Stocking Up: How Much is TOO Much?

Did you notice the $1.00/1 Ken’s Salad Dressing Coupon in the 8/14 Smart Source last week?

Did you know that, with that coupon, the chances of you getting FREE Salad Dressing are pretty good?  If you missed that coupon, or need a few more, may I suggest turning to eBay or Coupon Clipper services for some of these great coupons…. sooner than later (it expires next month!).

Now, with that said…

You don’t need 30, 40, or even 50 bottles of Salad Dressing!

I have a family of 9.  When I can get it for free, I will only buy about 8 bottles of salad dressing. 


  • We aren’t huge salad people in my house.
  • We like ranch for dipping veggies
  • We like Italian dressing for marinade
  • We like Ranch dressing for baking (see one of my favorites here – sorry to distract you)
  • We occasionally eat salad
  • We take salad to family dinners sometimes
  • I’ll double check the “best if used by” date… keep in mind that if the bottle was never opened, the life of your salad dressing will extend for months after this date.

Things to Keep in Mind When Building Your Stockpile

  • EXPIRATION DATES.  In our coupon class, Monica brings her expired bottle of salad dressing to show her mistake…  she thought it would be fun to try several different varieties.  What she learned though was that her little family of 4 didn’t use salad dressing as much as she thought they did.  Some of it went bad.  🙁
  • HOW OFTEN DOES THIS ITEM GO ON SALE?  You’ll find the best deals on salad dressing (for example) during the summer.  So you may want to get a 9 months supply.  Although, keep in mind, January tends to have “health food” items on sale, and you’ll see a coupon and some decent sales then.  If I was stocking up on cereal, I know I could get by with just a 1 month supply… because there is ALWAYS a cereal sale!
  • FAMILY SIZE:  Think about portion size and family size when you plan your shopping list.
  • HOW OFTEN  will we consume this?  In the case of salad dressing, I’d guess people don’t use it quite as much in the fall/winter as they do in the summer.  When fresh veggies abound in our gardens, we’re using the salad dressing more.  When it’s freezing cold outside, usually a salad isn’t calling my name.
  • SUPPLY vs DEMAND:  If the store is running low on stock, then don’t be “THAT PERSON” that gives couponers a bad reputation.  Pace yourself.  Maybe just buy two and hit another store and just buy 2.
  • SHARE the COUPONS:  If you are getting coupons on eBay or a Coupon Clipper, consider splitting a lot of 20 with a friend.
  • SPACE:  Do you really have room for 60 bottles of salad dressing you probably won’t use?

What am I missing?  What other things do you factor in when deciding how much to buy?


  • Cheryl H

    I also take compassionate service meals into account. When I make a salad to go with a meal I always include the dressing because you just never know if the family has any or not. I also try to include a variety of dressing so I usually send a couple different kinds.

  • Jasmine

    I agree with you on all of it, also extreme couponers think about Mom’s like myself who do couponing to take care of her family, also I have 3 special needs kids and an 18 month old. Most of the time I have to take my kids with me and most of the time I miss all the good deals that could help my family get buy. Though I’ve been getting better at calling stores and asking about there stock and eventualy finding one that has a good stock. Anyways the point is be considerate when your doing this, look at your stock and think of families like ours that need this to save money to cover something as small as birthday gifts or as big as dental procedures…. We rely on this to cut our grocery bill in half as do most people but to us who have special needs kids whose medical bills are twice as high as most we need it even more so. Thank you for your hard work on your blog, it helps me out…..

    • Stacy

      I agree with you Jasmine – I wish people wouldn’t clear the shelves so they can donate it all. I think of the struggling families who are trying to make it on their own and when they go to the store grocery shopping hoping to get a good deal or two and only find the shelves cleared. I’ve passed up many deals where I can get items for free, simply because I don’t need the item and know someone else out there does.

    • Well said Jasmine. I too have a special needs child + 2 others and they are always in tote so going to a store just to find empty shelves is very frustrating.

  • Yvette R

    This was well put. It’s OK to buy whatever your family will use, but lets not go overboard. If your family uses a product and will get good use out of it, it makes sense to buy it. But don’t buy 50 bottles of BBQ sauce (or salad dressing!). I can never justify buying such large quantities. The most I buy of an item is 10. thats usually cereal because my family eats ALOT of cereal. LOL
    Love your article and hope people read it and take it for what its meant. Keep up the good work and thanks for the great articles!

  • Cally

    A few things I always think of before I buy ANY items are the things you listed above plus…is this healthy for my family? Can I make this myself for cheaper? For example we LOVE hummus (we frequently have hummus and veggies for dinner). I was spending a lot of money on hummus even with coupons. I used to stock up on hummus when it was on sale. I figured out how to make it on my own, and now I’m paying just a few dollars (at most) for twice (triple) the amount I was getting pre-packaged. I try to think this way about almost all food items I buy.

    • Karen

      Plus homemade hummis is so much better than the store bought kind! I scored some chick peas for .50/can this week. Score! 🙂

      • Kate

        Cally & Karen,

        My husband & I are in LOVE with hummus (and eachother of course)! We usually buy the smaller containers at the grocery store with coupons, but even then it is expensive and we eat a container super fast. I adore it so much & am sad when budget does not allow us to throw it in the cart when shopping. Are you willing to share your homemade hummus recipes? I know one ingredient is chickpeas, which I already have (bags not cans though). Just don’t know what the other ingredients are and how to do it. Thank you in advance!

        • Katie

          5-Minute Hummus

          1 fifteen-ounce can chickpeas, with liquid
          1 clove garlic
          1⁄4 cup olive oil, plus more for serving
          2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
          2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste; optional)
          1 teaspoon ground cumin
          kosher salt
          1/4 teaspoon paprika

          In a food processor, puree the chickpeas and garlic with the olive oil, lemon juice, tahini (if using), cumin, and ¾ teaspoon salt until smooth and creamy. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons water as necessary to achieve the desired consistency.

          Transfer to a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the paprika before serving.

          I saw this recipe on Utahdealdiva’s blog. Hope it helps!

  • Rosanel

    Good. We are a military family, I stock up for the years that we will be in unit, after that I have to start all over again. We never know where we are going to end up, if is over seas I can’t ship any of my “inventory”.

  • Lanette

    Is this really someone’s stockpile? I would have to say this is hoarding not stocking your pantry for your family. This doesn’t make sense to me. I would like to know the reason why someone would stock-up this much dressing.

    • Sara Whit

      I am one for lots of Italian Dressing. We go through about 2 bottles a week as we eat lots of salads, vegies and use Italian Dressing as a base and add to it to make Ceaser Dressing. Baked Chicken with Dressing is great. Crock pot Ribs with dressing. We also have a lot of BBQ’s(2 – 3 a week, rain or shine, winter are summer) and I use the Italian as a base for the sauce and also for a marinade. I just counted my bottles and I see I only have 20 in there. As long as you like it and use it that is the answer. But for those that just want to show off their “Stock Pile” having so many bottles is hoarding.

  • Chelsea a

    I love this website! unfortunately my first stock up couponing was the emerald nuts! I ordered coupons from ebay and free sounded so amazzzing! Needless to say I would up with forty boxes of trail mix that I despise. At least my boyfriend likes the nuts but I learned my lesson to never buy more of 2 of something I have never tried and 6 of something I eat often.

    ,Thanks for such an informative and intresting blog!

    • MaryAnne

      How about a food bank donation? There are lots of hungry folks out there. Just a thought.

    • Melissa

      You should donate it. Also, they are totally delicious… and, why would you buy so much of something, anything that you haven’t tried before???

  • Jessica Fab Frugal

    I LOVE a good salad dressing deal but I’m cautious when stocking up because some dressings are made with high fructose corn syrup which isnt so healthy to eat lots of 🙁

    • Tammy

      I agree! Last time I had great coupons for dressing I looked at the ingredients & decided it wasn’t worth it. So I picked the healthiest option I could find & decided I need to start making my own.

  • amanda

    I used my coupons to stock up on Russian Dressing. I have this awesome recipe for a Russian Crockpot Chicken that I could eat all the time. I also use the Italian dressing to marinade chicken. But I do agree with Jessica that they really can be not so healthy so I don’t go crazy when there is a sale. I did go crazy once when it was a little money maker and bought like 20 bottles. Lets just say I may never live down being the lady who left salad dressing in the teachers lounge at my son’s school for anyone to take. Lesson learned.

    • Hi, Amanda! Would you be willing to share the Russian CrockPot Chicken Recipe. I love CrockPot recipes!!!! and russian dressing in cooking is fantastic. Thanks! And BTW, I’ve over-purchased also..try not to….donate it. The food bank loves me!

  • Charlene

    Love this post…thank you!

  • Sarah M

    I went overboard with the Hamburger Helper last week. But my kids are 5, 4, and 2 and they would eat it every day. Plus, supporting a five of five on just my income (which is not enough) it comes in handy. I rarley have even an extra $20 to build my stock pile. I felt guilty walking out of there with 30 boxes and 20 pizzas but it’s either that or top ramen! My husband recently got a job (been unemployed for 3 years!) but won’t see a check for another month 🙁 this site has helped feed my family since our grocery budget has gone to almost nothing. We also get WIC so the good stuff is provided. We qualify for $2 a month in food stamps, we don’t actually refceive it but my daughter does get free school lunch.

    • Sarah M

      *family of five

    • Sara D

      I stocked up on the hamburger helper too b/c it is used in our family. We love the rice one b/c we use it in burritos or as “nachos”. It’s a hit with my kids that way.

    • Deanna

      I don’t think that is going overboard that is using good money sense. You like it and use it you did not just get it because it was nearly free. I bought 20 boxes, we eat it every other week but sometimes every week. 20 boxes eaten once a week is 5 months. So that is once meal eat week I do not have to buy for. See good money sense.

    • Jennifer

      Sarah I think you did great! Don’t feel guilty. I happened to stop by several Albertson’s during that HH week and noticed they were all plentifully stocked! And you said you use it. That isn’t going overboard at all. I feel for you. Try feeding a family of 11 on one income. Times are tough! We totally stocked up on HH. But first we calculated out how many we use for one dinner, and how many times we eat it. Then we got what would last us 6 months. That will get us to our tax return time, where we hopefully have some more budget.

  • sesame street

    Ha HA! That looks like my Mom’s stockpile! She has no sense as far as stock up but she does provide a lot of dressings, toiletries and cereal to all of her 3 kids with families that live nearby and don’t coupon. One thing I think about on a good sale is whether we are going to need a lot of an item in the near future. For instance on the totinos pizzas last week. We do NOT eat these normally, but we are getting ready to move which mean a lot of packing for this Mommy. And if I can put some extra cheese and pepperoni and some veggies on a premade pizza and run back to packing while it cooks, that gives me an extra 2 boxes packed for just 15 minutes of me not making a dinner for my hubby and 2 kids. I can’t wait to be done moving!

  • Rachel

    The main thing I stock up on is pasta… WE LOVE pasta, so I stock up whenever I can and I buy A LOT of it. We eat pasta at least once a week if not more.
    The one thing I’m always tempted to stock up on but have learned to resist is the bouxed mac n cheese. It’s so easy to make and doesn’t cost much, especially if it’s on sale… but I finally figued out that we prefer homemade mac n cheese…. I haven’t tallied it up yet, but I’m pretty sure it costs less to make and I can make more of it at a time for leftovers. So as tempting as it is to run out and get the boxed stuff when it’s super cheap (or free), I resist and stick with my homemade stuff.

  • jolene

    I use salad dressing all year in crock pot meals. I stock up slowly during the summer by buying few bottles at a time (5-10). I put a few bottles in the kitchen, then the rest in my stock pile to save for winter. I usually have 20 bottles by the end of the summer to get me to January when it goes on sale again. By January I’m out and I stocking up again (about 10 more) and I’m usually good until it starts going on sale again around May/June. I’ve never had 60 bottles at one time before. No judgement to those who have, I just don’t have that kind of space. I’d only have a stock pile of salad dressing if I had the many and we eat other things in my house. LOL!

    @ Amanda I’d love to get your Russian Dressing Crock-pot recipe I usually use ranch or italian dressing for my recipes.

    • amanda

      It’s not very precise but here it is:

      Russian Chicken
      About 4 chicken breasts (I use 2 Zaycon ones because they are so big and thats what fits in my crock pot)
      1/2 large bottle Russian dressing
      1/2 jar of Apricot preserves (I have also used strawberry and peach. they have a different taste but still really good)
      1 packet Onion soup mix

      Mix all ingredients and cook on low heat til the chicken is very tender. 4-6 hours is what I normally do it for but have done it up to 8. If you don’t like it very sweet just add more dressing and if you like it more sweet add more preserves. I serve it over brown rice.

      Like I said it isn’t very precise and I don’t measure anything so you may have to tweek it a bit for your family. I have also cooked double batches and it freezes well. I am 6 month preggo and totally craving it now. The only problem is that I am waiting to pick up my Zaycon peaches next week and to make my own peach preserves before I make it. Ah the agony of waiting!

      • jolene

        Thanks! It sound really good and my hubby loves Russian dressing. I have some Zaycon chicken in the freezer so I think we’ll try this on the first week of school. Always good to have an easy recipe for that week.

  • Joni

    I usually only buy what my family of 3 will use in a few months. But, it IS hard to resist some of those deals. I bought a lot of the Hamburger Helper last week. I got 60….and left many many on the shelf. The same day I bought it, I gave half of it away to several of my thoughtful neighbors who give me their papers each Sunday. I still have 30. As soon as I get a few more cereals and some canned goods, I will be making a nice little donation to my local food bank.

  • Amber

    At the beginning of the summer I started my couponing adventure, it’s August and already I have given up on couponing. The reason I have given up is because there are too many greedy couponers out there that WAY overstock, by the time I get to the store on Monday or Tuesday after work the shelves are wiped out. It is frustrating to have all these great deals available but I can’t get them because there is always one or two people who are bound and determined to take EVERYTHING they can get. It makes me sad because this is a great way to save money (I don’t use many coupons because I’m only feeding my hubby and I) but if I’m going to have to fight for my food then forget about it, I’ll pay the extra just so I’m not continuously disappointed like I have been for the past few months. *sigh*

    • Deanna

      Amber, that is too bad. I only shop for my husband and I also. I am in so. Cal. My main store is Winco, I use coupons there. I live by a Stater Bros but no Albertsons or Ralphs. If they are having a “gotta have” sale, I will top in before work on Wed or Thur morning. I have never run into empty shelves.

    • Melissa

      You don’t know that 30 people bought 2-5 of whatever you wanted to get before you got there, you know – its the easy out to say that ‘one or two people who are bound and determined to take EVERYTHING they can get’.
      Many people, just like YOU and ME, only coupon for a couple or a small family and aren’t trying to feed 10. And for those people who are trying to feed a family of 10, good for them! That must be REALLY tough. It’s probably way more important for them to save a few bucks than the impact it really makes on me. Maybe they would have had troubles getting through the week with enough food if they didn’t save that extra…
      Just saying think of the bigger picture when you run into an empty shelf.

      • Susan

        Melissa, in the stores I regularly shop at, I do know that it’s just a small number of people clearing shelves, not a lot of people buying just a few. I’ve been in the store early on the day of a promotion and witnessed it personally. And I’ve been told that by cashiers who witness it enough times that I believe it. It may not ALWAYS be the case, but it does happen regularly around here.

        Amber, I no longer even try to shop early on the first day of a promotion. I may be able to find product if I shop early, but I’ve seen enough craziness that I decided I did not want to be associated with it.

        But I would encourage you not to give up on couponing. There are lots of good deals to be had that (1) are unadvertised and therefore don’t get posted on blogs and (2) are good prices but not free or dirt cheap, so therefore less chance of hoarders buying them out. You can still save a good deal of money on items your family regularly uses just by paying attention to sales and buying extra when the price is good, and combining that with coupons. I think the key is to shop for the items your family likes the most, and not necessarily for items that are on a “hot” promotion.

        Just my two cents worth.

  • KD

    I get four papers, and I never order coupons on ebay. I figure with a family of five, that I never need more than four boxes/jars whatever of anything at a time. This keeps me balanced. The other thing I watch for is when things are a really good deal, but not free. If I spend $100 on toilet paper, because the deal was so amazing, I will have a lot of toilet paper, but no fresh produce, dairy, bread, etc. for the week. I still need to follow a budget and only buy a reasonable amount of good coupon items.

  • Squared231

    We go through 2-3 bottles of ranch every week. We are a family of 5 but we all eat a salad everyday for lunch. My hubby and I only have salad n crackers for lunch 7 days a week (wacky crazy diet but we’ve lost a total of 200 lbs in the last 2 years on this diet). And my kids will also have salad cause I just make a huge one for lunch each day then they will also have more kid friendly lunch foods too. So when salad dressing goes on sale (free or < 50 cents) I buy 30-40 bottles of it, but it's cause we will use it it's not gonna sit on the shelf for y ears and years.

  • Deserae Hall

    I consider all of the things said above. I am just at the 1 year mark of couponing so I have a good idea about how often my favorites come on sale. There have been a few “lessons” like the 20 boxes of cereal my kids got tired of before they were gone, but I donated the rest to the food drives so it wasn’t wasted.

    The other thing I think about is will I use this item. Am I in love with my current brand and not likely to switch? If the answer is yes then I do not buy it. I do not purchase just because it is free or cheap. I feel there are many other consumers in my town, couponers or not, who will buy because they need/want it.

  • Ricki

    Ken’s dressings are 2/$2 at Publix this week. So if you use them, stock up with you coupons!

  • Kevin

    I have a family of 5, my wife, 3 kids and me. Yes I am a guy and I do most of the couponing. We have used coupons for years but only in the last few months have we been working on a stockpile. When it comes to the dressing we have around 25 or so bottles currently, mostly ranch. We use about 1 to 2 bottles a week sometimes more when we have hot wings a time or two.

    Some may call me a hoarder if they looked at my stockpile. Everything I have gotten will be used or donated. We dont clear shelves. Today I spoke to a manager at my local Kroger and asked if they could order me up a bunch of the Mentos gum they have on sale. They had enough in stock but would have put it low if I bought what I wanted. I ordered 110 of the packs. That seems like a lot but we will go through 2 packs in a week. That is about a years supply and will cost me around $20. I also have about a years supply of Axe body wash for me and also body washes and shampoos and bathroom items for the rest of the family.

    Some would call me a hoarder though. If I stumble across something that is free or a money maker I will get it even if we dont use it. The money makers is to help offset prices for stuff we do use. Yesterday I went to walgreens 5 times and ended up with 24 Degree deodorants that I cant use. By rolling rewards on a few items they were free. I didnt clear the shelf. The manager said he didnt mind if I did buy them all but told him I wouldnt do it. Most of the cashiers and managers know me now around here and know what and why I do things. I put them with the other items on a set of shelves I have for items we wont use. These items go to donation boxes, food banks, and people we know that needs help with items. Twice a year my work goes to a camp for teenage kids who werent adopted or able to be put in foster care. Some are “troubled” kids. We also have an angel tree at christmas to help families. I used to donate cash. I figured out that I could use that money and coupons to give them more than they would get with the money alone.

    We may be called hoarders but I will stock up on anything that I can get cheap or free as long as it leaves some for others to get.

  • CathyB

    Thanks for the reminder post! I know that you were not giving a set number that we should or shouldn’t buy, but rather encouraging us to thoughtfully consider what we each will truly use for our family. I remember when I first started couponing a few years ago and salad dressing and bbq sauce seemed to be on great deals every couple of weeks. Of course I went overboard and bought way more than I needed of both. I thought I would use them in time but discovered that we did not use them as fast as I thought. Salad dressing really does have a fairly short use by date. This was in the days before much self-clearing, but I still remember how bad I felt that the bottles passed expiration date and I couldn’t even donate them. I hate wasting food and I learned a lesson. Of course, now I have no salad dressing left and have moved to an area of the country with absolutely NO deals. So I am wishing I had just a small bit of that stockpile now!

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