Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Food Storage - Organization and Inventory

One of the first things I like to do at the beginning of every year is to inventory my food storage. I don’t necessarily count every item but I look at the things I have used and may not have replaced, things I have not been storing but want to store a little or maybe a lot of, and just look in general to see what I am missing. I’ve found that I am more likely to do this at the beginning of the year because if I don’t it may get put off indefinitely.

Theoretically, every time I use a can of this or that it should be replace and rotated into the rest of my food storage. It doesn’t always happen that way. I have also found that the way I store things and the things I store changes from time to time.

I have tried several different methods of keeping an inventory and found what works for me. Let me share with you some of the things I have tried and some of the successes and failures that you might be able to learn from. If you are just beginning your food storage, this is a good time to start. I like to keep an inventory of everything I have on hand. This helps me set goals as well as just being able to plan a meal and know if there is anything I need for that meal that I don’t have on hand.

First, know that I am a firm believer in food storage. I am dedicated to having a manageable food storage. If you really want to have a good food storage, and are really dedicated to doing it, it can be done. I don’t run to the store every day or even every week. It is not uncommon for me to go a couple of weeks or more without going to the grocery store. I hope that I would be able to go much longer without going to the store. Granted, I don’t have little kids at home anymore, but I have found that it is possible to shop less often by planning better. Here is how I manage my food storage on paper.

First, start making a list of everything that you want to have in your food storage. I like to divide it into sections according to how I store it. Maybe on the first page you could make a list of everything you will store in 5 or 6 gallon buckets, another page would be your #10 can storage, another list would be your canned goods storage, a page for your condiments and spices, a page for paper products such as bath tissue, aluminum foil, garbage bags and baggies, another page for short term storage items such as cereals, cake mixes, granola bars and pancake mixes etc. You can divide your inventory in as many or as few sections as you wish. If you have a computer, begin making lists in each category and then add to them as you think of them. This list will most likely be an ongoing project that you will continue to work on as you build your storage. It doesn’t have to be done in a table or alphabetized or written neatly, that will come later. Just begin making your master list.

After you feel that you have compiled it as completely as you can, print them off and put them in a binder. This binder will be your brain and will become very important to you. Next, make a note next to each item as to how much of that item you want to have on hand. Do this in pencil. As you begin to keep track of how much you buy and how much you use, you’ll find your numbers changing.

It is also a good idea to collect price lists from different suppliers and put them in this binder so that you can have a ready reference of where to shop for different items you want to store. Most suppliers have downloadable catalogs or price lists that can act as a guideline for you. You will immediately be able to tell where you can get the best deals on any particular items. Realize that once you begin to make lists and write things down, it is easier to make a more comprehensive list and add different items. At some point these lists will become your shopping lists and you will make your shopping list from the items you have used.

As you learn to use your food storage better these lists may change. Let me give a quick example here: I used to store a lot of cream of chicken soup and a lot of canned beans. I don’t anymore. I make cream soup substitutes that I use in place of the cream soup. However, I like to keep maybe 6 cans of cream of chicken soup on hand for certain recipes. Same with the beans, I now use dried beans most of the time but have a couple of quick recipes that call for canned chili so I keep a few cans on hand for those specific recipes. As you learn more about your personal likes and dislikes your storage methods will definitely change.

I would recommend getting another binder, a little bigger one. Use this one for information you collect or have collected on storage. You may wish to divide it into sections; maybe a section on wheat which contains any information on wheat that you have as well as information on how to store it as well as recipes for using it. I have collected several binders of information over the years and as my food storage uses change, so does the information in my binders. I like the idea of having other people’s experiences with using food storage at my fingertips and learn so much from the knowledge of others.

I have tried so many methods to rotate my storage. My space is limited so it is a bigger challenge. I tried different colored stickers for different years. That worked when my children were little and I would send them to the storage room. Sometimes I would just put a date on my boxes of case goods, in fact my husband was vigilant about marking boxes before we ever put them away – bless his heart. If you do this, keep several sharpie markers in your food storage area and keep everything marked. When you open a new case and remove the cans, mark the top of EVERY can. It is so easy to be tempted to use the newer stuff because it is easier to get to.

I also used to keep a list of everything from my storage and have my kids or myself mark off what they took from the storage room, but it didn’t always happen. It is much easier to keep a shopping list on the fridge and write down everything you use as you use it especially if you are using things from the basement, kitchen or maybe even under a bed. Try to be as consistent as you can about keeping track of everything you use.

Let me know how your inventory is coming. If anyone is interested in a sample inventory, let me know and I can email you one. Let’s make 2011 a successful food storage year.

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