Sam's Club (WMT) and Costco (COST) have begun limiting bulk sales on some rice varieties at some stores across the U.S.
People were buying them in large quantities, and to ensure their continued availability, the warehouse clubs initiated a limit on how much each person could purchase.
This run on rice was not made by individuals as much as by restaurant owners and small food producers who had concerns about rising prices and who determined that it was in their interest to stockpile because they believed rice prices were going to continue to rise. The truth is that while there is tightening in both domestic and international rice stocks, there is no shortage of rice in the U.S. at this time.
While food shortages and rising food prices have resulted in riots in a number of impoverished countries, these scenes aren't likely to reach the U.S. and there is absolutely no need to start hoarding food. That being said, stocking up your pantry can be one of the wisest short-term investments you can make if you have the space and the cash to spare.
Government data show food inflation is rising at approximately 4.5% a year for the average U.S. household, while banks aren't paying close to that much for savings accounts. Even online banks are paying well below 4% interest these days. With food inflation outstripping savings interest rates, spending your money later on the same items will cost you more than buying them now and stockpiling them.
Even better, buying food and other products that you know you're going to need over the next six months to a year instead of buying them when you need them can give you double-digit returns. The key to getting these returns is knowing how to go about it.
Here are five essentials that will help you get the most out of stocking your pantry:
1. Size Up Storage Space
Before you go out and purchase a large amount of anything, take the time to figure how much space you have and where you're going to store anything you purchase in bulk. This is important because if you don't have a proper place to store it -- one that is easily accessible, that you frequent often -- it's likely to be forgotten and never used. The point of having a stockpile of anything is to eventually use it, not have it forgotten and go to waste.
2. Don't Stock Up All at Once
Going to the store and buying a carload of food will fill up your pantry, but not in a way that will give you the best return on your money. The key to getting real value is buying the items you use when they are a good deal.
Start looking for specials, and when there is a deal on something that you regularly eat, that is the time to stock up on it. Not only do you gain any price increase that may result from future inflation, you save a large amount over the regular retail price as well. You should be able to get most food you purchase at a minimum of 10% off the retail value, which combined with the inflation savings will ensure you get your double-digit returns.
3. Don't Buy Perishables
Stockpiling is not for foods like milk, eggs, fruit and bread that will go bad in a short period. It should be for non perishables that can be stored for six months to a year without going bad. It's never a good deal if it ends up going bad before you are able to consume it. Make sure to buy only food that you know you will use before it expires and get into the habit of rotating your stock so that the food that is going to expire soonest is used first. All food has limited lifespans and won't stay edible forever.
4. Avoid Unnecessary Purchases
It sounds obvious, but every year people in the U.S. already throw away hundreds of dollars of the food they purchase without ever eating. Food is not going to be disappearing from the stores anytime soon, so there is no need to panic and buy only what's available on your next visit. It's important to buy the foods you already know you like and will use.
Purchasing large amounts of canned food when you don't regularly eat canned food will likely mean that those cans will never be used, which is a waste of your money. Stick with what you know and like when filling your pantry so the food doesn't get wasted and thrown out.
5. Stockpile Daily Necessities
While food will usually spoil after a short period of time, daily necessities such as toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, shampoo and laundry detergent have a much longer shelf life. These can be purchased and stored for longer periods of time for huge savings when you come across a great deal. Again, follow the same rules as when stockpiling food to get the best returns out of these purchases as well.
In addition to getting a better return on your money than leaving it in short-term savings, stockpiling has the advantage of being a good way to prepare for possible emergencies that may arise. Combine both of these benefits, and starting a stockpile of all the things that you regularly consume should be at the top of your list of things to do.