I try not to stock up on anything that we won’t use before its expiration date. Completely nonperishable items, such as paper products, never expire. Even when I’ve hit a great deal on paper towels (and ended up stashing extra rolls in the garage!), I think the longest that stock-up lasted was close to a year. And the paper towels were on a shelf in the garage, so they weren’t taking up any of our living space.
Most of the time, I buy in three-month quantities. It’s not as much as you might think. For our household, three months of ketchup is three bottles. Three months of my kids’ favorite cereal is about nine boxes.
For other items, it’s good advice not to buy more than you can use before a product spoils. Reader Will shares a tip to this effect:
In past years, I was a bit of a couponer and one of the items I stocked up on was dishwasher detergent. However, I am now a widower living alone, and use very little of that. I discovered that liquid dishwasher detergent does not keep very well for really long-term storage (over a decade or longer).
There are two aspects that deteriorate. One is that the liquid itself separates into a thick, gummy layer at the bottom of the bottle, with a thin liquid over that, and just shaking the bottle does not mix it up well. The other is that the plastic bottles themselves tend to develop leaks.
Good advice -- though, again, stocking up for more than 10 years would be an unusual circumstance. Smaller stock-ups, replenished every few months, ensure that your inventory remains fresh.
So what should we call these “smaller” stock-ups? Readers, I’d love to hear from you! If you’ve got a better word for the formerly-known-as-stockpiling, send me an email. I think we’re all overdue for terminology that carries the positive connotation of “stocking up short term.”
Smart Living Tip: Stocking up, even in smaller quantities, is key to saving money. When you can purchase a product at half its regular, non-sale price, it simply makes sense to buy a little more than you need right now.