Coupons

Dear Jill: I read your recent columns on preparedness with interest. Unlike what I suspect are most of your regular readers, I am not a coupon user. Between the coronavirus lockdowns and the winter freeze and disasters, I now realize that, moving forward, I must be far more prepared than I was.

A year ago at this time, I could not buy bath tissue anywhere and ordered food from a local establishment simply because their Facebook page promotion offered a roll of toilet paper with each meal delivery. It was the commercial grade, thin, one-ply variety, and I was so grateful to even have the option to get that roll.

Since that time, I have made certain to always have at least a month’s supply of toilet paper on hand. Honestly, I never gave any thought to estimating how much I go through of anything. I would appreciate suggestions on what else I always should have on hand in the future. — Alberto V.

Coupon shoppers’ goals revolve around buying the items they need when prices are low, as well as using any available coupons on these items to further lower the price. Stores’ sales cycles typically operate on a 12-week timespan. During this cycle, prices will fluctuate high and low. Couponers watch these cycles and time their purchases when the prices drop to their lowest point in the cycle.

At that point, we try to buy as much of the sale item our household will need for the next 12 weeks in order to avoid paying the higher, fluctuating prices that will recur once the sales cycle starts for another round. This isn’t “bulk buying” as much as it is buying to beat the pricing game. If our household goes through one tube of toothpaste per month, buying a three-month supply works out to just three tubes — not 20.

This stocking-up practice commonly is called “stockpiling” — again, it typically is not buying in enormous quantities but purchasing in controlled amounts with a purpose.

If you’re just beginning to stock up on essentials and basics, I recommend starting with a one-month supply of “must-haves.” Eventually, if you have the space, you can expand that to a three-month supply.

I do not purchase survival-grade freeze-dried or ready-to-eat meals. It’s more sensible and economical to focus on foods that are already a regular part of your diet and that you eventually will eat as you rotate through the stock on hand. Pasta and sauces, canned soups, cereals and rice and beans are all great options that don’t take too much space to store and are not expensive.

With additional freezer space, focus on staples you can make multiple meals from: Whole chickens, ground beef or pork and fish fillets are great starters, but again, buy what you will eat. As far as nonfood items, I think we all can agree bath tissue, soap and common over-the-counter medicines are also items you won’t want to run out of during an unexpected situation.

Always consider storing water, too.

If your stock exceeds your cabinet space, don’t be afraid to get creative with your storage. I keep paper products on a garage shelf, and extra canned foods are stored on basement shelves. There is a great comfort knowing if something wild is happening in the world, your home has everything you need to sustain you for at least one month or more.

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.