I’ve long advocated stocking up on the products we consume most often in order to save money. When you have a reserve on hand, you’re never forced to pay full price for a bottle of laundry detergent, can of vegetables or box of cereal.
But for how long should we stock up? I think one of the biggest misconceptions people have about coupon shoppers is that our homes are completely stocked with a year’s worth of supplies. While I have a good quantity of our most-used items on hand, I rotate my stock often, and I don’t allow perishable foods to expire on the shelves. So how long is too long to keep items stockpiled?
Let’s talk about the longevity of products. I’ve learned from experience and research that items like bleach and shaving gel deteriorate over time. A major brand of bleach indicates it loses potency after 6 months. Shave gel propellant deteriorates after nine to 12 months. What good is it to stockpile these items if they will not work as expected after six months to a year?
— Dan K.
With few exceptions, I’m not buying more than what I can use in about six months’ time. You are correct about bleach – most manufacturers recommend using bleach within six to nine months of the purchase date, or the potency drops. I usually have three-gallon jugs of bleach on hand, and I do date the caps so I know which ones to use first.
I do know from experience, though, that shaving gel is good for far longer than nine to 12 months. Back in the summer of 2008, I had enjoyed a sale at one of my local stores. Store-brand shaving gel was free after a Catalina offer, and I stocked up, storing them in a closet. I later moved my stockpile to a set of shelves in the basement.
In November of 2013, I was cleaning out the closet and found two of those 2008 cans buried on the closet shelf. (Oops!) I know exactly how old they were because I looked the deal up on my blog, and I hadn’t purchased this store’s house brand of shaving gel in all that time since. So, I moved those cans to the bathroom, opened one up and guess what? They were fine! Now, I wouldn’t recommend intentionally keeping your shave gel on hand for five years, but through that experience I learned that this particular product had a far greater shelf life than I expected.
As far as other products, I’ve used laundry detergent (both liquid and dry) up to two years past the purchase date with no issues. If I do hit a great deal on liquid detergents and cleaners, I make sure the caps of my products are very tight so there won’t be evaporation issues.
I definitely wouldn’t buy more than you can consume before food items are due to expire. Canned foods often have expiration dates that are several years out, which is nice when you come across a good deal on them. I’m never afraid of buying “too many” canned vegetables or soups when the expiration date is two or three years away.
A great resource to determine whether food products are still safe to consume is StillTasty.com. You can type in the kind of food you’re interested in learning about (for example, “peanut butter” or “frozen chicken”) and the site uses FDA regulations and other food safety recommendations to tell you if it’s safe to eat past a certain date. It’s definitely worth bookmarking and keeping on hand, as many prepackaged foods are safe to eat well past the date stamp. In many cases, the date is actually a “best by” date, not a “do not eat after this day” date.
Smart Living Tip: When you see a great deal on paper products, like bath and facial tissue or paper towels, don’t be afraid to stock up. You’re only limited by the amount of space in your stockpile.
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, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.