Saving Time and Money with Stashes

Gas is nearly $4.00 a gallon here in northeast Wisconsin. My husband and I are fortunate that we both work at home, so we don't have commuting expenses. But there are still many places we have to go.

With the nearest large city an hour away, we're trying to conserve gas by combining trips there. For example, if I need to take someone to the doctor for a check-up, I think ahead to which stores I pass by on the way home, where I can pick up needed items as long as I'm in the neighborhood.

I'm also being careful about how many short trips I make around our little town. I don't go to the library unless I also need to stop by the bank, which is a few blocks over. I put book orders to be shipped in my bike basket and ride to the post office, unless I have a heavy box of books to ship. These activities help me save gas.

But what's really helped us limit the amount of driving we're doing these days is something I've done for years: keeping stashes. Ever since my kids were little, I've stockpiled doubles or triples of items we use frequently. There's nothing like the 3 am discovery that your baby has a high fever and you've run out of fever reducer to make you realize that it's really smart to keep spares of such things on hand.

I have a lot of stashes in my house (I describe them in detail in The Imperfect Homeschooler's Guide to Homeschooling), and they've made my life as a mom and homemaker much easier, while also saving money. But now that the price of gas is so high compared to just a few years ago, I find that the stash concept is saving me more money than ever.

To start a stash, you buy two of every item you use regularly in your household. This means you always have a spare, and don't waste gas or time running out for a last minute replacement. Besides, you're going to use the same amount of gas going back and forth to the store whether you buy two bottles of ketchup or one. So why not buy two? (Take this concept a step further by only buying these items when they're on sale, and you're now reducing your grocery bills as well as the amount of gasoline that you use.)

One important thing to remember about stashes is that they don't work if you don't remember to buy items before you need them. Train yourself, your husband and your children that when you open something new, you put it on the shopping list (you do keep a shopping list somewhere that's easily accessible, I hope!). Be warned: it may take a while to train the rest of the family to do this.

The only problem I've ever had with this system is that I became so used to it that I couldn't stop, even after two of our four children moved out. Our supply soon far exceeded our demand.

That's why, for the past few years, I tried to stop buying multiples of staples because we weren't using them up fast enough. But now I find that my stashes let me go much longer without driving to the store, thus saving a considerable amount of gasoline.

So I've stopped chiding myself for keeping a stash for only four people. As long as we make an effort to use up what we have and keep a list of what we need, I can easily go two weeks without a major shopping trip. That saves me gas and time. Time is always very valuable, and gas is becoming more so every day, it seems. Why not try it yourself and see if it doesn't work for you, too?

Copyright 2008 Barbara Frank/Cardamom Publishers