another food, not using food where we otherwise would not use food.

  4. I have 5 children at home, so there are certain things that I always buy in bulk, at a large warehouse store. However, I limit my trip there to once per month, so that I don't overbuy beyond our budget. If we run out of something that I don't consider essential, we just do without until the next month. One thing I do stock up on when I find a great sale price is meat. We have a large freezer in our garage, and I will buy lots of chicken or other meat if I see an unbelievable price because I have a place to store it for a long period of time. We don't eat any more or less meat if I buy more of it, and the cost savings is good - even "front loading" by buying more than I would usually buy at one time. I tend to NOT stock up on sale produce, unless it's something that would keep, because if it will rot quickly, I don't want to have to throw it out. I also don't buy too much of something that I can't store readily, and I definitely don't buy anything that is not a "normal" purchase for me, even if it's on sale or I have a coupon. Not worth it.

  5. I agree with you. As long as it's something you use regularly - or something that can be used instead of something you use regularly - as long as the saving is worth the bother (a penny off does not justify buying 100 of the same item in order to save a pound, for instance !),as long as you have enough money to pay for it, and as long as you have sufficient place to store it - go for it. In fact, this principle - what we call storecupboarding - is the guiding principle of the way I shop and cook; after you have been doing it for a while you develop what is almost a sixth sense letting you know when something is likely to be on sale again, and if you stock up on it, you end up never paying the full price ! And as different things go on sale at different times, the cost is spread over the year, and the monthly grocery total remains pretty much the same (in fact, I have a grocery budget, and I do not go over it, no matter what I am stocking up on in any given month/year).

    So far, the only downside to this way of shopping I have discovered so far is that, should you consider changing your diet considerably for some reason (as we are at the moment), it will take you rather a long time to eat up the store cupboard before you can move on ! :o)

  6. I think I'm a bit torn. My family mostly eats rice as our staple carb and while it's good to stock up while it is on sale, where I live, it does go on sale quite often and I don't want to deal with bug infestation and waste some of the rice simply because it sat too long in my house.

    1. Hi, we put our rice in gallon milk jugs as soon as we bring it home. We haven't had those pesky little "guys" for a long time. A 2 liter bottle cut off works great as a funnel. Also, rinse your rice, anything that floats don't eat. :)

  7. I'm do a bit of both. Stuff that we use regularly (coffee) should get bought in large quantities whenever they go on sale. Stuff that isn't, or doesn't last (produce, pasta) should ideally be bought when it goes on sale, and in limited quantities.

    That being said, a lot of the basics don't go on sale very often, and things like flour and peanut butter are almost never on sale. So it ends up being a wash.

  8. I agree with you. When there is a crazy good sale on something I normally buy, then I stock up. Not more than will fit in my pantry space though. I try to have a little money set aside for those types of sales so that I don't throw my budget out of whack.

  9. I agree with both of you, there's a middle ground! When I see a sale and it's something I know I'll your sure us, I grab a few extra. Same if I'm at a big box store- I've been baking my own bread, so it makes sense to buy that 20 lb bag of flour. (Which I store in empty and clean frosting buckets- ask for them at your bakery, they're free!).
    P.s. I'd love to see some of your red lentil recipes! I have over 5 lbs, but the only thing I make with them us mujadarra! Most lentil recipes I see call for brown, but red lentils don't hold their shape as well, so I assumed they weren't necesarrily interchangeable.

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