I don’t know about you, but sometimes it is difficult to use all the food I have stored. This year I have been placing a lot of emphasis on organizing my food storage and acquiring more food because I am concerned with the economy. When you have food stashed literally all over your house, it is sometimes hard to remember what you have and what you still need to purchase.
Tip 1: Record What You Have
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to know what you have and where it is located. I have built a simple spreadsheet that lets me know how many canned items I have in the pantry, when they expire, where the items are located, and what I need to restock. My long-term storage is under a different tab, but it contains the same information. Certain items I run out of faster than others, i.e., chicken stock, canned tomatoes, green chilis, and having a spreadsheet helps me to replenish. I tend to prefer to cook with frozen foods, so the green beans, corn, and carrots end up expiring around the same time.
Tip 2: Don’t Be Afraid to Move Long-term Storage Items to Short-term Storage
A few years ago, I stocked up heavily on long-term storage items, such as beans, rice, pasta, flour, and oats. For a couple of years, I didn’t use them. I wanted to keep them untouched in case of a serious emergency. Last year I realized that was silly. Because I track what I have, I can rotate some long-term storage items into the short-term, and this has saved my family grocery money because I kept buying pasta, rice, and beans. I have a fixed amount that I like to keep in my long-term storage, and when that number drops below what I need for my family, I purchase more.
If you need a food calculator to figure out how many long-term and short-term food storage items you need for your family, reference this article.
Tip 3: Plan Meals Using Food Storage Items
For my family, I plan two meals a week that use food storage items so that our canned food doesn’t expire before it gets used. As stated above, I tend to prefer to cook with my frozen vegetables and fruit, and this has caused me to have to use up a lot of canned foods within a short amount of time. One solution that I have found for this is to plan two meals a week that use my canned items. All I have to do is find what is expiring in my spreadsheet and then cook with those items.
Tip 4: Add Expiration Dates to your Frozen and Canned Foods
Freezer items have a shelf life and must be used. According to the USDA, hamburger meat lasts four months, fish lasts for six months, pies last for eight months, chicken breasts can last for nine months, and whole turkeys or steak can last up to a year. The longer the food is in there, quality suffers. (Here’s how long frozen food can last in your freezer (wcpo.com)) If you have prepared meals ahead, then those need to be used within two to three months (How Long Does Meal-Prepped Food Stay Fresh? | POPSUGAR Fitness). For canned items, I have added a strip of masking tape that records the expiration date. On some of my pantry items, that number can be hard to see. Adding tape makes sure that it is in the right position to be used and takes the expiration guesswork out.
Tip 5: Don’t Be Afraid of Expanding and Moving Your Food Storage
I have a family of seven, so I am constantly trying to come up with better storage ideas for our food. Our newest project is turning the under-the-stairs closet into a formal pantry. As your family grows with your food storage, being creative with your space will help with any clutter. When I first started storing food, I had a room that I placed storage shelves in. Next, I used closet space that wasn’t being utilized. Now, after years of saving pantry ideas on Pinterest, I am finally ready to dedicate formal pantry spaces to the food. It will be nice to finally get the flour and beans out from under my bed.
Tip 6: Seal Your Long-Term Food Items Well
I live in the South, and the pantry can be invaded by pests like ants and weevils. Read more about your food’s worst enemies here. For our long-term storage, our family purchased a vacuum sealer and then stored those bags inside mylar storage bags. It may seem like overkill, but so far I haven’t had a pest inside our long-term storage.
In summary, definitely prepare a food storage plan that includes rotating your pantry items and incorporate your long- and short-term food storage items into your family’s meals so it prevents losing the foods you have purchased.