When you're shopping for foods for your family, don't you always wish you could plan ahead a little and know when stuff was going to be on sale? Well, you totally can with knowing your sales cycles! Building a purposeful pantry requires a knowledge of when these sales are going to happen!
Plan Your Purposeful Pantry with Sales Cycles
Grocery Stores tend to rotate their products on sale in cycles throughout the year. You'll see reports from every six weeks to every three months to every twelve weeks. Big national chains with huge buying power will do it more often, smaller chains might do it less often. But we're going to go with the six weeks model for the purposes of the post, which is a typical sales cycle for many products.
You may have to adjust this depending on where you are and what your stores are offering. If you see that your favorite brand of tomato sauce is on sale this week - you can bet that in about six weeks it will probably be on sale again. Traditionally speaking, a smart shopper would stock up on enough for six weeks to get you through until the next sale. But a PURPOSEFUL shopper will use those sales periods to begin stocking their pantry not only for the next six weeks, but the next six months or more!
Those sales cycles won't always be the absolute best sale price it will ever be, but it will be on sale - and you can match those sales to the coupons the manufacturer might be putting out at the same time for double benefit (check not only your circular, but apps like Ibotta or Coupons.com or even your store's app for digital coupons)! Then as each cycle comes through, you can begin putting more and more back for what you need, building it up only while it's on sale, making the most of your money and applying it back to stock up for other things! Or, if you have come to your full stock, just use those sales to restock.
Sales Cycles Example 1
Paper Plates: Goal - 2 smaller packages
Let's say that I'm looking to stock paper plates. I like to keep at least 2 packages in my pantry at all times for sickness, unexpected parties, etc. When I'm doing my inventory, I notice that I am out of paper plates. I check the seasonal list to find out when paper plates go on sale next.
It's almost Memorial Day, but I might need some before then. So I may purchase a small pack just to get me through a stomach bug season at our house.
But once the summer BBQ season hits, I'll be looking for coupons + sales to stock up for enough to last me until the next sales cycle or even end of season sale (end of season blowouts are a great time to stock up on seasonal merchandise)
Sales Cycles Example 2
Goal: Spaghetti Sauce - Stock 12 jars (1 per week for three months) *
When I check my pantry, I have 0 jars of spaghetti sauce. I would like to keep at least 12 on-hand to last me for three months.
Spaghetti sauce is on sale this week, and I know that in six weeks it will be on sale again. So to build my pantry, I want to purchase at least 6 jars of spaghetti sauce to last until the next sales cycle. However, I do want to build my stock so that I have three months supply. If I have the budget, I could get all 12 jars at once time. But what I might do is purchase my 6 jars for the basic purchase, and add 2 more.
This way, I am gradually building my stock at sale prices. When the next sale comes around, I'll still have 2 jars on the shelf. I'll purchase my basic six to get me to the next sale, and tack on 2 more to build my stock. So I'll have 10 jars. The next cycle I'll do the same and will have all 12 jars.
At that point, I can continue to just purchase to keep my stock to 12 jars, or I can keep building to extend the time longer. But at least I know I'll have reached my goal of three months.
Sales Cycles Example 3
Goal: Peanut Butter - Stock 12 jars (once per month for a full year)
Sometimes, sales cycles vary in price. You might get a decent sale one cycle, but the next cycle, a better sale plus a coupon makes a product a rock bottom price.
If peanut butter is normally $1.75/jar for me, and a sales price on a typical sales cycle is $1.50, I may purchase only enough to get me through the next cycle.
However, if peanut butter happens to be on sale for .99/jar, and it's the best price I've seen, I'm going to stock up on it majorly, regardless of when the next sales cycle is, because it's the lowest price. I may stock my full year's supply if I happen to be low.
Stocking Up Your Pantry, Purposefully
This would also be a good time to build up a pantry item you want when it hits a super low price. It will take time to learn to track what rock bottom prices are for you (a price list is great for that which you can learn more about here -- coming next week).
When I know the sales cycle is about to start up again on a particular product we use a lot of, I will check for coupons for that product to help add to my savings, but I don't count on those coupons to get me to my lowest price because there aren't always coupons available, but they sure do help!
The reason that I am this purposeful to stock my pantry is that I want to be sure we have enough food to last a few weeks without traveling to the store constantly, a few months to cover any emergency that may happen to us such as a job loss or sickness.
What About Products That Don't Go on Sale?
Not all products go on sale, either. Some manufacturers choose not to promote even seasonal sales with them, so you'll have to know your stuff. Be sure to check the end of seasonal sales for clearance products that the store is trying to get rid of.
What if I Miss a Sales Cycle?
I don't want you to feel panicked because you missed a sales cycle on ketchup and you think that you can't buy ketchup for the next two months. Buy the ketchup. Buy enough to get you through, even if you have to pay a little more for it. Once the next sales cycle comes for your ketchup - STOCK UP!
Your ultimate goal is to spend less in the long run, but if you miscalculate, if you are sick and miss a sale week, or if you just weren't paying attention, it's okay. You'll catch it next time.
How do I Keep Track?
If you're a seasoned budget shopper, you may not go for the exact number for a rock-bottom price, but you have a range in your head. Or maybe you are really into exact numbers and you have a price book (Click here to see my price book and how it can help you.), or you may be brand new and just need a helping hand.
- A price book is definitely the way to go. You can use a small notebook and each page can be a category, with each line being an item
- Spreadsheet with aisles and prices (this is what I use) Doing it in something like Google Docs or Evernote allow you to access from your phone while shopping.
- A shopping app that allows you to track pricing - the Kitchn has a good rundown of available apps here.
TIPS TO START SHOPPING BY SALES CYCLES
- Keep your grocery store sales ads for two months. Keep notes on when products go on sale, and see if they go on sale again often or not
- Keep a Price Book to track your rock bottom prices. Sometimes, a flash sale or coupon or even clearance will be a better bet (or maybe not), so you can track.
- Join an alert group on Facebook for your grocery store chain: Kroger Krazy, I Heart the Mart, the Aldi Nerd are just a few you can join.
- Follow your favorite grocers Facebook and Instagram pages to get alerts to special sales and promotions.
- Keep Track - working with a menu plan for your family, or doing weekly inventories can help you track how much you're using of a product and know how much you need to stock for an item.
LEARN MORE>> Join our Stock Your Pantry Facebook Community to learn even more tip and ideas!
Seasonal Sales Cycles
Using the seasons to plan for those things that are on sale in a yearly cycle.
This is not just for food, but for products that go on sale during seasonal periods all year. It can help you stock up on things for your linen pantry, your garage, your clothes, and more!
What to Stock Up in:
- Cold/Flu Season - look for symptom relief items AND items to help keep clean
- Post-Christmas Sales though most of these sales are probably over before you ever see January, be sure to check out what might still be available.
- Superbowl - snack items (check for whole foods that might be in this category like nuts and jerkies, etc.)
- Diet Food - while I won't comment on what I think about most 'diet' foods, you might find something stockpile worthy for your family 🙂 Things like protein shakes and hydration drinks might be good to stock up on for sick days.
- Oatmeal - Find oatmeal products on sale + some of the major manufacturers will probably put oatmeal related products on sale, too. (cereals, etc.)
- Exercise Equipment
- Electronics (especially in time for the Super Bowl, though Black Friday is best electronic mega sales)
- Baby items
- Valentine's Day - an awesome day to stock up on cheap chocolate and baking items.
- Canned Foods - This is National Canned Foods month, so you bet there are going to be big promotions on canned foods of all kinds.
- Home products (beds, furniture, etc. for President's Day Sales)
- End of Winter Sales
- Frozen Foods - This is National Frozen Foods Month so it's a super time to stock up!
- St. Patrick's Day - another chocolate overload time, but also look for post-holiday clearance on corned beef you can freeze or can.
- Easter - eggs are on sale! Freeze them, scramble and make burritos to freeze, dehydrate them!
Seasonal Produce in April (this information is based on North American growing norms. Your region and country may vary).
- Brussels sprouts
- Dandelions and other cool weather edible 'weeds'
- Leafy Greens (Kale, Spinach, etc.)
Promotions and Seasonal Trends
- Eggs - these are obviously from Easter promotions, but yes, stock up on them! You can preserve eggs in a number of ways for longer-term storage - learn how to preserve eggs here.
- Easter/Post Easter - Passover items, candy, baking goods will be in clearance, too
- Earth Day - organic products on sale
- Tax Day -- freebies or "We'll pay the tax" sales can cover furniture, appliances, and even cars!
- Memorial Day - look for meat, grilling items like charcoal, condiments
- Furniture - Memorial day is a big sale day for furniture.
- Gifts for Mom - kitchen equipment, jewelry, clothing
- Paper Products - great items to stock up on for emergency times when water may be scarce.
- National Dairy Month - look for sales on all things dairy
- Gifts for Dad -- camping, hunting, sporting goods, clothing
- 4th of July - meat sales, grilling items
- Ice Cream Month - no only on ice cream, but on makes and associated products. You might also find these things clearanced out at the end of the month.
- Watch for a Christmas in July or Black Friday in July sales day that will include big-ticket items like electronics
- Baby Items
- Post Summer sales - might find grilling stock on sale for cheap!
- Back to School - Big sales will start popping up from July through early September for back to school-related products including ready to eat, snacks, snack drinks, so keep a close eye out on those sales and stock appropriately. Included will be another push for seasonal cold/flu items that you can stock up on (tissues, cold items, sanitizers, etc.)
- End of Canning Season - (while it might not really be for you, begin to look for stores trying to clear out any remaining canning overstock.
- End of Summer Sales
- Labor Day - whether it was in August or in September, last, great red meat stock-up of the year 🙂
- Back to school clothing
- Halloween - chocolate - it's good for morale 🙂
- Daylight Savings - this might be a good time to check for battery sales in your area
- Baking Items - pumpkin + baking items will be showing up everywhere - even though on sale, be sure to know your prices. You might do better stocking up in December.
- Black Friday - need I say more? EVERYTHING goes on sale, especially with online retailers. Then be sure to look for Cyber Monday sales, as well.
- Baking Items
- Big Ticket Items - while Black Friday is best for these sales, if retailers are feeling a slowdown, they will often boost sales in December with bigger sales than Black Friday - so keep an eye out on the news and papers for ads.
*Note: I am not including produce on this list. Since so much of our food is grown year-round, all over the world, pretty much all food is available to us all the time. Yes, fruit is cheapest when it's grown locally in season, but seasons in the south are different than seasons in the north as far as availability. And some produce only grown locally in the summer may be in season in the winter south of the equator and put on sale. So it's best to keep in mind general seasons for fruits and veg, and keep an eye on the front page of your local store papers for those big doorbuster sales.
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