Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Buy Ahead Principle

Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives

I recently read an interesting post at Money Saving Mom, called “The Buy Ahead Principle: One of my biggest grocery saving secrets.” If you’re not a regular reader of Crystal’s blog, check it out at It’s one of my favorite sources for the best up-to-the-minute deals.

In her recent post, Crystal talks about the odd combination of items she buys during her weekly shopping trip. Each week, she looks for the best deals on items they will use, and then she stocks up on those items that week. To round out their weekly menu, she uses items already on hand in the freezer, fridge, or pantry. One week, she might buy Jello, Mac & Cheese, and salad dressing. Then she uses meat, bread, milk, etc. – whatever else she has on hand – to complete the weekly menu. By stocking up on grocery items when they go on sale, you avoid paying full price for items, which lowers your overall grocery expenditures over time.

If you are a normal, weekly grocery shopper, often you are shopping to replace the things you’ve run out of in your home. The problem with this approach is that if you are already out of something, you are at the store’s mercy to pay whatever they happen to be charging for the item that week – whether it’s on sale or full price.

Here’s an example of how I stocked up this week:

Our local Cub Foods had a few Diva household staples on sale for less than the lowest price in our pricebook. On my weekly trip, I bought the following: 10 boxes of Mac & Cheese, 2 gallons of milk, 6 jugs of V8 Splash, 2 packs of CapriSun, and a handful of produce. (I’m sure the guy in line behind me thought this combination was a bit odd, to say the least.)

Out of this purchase, the only things I paid for were the V8 Splash, 5 of the boxes of Mac & Cheese, and the produce. Everything else was free. Will we be living on macaroni and a variety of beverages all week!?! Heavens, no. But, we saved over $20, and we’re now re-stocked on items we’ll use over the next few weeks.

Detailed breakdown:
10 boxes Mac & Cheese – Buy 5, Get 5 Free
2 packs CapriSun – Free with coupon attached to Mac & Cheese 5-packs
2 gallons Milk – Used a Buy 1 Get 1 Free store coupon, combined with a Free Gallon coupon received a few weeks back when I bought 10 boxes of Cheerios.
6 jugs V8 Splash – On sale for $1.99 (would have been even cheaper w/coupons, but I used the ones I had up the last time this was on sale).

The key to the buy-ahead principle is this: Only stock up on the items that your family will use in a reasonable amount of time before they expire. If you find a great price, but buy too much and have to throw some out, then it’s not really a deal after all.

Your Turn: What staples does your family stock up on?

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