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Coupon Abbreviations
  • SC = Store Coupon
  • MC = Manufacturer Coupon
  • SS = Smart Source
  • RP = Red Plum
  • PG = Proctor and Gamble
Coupon Terms
  • WYB = When You Buy
  • B1G1 = Buy One Get One Free
  • .75/1 = 75 cents off one item
  • .75/3 = 75 cents off three items
  • EXP = Expiration Date

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Help Wanted how do you organize your stockpile

I’ve been at this coupon thing for almost 7 years now.  However, I confess that in all that time I still haven’t figured out the best way to organize things.  When we moved a little while ago it meant tackling the beast head on.  Sadly in packing things up I found two trash bags full of food that had expired.  To be completely honest some of it had expired over a year ago.  My heart was heavy with each box that went in the bag and I’m eager to figure out ways to never have to do that again!

We already use Cansolidators for canned goods, most of my problems were on boxed items.  I would love to know what tips you have on how you keep track of your pantry.  How do you organize it?  How do you make sure to use the oldest items first?

I have no doubt that I’m not the only one that has this confession.  So hopefully some of you can learn with me.

    • Michelle Hook

      I organize in style with Thirty-One Products. :) if interested my email address is ltmtnfirewife@yahoo.com I can send you a catalog with wonderful ideas

    • Emma

      The Elfa products at the Container Store are well worth the $, and if you utilize the entire selection of products for your space, you can have a very well organized/custom pantry. They are having their annual Elfa sale right now, 30% off, but it’s over sometime this week. It starts in December!

    • cowgurl0520

      My mother is always asking me for advice on organizing her stockpile because she has the same issues. My #1 tip is to have a set spot. At my moms I have organized it where one side of her cabinets are canned goods and another side is boxed goods. Next would be to label each spot for each food and make them in rows. One row is nothing but Hamburger Helper, next is nothing but boxed rice and so on. Having set spots in your cabinet or pantry and labeling them has made a world of difference for my mom. Hope this helps!

      • Margaret Burgess

        I replied because I read your post wrong, I thought you said your mom had boxes on one side and cans on the other of each shelf (as I do). I have boxed goods on one side and can goods on the other of each shelf (I’m afraidt to put all canned goods on a shelf because of the weight). I have four shelves. The bottom shelf is January thru March (exp. date) boxed goods and 2013 (exp. date) can goods. The next shelf up is April thru June box goods and 2014 can goods. Next July thru Sept and 2015. Top shelf Oct thru Dec and beyond and 2016 and beyond.

    • Excited4Coupons

      Congrats first of alll moving to a new place.. But a few weeks ago I organized my pantry and before I started I thought it was ok but wow I realize what it a difference it was once I finished.. I stocked each item by product placing each by expiration date. Every 2 weeks or so we place items on a box to give out for a missionary ministry and other items my husband takes to his job to eat as a snack or for lunch. Hope this helps.. What motivated me to clean my pantry was a blog that gave me step by step and how to do it..


    • Liz

      Wow your pantry has a ton of space! I would love one like that! I would suggest labeling your shelves. It would help you (and the rest of the fam, too) put everything in its place. Also, keep one prominently-placed shelf as the “clean out” or “use up” shelf. Periodically grab older stuff that you come across (maybe every time you come home from the grocery store?) and toss it onto that shelf so you see it when you open the pantry and go for those things first. I do that in my pantry and fridge as well. It helps me visually to see which things need to get eaten before it’s too late. A bonus is the slight satisfaction at learning to be creative with random ingredients (though I’m still trying to figure out how to use up that half-used jar of mango chutney on my “eat up” shelf on the fridge…. :) ).

    • charronda

      Jenny, I understand your pain completely! In my house, not only do I pull food from the pantry and our garage storage, but my husband and kids do, too. When groceries are added to either place, we put the new groceries behind what is already there. We also mark the date each item was bought on the front of the package or top of the can and use the oldest date first. Since I also shop at Big Lots, where the expiration dates may not be that far off, we circle the expiration date or mark “Use First”. Hope this helps!

    • Definitely check out Thirty-One’s adorable new products at http://www.mythirtyone.com/sarawallace! You won’t regret it!

    • Anne

      I use an app on my ipad called prep and pantry that allows you to scan in or type products in pantry, alerts you when you run out of a product, and you can create and share a shopping list. I think it also lets you out in expiration dates.

      • Connie

        Awesome. I love apps! Thx

    • liz

      Donate stuff to the local pantry every week. Sometimes I buy stuff because it’s free. Sometimes I end up not liking it or not even craving it. So now I donate every week. It helps me organize the cabinet and ensures nothing is wasted. Also, just buy less. I have barely couponed in the last two months b/c I ran out of space. Once it whittles down some, I will go back to doing it.

      • Me too! Sometimes I can go a couple of months without heavy couponing because we have plenty.

    • Kay Thompson

      I use old diaper boxes covered with pretty contact paper and labelled (rice, pasta, & crackers, for example). I think one key to solving your problem is to schedule a “shop your pantry” week once every month or so when you only buy meat and fresh fruit/veggies while using up some of the things in your stock pile.

      • Emily

        Love it! Even those who don’t stockpile need to “shop the pantry” once a month! :) Then you can have dinners comprised of ramen noodles and blueberry muffins! It would be your own episode of “Chopped.”

    • sonjaml_1999

      I keep all alike items together. Crackers with crackers, salad dressing with salad dressing. We have found the best thing to do is put the new stuff behind the older stuff. And to also write the expiration on the items with a bold marker. That way it’s flagged to make sure we use those items first.

    • Susan

      My husband and I keep all our cereal together and stack it like in the grocery store (facing forward). We organize the stacks from left to right and do so by the expiration dates.

    • Jennifer H.

      The most important organizing tip for me is my Sharpie pen. Before anything is put away, I write the expiration date in black marker on the package. I try to store like items together. I also have a shelf for “use it now” foods. Once a month I try to go through my food storage areas and pull things that have an expiration date in the next month or two. These items go on the “use it now” shelf.

      • Terri Harrison

        Great tips! Thanks.

      • MWill

        ^ Thats a great idea, Thanks Jennifer!

      • Tracy Christ-Clement

        I like that!

    • traci0322

      I have to admit to throwing away a ton of food last time we moved. Like 2 huge black trash bags that I could barely carry to the trashcan. I have since tried to be more conservative while shopping, and a bit more creative in using up items. Twice this year, when I realized we were going to have items expiring within a few wks, I had recipe nights with my kids. We entered the ingredients on hand into a search on a cooking website, and just experimented. It’s so much fun to make several meals in a couple of hours and have the kids help. The mess was serious, but so was the bonding. Also, we have all found new favorites, (AND things we will never eat again-lol).

    • Jay

      If you coupon and stockpile you have to come to terms with it. Stockpiles are dynamic and stockup items are somewhat random…find a place and use more of what items you wish to cut down on…
      I have been using pantiliners for weeks and weeks and I’m a guy :p

      • traci0322

        ummm, ok? no judgements here… lol

      • Terri Harrison

        Do you use them under your arms to catch the sweat or in your underwear/panties? I must know!

        • jay

          I was totally kidding >.<

      • Krysta

        Hahahaha that is too funny. I enjoyed that laugh :)

      • Niddi

        I have no problem with guys using them but I would suggest that you stick them on the bottom of your swiffer wet jet for small clean up jobs rather than the traditional use.

    • You might try lazy susans for those corners, if you have enough room. You have nice shelves there to store goods, and I now it’s just a question of committing to taking a few minutes after you go shopping to organize things when you put them away, rotating the new stuff to the back. I would also get some shoe boxes or other SHALLOW boxes to put stuff like taco seasoning, tuna fish pouches, etc. so they don’t get lost amongst the bigger stuff. You can pull the boxes out/down to get what you need. Only big stuff that you can easily see goes on the top.

    • rlynn103

      I do the same as Jennifer H. Nothing goes in the pantry, until I write the expiration date in black marker on the front. I group foods together and always put new items behind what’s there. If I go to my pantry to get something, and notice 4 boxes of cereal about to expire, I pull them and give them to someone or to our church food pantry. I threw away food one time, and I vowed “never again”!

    • Rebecca

      Even with coupons I can’t seem to come up with a stockpile as big as yours, so I can still see everything I have because nothing is buried. I did, however, go through the shelf in my closet that has my many, many tubes of toothpaste, meds, and other cosmetic products. Sadly I ended up with a full trash bag of expired products. I decided that I had to come up with a solution, and I only started this a few days ago so I don’t know how well it works in the long run, but I marked the expiration date on every package with a permanent marker. I made sure that the expiration date was viewable without having to search for it so that when I add new products I can put them in order of expiration. I don’t know if I didn’t realistically know how much of each product we needed for a period of time, or if I just didn’t pay close enough attention to expiration dates, but I will find out. I think if I am ever lucky enough to have a stockpile of food I’ll do the same.

    • Mary

      I have a 1 tall cabinet with 3 shelves and 1 back of the door hanger that has 6 rectangle shelves for all of our stuff and of course the fridge and freezer, that is it. (Single wide mobile home w/ 6 pple). When I started couponing, I knew the “catagories” of food that I used, so I organized my binder by that (subcatagories for food etc). Most of the time my food is organized in the cabinet & shelfs (placed) in the same spots (catagories): Baby food (jars, boxed, canisters), drinks (boxed, canisters, etc), Breakfast foods (boxed, bagged), refridgerated, frozen, Make-a-meal (canned foods: fruits, veggies, soups, then dry boxed or bagged goods: noodles, boxed rice etc), Condiments (A.1, ketchup, etc~ I bought a cheap dollar store turn table, like a lazy susan for cabinets!) Baking (Flour, Sugar, cornmealplaced in individual canisters, unless it is part of the “stockpile”, Snacks (bagged, boxed and a cookie jar : ) I would say make a list of your catagories of food, mentally divided your shelf space and have the motto of everything has a place & and everything in its place, then pull those items forward BEFORE you go to the store, place in the back (FIFO~first in first out, unless the expriation date is close)

    • deblack

      i keep my boxed items (potatoes, rices….) in a pantry. when i get my bargains i always try to rotate it and put my new stuff at the back. on my pouch things ( cornbread, cookie….) a good idea might be to get the shoebox size containers and stock them in the same manner i very rarely have to much to expire on me. thats eating into some of your effort to save!LOL. like i tell my family just because it was a good bargain, try to be conservative with what you have.

    • mim

      i work for a major retailer. It’s called FIFO. First In/ First Out.The newer items go behind the ones already on the shelf. I applied this at home and since I’m not like a store and don’t get email reminders then i put a sticker on my calender and monthly look at my items vs weekly at a store. I also group them near each other. Taco supplies with the canned refried beans just like in the store. I then shop my pantry like a grocery store. I actually reduced the duplicate purchases and the last two items near an expiration date were tossed because we opened one and didn’t like it. I also put a dot on an item so I don’t feel I lost money if I toss or donate the item since the dot tells me i actually didn’t spend much on it.

    • pixel3131

      We have a really small pantry and a friend helped me maximize space by stacking boxed items (wide side down) on top of each other with top label showing so that you can see what item it is, the flavor or variety, and expiration date in permanent marker quickly and take advantage of vertical shelf space. We also have an over the door shoe organizer for gravy mixes, seas packets, and other small goods.

    • Becky

      I have a small pantry in the kitchen for things that are open or need to be used next. Then there are some shelves in the laundry room with the rest. I stack boxes laying down with the top flaps showing (where the expiration date and product info is!). I generally throw the new stuff on top after shopping and pull things from the bottom to use. Cans go in old magazine organizers and small random things have little clear boxes. When I go ‘shopping’ in the laundry room, I just scan to make sure nothing is expiring that month.

    • mel1

      When my stockpile starts getting too big, I have an “eat out of the pantry” month (this month is one of those). It helps me look for those odd, random things that I got a deal on and haven’t used yet or it helps me use up things that are getting near expiration (or that I just have way too much of). Makes for some interesting meals, but it really cuts down on the stockpile. Although I have to admit, I get a little panicky if things get down too low, but I have to remember that they will likely go on sale again in the nearish future.

    • Barb

      My best thought is to have ocd support group meetings at our house.

    • Stephanie

      We eat expired food. Still alive and did not visit the doctor one time in 2012.

      • Erin

        Same here! ;) I also don’t buy tons of processed foods, just some to have on the shelf for easy meals. Everything else is staples, which are used fairly regularly and store well, and fresh produce and meat. I don’t necessarily buy food just because it’s free or super cheap; it has to be food that we’d reasonably eat. Just don’t look through my HBA, laundry, and cleaning supply stash, because lots of those have been around a while!

      • Swwrfg

        Ummm you r messed up :P

    • Noella

      A simple method that would require you to follow up on is what I call the traffic light method. Get red,yellow and green rubber bands. Recruit help from the kids and put rubber bands on everything. Red is for 3 months or less till expiration, yellow 3-6 months and green is over 6 months. Start it at the beginning of a month and mark it on a calender so you know when you did it. Every 3 months change green to yellow and yellow to red. Soon everyone will know to use red first and looking you will see if you start getting to much red. Once pantry is done just put bands on after shopping before you put it away.

    • Provider

      One way we organize our canned goods is a similar idea as cansolidators, but we recycle empty 12 pack soda boxes. One for chicken noodle soup, one for tomato soup, one for Rotel, etc. New ones go in the top, and older ones come out first at the bottom.

    • Colleen

      Rotate, rotate, rotate! Make sure when you bring in new stock of the same items make sure you are putting the older items in the front and the newer ones in the back.

    • Danyeln

      Sometimes those package dates are not as set in stone as manufacturers would have us believe. This website has some really good information on shlef life beyond what the manufacturer considers “Best by”


      • I hardly ever go by expiration dates. Most items are still good way past the dates. Items that I do go by on dates is salad dressings. For some reason, the oil goes stale quickly in them.

    • Courtney

      Oldest item goes to the front, new ones go to the back. I have a large stainless rack in the garage. As far as food if it doesn’t fit on the shelf I try not to buy it. I think my stockpile is the perfect sized, friends that don’t stockpile this it’s huge, but compared to other friends that stockpile it’s tiny.
      Grouping like items together, rotating things and not buying items we don’t really use all help me from having things go bad.
      On another note, even if the item is outdated the homeless shelter near us will take it. Things like canned soups, packaged crackers and cereals are all good long after their ‘expiration’ date. I make a rule to donate anything expired, if I haven’t used it yet, I probably won’t.

    • cakewalkingmother

      Hygeine items, cleaning supplies & food. For food I specifically meal plan, create a grocery list from that plan. Follow the rule; three deep & rotate from the back. This way I don’t have too much that will not be used, expires or pukes into the rest of my home.

    • Kelleeey

      I decant a lot of my boxed goods (I also don’t buy that many), but for items like pasta and baking goods (like flour/sugar), I pour it into glass jars from ikea. Anything that doesn’t fit into jars, I put on a shelf to refill jars when empty. This way the oldest items are in the jars and get used first! They also look nice this way, and I can display them on shelves in kitchen nook (I don’t have a very big pantry!).

    • GLee

      Look on pinterest for organizing ideas

    • I, like many others, keep like items together and the new always goes behind the old. I also have a max number I will store of a particular item. For example, I will not store more than twenty jars of pasta sauce because the space designated for this item will not hold more. It takes self-restraint to avoid a great deal when I do not have room for it, but I do not condone wasting food or taking room away from a different item. Even with rotation and limits though, there are times when I have things that get close to expiration. In cases such as these, I make the food and freeze it. For instance, over the holidays, I realized that several boxes of scalloped potatoes and tuna helper where at expiration. I made these, stored them in disposable tins, wrapped them well, and froze. They are easy to warm up in the oven and reduce cooking time on busy evenings.

    • awitte04

      I write expiration month and year on it with a sharpie. Then I always put it in back of other similar items. I have everything divided up by type of food. For example: cereal, crackers, rice, pasta, veggies, beans, etc. I stick to a monthly food budget which forces me to use things I have on hand. When I am making up my shopping list I look at what I have and make meals based on that. Because I have a good idea of how much we eat, I look at expiration dates when I’m buying items and choose how much to buy based on that. For example, if you are buying cereal and it expires in 4 months, don’t buy more cereal than you will eat in 4 months.

    • TheChapLeigh

      I just realized last week that my ketchup & mustard had expired. I’ve eaten expired stuff before, but i knew i would never get around to using these as condiments. What I did was make up batches of BBQ sauce for pulled pork, and also made the sauce for sloppy joe’s & froze them all. That way I feel better about having boiled the stuff to “kill’ anything that might have, in theory, “gone bad”, and I’ve also got some dinner-ready (or at least CLOSER to being ready for dinner) for the future.

      I have been couponing long enough now to not buy stuff that I won’t use. Yes, that means that I spend more than most of the people posting here, because I’m nowhere near as “extreme”, but food that I’ll not eat, ultimately is just money wasted. As another person said below, if I notice something about to expire, I try to cook it up or prepare it & then freeze for later.

      Additionally, I have organized my pantry by compiling “like items” in the little wooden boxes that clementines are packaged in. They contain those items that otherwise make my pantry crazy-messy, and I’m also able to pull a whole box out easily & then sort through it & easily put back into the pantry. Keeps things neat & organized, & best of all, it was FREE!!!

      • Ali Geisler

        I like the clementine boxes idea. My dad saves these and uses them in the garage to organize his stuff (car oil, polish, etc), but I never thought of using them in the pantry. Thanks!

    • TKO

      I agree with some others, but I don’t just simply put newly obtained items behind/under ones already on the shelf because they still may not have the later exp date. I actually check and make sure they are in the correct order. The sad fact is that there are just some items you get in such abundance that they aren’t used prior to expiration. Ways to handle that is to really consider when purchasing how much of an item you’re family is realistically likely to use prior to the dates on the packages or if it’s such a good deal you just want to get more make sure to set aside the extras to donate sooner than later. Keeping all like products in the same area also allows you to judge better what you have and to more efficiently use products you have more of.

      • genxeratl

        I have to agree with this one – I too look at the dates and then compare with what I already have on-hand. It sometimes happens that what I bought today might expire sooner than the exact same item from my pantry I bought several daysweeks ago.
        I also group by type – sauces, canned goods, and the like; snacks and treats; pasta, rice, and sides; chips and bagged goods; and so on. Makes it easier if you know what ‘type’ of product is where and that’s where it always goes.

    • csg

      With 8 kids in our home, over-stockpiling is never a problem, but a good friend goes through her stash quarterly, loads up the extras and shares with whoever is at church that evening. We all love taking turns picking out our favorites and we all love her!!!!

    • I organize the same items together and every one in the house knows to use the first one on the left first. Items on the left have the earliest expiration date.

    • Danielle McDonald

      We found a metal display rack on sale and set it up ourselves. I think it helps that I run a restaurant and my boyfriend works logistics for Target, so we whole heartedly believe in FIFO (First In, First Out!) Good luck!

    • Amy

      FIFO, First in First out! When you shop, put your newly purchased items to the back of the stockpile. Move older items to the front. Then you will always be rotating your food. We do this in the restaurant business to ensure freshest food always, and zero waste. It will help you because your family will always choose the box on the front of the shelf.

    • Melissa

      Like you I moved recently and had to toss lots of my stockpile. I was fortunate to move to a home with a much larger pantry and have made a great effort to be more organized. Like others grouping the items help a great deal and putting the newer products behind the older products. My mother also suggested that I buy plastic shoe boxes and organize all my pouches and mixes. That really has helped!
      I have found a food pantry to donate items that I know I won’t use, but couldn’t pass up the deal since most are free. I have also been fixing a meal once a month for a homeless ministry and have used items from my stockpile.

    • With raising children, couponing, this website, and moving, it sounds like you need the help of an organizer to come in your house and help you.

    • Edna

      Grouping like items and practicing first-in-first-out are essential to keeping a handle on my stockpile. I also set up a computer spreadsheet to help me keep up. It only takes a few minutes each week to keep it updated, and it’s really helpful when I’m going through the grocery and drug store ads because I don’t have to repeatedly jump up and go check my pantry when I’m deciding what to ad to my shopping list.

    • Kit

      Like many of you, I use the Sharpie marker method combined with using / donating things when they get close to expiring. That works for us as far as the pantry type stuff.
      For 2 liters of pop, we have those in a FIFO row down in the basement. I quickly learned that stacking 2 liters wasn’t going to work. The added bonus of having them downstairs is we drink less pop (since it isn’t easy to grab it).
      My big problem now is the freezer. We have an upright full sized freezer in the garage. My husband is afraid to open the door because stuff falls out. Any suggestions for how to organize the space? I don’t doubt there are bags of veggies and (even worse) meat that are beyond eating.