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Keeping a well stocked pantry, medicine cabinet and a good supply of various household items on hand has long been recommended by various preparedness and survival experts. This strategy, however, can also be used to help save money and insulate your household from fluctuating prices.

The biggest hurdle that families on limited incomes have is that there just isn't that much disposable income with which to accumulate a stockpile of items. When you are thinking about getting the funds to acquire the tools to preserve and store food items -- and the foods also -- it can seem like an impossible task.

Instead of trying to do everything at once, I recommend you break it down into three gradual steps.

STEP ONE: Create a 'Buy Price List.'

This is a two-step process that involves writing down each item you purchase, the size and the price. If you are using paper, use a separate sheet for each major category. I use the following categories: Baking, Beverages, Bread, Canned Goods, Cleaning, Clothing, Condiments, Dairy, Dental, Grain/Dry Beans, Hair Care, Household Items (batteries, etc.), Kitchen Tools, Meat, Medicine/Supplements, Paper, Personal Care/First Aid, Pets, Produce, School & Office, Seasonings and Snacks.

There will be duplicate entries because you'll keep this up for about two to three months. Eventually, you will notice that there are times when you get a better price than others. On a separate sheet of paper, you'll write down each item you normally purchase and the best price or the 'Buy Price' for that item. An example would look like this:
Household Items -- Batteries -- AA Alkaline Batteries -- $.37 each -- $5.99 for pack of 16

This is important because your 'Buy Price List' tells you when prices have dropped to the best price for your area. When prices hit the range on your list, purchase enough to last you for 6 weeks or so. Why six weeks? Because retail stores have sales cycles that range from 6 to 8 weeks. You'll have enough of an item in your home to hold you over until it goes on sale again. This means that the same products you already purchase will (eventually) only be purchased by you when you see the price drop.

There are online sites that offer guidelines on what is considered the lowest price, but these seldom take into account things like organic vegetables and/or the ingredients that you might use if you make things from scratch. You'll want to make your own list in order to know when something like your favorite bulk herb or Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar is available for a good price.

Step Two: Combine your buy price with coupons.

I know. Food coupons often promote processed foods and less than healthy options. However, consider for a moment how many items come home in your shopping bag that aren't actually foods. You probably purchase clothing, hair products and accessories, toothbrushes, batteries, canning jars, storage bags, garbage bags, paper products, etc. By combining manufacturer coupons with sales prices, you can greatly reduce the cost of these items, leaving more money for the healthy foods you prefer.

Many stores offer store coupons in their sales fliers and on their web sites. These can be printed off at home and redeemed in the store. Most stores will allow you to use a store coupon AND a manufacturer coupon for the purchase of single item. My husband was able to use this strategy to purchase two loaves of sprouted grain bread. The store coupon and the manufacturer coupon actually totaled more than the cost of the bread. He went through the checkout and got paid to leave with some very healthy bread.

Step 3: Leverage your savings

Now that each dollar is being used to get products at lower prices, and you are stocking up on the items you regularly use, you should notice a drop in your spending. This can take a few months to kick in, but it will happen. Once this occurs, you'll have a little nest egg. Use that as seed money to invest in tools to increase your savings. Whether it's as small as a well-organized coupon book, or as large as a durable wheat grinder, tools like these pay for themselves.
Maybe you've been thinking about raising your own eggs with some backyard chickens, or you'd like to find a rock bottom price for some bulk grains, or you need to build a sturdy pantry -- whatever your needs, consider purchasing something that increases your ability to be self-sustaining and thereby further stretches your dollar.

Your savings will also allow you to collect items that would be a blessing to a family in need. Imagine how a basket of toiletries and cleaning products would be received by a family that had just lost their home. What you were able to collect for free (or nearly free) could be a great bounty to them.

If you are interested in learning more about how to effectively coupon, here are some resources I recommend:


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