Managing a Stockpile

One of the keys to feeding your family wholesome meals for less is to know when to buy and at what price.  And then… what to do with all that food?!

Nell asked  “How do you balance using your stockpile? I mean, does it burn that you have to use zuchinni, zuchinni, zuchinni right NOW or are you able to just wait for the right time and HOW on earth do you do that? If I have a lot of something, then I just feel like I have to hurry up and use it right NOW and I know that’s kind of been counterproductive for me and I’m not getting the best out of the sales and coupons, etc. I’d love any hints you could spare.

Thanks for the question, Nell!

And yes… we are getting a little tired of zucchini around here right now.  😉

Here’s how I balance my stockpile, and I can’t wait to hear all of your tips!

  • I am blessed with two refrigerator freezers and a large chest freezer.  I don’t know what I’d do without all of my food storage space!
  • I don’t can… yet. I have made and canned jelly, but it’s been many years and 3 children ago.  My goal in the next year or two is to gather canning supplies so I can take some of the load off of my freezers.
  • When I find a screaming deal on produce that can be stored for the long-term, I buy it up. That’s how I ended up with 30 pounds of apples in a few short weeks.  We ate some of the apples fresh, I tossed some in muffins and oatmeal, then I made lots and lots of applesauce.  The applesauce is stored in my freezer in 2-4 cup containers.  I can use it all year to make apple fruit leather, sub applesauce for some oil in baking recipes, and… of course… to eat with meals or after school snacks.
  • Other produce I’ve stocked up on this summer: zucchini (obviously) strawberries ($1/lb.) and blueberries ($1.29/pint).  We’ve eaten a lot of zucchini in every which way this summer, but I’ve also shredded and frozen plenty that will last me throughout the year for baking.  I laid the strawberries and blueberries out on cookie sheets, froze them, and bagged them in gallon-sized bags.  (I only bought 4 pints of blueberries.  Keep hoping to find them at a better price.)  Frozen strawberries are $1.77/lb.  at the store, so I jumped on the $1/lb. fresh ones.  Strawberries are a main ingredient in the smoothies that we love so much.  I can also use them for ice cream and strawberry topping for pancakes and waffles.
  • While it’s tempting (very tempting) to eat up all the strawberries and blueberries as fast as we can, we don’t.  We eat some, but we also eat other in season, low-priced fruit.  Soon we’ll have dozens of cantaloupe from the garden.  We’ll be eating lots of that, so the strawberries can wait.
  • Our tomatoes are just starting to turn red.  I sure hope I end up with enough cherry tomatoes to flash freeze and bag this year.  They came in so handy last winter in soups and chili.
  • Sometimes there will be a sale and coupon matches for packaged food items that I normally don’t buy.  When I can get a box of granola bars for under 50¢ per box, I go for it.  Last spring I purchased a dozen boxes this way.  We still have several boxes, and with all the coupons I’ve seen lately… I’d bet that another sale is coming soon.  The granola bars (and any other not-so-healthy packaged food) are stored on shelves in our basement.  Out of site, out of mind.  Then, when I have a food emergency (spur of the moment trip out of town, healthy-food friend’s hungry children visiting) or need a special treat for our ballgame bag, I’ve got a supply ready.

Basically, I buy at the right price and then store the food to be used as needed.  What tips and tricks do you have for making the most of your stockpile?

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  1. Ok, honestly it’s just Joe and I cook a lot – I have learned to use left-overs (I know it sounds silly but for a long time we just threw them out. ) I buy produce on sale and I stock pile, too. I freeze a lot of fruit and eat it or cook with it later. My biggest trick, though, is carefully planning our meals around what we already have and what’s at a great price.

  2. I’ve found that keeping an eye on what I have is incredibly useful. It’s easy for me to simply stash food away in our pantry or in our basement and then not remember what I have. I’m still searching for a way to do this in an organized fashion. But for now I simply go and take a look every week or so. I try to find a way to incorporate what I have into the next week’s meal plan. Maybe I can use something I have to go along with something that’s in season. I still do my regular shopping, focusing on what’s on sale. I can use what I have on-hand now and be shopping for the future.

  3. I am actually trying to figure out how to best stockpile. My husband and I (no babies, yet!) live in a one bedroom apartment and only have one refrigerator/freezer. My parents do have a deep freezer that I’m sure they would let me use, but for now I just try to be as effective with my space as possible. Freezing as much as possible in Ziploc bags, laying flat, helps conserve space and staying organized is very important. I just put up five bags of homemade peach preserves for the freezer yesterday from the peaches we brought home from vacation in South Carolina!

  4. I only have one fridge/freezer combo, so I don’t have room to freeze a lot of things. I can lots, though.

    I date things when I buy them with a sharpie. I put things in order–newest in back when I buy things. The oldest items are closest to the door, so I rotate things in this order.

    Two days ago, we just had fried zucchini for dinner, with corn and tomato salad (the corn was from the pantry; the zucchini and tomatoes were from my garden). I had flour, salt and pepper, and oil for frying in my pantry, along with the items to make the dip (powdered ranch mix bought in bulk, evaporated milk, and mayo).

    I don’t have a lot of room to freeze zucchini, so I only freeze a little at the end of the season. In fall, though, we’ll have other fresh things from the garden, like spianach, swiss chard, and lettuce. Many of those will last through the winter (we’ll have fresh turnips then). In spring, our garden brings asparagus and artichokes.

    Though I have many things canned, we also enjoy a lot of fresh things in their season from the garden.

  5. I live in a mild climate. However, if you live somewhere colder, check out the book Four-Season harvest. The author lives in Maine and eats from his garden all year long using cold-frames.

    I date with the month and year on the things in my pantry.


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