Living in an apartment in a big city, I’m lucky to have a pantry at all. I’m lucky to have a dishwasher. I’m lucky to have a washer/dryer. Life in tiny apartments when you have a family can be tight. But it also means less square footage for them to make a mess in, right?
But if you’re trying to save money on your groceries, the teeny living space can make problems. A membership to Costco or BJ’s or Sam’s Club? Not super helpful when there’s nowhere to put your giant haul.
Find an amazing deal on paper towels? Where do you plan to put them?
If you’re going to “stockpile” without much space you have to pick and choose. When it comes to big products like toilet paper, paper towels, cereal and others, you have to pay extra close attention to the sales to make sure you snag the best deals.
But you can do a lot of stockpiling of smaller items. I’ve got only two shelves in our small linen closet devoted to bathroom products (there’s no space in the bathroom, of course) but I have a nice stockpile of bandages, razors, tampons and toothpaste in there. (Seriously, I haven’t bought toothpaste in a year! And I obviously haven’t been using tampons for a while, but I’m glad I won’t have to buy any once I need them again.) These are things that’ll last you a while without taking up a lot of space.
Another thing I’ve started stockpiling: concentrated laundry detergent. Wisk puts out great coupons, but I don’t have room for a giant container of it. Lucky for me, they’ve started putting out Wisk 2X, which is nice and tiny. Between those Wisks and my all Small & Mighty’s that I got for a steal, I have enough detergent to last us a long time and it takes up barely any space in my pantry.
You may notice one thing: everything I’ve talked about so far is a non-food item. I admit that for me it’s easier to stockpile items where I don’t have to worry about an expiration date that comes in the next year. It’s already hard to stockpile in your refrigerator or freezer. My fridge is small and my freezer space is miniscule. Oh, how I wish I had one of those giant freezers like we kept in the garage when I was a kid. I could actually stockpile things like bread and meat and freeze extra portions of all my big soups and stews. Now I can only do a little of that at a time.
As for my pantry, I mostly make sure I always have a little of everything. So when pasta gets marked down under a dollar, I won’t buy 10, but I buy 1 every time it happens. That way I’ll never have the Bug demanding “pasta” without having any in the cupboard. And I can make ziti on a whim if I want to. Same goes for sales on canned tomatoes and beans.
We don’t need 10 jars of mustard. We go through one or two a year, maybe. So it’s worth it for me to wait for the best sale/coupon matchup so I can keep just one or two around in the pantry.
Be aware of those pesky expiration dates. Salad dressing coupons can give you great deals… but if you go through dressing slowly like we do, you don’t want more than one or two extras or else you’re out of luck and you’ll have to toss them.
So if you don’t have room in your house for all those items you’d like to stockpile and if you don’t have enough mouths to feed to make sure you’ll be emptying out your pantry on a regular basis, you can still keep a smart stash that will keep you saving money AND space.
Part of my weekly coupon ritual is to sit down with my three local circulars and write down every sale on something I might buy. I know it sounds kind of cumbersome (it is a little cumbersome) but when I’m done I have just that one piece of paper and I can figure out where I’m best off shopping for the week and what I should pick up while I’m there. And I always bring the paper with me to the store in case something on the shelf isn’t marked correctly or rings up wrong at the register. I also make sure I note on the paper if I have a coupon for the item in my binder.
Yes, it takes time, but it also means that I’m really familiar with the prices of things. It means I know this “deal” for grapes at 2.99 a pound is not even close to a real deal. And it means I can take a second to think about whether Buy One Get One Free chicken breasts is a better deal than chicken breasts for $1.99 a pound.
It also means I’m way less tempted to just buy whatever when I’m at the store. My list is ready to go and doesn’t need any changing, even if something looks enticing.
How do you make the best of a small space?