His analysis:

18 years ago, Flash and I finished our post graduate work and internships to take professional jobs. On the up side, our new home was in San Diego, California – a really beautiful place. On the down side, the salaries for assistant professors and corporate scientists are amazingly low, and the cost of living in San Diego was higher than other areas. San Diego even had a “snack tax!” We had the usual bills: monthly rent, food, utilities, telephone service, gasoline, insurance for the car, and, of course, the start-up costs of professional clothing, furniture, a lawn mower… We weren’t high flyers or big spenders, but even so, fitting all of the costs into our monthly budget wasn’t possible. We were able to save more as students than as professionals. We were rapidly draining our savings.

It wasn’t that we weren’t trying to reduce our grocery bills. Competition between stores was fierce, and there were regular loss leaders at three major stores seeking to claim our food budget. By shopping at each store for only major sale items, and using coupons, there were times when we could literally walk out of the store with groceries and cash back. The store policies placed no limits on the total value that the coupons could add up to: in other words, if the normal cost of all the items was $50, and the sale discounts and coupons added up to a savings of $60, the store cashier would literally hand us $10 dollars and our groceries (note from Flash – this is referred to as “overage”) The problem was that not all of the items we needed each week were on sale.

The solution was to build up a collection of food items and cleaning products in sufficient amounts to let us purchase those items only when they were on sale and we had coupons. We looked around the house, and started tracking the sales Flash found. It turned out that within any 3 month period, virtually everything we purchased at the supermarket would be on sale, typically at a loss for the store. Naturally there were a few items that couldn’t be stockpiled this way, namely fresh fruits, vegetables and milk, but that wouldn’t deduct much from our savings over the long run.

So, with very little extra cash, we needed to figure out how to stockpile 3 months worth of food and cleaning products if we were going to really start cutting these costs down. First things first: where were we going to put all this stuff? We had a tiny house, no pantry, attic, or basement. We were going to have to acquire or make the storage space ourselves.

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