Minimalism Versus Stockpiling

New reader Lee Ann asks about stockpiling. Do I, as a avowed minimalist and person interested in frugality stockpile?


Well, at any given time there are between 18 and 36 rolls of toilet paper in my home. But, No.


There are many reasons that I do not find stockpiling a frugal choice. It might work if you are the United States Armed Forces and buying in bulk. Or if you are feeding 8 children under the age of 12 and can predict your meals, school supplies and clothing choices. That has not been my experience with four children.

1) I have found it far more frugal for us to shop at a store with consistently lowest prices, plan my meals around their cheaper items than to stock up on something that the kids got tired of eating after 3 months. I would valiantly try to finish off whatever the stocked up items was, all by myself. But after eating it for 9-10 months, I was done too. And the remainder would go to the Food Pantry.

What about foods that don’t spoil? Well, if doesn’t spoil, that is, if a one celled organism does not recognize it as food, than it probably isn’t. And I would prefer to eat fresh food that does spoil, and purchase those foods in smaller amounts.

What if there is an apocalypse? Or a war? Or a drought? Well, if I am not swept up to heaven in the rapture, I suppose I am hosed anyway…forget the meal plan. War? We will have to see how it plays out. Too many stores could just make you a target for the hungry masses. And I am not yet prepared to shoot hungry fellow refugees to keep my stash only for my own DNA brood. A drought? I could grow a lot in my back yard using the grey water from my house. Again, I do not need to plan for every contingency, but be aware of what we might do and how we might help our neighbors.

2) School supplies: I have not home-schooled, and every year the school district would send a list for each child from their “teacher” with what was needed for the following year. SIGH. After several years in the district, I realized that the list was a composite from several teachers at that particular grade, and not necessarily reflective of what my child’s teacher would require them to use in the classroom. Case in point–a particular brand of watercolor paints that my 2nd grader must have. I dutifully bought the pricey item. I dutifully wrote the child’s name on the back. At the end of the school year, when it was returned unopened. I used alcohol to remove the name and wrote the next child’s name on it. When it returned to me a year later, unopened, I again removed the name and saved it until the last child took it to school, stored it in his desk for 10 months and then I removed the final name and donated it to a group that creates school supply gift packages for students that can not afford them.
Long story short–I still have #2 pencils that were required purchases for my students 5 years ago. E-mail me your address if you want them.

3) Clothing: When your children are infants and toddlers, they do not care what they wear. Depending on the child, they may not care until age 3 or age 15. But eventually they do. And they will not wear whatever frugal thing you have stockpiled for them, whether it is cousin Sally’s hand-me-downs or brand new (sale) Gap fashions. They want their own thing. So, for us, the most frugal way to deal with clothing for children and myself is to take everybody shopping at 1) the thrift stores 2) discount stores like Target and TJ Maxx and 3) if it can not be found at those places: negotiate. For example: sport coats for the boys to attend their brother’s wedding were purchased at Goodwill for $3.50 each. When beloved daughter wanted a particular dress for homecoming, she bought it herself. When she wore it to her brother’s wedding a few months later, I reimbursed her for the purchase. I did not pay for the rental of a tux for middle son for homecoming, but I did buy him a $200 suit that he will be able to wear for all occasions until he outgrows it. For myself, not stockpiling clothing means having only 7 days worth at a time, replacing them as they wear out. I have heard many, many folks talk about spending lots of money and time on second-hand clothing that just wasn’t right and languished in a closet. Better, I think, to have only seven outfits that you are happy to wear every day.

List of items that I make sure we do not run out of: (is that stockpiling? Probably.)
Toilet paper
Laundry soap
Dish soap
Printer paper
Printer ink

What do you all think?


13 responses to “Minimalism Versus Stockpiling

  1. I suppose I am somewhere inbetween, but aiming towards less stockpiling. When it comes to food, we have a small freezer, which limits the temptation to cram stuff in there! Sometimes we buy something on offer and freeze it, or make double quantities and freeze, and we usually have some joints of meat on there. However, I make sure we actually eat the contents of the freezer, rather than stuff sitting in there for months/years. I find it useful to have something to take out on busy days and not cook- but in my ideal world I would always make time to cook! So aiming that way.

    My main ‘stockpile’ is knitting yarn- it’s all stuff that I will enjoy using, so I am not buying any more, and using what I have. My ideal is to end up with no ‘stock’ and just buy what I want for each project.

    My general opinion on stockpiling is that it might in some cases be more frugal to buy in bulk and store the stuff (assuming it gets used and doesn’t go off!). However, I’d rather have the space (both physical and mental!) than the stockpile- the long term planning to work through stocks of stuff is too much effort for me.

  2. So glad to read you think as I do – my experiences and procedure, too, entirely!!

  3. I try not to stockpile, but will admit to occasionally buying extras of certain things when I find them on clearance (e.g., my favorite dishwashing soap, frozen organic corn and edamame that I found this week).

    I definitely do keep a back-up on hand of many of the things on your list, such as shampoo, toilet paper, etc., but don’t consider that stockpiling. I just don’t have the room or the patience for it.

  4. I think that is stockpiling at least for those particular items.

    • Lee Ann-is it “stockpiling” to have one back-up. i.e one full shampoo bottle, one new printer ink cartridge, one package of toilet paper? Versus having enough for your family for a year or two? Or letting the stock run out…so you have to wipe your bum with a wash cloth or send your kiddo to school with the flash drive, but not the paper printed out?

  5. to me stockpiling is what you make it. To some people they won’t be happy unless they have a 6 month supply of food and stuff but to others having 1 or 2 extras is fine. I am so impressed by the neatness and beauty of your home. Good job!!

  6. I guess I answered your question in the previous Decluttering and Weight Loss post. I do love your comments on the apocalypse/war issue. I must confess (and this is the first time I do so) that I did get a bit concerned (not quite “worried”) with the millenium hype. I resisted stockpiling canned food and water as I watched my neighbours and co-workers doing so, but two days before the year 2000, I filled my bathtub with water. They kept saying on the news to do so should we have none for a few days to a week! I also bought a few cans of beans and pineapples chunks (just in case!), which I ended up having to eat when I survived to January 1. I could have donated these to a food bank but I felt eating them would be my punishment (too severe?) or reminder of what a fool I was to fall for that nonsense. The media is always trying to scare us but not anymore!!

  7. Hi, Fawn! I never stockpile too except toilet paper and soap. But I also prefere to buy big packs of some essential (for my family of 4) goods such as powdered detergent, shampoo, tea, coffee, sugar, flour, rice, spaghetti. Maybe for somebody that is a sort of stockpiling… But it makes my life easier so I don’t bother!

  8. I must admit I never really though about stockpiling anything else than food. Probably, the only thing I stockpile is toiletpaper. And while I always have extra canned tomatoes or dried pasta in my pantry, it never occured to me that I should stock things such as shampoo, laundry soap or dish soap. When I see that the bottle is close to the end, I simply add it to my shopping list and buy it the next time I go shopping. In the meanwhile, I can always store the bottle upside down and then dilute the very end of the product with water. That will give me some more days if I can’t go shopping soon.

    I also think that I am frugal in a different way than some other people. I tend to buy some good quality products that I really like and use very little of them. Sometimes they are expensive because I like to find products with few, high quality natural ingredients. That way I hope not to impact the hormonal balance of my body nor the ecosystem.

    For instance:
    – for laundry I use a special ceramic ball that I put in the washer. It last 1000 washes and I need to use only 20% of laundry soap or none at all. If the laundry is stained I pretreat it with ox-gall soap, it works like magic! I make 3-4 washes a week but I only need to buy about 3 liter of laundry soap + 1 ox-gall soap a year
    – for hand wash I use a real “Marseille soap” made of good olive oil and a couple of other natural ingredients. I use it on a mural stand in the bathroom and the entire family use it but it lasts for ever. Which is good because it costs about $15 for 2 soaps + shipping. Each one lasts for about 9 months.
    – I use a pretty similar soap for the body. Since I am the only one to use it, it lasts for about a year (I use it every day). It also makes the skin so soft I feel I don’t need a moisturizer after.
    – to wash my hair, I use a special aloe vera shampoo. My mother-in-law who used ot be a hairdresser, orders it for me. It is so good I don’t need balsam. I wash my hair every second day and use very little shampoo diluted with water. A 200ml bottle lasts me about 6 months.
    – For washing the dishes however, I have not found any efficient organic brand yet. So I use a good regular brand but I use very little of it. It is not hard because we do not bake or stir-fry very often.

    So on the whole, I find that buying good quality, sometimes expensive products probably makes me save money and saves me from the worry of buying them too often or in large quantities.

    • Beatrice- I have moved toward fewer, and higher quality personal care items as well. When I started “washing” my face with olive oil or coconut oil, the breakouts that had plagued me for years disappeared. Washing with soap made with coconut oil, and I do not need moisturizer, etc. And yes, when the soap is $5 a bar, I don’t stockpile it.

  9. What great suggestions! What soap do you use for body?

    • Sorry for the late reply Diane, I wanted to give you a bit more info about the products and never found the time to look them up on the internet because I have been quite busy at work lately.
      I alternate between “Lipikar lipo enriched cleansing bar” from La Roche-Posay and Mustelas “Gentle Soap with nutri protective Cold Cream”. The first one is a bit “boring” that is, it does not foam very well and it is totally fragrance free, but it feels extremely gentle and can be used for intime hygiene as well.
      Mustelas soap is said to be made of 97% natural ingredients and to compensate for hard water (I have extremely hard water). It is marketed for babies from birth and even for premature ones. So it should be extremely gentle. Strangely, it feels a bit more aggresive than Lipikar but it smells heavenly and makes a great foam.
      I know it is not very minimalistic to use 2 different soaps in alternance but as I was using Lipikar for a couple of years I missed the “fun” with fragrance and foam!
      They are both said to be for body and face, but only Lipikar makes my dry skin really smooth. Both are clinically tested, biodegradable and with 0% paraben, phtalate, and phénoxyéthanol. I have not found anything on how environmentally conscious they are produced and on how well the employees of these companies are treated.

  10. Wow, Béatrice, your ideas are very interesting! I read your comment with great pleasure!

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