*A Successful Food Pantry System*
26 December 2016
I have four pantries:
1) Kitchen pantry. Here, I keep items that don't store well beyond one year. Things like seasonal-use ingredients, breads, crackers and processed snacks, brown rice, nuts, and regular cooking oils. However, I also keep quart size mason jars of dehydrated ingredients that I regularly use for cooking (powdered milk, eggs, etc.).
2) Basement Pantry. This is my normal, grocery or home-canned foods. Items here are expected to store for five years. This is my every-day pantry for normal meals as well as the ingredients to make my emergency meals. Long term cooking fats like lard and Crisco are in this pantry. ...yep, it's in the basement.
I organize everything on metal shelves- off the floor. I use a First In, First Out system for commercial-can goods. Shelves are attached with a strap to a wall stud so they won't topple over. I attached pegboard doors to the shelves. The door means that food is out of sight for visitors. The door assures that nothing falls off the shelf and the pegboard means that the front of the door is useful for hanging items. My shelves are in an area used for hobbies and crafts, so pegboard looks right at home.
3) Long Term Pantry. This is commercially dehydrated or freeze dried foods in buckets or #10 cans. I like buying the kits of dehydrated "meals" but I also like having dehydrated "ingredients," so that I can make our own meals. This food has a shelf-life of about 25 years so I don't rotate this food. A portion of this pantry, like extra rice and beans, is planned for charity or barter. These items are stored all around the house, in the back of closets, behind the couch and seldom-used spaces.
4) Freezer. It's only a small chest freezer, but it's the perfect size for what I need. We hunt, so the freezer is packed with venison. I also pre-arrange ingredients into meals, assemble everything into a zip lock bag and freeze it until needed. I'll pre-make 30 healthy crockpot meals. That's enough to last us through the cold months. When I'm busy I can thaw one the night before, throw it in the crockpot that morning and dinner is ready when we get home. It's my "fast food."
I generally keep a six month to one-year supply of everything we use. I don't skimp on comfort food. Hubby is not charming without his coffee, nor I without chocolate. Having these foods helps to improve morale during a bad situation.
I never wait until I need something. My "need" alarm goes off when my inventory is depleted down to about nine months. That's when I start watching for coupons and sales. Before the inventory reaches six months I'm buying enough to get back to a year supply. I buy at local groceries for sales and at Sam's Club for canned tuna. Also at Sam's, I buy 50-lb bags of regular flour and just-add-water bread mixes. I remove flour from the paper and vacuum seal about 5 cups in a bag with an oxygen absorber. I put these and mixes in the freezer for about a week before storing them in a plastic tote with a snap closure lid. It's fine for at least five years.
Before the garden, I purchased grocery-canned foods. Now I'm slowly replacing these with home-canned versions from garden harvests. If sodium is a problem for you look for low sodium variations. Draining food will remove more than half the sodium and rinsing it with tap water will remove about 75%. It also removes some of the flavor so stock up on spices.
I buy beans, spices and grains in bulk from Azure. I repackage items like this in Mylar bags and store in 5-gallon buckets. I love gamma lids on my basement pantry buckets. I get recycled buckets from Lexington Container Store. I also go to Wal-Mart and ask sweetly in the bakery department. They will sell a bucket and lid for $1.
Storing one year's food: I've seen those plans that call for 100 lbs of beans. My problem is I can't look at 100 lbs of something and see what's for dinner. In addition, it's impossible for me to plan a rotation schedule for 100 lbs of something. So, I have recipes, 10 for each meal - 10 breakfast, 10 lunches, 10-snacks, 10 dinners. I also have 10 breads and 10 desserts. These are my emergency meals. If you're just starting out, you might begin with three meals then increase it, as you get more comfortable with the system.
Some of my meals are my family favorites with ingredients substituted with shelf-stable varieties (powdered milk, etc.) I found some of my meals from my two favorite books, 100-Day Pantry by Jan Jackson and Cooking with Sunshine by Lorraine Anderson. I prefer meals that can be prepared in one pot and using a variety of appliances: kitchen appliances, sun oven, dutch oven, pressure cooker, rocket stove, etc.
I line up meals for a 2,800-calorie day and print a 10-day meal plan on a calendar and store it in the basement. This way I don't have to think about what's for dinner during an emergency or disaster. I know that our days are nutritional and everyone has comfort foods. I don't eat 2,800 calories a day but Hubby eats a bit more so it averages out. If the emergency lasts longer than 10 days, we just start the calendar over again, eating each meal three times in a month. This doesn't mean that we only eat these 10 dinners during normal times, but the ingredients for making my emergency meals is what I store a one year supply of.
Considering nutrient values, I plan a rotation schedule to assure that the basement pantry is rotated in five years but I'm not a slave to "best used by" dates. These dates are not an "expiration" date. We eat 10 days of emergency meals every month. This assures everything is rotated within 5 years. It also assures that my family enjoys each meal and I can occasionally exchange a meal for something new.
With meals selected, I start an EXCEL spreadsheet and put all my meals across the top and all the ingredients needed to make each meals down the side. I list every ingredient right down to every pinch of salt. That way I know exactly what I need and exactly how I'll use what's I've stored. The spreadsheet is my inventory control and my shopping list.
This system is easy to revise when needed and it's easy to scale up or down depending on how confident I'm feeling about current events.
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