Holiday Sales and Food Storage: Plan Ahead So You Don’t Miss Out

A guest post by Gayle from Gainesville

[This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win – First Prize a 10 Person Deluxe Family Survival Kit,  Second Prize an Herb Seed Bank or Third Prize a copy of Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat.  For complete rules and list of prizes see this post.]

The holiday season is fast approaching. Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Believe it or not, the holiday season is the perfect time to think about your food storage preps. After all, one thing is clear—at least here in the U.S. Holidays mean family gatherings with lots of home-cooked dinners and home-baked goodies.

It’s at this time of the year that we do the majority of our baking. Corporate America knows this, and that’s why you can expect to see baking products at rock-bottom prices this time of year. If you keep a keen eye on prices, you can pick up a lot of products at well below half price.

The holiday season also brings cooler temperatures. Things like canned soups, hot chocolate, oatmeal, and other hot cereals go on sale at the grocery stores. Keep a keen eye on weekly flyers and sales information websites. You can often get these products BOGO (buy one get one free).

You can hit the after-Halloween candy sales to pick up candy at rock bottom prices. Chocolate will keep in the freezer for six months. If properly stored (oxygen absorbers in mylar bag), hard candy will last much longer. If you have children, candy will go a long ways in alleviating food fatigue.

October signals the beginning of the sales season for baking goods. You can get flour, sugar, brown sugar, molasses, raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, pie filling, canned milk and other baking supplies at the lowest prices of the years. To take advantage of the sales, you need to know the recommended shelf life of each product you intend to stock. (Please refer to [1] under “Recommended Resources” for additional information on shelf life of stored foods).

The rest is easy. Simply estimate how much of a given product you will use given how long the product will remain viable on the shelf. For example, if you know that chocolate chips have a recommended shelf life of 18 months, and you find a BOGO sale, buy a year’s worth of chocolate chips. If you know that brown sugar has a shelf life of only four months, then only purchase a four-month supply of brown sugar. (Or purchase white sugar and molasses, and simply make your own brown sugar.)

In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, grocery stores offer turkeys as a loss leader. They actually sell turkeys below market value in order to draw customers to the store. They figure that once they get you into the store, you will purchase other (often-overpriced) items. If you have a pressure canner, you can put up dozens of quarts of turkey or turkey soup at rock-bottom prices. (See [2] below under “Recommended Resources.)

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, grocery stores will have hams as a loss leader. If you plan ahead, you can put up dozens of quarts of diced ham in ham broth, or ham and bean soup. Home canned diced ham can be used for many meals: ham and scalloped potato casserole, pot pie, ham and eggs. See The Wolf Pack Cookbook for more information. (See [3].)

There is a pattern to sales cycles. Turkeys go on sale in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Hams go on sale in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Such cycles are not limited to the holiday season. June, for instance, is National Dairy Month.

This means that you can expect to see products such as butter at significantly discounted prices. With this bit of information in your back pocket, you can hold off buying butter until you see a great price. When you do find a great price, buy a year’s supply. (Note: The recommended shelf life of butter in the freezer is nine months. But I have stretched that out to a year without any noticeable difference in quality or taste. Please refer to [4] for additional information on yearly sales cycles.)

Armed with this information, it is possible to purchase most items at or below half price. That means you can purchase a year’s supply of food for the price of a six-month supply. And it’s hard to beat that.

Recommended Resources



[3] (get it before the price goes up tomorrow)


About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Nice article and great advice!

    I use “doctored” cake mixes (shhhhh…. don’t tell anyone! My family thinks my delicious cakes are made from scratch.). They often go on sale for $1 here around the holidays. If I combine that sale with a coupon, they’re a really good deal. Cake mixes are surprisingly versatile. I even use them to make cookies!

    • axelsteve says:

      My mother inlaw used to buy cake mixes in bulk and would use them for wedding cakes. Her cakes were always great.

  2. Kate in GA says:

    BYU says that brown sugar packaged in #10 cans (unopened) will last 10 years in ideal conditions. The opened can will last 1 year. So I think that the life of brown sugar can definitly be extended if mylar bags and Oxygen absorbers are used.

    FYI – I store mine in foodsaver bags at about 3 lbs. each.

    • Kate in GA says:

      Also, Holiday candy (chocolate) can be stored for over 1 year in canning jars that have been sealed with a food saver.

    • Kate – Could you give a link to the BYU food storage testing site? I’m very interested in their research.
      As to brown sugar, I have found storage life is dependent on the make-up of the product. Although all brown sugar starts with highly refined granulated sugar (practically indefinite self life due to the level of refinement), some brown sugars contain corn syrup and caramel coloring while others simply contain molasses. The products with the syrup and coloring seem to go bad (mold) much, much faster (6 months to year) than the products that contain molasses. I think the BYU numbers are for the molasses variety as those figures seem to fit my personal experience.

      As always Gayle, thanks for providing more great information.

  3. Kate in GA says:

    Forgot to mention that I think this is a great post!

  4. axelsteve says:

    I used to get 2 turkeys for thanksgiving from my job. I recieved one and my wife also recieved one from working at the same company. We used to cook a turkey and instead of having turkey sandwiches later my wife would make turkey enchaladas and freeze them. Those were a real treat compared to dry turkey sandwiches. You can modify the theme by making turkeypot pies or something that fits your taste.

    • For me it’s turkey tamales, here in the Gadsden purchase [s az] masa [corn mush] also goes on sale just before christmass. No one knows how long these could last in the freezer as they never last till beltane no matter how many you make.

  5. This a good idea (even if not a coupon-er) to shop with the cycles at the grocery store.
    I am so glad that in those many months that sugar was on sale that I purchased it evertime I went to the store to build up an inventory.
    I think that is why I purchased so many oats also.
    So if you get it you have it, if you don’t get it your out.
    Appreciated the #4 link, gives a base to work with.

    • Forgot to mention Brown sugar has an indefinite shelf life if stored properly. I have found though that the brown sugar that comes in the box for some reason drys out faster.
      This is a great food saver item to store. I am going to cut the slightest tip off the corner of the original bag and foodsaver seal it up.

      • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

        I’ve had the same opened box of brown sugar in my cupboard for up to 3 years. When it gets solid, I put the box and all into the microwave for about 30 seconds. It softens up and tastes great.

      • Brown sugar isn’t spoiled or ruined if it dries out — it’s just inconvenient and hard to work with. Even if it’s hard as a brick, you can add moisture to it and it will be fine for use in anything you’re making. Seal it up with a heel of bread (high five, UTmom!) or a piece of apple, or even just sprinkle water over it and wait overnight for it to distribute. Like white sugar, it’s fairly impossible for brown sugar to “spoil.”

        Great topic, great article, Gayle! Thanks for reminding us of the seasonal bargains to be had. May I add: AFTER each holiday, there’s a windfall of clearance sales too. I got a whole bunch of cranberry sauce AND national brand evaporated milk after Christmas for 25c a can. Also watch the separate shipper cartons of spice bottles — the ones they sit out in the middle of the aisles during holiday shopping. Once the holiday bakers have had their fun, the merchants want the clutter OUT. Same with the seasonal-wrap candy — chocolate is chocolate, right ladies?!

  6. This is probably something you all already know, but here’s my 2 cents worth on brown sugar. I buy it in the 2 lb. plastic bag and have kept in on the shelf for years without a problem. When it gets hard I put it in a tupperware-type container with a heel of fresh bread. Within hours the sugar has softened up. I keep it in the fridge after I open it.

    • SurvivorDan says:

      UT mom! Do you know for how many decades I have cursed as I chipped away at hard brown sugar! Too many. Will try your tip. Thanx

    • Worrisome says:

      That is me too, when I read that it had a shelf life date, I was kinda surprised, I never even think about how old it is when I use it….never had a bad experience with it either.

    • If you don’t have any bread crusts handy, a folded and dampened paper towel works OK also.

  7. Thanks for the feedback on brown sugar. I have never thrown out brown sugar because it has been in the pantry for more than a few months. But it’s good to know that brown sugar has a longer shelf life.

    One thing I have learned is that if you freeze bread, when you pull it out of the freezer, open it up and put a crumpled up napkin in the bag. The napkin will absorb the moisture and the bread won’t taste like freezer bread.

  8. Great article . Vacuum sealers and dehydrators can extend the shelf life even further . Always cracked me up to see an expiration date on salt , the feds for ya .

  9. Anonymous says:

    The after turkeyday, my lady makes a hash of the stuffing, gravy, turkey and cranberry sauce. It freezes well and is very filling/yummy. The trick is the gravy must be very liquid.

    just sayin….

  10. A few drops of water and microwave for 15 secs works for me, on stale brown sugar.

  11. Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

    Gayle, another useful guest post, thanks. I didn’t realize there were sale cycles in the grocery store until I became a member of Costco, then I learned they put the same things on sale every few months. Makes sense that some things go on sale at the grocery store, too. Last night I watched another episode of extreme couponing (nothing else on TV worth watching) and heard one of the shoppers say that extreme couponing in CA is difficult. Boy howdy, is she right. No doubling-up, few BOGOs, and usually coupons expire before I can get back to the store.

    I used to keep extra bottles of ketchup in the pantry, but after 6 months or so, the ketchup turned a brownish color. Now I store my extra bottles in the frig and they seem to retain their color much longer. Also, prune juice lasts longer in the frig than on the shelf, even when unopened. Before anybody laughs about prune juice, it is a natural laxative and may be very useful when a monotonous diet becomes the norm.

    Jello usually goes on sale around the holidays, too, if I remember correctly. Jello is easy to make with just hot and cold water, so I’ve got quite a bit of it stored away. It provides an easy food to eat (think sore throats and/or no teeth) and its bright colors add a little cheer to the meal.

    Geez, I never thought I’d ever get this old….talking about the benefits of Jello and prune juice. Sheesh.

    • LP, Speaking of getting old, I was admiring your EDC in MD’s e-book, and I realized that if I include one day’s supply of medications in mine, it will require training wheels to remain portable…

      • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

        OB, you could do what I have to do now, get a shopping cart and haul your medications around in that. 😉 It’s no longer Every Day Carry, it’s Every Day Cart.

    • Haha, Lint! I got kids, so jello and prune juice are a must for me, too. I figure even without refrigeration, in my area the winters get cold enough to “set” the jello outside. Seemed like a simple treat for the kids that stored well, since you only need to add water.

      Wouldn’t it be funny if jello became a traditional Christmas treat, like the way oranges used to be?

    • Jello can be eaten out of the box. Just don’t choke on the stuff. It’s similar to those straws that have that stuff in them, in the candy section.
      Jello can be used in cake baking. Don’t have the directions handy.
      And over on Deals to Meals she had a green tomato, raspberry, raspberry jello jam recipe.
      But get a good set of fingernail clippers your fingernails will grow faster than they ever have.

    • Lint,
      Call me weird (everyone else does) but I happen to like the flavor of prune juice, although one must be careful not to over do it – LOL.

      • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

        I’ve overdone the prune juice a time or two. That’s why I have 5 cases of TP in storage. I hope that’s enough.

        • Schatzie Ohio says:

          Papaya does the same as prunes. Just ask the Polynesians.

          • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

            For me, it was fresh pineapple in Hawaii. Haven’t been back to Hawaii since and haven’t had pineapple again, either. Them tropical fruits can kill a guy. LMAO

          • Papaya is also good for GERD papaya enzyme can be found next to the vitamins, and also in meat tenderizer as papain.

    • Tigerlily says:

      Lint, jello is my comfort food. Whenever I got sick as a kid my mom would make me jello water and toast and it still makes me feel better to this day. (Jello water is just hot water added to jello instead of cold and you drink it while it is still hot.) I drink a cup anytime I have an upset tummy or even if I’m just missing my mom!

      • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

        Never tried drinking it hot, may give it a try. Thanks for the recipe 😉

  12. Copperhead says:

    Great post, Gayle!!! I can’t wait for the sales before the Holidays…will be stocking up even more!
    My biggest concern is that I am a household of one, however, I frequently have family come over, so do I stock for one or seven?! Quite a difference. DD and SIL are onboard, but rest of family really isn’t. I still haven’t answered this question totally in my mind on what to do.

    • Copperhead,

      What I have done is stock the basics for family members who have opted not to prep. They can survive on wheat, rice, beans and salt. I save the good stuff for my immediate family. That might sound harsh, but it’s the best I can do right now. I will provide the good stuff for my parents, my niece and nephews. Working adults who choose not to prep can live off the basics.

  13. Thank you for the post – you summed it up well.

    Another area for baking deals is (of all places) Walgreens. They will have store coupons that will bring corn starch & baking powder down to 3/$1 or 2/$1. Granted the containers aren’t too large but it allows me to keep some sealed to use throughout the year.

    When it comes to hunting down chocolate – the post holiday clearances are the best but everyone knows this so hit up your local Target etc. and go to the regular candy, baking etc aisles and look for packages with holiday themes. Most people search in the Seasonal aisle which gets picked over very quickly but miss the ‘regular’ aisles. I’ve picked up some great deals on napkins, tinfoil, storage containers etc this way.

    For me the Holiday itself (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas) is the kick off to my shopping. 😀

  14. SurvivorDan says:

    Thanks Gayle. My spousal unit is not on board with my prepping. And she is no shopper. But she will probably go along with a plan to save money { so she can spend it 😉 }. I will keep my eyes peele
    d for those bargains and have the funds ready to capitalize on any great prices. Thanx

    And UT mom! Do you know for how many decades I have cursed as I chipped away at hard brown sugar! Too many. Will try your tip. Thanx

  15. Worrisome says:

    Of note on this holiday thing???? I read somewhere that with all the floods this spring, that pumpkins and canned pumpkin for pies may be in very short supply by Thanksgiving………I already made my stop and stocked up, but it is something to offer up here.

  16. As they say, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. This is also applicable when it comes to the holiday season and of course food. Your post says it all, an informative take on the season that is upon us.

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