By Erin Huffstetler | 07/27/2016 | 19 Comments
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Today, I want to show you my stockpile. It’s hands down the hardest-working square footage in our house, and a big part of how we save money. It includes plenty of food, like you’d expect, but it also includes some things that will probably surprise you. Come take a look.
Our stockpile is located in our unfinished basement. We have about 850 square feet of storage space in our basement, and I would say roughly 100-150 square feet of that space is currently dedicated to our stockpile.
Now, most people wouldn’t dream of showing you their unfinished basement, but our basement is important to our lifestyle, so pretty or not, it deserves a stop on our home tour.
We like to buy ahead whenever possible because it saves us money and cuts down on our trips to the store, and with a basement to store things in, we’re able to stock up when we find a good deal.
We have a tiny kitchen pantry, so we only store opened foods there. Everything else is kept in our stockpile.
So, what kinds of foods do we keep in our stockpile?
Pasta, rice and dried fruits.
Cereal. I stock up whenever our favorites are on sale for $2 or less a box.
Granola bars. We do a big chunk of our grocery shopping at an Amish salvage store near our cabin. They sell granola bars for $.10 a piece, so I load up on Kind bars and other healthier brands for the kids.
Canned foods. I do a lot of canning and freezing, so we don’t really buy many canned goods, mostly just tomato products, like tomato paste and crushed tomatoes.
I found my can racks at yard sales, but you can find similar racks on Amazon.
Peanut butter. $2.19 is my price for peanut butter. I’ve been finding it at the Amish store for $1.50 lately.
Cooking and baking supplies. I keep extra mayo, vinegars, baking powder, baking soda, chocolate chips, powdered sugar, brown sugar and such on hand, so I don’t have to worry about running out in the middle of a recipe. It’s a lot easier to run to the basement, than it is to run to the store. Baking supplies tend to get marked down after the holidays, so I do most of my stocking up then.
Dried beans. I cook my own beans, instead of buying canned, because it’s tons cheaper. You can see the price comparisons that I did here and here. I usually buy my dried beans out of the bulk bins because it tends to be cheaper, but sometimes I find bags of dried beans on the reduced price rack for less. That’s what you see here. The beans that I bought out of the bulk bins are stored in jars in the pantry.
We rescued this white shelf from a curb pile a few years back, and it’s been such a welcome addition to our stockpile.
It holds our extra spices and seasonings (some store-bought, some homemade), as well as condiments like, mustard …
bbq sauce and ketchup.
It also holds my homemade extracts …
and stacks of baking chocolate just waiting to be made into something tasty.
We also have three freezers in another part of our basement: two uprights and one chest freezer. We use the chest freezer for long-term storage items – things like meat, berries, veggies and nuts.
We use the upright freezers to store things like freezer jams, homemade pumpkin puree, flour and baked goods.
And we have two mini-freezers that we rescued on college move-out day. We keep one plugged in all the time to hold extra gallons of milk and juice (so we don’t have to shop as often and can take advantage of sales), and we have one that we plug in as needed (mostly when we have lots of holiday or party food/leftovers).
The grocery portion of our stockpile also includes necessities, like toilet paper and tampons/pads. I scored a huge case of Playtex tampon sample packs at a community yard sale this summer for just a few bucks. After opening all the packs, I had enough tampons to fill quite a few freezer bags.
The bottom two bins are tampons, and the top one is pads. I’ll gladly carve out some space in my stockpile, if it saves me from paying $5-6 a box.
I buy/make cleaners ahead, too. Our stockpile typically includes spray cleaner, laundry detergent, my homemade dishwasher detergent tabs and ingredients (washing soda, baking soda, Fels Naptha, salt, lemon juice, etc.) to make other household cleaners.
We keep extra light bulbs on hand as well. We’ve upgraded the whole house to LED bulbs. They cost more on the front end, but save a ton of electricity and last longer. We stock up when they’re on sale, so when a bulb goes out, we don’t have to pay full price for a replacement or drive to the store for one.
Those bins tucked under the shelves hold some of my craft supplies – specifically, it’s my candle/soapmaking supplies, the t-shirts that I use to make rugs and yarn.
As you’re about to see, our stockpile includes lots of craft supplies. We’re a family of makers, so we have supplies and tools on hand to make all sorts of things.
Making instead of buying saves us a lot of money, especially since most of our craft supplies come from yard sales and thrift stores. But, keeping all of those materials organized is, admittedly, quite a challenge — especially since I’m not the only person accessing them.
I’ve learned that things have to be very clearly labeled and easy to put away, or they won’t get put away. So, when I recently reorganized our craft supplies, I put a lot of thought into how we use our stuff. If something wasn’t getting put away because there wasn’t any room in the container, I moved it to a bigger container. If something wasn’t getting put away because the container wasn’t easy to get to, I moved it to a better spot.
And anything that didn’t already have a label got one. The above photo shows the label that our ribbon bin got.
It’s one of my free, printable storage bin labels. You’ll see these labels again and again, as I show you my craft stockpile. I used my label maker to label smaller boxes.
This is the label maker that I use. It’s an Epson LabelWorks LW-400.
I keep clear label tape in my label maker because I can put labels on clear bins and only have the words show. It’s just a cleaner look than you get with white label tape.
Alright, now that you know a little bit about my organizational approach, let me show you our craft stockpile.
A lot of our smaller craft supplies are tucked into this back corner.
These plastic shoe boxes work really well for us. You can easily grab the one you need, and take it upstairs, then bring it back when you’re done.
And here are the labels on the front of them. Clean and easy to read.
I have more craft supplies to show you, but I’ll get to those in a bit. I’m working my way around the stockpile and showing you things as we come to them.
I do a fair amount of canning and freezing, so I have a large stash of freezer jars. They have their own dedicated shelf.
I got tired of hunting down lids and bands, so my husband designated a bin for our wide-mouth lids and bands …
and our regular-mouth lids and bands. Now, they’re lots easier to find and put away.
I dry a lot of herbs from my garden and make my own seasoning blends, so I save empty spice jars to use again. Those also have their own bin. Before I created an official spot for them, they tended to pile up in the kitchen. I try to pay attention to stuff like that. Usually when there’s clutter in the house, it’s a sign that I need to tweak my organization system.
I also make a lot of my own mixes, health/beauty products and cleaners, so I’m constantly in need of containers for those. I save empty containers to reuse, and I buy containers at yard sales and thrift stores, whenever I come across some that look like they’ll be useful. This ensures that I always have plenty of containers to choose from when I’m working on a project.
This summer, my stash of canisters and large jars had started to pile up in the dining room because I didn’t have a place to store them. When I reorganized my stockpile last week, I made sure I gave them an entire shelf.
Now, I can easily see what I have …
And I have a place to put the next jar or canister that I find.
This back section of my stockpile also includes empty egg cartons. We have chickens, so we use them for their eggs. I also make fire starters out of the cardboard cartons.
And this section also holds more of my canning and dehydrating supplies.
Turning to work our way down the other side of my stockpile …
This section mostly holds sewing supplies, but there are a few other things.
The first shelf holds my water bath canner and pressure canner, as well as empty berry boxes (which I often reuse to wrap gifts).
It also holds our silverware for parties. We try to do no-waste parties whenever possible, so I have a large stash of mis-matched silverware that we bought at thrift stores and yard sales. This saves me from having to worry that someone will throw out my good silverware when we have an outdoor party. We also put mis-matched silverware in the kids’ lunchboxes for the same reason.
I have three sewing machines, and recently acquired a serger (which I haven’t had a chance to play with yet). Two of those machines are stored on this shelf, along with the serger. The other sewing machine stays out all the time in my office.
Why so many sewing machines? Since I use my machine for work, I like to have a back up. Having three also allows the kids and me to sew together. I’ve given them a few sewing lessons, and I hope to spend a bunch more time working with them on their sewing skills.
My husband has gotten good at repairing sewing machines, so we picked up our spare machines at yard sales for a $1 a piece (because they had a problem), and he fixed them.
A few years back my mother-in-law gave me her fabric stash, and that prompted me to come up with an organized way to store it. Sorting it by color just made sense to me. I originally stored the fabric in a couple of those plastic roll-y carts with the drawers, but people kept stacking heavy things on top of them, and then the drawers wouldn’t open properly. After one too many mom tantrums, I decided it was time for another approach.
I found this shelf in a curb pile last week, and so far it seems to be working. The only drawback I can see is that the kids are now much more aware of my fabric stash. So, I’m expecting that I’ll have to neaten the stacks periodically as they pull stuff out.
Those stacked crates next to the fabric shelf hold drinks. Most of it is juice that we got at the Amish store for $1.50 a bottle. I also stockpile bottled water. We carry stainless steel water bottles when we’re out and about, so it’s not something we use on a regular basis, but I like to have it on hand in case of emergencies.
Behind these shelves is another little stockpile nook …
It holds the rest of our craft supplies.
The back section has supplies organized in labeled drawers and bins.
These have been in use for years, and seem to work well for us. I occasionally tweak the contents of our drawers, as our crafting interests change, but overall this has proven to be a low-maintenance organization system.
I stacked the rest of our large bins of craft supplies on this roll-y cart. It slides into this nook, when not in use, and slides out easily when we need it. I put seldom-used bins at the bottom of the stack and frequently-used bins at the top.
And like everything else in our stockpile, all of the bins are clearly labeled, so it’s easy to find what you’re looking for.
This little nook, also has a large curb-shopped cabinet that we use for kitchen overflow. It holds my large collection of crockpots that my friend likes to tease me about. In the summer and fall months, it’s not unusual to see four or five crockpots lined up on my kitchen counter. It’s my busy-person way of making lots of tomato sauce, apple butter, etc. while my garden (and my friends’ gardens) are producing.
I also use multiple crockpots when we have parties, and I have two designated crafting crockpots for melting beeswax and paraffin.
In fact, full disclosure: two of my crockpots were in use when I snapped this picture. I guess that means I have eight? Wait, I think my craft crockpots are at the office, so maybe I have 10. And now you see why my friend teases me 🙂
This nook is also home to my spare appliances. If I find a small appliance that I love, and I run across its twin at a yard sale, I’ll buy it and tuck it in the basement as a replacement for when the original breaks. This ensures I never get stuck paying retail for an appliance, and that I never have to settle for a cheaper model than I currently have. And in the meantime, if I find myself cooking for a crowd, and need to put that second appliance to use temporarily, I can do that.
See that Cuisinart immersion blender in the front? It’s brand new in the box, and I paid $3 for it at a yard sale last weekend. I’m currently on my second immersion blender, so it’s just a matter of time before it gets put to use. I just think buying ahead makes sense in that situation.
Buying ahead also makes sense when it comes to kids shoes. The kids are almost 12 and 14-years-old respectively. In all of those years, I’ve only paid retail for one pair of kids’ shoes (and since they were $2, it hardly counts). We hit thrift stores and yard sales weekly, so I keep my eye out for high-quality shoes in grow-into sizes.
Most people think buying second-hand shoes means buying used shoes, but it doesn’t have to. I come across brand new or worn-once shoes all the time. Someone buys their kid a pair of shoes, and then they grow out of them before they get to wear them, or they don’t like the pair that mom picked out and refuse to wear them. Someone like you or I would return them to the store for a refund, but lots of people just throw them in the donate or yard sale pile. And that’s our gain.
I have shoe racks set up in the basement, and shop a few sizes ahead for each kid. This ensures that I have a full range of shoes in their size by the time they get there.
I currently have shoes in size 4 through size 8.5 in women’s. Whenever they have a growth spurt, we go down to my “shoe store” and “shop” for new shoes. Lately they’ve been growing like weeds, and it’s been so nice to just walk down stairs and grab what they need. That’s a time-saver for me, and a huge money-saver, too. I don’t know how anyone who shops retails handles all the teen growth spurts without going broke.
And if you’re wondering how my kids feel about this system, they love it. Shopping this way allows me to afford the “cool” brands and to buy the best quality shoes. Last year, someone at school complimented my oldest daughter on the shoes she was wearing. She thanked them, and revealed they’d been a recent yard sale find (it’s a source of pride in our house). They were shocked, and said they’d always thought she was rich because she has such nice things. My daughter loves to tell that story. And both of my kids love to shop for shoes to add to our shoe store.
When you’re finding things like this brand new pair of New Balance sneakers, who could blame them?
Well, that wraps up my stockpile tour. Did you make it to the end? I sure hope so, because I think this part of our home reveals more about how we run our household than any other part of our home.
Need to Catch Up on Our Home Tour?
You’ll find all the parts I’ve gotten to here.