Would buying cases of an item be considered greedy? How about stocking up on food and household items to last you 3-6 months, are you being selfish? If food spoils and you have to toss it out before you can eat it, is that selfish or poor planning? When you grab the last box on the shelf, is that greedy?


These questions and others come up every now and then when I go shopping or purchase an item. I try to keep a balance between stocking up a pantry and going to far. I don't like to shop for groceries and household items, to keep a stock of 3-6 months worth of food in the house is wonderful because that is less time in the grocery store, and with the produce and bread area near the front of the store I can get in and out in 15 minutes.

However, I began wondering if I maybe greedy? Perhaps I am grabbing the last box of tuna helper when I have 5 already at home and someone else is in need of it. Maybe I could cut back and only keep 2-3 months of food in the house because 6 months is a lot of food if someone sees it. Then there is the occasion when I toss out some food that went past the expiration date and I forgot about it and it could have gone to some one who would have used it or I should have organized better.

After talking with some friends we came to some conclusions about stocking up and when is it being greedy.

First, the store is there to sell food, they don't care who comes and picks it up off the shelf. Because of this most stores will offer rainchecks that allow you to get the number you need at the sale price you came in for.

However, if you know that you will be needing 3 pallets of canned dog food and the store usually only stocks 2-3 pallets then contacting management and putting in an order for the cases you need helps out in three ways, you get what you need, the store keeps their items in stock and the weekly\impulse shopper still has product left on the shelf to pick from.

Second, we came to an agreement that if you have a set amount of time or amount you buy for, whether it is 1-6 months or 4 items of a product, then you should stick to that plan. Going over that personal plan would be crossing a line that you have made for yourself. If you know you don't need beyond the 1-6 months than why buy beyond that time-frame.

Third, you have to figure out how much your family will go through for food. Sometimes this decision will come as a result of trial and error after having food go bad in the freezer. For example, if you are unsure if your family should buy a full cow worth of meat or a half a cow worth of meat, you may can go either way and decide that 1/2 a cow was too small and you will go larger next time or you can buy the full cow and as the calendar pages turn over, realize that you will need to get rid of some food so it doesn't spoil.

My friend Stace summed it up, "I think greed starts to play a part when someone stocks up on things that they don’t really want or won’t use, or when they start running out of places to store the stuff."

19 Comments

  1. Anonymous // Monday, September 14, 2009 10:34:00 AM  

    I don't think it's greedy. However, there is a fine line between stocking up and hoarding. If you're really going to use it before it expires, then it's fine; you're wise to stock up while it's on sale.

    A friend is a compulsive shopper and when I recommend a product, I'll notice later that she has 3-4 of that product in her overflowing pantry. Food in her pantry regularly expires and goes bad. That's just excessive, in my opinion.

  2. Shea // Monday, September 14, 2009 4:17:00 PM  

    When you use everything that you have, you're not being greedy at all. Good for you for doing this. I regularly enjoy your blog and love finding someone else frugally minded. I am also seriously envious of your pantry. Mine's the size of a postage stamp!

  3. Dawn // Monday, September 14, 2009 4:55:00 PM  

    @Anon
    I agree, hoarding and stocking up does have a fine line

    @Shea
    Oh I wish that was my pantry as well, mine is to dark to get a picture of... but Jesse was kind enough to let me use it

  4. Carl // Monday, September 14, 2009 5:03:00 PM  

    Is that a good investment having that much food there. As it is all sitting there going bad.

    How much do you have Invested in that pantry? Could you have better investments?

    Now I do have some stuff stockpiled but most of it is garden items that come ripe once a year and then it is canned or frozen for use in the future.

    I think that picture is a bit excessive of Hamburger helper and Prego. Unless you could purchase at a substancal discount I don't see the value in it.

  5. Michael // Monday, September 14, 2009 6:54:00 PM  

    I don't like to stockpile stuff since I don't have storage space. On the other hand, I don't see it as greedy if you're actually planning to use the stuff. What's the harm in buying a year's worth of spaghetti, for example?

  6. Dawn // Monday, September 14, 2009 7:40:00 PM  

    @Carl
    I think that is one of the fine lines - does the food go bad before use or can it be used by the family that bought it?
    Some people just buy and buy because it is on sale but then it goes to waste, other buy on sale and they use it all. The waste is the key, I would agree with you.

    @Michael
    My storage space is also much smaller, but for two people, and it is the usefullness that is the key - or least get it to someone who WILL use it before it expires sitting in the pantry.

  7. Anonymous // Tuesday, September 15, 2009 6:41:00 AM  

    Why would you feel guilty for taking the last box/can of anything off the shelf? Do you think that the shopper before you worried about you when they took the last one of whatever. don't overthink.

  8. Dawn // Tuesday, September 15, 2009 10:31:00 AM  

    @Anon
    {tehee} Oh you have much to learn, over-thinking is what I do. My dad used to tell me, "You always gotta be thinking." So I am!

    But you are correct, over-thinking can be a detriment to getting to a resolution.

  9. Erich@tacticalintelligence.net // Wednesday, September 16, 2009 7:14:00 AM  

    Greedy or not storing food is practical. It's my opinion that everyone should have a 3-month rotating supply of food (ie pantry) that you can go to in case of emergency, job-loss, etc. As long as you are regularly using the stuff you buy (ie rotating) it is a good thing and brings some major peace of mind.

  10. Daniel // Thursday, September 17, 2009 8:07:00 AM  

    This is one of those issues that you can easily get "wrapped around the axle" and overthink for sure.

    I'd argue that as long as you avoid waste, you are doing all the thinking you need. Grocery stores discount food all the time based on their inventory levels and their need to move product. There will be plenty of other bargains for the shoppers after you.

    Dan
    Casual Kitchen

  11. David@DINKS Finance // Thursday, September 17, 2009 7:27:00 PM  

    Not sure how much I like the name of this post. I think it is somewhat irrelevant if you are being "greedy." Sometimes (a lot of times) being "greedy" aka acting in your self interest is a very positive thing that benefits others.

    A better question is whether it is a waste. If it's a waste, that's not a good thing because you are both 1) wasting resources and 2) wasting your money. That's a much more relevant title i.m.o.

    Besides being picky about the title, I do think this is a good question to ask. My parents used to stock up our pantry with total waste. Just worthless stuff! Only get what you need, i.m.o.

  12. Prince of Thrift // Friday, September 18, 2009 11:22:00 AM  

    very good article. As a member of management in a grocery store, I would like to correct some things. First you are correct we want to sell the product, but if you clean the shelves out of everything we have. That leaves a lot of pissed off customers. It is better to contact management and ask us to order a larger quantity for you unusually large order. That way we can try to serve everyone. As for rain-checks, we will issue rain-checks, but we will NOT write them for an amount that is greedy. For example usually if the qty is more then 3 or 4, it becomes greed or a commercial enterprise not letting us know ahead of time so we can take care of all of our customers. However that is can increased to 10 (1 deal) if the sale price is 10/$10 or 20 (1 deal) if the price is 20/$10.
    We had cashiers who would be just writing rain-checks for 40 of an item, that was in the ad. No one in management knew, and sometimes it was an item that was only brought in for the ad, so it wasn't ordered.
    Once again it boiled down to communication. You have to remember, that most sale items in the grocery store is being sold at a loss, so the store isn't making money on those items. Somethings will get the store a discount if they purchase it early enough, but that is lost if 1 or 2 customers horde everything for themselves leaving all the customers to wait till the next week for the store to purchase more at a even higher cost and sell it at the cheaper price. Which in turn can hurt the store financially.

  13. Dawn // Friday, September 18, 2009 2:21:00 PM  

    @Prince of Thrift
    Thank you for this new perspective on things, much appreciated!

  14. Hammy // Sunday, September 27, 2009 7:29:00 AM  

    Why have a pantry if you're not going to fill it? Who exactly are you depriving by purchasing 6 months worth of food? Most supermarkets in Australia limit the quantities that you purchase so that they're not trade amounts. And I find that if a sale starts on the Wednesday and I don't go shopping until the Saturday then I'm too late and miss out. Very little food that is stored in the pantry goes bad and I guess if I owned a stand-alone freezer it would be kept chockers too. Remember, a full freezer uses less power.

  15. Mary // Friday, January 01, 2010 4:48:00 PM  

    Everyone, especially families with small children, should have enough food to last them at least 3 months...it's just good sense. You should also have stored drinking water, batteries, etc., as well as an alternate source of heat and an emergency radio.

    Honestly, if something happened where I was trapped in my home for weeks, I'd be fine. I have a propane heater (camping model) that will heat a room nicely, plenty of food that can be eaten without cooking it first, etc.

    Think back to the hurricane in New Orleans - of course, if your house has water steadily rising outside you'd do your best to get to a shelter, but if you were just somewhere nearby, your house wasn't in danger, and you wanted to stay - wouldn't it be good to have plenty of water, food, batteries, and the like already in your home? And those of us who are frugal and take advantage of sales and freebies didn't pay a whole lot for our stockpile. Anyone who didn't plan ahead deserves to be gouged after the hurricane when water is now $4 a gallon... :) And it was several weeks from the time the hurricane hit til the water receded enough for rescue efforts. I'm sure those that stayed behind felt comfortable in doing so because they had a stockpile available.

  16. Money Magnet Mummy // Friday, January 08, 2010 10:08:00 PM  

    If an item is on sale AND YOU HAVE SUFFICIENT MONEY I think it is wise to stock up on an item. I only have a small pantry, but still buy 10kg bag of rice, 10 bags of various pasta styles and a dozen tins of tomatoes when they are on special. You can save a lot of money. However, if you are using credit that will not be paid off at the end of the month, then you should only keep what you need for a couple of weeks. The key is to pay off your costly credit cards before you leave food just sitting in your pantry for extended periods of time, even if you will eventually use it. You may be costing yourself more by doing this than you realise.

  17. Sara // Saturday, March 13, 2010 2:49:00 PM  

    How silly am I? I never considered stocking my pantry to be selfish, but wise. I live in a community where preparedness is a BIG deal and I guess I picked up that stock up mentality.

  18. Ravan Asteris // Tuesday, June 29, 2010 12:55:00 PM  

    Stocking a pantry isn't greedy, if you do it wisely.
    A) Rotate your stock. I try to date packages when I buy them, and store bulk staples in airtight containers.
    B) Be aware of shelf life. Most packaged foods (which you should use less of) have "best by" dates. Some items are still edible after the "best by" date, some are not. Know the difference.
    C) If you freeze stuff, note the date you froze it.
    D) Don't buy what you don't use. We ended up with a bag of mustard greens by mistake - now we're trying to figure out how to fix them.
    E) Donate the excess before expiry. If you goof, be honest with yourself, and donate the excess to an organization that can use it before it goes bad.
    F) If a store has a "stock up sale", then it's OK to stock up! My local seconds store sells stuff by the case. G) Avoid dented cans for long term storage due to decreased shelf life. Blown out cans are a mess to clean up.

  19. Anonymous // Sunday, October 10, 2010 12:12:00 PM  

    I have worked in retail for years.That's a lot of baloney about so called loss leaders items , greatly affecting the financial status of a store. I could see it , if it happened to be a tiny, mom and pop business. Large businesses profit anytime a person walks into a store. The average consumer usually buys more than just those items, each time. Surveys have been done , pointing this out. The sale items still have room for a profit margin. Not as large a profit margin, but a decent profit margin. If you want to talk selfish, look at Campbell's or Coca Cola. How do you think they are able to drastically reduce those prices at certain times of the year. Are they sitting around re-thinking what they should charge? No way. Every rain check that is issued, brings that customer back into the store. Chances are, they buy more the second time.