My Thoughts on Excessive Stockpiling

posted by Andrea | 09/10/2012

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I talk a lot about how we save money by keeping our pantry and freezer stocked with extra meals, snacks, baking supplies, cereal, chips, etc. etc.

And for the record, we definitely DO save a lot of money by buying in bulk, pairing coupons with sales, making double batches of our favorite foods, and keeping our pantry and freezer stocked.

However… I personally feel like there’s a point when enough is enough and a stockpile becomes “excessive”. At this point (which is different for every family) a stockpile becomes a hindrance and somewhat negative. It stops helping you and starts hurting you.

Last year, I watched a few episodes of Extreme Couponing during our spring break vacation. I was appalled by how excessive these people’s stockpiles were — some of them had 200 bottles of mustard, 500 boxes of cereal, 400 toothbrushes, 200 bottles of shampoo, etc.

Many of these people had so much food and toiletries that they had to store them in their bedrooms, bathrooms, kids’ bedrooms, and even in the garage and/or shed.

Crazy!

Obviously, as the name of the show suggests, those situations were quite “extreme” — but I do think some of the same problems with “excessive stockpiling” can occur on a lesser level in our own homes.

There have been times when I’ve purchase 4 or 5 bottles of ketchup because I could get them all for free… even though we already had 4 or 5 at home (and honestly how much ketchup do 2 people need!) I also WAY over-stocked our supply of toilet paper and paper towel a few months ago because I forgot about some of the stuff we already had.

So while I personally don’t feel like our entire stockpile is “excessive” (see image above) I do make a conscious effort to keep it under control… here are a few reason why.

It’s very wasteful.

Excessive stockpiling wastes loads of valuable time by clipping thousands of extra coupons, visiting multiple stores every week, and checking out several times in each store. It also wastes space once you bring the items home.

However something people often forget is that excessive stockpiling often wastes food because even the most non-perishable food and toiletry items WILL expire eventually.

I’ve also noticed that I can be more wasteful if I know I have 10 more containers of something in the pantry. Maybe I’ll use 2 sheets of paper towel when I could get by with 1… because I know I have plenty more. Or maybe I’ll just toss the last bit of salad dressing, salsa, ketchup, toothpaste, bodywash, etc. because I have plenty more in the pantry and it’s easier to open a new container than scrape out the old one.

It’s greedy.

Yes, I know that many people with large stockpiles give their excess to charities and food banks — Dave and I do this too, and I think it’s a great way to help out those in need without a huge financial investment.

However there comes a point when you are getting more and more just for the sake of having more and more. It’s fun to find great deals and get lots of products for free (believe me, I know!) but if you don’t even need, use, or want the products, it all starts to feel a bit greedy.

It’s a form of hoarding.

Even if the products are completely free, there is no need to buy 20 containers of toothpaste if you already have 40 more at home.

By “hoarding” so many groceries, paper products, toiletries, etc, you’re sliding down a very slippery slope that COULD lead to hoarding other things.

I’ve worked with hoarders… you don’t want to live that way!

It’s unnecessary.

There is absolutely no reason you should ever need 200 bottles of mustard (or any condiment for that matter).  Even a more expensive brand of mustard can’t cost more than $5 or $6 and if you ever run out, I’m sure you could scrape together a few bucks to buy another bottle or do without mustard until it goes on sale again.

Also, if you have been shopping sales and using coupons long enough, you know that all the really good sales are rotated about every 6-8 weeks… which means you really only need to stock up for 2 months at a time.

So while I will continue to save money by maintaining a small stockpile in our basement, I will also continue to monitor our stockpiles to make sure it doesn’t get out of control.

I guess when it comes to stockpiling, the saying is true… you really CAN have too much of a good thing!

Oh, and if you’re interested, I have many more posts about pantry stockpiling.

What are your thoughts on excessive stockpiling?

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27 comments

  1. Katy

    09/10/2012

    You have made some very valid points. I am a couponer and sale shopper also, and I enjoy the challenge of saving and still feeding my family well. We have a small, manageable stockpile…on one shelf in our linen closet.

    When the Extreme Couponing show first came out, I watched it and did manage to learn a few things…however, I no longer watch the show because I feel like in some ways, it has ruined couponing for the rest of us. For instance, products that used to have coupons for $1 off one item, now have coupons for $1 when you buy three items, etc. In addition, many stores have made their coupon policies stricter, because of people clearing shelves, etc. I could go on for awhile…but I think you get the idea.

    I really enjoy reading your blog, thanks for all the great ideas!

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  2. Cassie

    09/10/2012

    Keep in mind that most of what you see on Extreme Couponing is staged. No couponer has 200 bottles of mustard in their stockpile. The people on the show make their stockpile look HUGE so that it’s impressive for television.

    When the cameras leave, most of the excess is donated. There’s no family in the world that can go through that much mustard before it expires!

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  3. Jane

    09/10/2012

    We live in a small house with very little storage. We created a little extra storage when we added on, but really have no space for stockpiling supplies. I rarely even buy the 20-pack of toilet paper! What has worked best for my family of 6 is to plan a weekly menu and shop once a week. I only shop at one store. I rarely clip coupons (because I often fail with quantities, brands, dates, etc.) This has saved me the most time and my weekly budget, which might seem to be a lot for most people, is all I spend. I don’t shop at any other stores.

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  4. Couponing Mom

    09/10/2012

    I agree with the first comment. I too coupon and the show (staged or not) HAS ruined it for others, even giving bad reps. I’m all about a stockpile but when the items are in the 200 item range, there is a problem!

    I loved your blog before but I love it even more now. I didn’t know you couponed.

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  5. Nora@ The Dollar Holllering Homemaker

    09/10/2012

    Great post. I want to point out that there is a difference between hoarding and food storage/ emergency prepardness. I’m not LDS, but I have LDS friends and they have large stockpiles but I don’t think that they are extreme. I have met people who have large stockpiles with no organization and buy with out purpose. I know people who have stockpiles but eat out all the time and waste food.

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  6. Stace @ Saving Stace

    09/10/2012

    This is a great article – thanks for sharing. I use coupons and this is a nice reminder that we don’t have to chase every single deal and that we don’t have to have an excessive amounts of items.

    One other point that I feel should be made is that “extreme couponing” and “extreme stockpiling” is usually a result of “shelf clearing” (which we’ve seen time and time again on TV). This means that you’re taking away the opportunity for others to build or replenish their stockpile. I always try to keep in mind that there’s always going to be someone out there that needs that deal more than I do.

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  7. Kelekona

    09/10/2012

    There are some acceptable pantry-stockpiling levels, but condiments have a limited place. I’ve heard that LDS church members are obligated to have a year’s worth of food in reserve, and people who believe that some sort of zombie-level disaster will happen in their lifetime aren’t being ridiculous about stockpiling until they have enough useful food to last for two years.

    I follow natural sales instead of couponing, so I usually don’t have more than two months worth of anything.

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  8. Linda Bolt

    09/10/2012

    I used to stockpile more than I do now. I did it as a kind of emotional safeguard. We were raising 4 children on a graduate student’s budget, and it was a type of security blanket for me to know that at least we would always be able to feed our children. I think that kind of stocking up was mostly prudent.

    I am working away from that mindset now, though. For me, it’s a bit of a faith/trust issue. Yes, it is prudent to store up good deals, shop sales, and so on. I still do that. But I am trying to make sure I am not putting my faith in my stockpile. My faith belong Elsewhere.

    In other cultures, people store very little food, and visit a market or shop daily. This is how Europeans get by with teeny-tiny refrigerators. I think in the US with our car-based living (I live outside of a town), it makes more sense to shop less often, and to stock up. It definitely can be taken to an extreme!

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  9. Jennifer

    09/10/2012

    My friends and I have discussed this issue as well. We have on average 4-6 children in each of our families. We have found that trough couponing and frugal efforts we can easily feed our families on what we consider a frugal budget. When we overstock we all have donated our extra blessings ot local charities.

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  10. Leah H

    09/10/2012

    When I got on the couponing bandwagon a couple years ago I went nuts. I went to 4 different stores, scoured the sales and we had way too much. I felt “checked” about it and honestly felt like it was overtaking me. Things like that can consume you!!

    Thankfully it didn’t take long for me to realize what we REALLY needed and how much we realistically could use. I still have a nice pantry full of stuff, plus our freezer but I no longer spend hours clipping or going to multiple stores. It consumed my time and the space in our small house.

    What helped me narrow down too was that I started making organic and natural foods my priority instead of getting anything and everything I could just because it was cheap. Often the junk was the cheapest with couponing, so now most things I coupon for are essentials or better food items.

    I am thinking a lot of the extreme couponing hype has died down somewhat because others realized the same thing that I did. Yes, I could probably narrow down our $60 a week budget if I went to 4 stores again, but some things aren’t worth the time, my sanity or my space!! :)

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  11. Leah H

    09/10/2012

    I agree with Linda (above). It was that way for me too. I realized I was putting my faith in storing way too much “food” instead of trusting in God to provide. Even if they never offered another coupon he will supply!

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  12. Lisa

    09/10/2012

    When raising two teenage boys, I usually had a nice pantry since as a single mom on a budge, sometimes emergencies would come up that make us rely more on the pantry that week to eat.

    However, it’s also important to keep an eye your stockpile. Twice a year we went through and checked expiration dates. Anything close either got moved to the kitchen to use or donated to a neighbor, workplace kitchen (surprising how fast ketchup and mustard are used at work!).

    As my boys got older, one had more health problems (asthma, allergies, etc). I began to follow more of a “clean eating” principal and realized most of what we were eating was processed food from our stockpile. Now I try to keep more rice, dry beans and laundry/toilet paper kind of things and stock less of the processed foods so we can eat fresh. When we did this, we realized we had 14 bottles of salad dressing that had so much sugar and sodium it wasn’t as healthy as we thought. Now my pantry has a few gallons of olive oil we use for dressing instead, it lasts longer than bottled dressing and is healthier!

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  13. Sandy

    09/10/2012

    This is a great article – thanks for sharing. I use coupons and this is a nice reminder that we don’t have to chase every single deal and that we don’t have to have an excessive amounts of items.

    One other point be thrifty but not to the point there will be product for others to build or replenish their stockpile. I always try to keep in mind that there’s always going to be someone out there and I would not appreciate them be excessive and not thinking I might need to take advantage of a deal.

    Always try the remember the Golden Rule.
    Love your blog!

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  14. Sabrina

    09/10/2012

    I followed the Living on $28K or Less by Kimberlee at thepeacefulmom.com and she told her story of extreme couponing. Once she went out and cleared the shelves and bragged on her blog about how much she’d gotten for almost free, and another woman commented that her husband was out of work, they hardly had anything, and she’d gone in to her store to get the exact same deal and the shelves had been cleared out so she couldn’t get the things she really needed. This led to Kimberlee changing how she lived frugally and it’s been interesting to see some of her ideas.

    I think extreme anything can lead to problems with coveting, always wanting more and never being satisfied. I couponed too for a while but have cut back. I’m LDS too, so I agree with the points others have made above. We’re supposed to be prepared for a year, so if unemployment, medical emergencies or any other surprises, we can be prepared, trust God and not fear, and be able to provide for ourselves. It really helped us to have food during a time when I had to have surgery and my husband was in school and working full time.

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  15. Shelia

    09/10/2012

    It’s also very annoying to us who work outside of the home and are only able to do our shopping after work hours or on the weekends – to walk into a store with your list of items NEEDED and not find anything due to the shelves being completely wiped out. It’s frustrtating! I coupon as much as possible only to save money cause of being on a very limited budget as a single mom to 3 and not being able to find deals as well cause other’s felt the need to ‘stock up’ is very inconsiderate and annoying.
    But with that said it’s fun to try to find deals when it’s possible.

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  16. Stel

    09/10/2012

    I never stockpiled, but recently started to build up a pantry where I keep doubles., eg. when the dishwashing liquid runs out, I know there’s another bottle in the pantry,. I’ll take that one, and immediately replace it.
    Because I have a cleaning lady, I didn’t always check where we stood on supplies. I’d tell her I’m going to the store now, and when I got back, she’d tell me it is finished now (it wan’t in the morning…)
    So that’s why I started doing it like that: doubles on cleaning supplies, toiletpaper, tomato sauce, chutney, tinned food. Not to much. My borrow-from-myself store :-)

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  17. Rachael Cleveland

    09/10/2012

    I agree completely. Although I have looked into increasing my coupon use and stockpiling, I get to the point where it’s just a waste of time, money, and energy.

    Sure, I keep a backup of this or that and I always have plenty of cat food around (hungry kitties), the rest is unnecessary at this point in my life.

    Now, if I had a kids or a family, I’m sure it’d be somewhat different. As a single woman, there’s just no point in cramming my house full of stuff.

    Wonderful article, as always. Thanks for your insight!

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  18. Susan

    09/10/2012

    Stocking a pantry, like most things in life, depends on your situation and circumstances — I think most of us would agree that as our lives and seasons of life change, so do our “needs.”
    My needs as a single woman were different than of a young married couple, then with a baby, then teens, then empty nest, etc.

    It is thrilling to save money! But for those who have radical buying habits, it’s great if the mass quantities of toothbrushes and condiments, paper goods and brownie mixes could be donated to a women’s shelter, food bank, or rescue mission for people who truly need the items. Get the thrill of the purchase, but get a deeper thrill by making sure it gets used and blesses others.

    Great post, Andrea. I was in fact straightening my own pantry this afternoon and noting a need to inventory it for use, shop the pantry first for a while, and not buy any more balsamic vinegar for a long, long time! = )

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  19. Stacy

    09/10/2012

    Thank you for this post. I also watched a few episodes of that show and I was appalled. We live in an area, that is not suffering financially as bad as other areas, but we do have 2 food banks and they are always looking for donations. And here are these people hoarding food, when we have families and senior citizens who could really use it. I think that extreme couponing and stockpiling is the same as hoarding, except their homes are cleaner. I too love a good bargain and keep small amounts of extra food and we do go to costco, but it’s enough for my family and when we get a good deal and some extras I give it to the food pantry or share with my family members. I feel bad for those people, because I also think they spend way more time than I could give to get all their coupons ready, like a full time job and that’s time away from their families, to do what cut coupons so they can stock up on things they don’t use or need. There were people with pet food and no pets and people with diapers and no babies and instead of donating them they just held them in a spare room. Wow.

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  20. Linda

    09/10/2012

    I do not have the time for extreme couponing but if I did get more than I could possibly use like most people on the show, I would stop at the local food bank and donate what I knew I could not use. Afterall, all the work of clipping couplons makes most of the stuff free, so you are not losing any money and halping others in need. I do not do much couponing now but did when my kids were growing up. I agree with the comments that the extreme couponing has hurt the regular shopper. I live in a small town, with one grocery store and they will not take printout coupons, but all other coupons are double every day.

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  21. Jessica

    09/10/2012

    I agree that the show Extreme Couponers have given coupons a bad rep., but I read an article in my local paper about the show when it came to a town near me and the store made exceptions to the rule for the sake of the show. I believe it’s all staged, but I still see value in coupons and shopping the sales. We don’t buy things we won’t use and we save when we can. most of our (very small) stock pile are the staples that we need each week.

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  22. Kristina

    09/11/2012

    My mother is an extreme couponer. She is guilty of have excessive amounts of mustard, pasta, etc. However, she uses her stockpile as a “store.” Whenever I visit she lets me and my fiance “shop” for food, toiletries, cleaning supplies and more! She does this for anyone who visits too. We’ve donated over 100 toothbrushes and toothpastes to an orphanage in Haiti too!

    Though it can easily be seen as greedy, my mom uses it as her ministry. Her motto is “you can’t beat free!” So she grabs whatever she can and gives it away!

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  23. Rachel @ the minimalist mom

    09/13/2012

    I don’t stock pile anything. We could use up everything we have in our cupboards in a month.

    Stock piling doesn’t simplify my life – it clutters it.

    Also, when I look at these stock piles I see people eating a lot of sugar and terribly unhealthy food. We eat fresh fruits and veggies, lean meats, eggs and some dairy. I have just a few pantry staples like coconut milk, canned tomatoes, spices, oils and a few other items. We actually have empty cupboards in our modest apartment kitchen.

    Most of what we eat is highly nutritious. What’s a big of sign densely nutritious food? It’s perishable.

    We meal plan, reduce food waste and try to buy what’s on sale that week. Organic blueberries have been a good deal all summer – yeah!

    I see the benefit of stock piling if you are ultra organized, enjoy it and really need to save those pennies and dollars. But for my family that style of shopping, and storing and caring for all that food, isn’t a path to simple living or wellness.

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    Rach P Reply:

    Rachel, I completely agree with you! Well said. I just realised after I agreed with your post who you were (I love your blog too)…

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  24. Rach P

    09/14/2012

    I don’t stockpile if I can help it. We don’t have couponing here in Australia, so I don’t entirely understand the trend (yet we do have sales and ‘multi buy’ sales etc). My mum has always had a full fridge, freezer, deep freezer and pantry. Yet she goes grocery shopping several times a week and adds to this! I am sure she has no idea what is at the back of her shelves. There are things with use by dates of 1998 in there. To me it is wasteful if you aren’t actually using up what you buy. I would rather have a bare looking fridge and pantry, so that I can see exactly what I have left to eat – I can get pretty creative with a few bits and pieces. Yes, I run my home a lot differently now to what it was like when I grew up! I like to eat more fresh than processed items too.

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  25. Marsha Cooper

    09/16/2012

    Right now the only thing we have in excess is bbq sauce. I had bought several when I could get them for .50….then they had the peelie coupons and were on sale for .59 each and you got the Kool-Aid canister free with the peelie.
    Now they are free with the buy 10 sale!
    I am donating several bottles to our church to be used for dinners and fundraisers, and I’ve given several bottle to my grown children.
    Still…we have 12 bottles on the counter top that there are just no room for in the kitchen cabinets.
    I don’t have a specific place for foods stockpile.
    In my bedroom I have strawberry crates for personal care items. 4 crates marked for different things–oral care, soaps, shaving and deoderant and personal care.

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  26. Ann

    11/09/2012

    I agree with much of what you’ve said here. I do have to say,however, that if you are canning your own food and then stockpiling, even for deep storage, it does kind of self limit you to what you physically can do. I’m personally guilty of having fairly deep stock on things we use a lot of (I’ve 4 kids) but I make it all…strawberry jam, for example, I’ll make a 2 or 3 year stock of it and leave it ob my shelves until the kids finish it off. Then we make more. (Mostly, this is because I get bored if I have to make the same thing every year- this keeps making jam fresh for me.). But, again, its all homemade and not full of junk.

    A slightly different perspective…

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