I’m not a fan of buying food in bulk (except for emergency supplies), because I feel that it clutters our pantry and makes it hard to remember what we actually have and what we need. With that being said, I’m a huge fan of establishing a stockroom (or “Home Walmart”, as I like to call it) of basic supplies that are needed daily.
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I started our home stockroom almost two years ago and can’t imagine life without it. There are several benefits to a stockroom:
1. Finances- You will save a considerable amount of money by buying the things you need at the lowest price. Rather than running out of shampoo and buying it at the grocery store where it costs 30% more, you are planning ahead and buying it for the lowest price. Because you are only making one Walmart trip every 4 months, you are saving a small fortune in impulse buys (unless you have much stronger willpower than me). By thinking ahead and making an organized list of what your basic essentials are, you can shop around and find the best unit price. When you list your unit prices, you can anticipate exactly what your home essentials cost will be, which will help you plan your budget.
2. Time- With an established home stockroom, you will never again have to run an unexpected errand. Ever. If I ran out of cat food, it would take me 40 minutes to get to a grocery store, buy the cat food, take it home and unload it. If you multiply that by every home essential you have, you could waste a lot of time on last minute errands. I have one errand to run a week (not counting my once a week grocery day), often I can skip errand day since I don’t actually need to run any errands.
If you live in a multiple level home, establish a stockroom on each level. This encourages you to use the stockroom like you should and saves the frustration of running up and down stairs. If you live in a small apartment and don’t have a designated closet, etc… Find a clean corner of a less used room, and start piling. This is one of the most important steps I took to gain control over my life. There’s a million excuses you can give yourself for not doing this, such as “I don’t have the money”, “I don’t have the room”, or “I don’t have an hour to go get all this stuff”. This is the only time that I would encourage someone living paycheck to paycheck to use their credit card. If you don’t establish this stock room, you’ll spend almost 50% more to get the same things later.
Rules for a home stockroom:
1. Don’t over do it, Establish a 4 month supply of what you need. Don’t buy a 5 year supply, and don’t buy anything that you haven’t used routinely for over a year. An example of this would be if I said “Oooh! Glade plug ins! What a great idea!I’ll buy 20 and I’ll use them everyday!” The idea here isn’t to start new routines, it’s to keep a supply of essentials. Make a list, and don’t deviate from the purchase list at all. If you have a partner, have them come with you as the “enforcer”, they can ensure that you don’t slip extras into your cart.
2. Give yourself at least 2 weeks of making and adding to your list before you go to buy your supplies. You’ll be surprised to find how many things you use everyday that slip your mind. If you have a note feature on your phone, use that to keep your list since you’ll likely have it with you all the time.
3. If your not sure how much you need for four months, (I certainly didn’t when I started!), just guesstimate. You’ll figure it out soon enough.
4. While keeping your stockroom functional is essential (shampoo should go with shampoo etc.), your goal is not to land the cover of Better Homes and Gardens. Don’t agonize over labels and containers and wicker baskets and color coordinated back walls. If you make this too big of a project, it becomes overwhelming and it’s hard to complete. Just stick the stuff in the closet (or in a corner) and let it be.
5. As soon as you have extra time, start comparing unit prices. Many items can ship directly to your door for free from walmart.com at the same prices that you find in the store. Also pay attention to sales, and if you see coupons (see my coupon exchange post in my archives) for items that you buy on this list, stockpile them.
Examples of what to stock:
1. Deodorant- Hers
2. Deodorant- His
3. Toilet Paper
6. Mouth Wash
7. Mascara (This may be just me- It makes my eyes burn after a month, so I constantly switch them out)
8. Body Wash
11. Razor Cartridges
12. Shaving Cream
13. Feminine Hygiene Products
14. Over the counter medicines that you take daily- Like Claritin or Allegra.
15. Hand Soap Refills
16. Paper Towels
17. Small trash bags
18. Kitchen Trash bags
19. Home Air Filters (I’m religious about these)
20. Laundry Detergent
21. Dishwasher detergent
22. Paper Towels
23. Batteries- AA, AAA, C, D (I store mine in Ziploc baggies)
24. Light Bulbs
25. Cat Food
26. In-Fridge Water Filter
28. Ziploc Baggies
29. Aluminum Foil
30. Wax Paper
You get the idea. You can personalize it to meet your needs. Good Luck!
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Susan M. says
These all are great ideas. Just wanted to add though, that batteries do last longer, if stored in the freezer. Nobody wants to go grab a battery out of a closet or wherever only to find that it is no longer putting out the light that it should. They aren’t cheap, so it wouldn’t make sense to buy,if they aren’t stored in a way that would benefit the person using it. Just a suggestion… 🙂
The Busy Budgeter says
Great tip Susan! Thanks!
I like to buy bulk items at the ‘warehouse’ stores. Whenever I do, items like pre-cut foil sheets and wax paper, dishwasher pods, pint bottle of vanilla are marked with the date I start to use it. I now know it takes me 9 month to use 109 DW pods, at least a year on the foil and wax paper sheets and the vanilla….well still using that! Regular sized items (baggies, lunch bags, lunch items, etc) I always have a spare for back-up so I don’t have to run to the store. And while this may seem mean or fussy, special lunch box items are hands-off so I’m not unexpectedly ‘out’ of pudding cups, fruit cups, granola bars, etc. when putting lunches together. I keep the lunch stuff in a different cupboard than the day-to-day snacks. Considering its at least 20 miles to the store, I refuse to head to town for one or two items. I also keep the spare shampoos, deodorants, dental care items. A couple things I learned to always have on hand when my daughter was in school— cold, flu and fever meds and—-lice shampoo and spray. Nothing like finding out at 10pm your kid has head lice. Gross!
The Busy Budgeter says
OMG. It’s like we’re the same person! Yes! I write the date in sharpie on almost everything we open. That’s how I get the amount we use to calculate prices. AND we have a spare lice kit in our stockroom! It’s like we’re the same person!
So I’m just start start the 90 day budget, and how do you start out? I’ve been living a very minimalist life style so we didn’t buy a surplus of anything really except for food. Do you give yourself what you rhink you need like 400 dollars let’s say and but wha5 you think you need?
I would say to make your list of what you want your iventory to include. Once you have this, then you can watch coupons and ads for special deals. (I’ve learned by working retail that sales rotate about every three to four weeks. So say toothpaste is on super sale this week, it won’t be on big sale again for about another month because next week it may be shampoo/conditioner, etc. Wnd sometimes this pattern may vary, but once you become an avid budget shopper, you will notice!)
Now you have your inventory list, you also know what is on sale, let’s buy stock a little at a time. Maybe this week toothpaste is $1.50 with a .50 coupon; lets buy 5-6. If you have extra money to buy a few more items, then go. If not, at least you’ve started! And starting is half the battle!! Good luck!! I have five kids, I buy in mass amounts anyway!! ??
Katie @ Tuxedo Cats and Coffee says
I do this! (kind of :)). I live in an apartment so my roommate and I put extra shared supplies in a hall closet. I also have a couple bins in my closet with my own extra products.
So I read where some actually order stuff online for their stockpile. Is it cheaper to do this. Can you use any coupons this way? I am just starting out and I am getting very confused trying to find where all the best product sales are with the lowest prices. Please help. Share some of your strategies I would be greatly appreciative;
Ann E Karako says
I’m working through your 90-day budget bootcamp and followed the link to this post. I thought I had read everything on your site, but this one is new to me! And it is BRILLIANT and I am going to start making my list TODAY. I can already feel the relief of not having to keep up with what we need and make sure I get it while I’m out. Also no nagging from the kids when they run out of something! Handling this once every 4 months sounds SO less stressful — and buying in bulk is always just smart. Thanks, Rosemarie!!
It’s probably not a good idea to store batteries in a ziploc bag. Opposing ends may hit together causing them to discharge. I’ve been storing mine in a small Sterilite Drawer container. One drawer for each type. I also watch Office Depot promotions. 2 or 3 times a year they’ll have batteries that earn back rewards for the same amount you spend which makes them free! I use the rewards the following month to purchase other items I need for my stock shelf.
I am 64. My entire life I have practiced a modified version of this that I named “ never run out”
I tend to purchase the same products over and over, so I always check those items for sales. When they are, I purchase .(don’t think I’ve ever paid full price on dishwasher detergent)
2. I put things on the list when they are 50% empty.
Works well. I seldom run out.
And I live in Florida, so I always keep at least 30 days of food in the house.
Biggest problem I have in only shopping every 3-4 weeks…. planning what I need 4 weeks from now to buy it now. With the pandemic I’ve been going once every 3 weeks
For your stockroom, do you have more than one? Like one in the bathroom, one in kitchen, etc since some of the stuff is for that room?