Saturday, February 3, 2018

Fun with Food Storage

So it's been about a year since I went totally off my rocker and decided to start stockpiling food.


Honestly, when you walk down the aisles of the grocery store - brimming with more food than one can really comprehend, well, I do think I'm a bit crazy. Like, why would people living in the land of plenty possibly need to worry about running out of food?

Perhaps I am just nuts, and that would be the best possible scenario, but on the off chance that I'm not, it does give me some level of comfort knowing that food is one thing I won't have to immediately worry about should something bad happen - whether it's economic, environmental, political, or who knows what.

Plus (and now you'll know that I'm REALLY crazy) I am having tons of fun with my food stockpile! First of all, it's soooo nice not to run out of things. Like if I'm cooking and I run out of olive oil, I don't have to panic - I just run downstairs, grab another bottle, and add it to the shopping list to replace the one I took out of storage.

And then there's the system. This is the part that I was really missing in my previous attempts to stockpile food - you can't just buy stuff willy-nilly and shove it in a closet somewhere. You have to have a system for rotating and using up your stock.

Soooo... when I buy stuff now, the first thing I do is mark the expiration date on the can or jar. I know the date is already on there, but making it clearly visible at a glance makes the whole process WAY easier.


Then when I'm putting it away, I take that opportunity to do a bit of rearranging. I put the new stuff in the back, and check for anything with an approaching expiration date. I bring anything that needs to be used soon (or that I'm planning on using soon) upstairs, and put in in the kitchen cabinet where it can get used quickly.

It's a bit like a never ending pantry challenge - which I consider to be great fun. I currently have some cream of mushroom soup and frozen peas that need to be eaten... so I see some tuna noodle casserole in my future!

My original plan was to try to stockpile a year's worth of food. Honestly, figuring out how much that is... well, let's just say that was a challenge. There are prepper sites online that offer guidelines, but they varied wildly, and some of it was downright comical. One said you needed 5000 calories per person per day. Seriously?!? I guess they're planning to burn a lot of calories during the apocalypse.


Well anyhow, my general approach is to just try to store enough short term food (like stuff that keeps for 1-5 years) so that I can eat it before it goes bad and continue rotating. With the longer term stuff (stuff meant to be stored for 20-30 years) - well, I bought some of that too, and honestly I haven't really figured out the best plan for making sure I use it before it goes bad - but hey, I've got a while before I really have to worry about that one.

So... here's what you've been waiting for. The crazy lady pictures - ordered by descending craziness level.

1) The canned food shelf.



This bookshelf worked nicely as a place for storing canned goods. There's a little screen door of sorts that covers it up so that the cats can't knock something on the floor and injure themselves with a falling can. I'm not a huge fan of canned food, but canned beans really are convenient, plus it's nice to have some occasional convenience food and treats (like canned pineapple - yum!)


2. Pantry Cabinet number One.



This cabinet stores the canned cat food as well as other short term stuff - especially things that needed more sheltering from light than the canned stuff, or stuff that wouldn't fit easily on those shelves.


3. The Kitty Bin.



And while we're talking kitties - I used an airtight plastic bin for storing bags of dry cat food. I figured it would keep out any mice or bugs, as well as any kitties who decided they wanted to open a fresh bag for themselves - which isn't really as out of the question as it might sound... ask me how I know!

4. Pantry Cabinet Two



And then we have this cabinet, which stores mostly dry goods. Only one of those shelves is actually full of protein powder, the other one is old protein powder containers filled with oatmeal. There's also pasta and dried beans and some random grains like millet and quinoa in there. Note the empty shelf on top! Always room for more!

5. Pantry Cabinet Three



Now we're getting to more long term stuff. The white rice (there's Jasmine, Basmati, Parboiled & regular) will theoretically store for 10+ years in glass jars, and there's also sugar & Gatorade, and then stuff that I bought both from the Mormon church and various prepper sites - there's some beans & rice as well as freeze dried fruits, veggies, cheese, butter, milk, and even some chicken.

6. The Crazy Lady Closet



And then we have the deep storage. This is all stuff that I ordered from the Mormons. It's all 30 year long term storage stuff including dried onions, potatoes, beans, apples, rolled oats, and milk.

And that's about it... except for... the freezer!


Oy! This is one area where I really need a better system. It's the shape of the darned thing that makes it so hard to keep it organized. My current system is to try to have a bag for each category of food - breads & flours, meats & meat alternatives, cheese & butter, and fruit & veggies. But as you can see... I'm not doing a very good job keeping up with it - it's just such a pain to pull everything out when you need to get something or put something away. So if anybody's got any suggestions for better freezer organization - I'm all ears!

So that's the news from the crazy lady. I'm curious if anybody else out there has dabbled in food stockpiling. I'd love to hear about your systems if you have!



28 comments :

  1. I have never stockpiled food except for enough to get through an immediate problem (couple of weeks). However, when it is out of sight, it is out of mind and never gets rotated properly. I always say I'm going to do better, but I don't. But there's always next time.

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    1. Yup. Therein lies the rub. Last time I tried this I just put everything in boxes under the stairs. BAD IDEA! I pretty much never used it once it was down there. This new system is working much better. I've just made a habit of taking all of the canned and dry goods immediately down to the basement, and the process of marking it and putting it away ensures that nothing is really "out of sight." So far, so good... :-)

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  2. We have about a year's worth of food stocked up (maybe more), but more because we buy seasonally than to be prepared for an apocalypse.

    I sort differently than most people, though. I try to group what I think of as "one month of food" together, and then sort the food by month. This helps me to to use up my supplies more evenly. In the freezer, I use old pillowcases (labelled by month). It's not a perfect system (often we eat a lot less than I think we will, so we still have "December" down in the basement, for example), but generally I really like it.

    Pictures available at http://miser-mom.blogspot.com/2012/08/141-laying-up-food-for-winter.html

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    1. Now that seems like an intriguing system. It does sound suspiciously like it might require advanced planning though - perish the thought! I'm heading right over to look at the pictures though.

      Oh, and I'm also intrigued by the seasonal shopping idea - maybe there's more in your post. I'm terrified of things like home canning, but I do enjoy being able to buy lots of something when it's on sale.

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  3. I bought a bunch of freeze-dried food to store in case of a power outage. Then I wondered how I was going to heat the water to rehydrate them in our all electric apartment. So now my food storage is things that don't need heating or refrigeration: canned meats and fruit, jerky, crackers and chips, granola bars, drink mixes, nuts, etc.

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    1. Ha! Well, there is that! I do have a camp stove as well as a solar oven - plus my hot water heater is gas powered so it will run even if the power's out. I know you're not supposed to drink the water from the hot water heater, but in a pinch...

      I am thinking of getting some sort of a BBQ or outdoor wood stove to have for emergency cooking though. I would LOVE to have a wood stove in the house, but I do fear that I might burn the place down if I wasn't careful... Something to think about though!

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  4. Based on what happens at grocery stores before unusual weather events, I think it makes some sense to have a bit of a stockpile.

    I laughed through these two sentences: "And then we have this cabinet, which stores mostly dry goods. Only one of those shelves is actually full of protein powder, the other one is old protein powder containers filled with oatmeal." Because I was thinking, "wow, that's a lot of whey powder!" And because I saved my one whey powder container to store oats! But I was able to get the label off, so now it's just a plain white container (in a suspiciously oatmeal-box-shaped shape).

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    1. Taking the label off would be a good idea - I'm just lazy. These labels aren't actually paper though, so I wasn't sure how to do it without razor blades - which, knowing me, could lead to bad things! :-)

      Anyhow, last night I discovered yet another reason that having a stockpile makes sense. I went to a memorial for an old friend, and afterwards invited a few folks over for an impromptu jam session. We were all starving, but since I have a house full of food it was a simple matter to whip up a quick dinner. I'm really loving this!

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    2. OK - I just gave it a try taking off the label on one of the plastic jars and it came of easy! No razor blades required. Who knew? Thanks for the inspiration!

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    3. Yay, jam session munchies!

      My came off pretty easily, too. But I, too, prefer ugly labels over bad things resulting from razor blade (mis)use!

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    4. Now I'm all excited about pulling off the labels from all of the ones in the basement. I'm so easily entertained!

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  5. I don't stockpile, but I do have an upstairs pantry (immediate eating) and a downstairs pantry (food on sale, food like olive oil to keep on hand so I never run out ... ). We also have an upright freezer (way easier for storing in an organized manner and also for getting food out than a chest freezer). I'd say we have 2-3 months worth of food if we had to live off from it.

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    1. Oooo... and upright freezer really would have been the way to go. Perhaps at some point I'll upgrade. At the point I bought mine it seemed like an extravagance just to own a freezer, so I went with cheap and efficient.

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    2. I wonder if you could craft more lift-out baskets. It looks like you have two tiny ones on top, but if you had several sets, kind of nesting, all small enough to lift out while full, that might work.

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    3. That's sorta what I'm thinking. I saw a video of a guy who had built a bike trailer for camping, and he had made these lightweight boxes out of that corrugated plastic that they use for yard signs - apparently it's both lightweight and strong. Anyhow, they had grocery sack type handles which made it easy to grab, and since he made them himself, they were perfectly sized so as not to waste any space. Not sure if I can get quite that organized or not, but it was inspirational!

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    4. I've been thinking about that corrugated plastic, too--could you use dry-erase markers on them to make re-usable protest signs?

      I don't even know where to get that stuff!

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    5. Ha! Now there's an idea! Recyclable political protest signs. Never get behind the times! I actually don't know what the stuff is called... though a quick peek on Amazon says it's easy to come by. It looks like Coroplast is one brand name, but I'm sure there are others.

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  6. I love your stockpile! I wanted a deep freezer chest but yours definitely underlines the difficulty of keeping up a good rotation and use schedule - upright is the way to go.

    This is similar to how I stockpile the dog's food, treats, supplements, and so on, and to a far lesser degree, our own food stores.

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    1. I wonder how much difference there is in efficiency. I also think most upright freezers are frost free - which means that they don't keep things as solidly frozen. So I'm not really sure what impact that has in terms of how long you can keep food, but it might be worth it just for the convenience factor.

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  7. Re freezers: I bought some plastic stacking bins to keep in the body of my chest freezer, one for meat, one for veges, one for fish, one for baking etc. Made it very easy to select what I needed.
    Chest freezers are, I understand, more efficient than upright freezers - better door seal, stay frozen longer if power off etc. (I used to work at a refrigeration company)
    [Valerie]

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    1. That's an interesting idea. I'll have to look around and see what I can find. A bin would be sooo much better than a bag, because within each bin things could be relatively organized as opposed to just tossed in there.

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  8. I definitely know which of my blogging friends I'm going to hit up when the shit hits the fan. :)

    I think people who are organized with their money end up applying that skill to other areas, like prepping. It's all about having a plan, executing it, and making sure you have enough resources for the long haul.

    Whether money or food, I think it's a good thing.

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    1. Hahaha! Believe it or not, the totally paranoid and verging on completely crazy part of me debated my rational side as to whether or not it was prudent to post this. Crazy lady side had visions of some sort of post apocalyptic hoards hacking the interwebs to find out where I live and descending on the house to get all the food!

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  9. I'm so glad you've addressed the rotation of food... I've read lots of blog posts about stock piling food, but they never really talk about using it up so that when the SHTF, everything isn't old and moldy!

    So would it be wrong to ask... where does one buy this stuff from the Mormons? Because I'm not Mormon and I don't know any. Thanks!

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    1. Yup, well... I've been down this road before and last time I didn't have a system for rotating and using stuff - BIG mistake!

      In terms of the Mormons, I'm not a Mormon either - but some of my ancestors were (like serious Mormons... the ones who made the overland journeys with Brigham Young and all that.) So I'm not entirely sure whether it's Kosher or not to buy from them (not to mix religious metaphors or anything) but I just did the check out as "guest" and had no issues. I was sorta expecting to start getting missionaries knocking on my door, but no... they just sent the food (like remarkably quickly for ridiculously cheap shipping) and that was that.

      Anyhow, here's the link:
      https://store.lds.org/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Category3_715839595_10557_3074457345616706370_-1_N_image_0

      That seems like a long link... I gave you the part that goes directly to the food part. If that doesn't work just go to store.lds.org, then under "home & family" choose "self reliance" then "food storage." I found their prices to be more than reasonable... as in hard to find it cheaper anywhere, plus this stuff is already sealed for 30 year storage!

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  10. Thanks so much! Ha! And you read my mind... just ship the food, folks. No home visits, please!

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  11. I'm seriously jealous of your pantry storage, and wildly impressed by your organization.

    I love food, and I love grocery shopping, especially when there's a good sale, so we tend to always have way more than we need at any given time. I'm working on trying to come up with a better system, but I'm not even close to being there yet. I basically want enough of a stockpile to be able to not have to run out to buy anything when there's snow in the forecast, not have to stop on the way home from work just to make dinner, and to always be able to throw together a decent meal for someone with little to no notice. Feeding people is kind of my thing, so being able to invite friends back for dinner when we're out doing something is really important to me. So is being able to take someone dinner when there's a death or something. I feel like having a good stockpile makes that easier. I don't get off until 5:00, so eliminating the need to go to the grocery store before I can cook makes it much easier to show up with food with little notice.

    Beyond that, I hate paying full price for things we eat all of the time that go on sale regularly. We eat a lot of canned tomatoes, so when on grocery store put their brand on sale for something like 37 cents a can, I bought copious amounts of tomatoes. I just didn't see paying full price a few weeks later when we would have needed more.

    I am definitely going to copy your expiration date idea. That is brilliant! I've ended up throwing away expired things before, and your method seems pretty close to foolproof. It has to be better than comparing little tiny date stamps on bunches of cans while you're cooking.

    As far as long term bulk, survival type food storage, that's really not my thing. My grandmother went absolutely nuts over the whole Y2K thing and stockpiled random stuff like nobody's business. She wasn't smart about it, and didn't rotate. Massive amounts of things went bad. My dad and I were the ones tasked with cleaning out exploded cans and moldy boxes from under her house when she moved in with my parents. Doing that in July in South Carolina is enough to make you think long and hard before you do anything that might make you ever have to do that again.

    That being said, I feel like we probably have a good four to six weeks worth of food in our house. Obviously we wouldn't last super long in an end of the world type situation, but I feel like it's enough for any of the things especially likely to impact us. *Knocks on wood.*

    I do the same thing with trying to keep like items together in bags in the freezer. Like you, I'm not that crazy about the system, but it seems to be the best one I've found so far. My ultimate goal is to use the chest freezer for longer term storage and the fridge freezer for more immediate things, and kind of rotate meats that need to be used soonest to it. I haven't gotten there yet, but that's the plan. I've played around with freezer cooking before, too, but have yet to find a great system with that either.

    Sorry to post such a long comment, but I find food and food storage to be very interesting, and I think your post was very informative. Out of curiosity, have you tried any of the stuff that's supposed to last for 30 years? I'm wondering what the taste and texture are like.

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    1. Food nerds UNITE!!!! I've gotta say, as much as some folks think I'm crazy for keeping so much food around, it's already been a real life saver multiple times. Most recently, I went to the pet food store only to discover that the company that makes Smoky's dry food (Evo) went out of business. Smoky is like the pickiest cat on the planet, and probably for good reason - he's gotten quite sick in the past when I've attempted to insert more variety into his diet, so I think he's got some undiagnosed food allergies or sensitivities. Anyhow, if I didn't have a stockpile, this would be a crisis. But as it is, we've got at least 6 months of dry food in the basement, so I've got plenty of time to compare ingredients, get advice from my vet and experiment (slowly) with some alternative choices.

      And as you probably read in the comments above, I had some unexpected guests last week, but because I've got a stockpile, it was easy to whip up a decent dinner - I even managed to deal with everyone's crazy food restrictions!

      I guess the way I see it, "preparedness" doesn't necessarily have to mean that I think nuclear war or some other catastrophe is imminent, there are a lot of every day home grown "emergencies" that are made much easier by not having to worry about acquiring food - like say if there's a big snow storm, or I can't find CatMan's favorite bread in stock for a while, or if there are periodic failures of specific crops (like what's currently happening with my dad's beloved Brazil nuts - the crop failed and it's been almost impossible to find them for months.)

      Anyhow, I haven't tried any of the long term storage stuff yet. Most of it is stuff like beans, rice, oatmeal & powdered milk - so it's just dried like normal, but stored with oxygen absorbers to prevent spoiling. So I think the key there will be how it tastes after 20 years, which I obviously can't test out now. The freeze dried things, and the stuff you don't usually buy dried (like apples, onions, potatoes, butter & cheese) will be more interesting, and I'll probably delve into that a bit more this year. One of the issues is that it comes in fairly large containers, and once you open them, you have to use it up relatively quickly. I can probably stretch out its shelf life by refrigerating or freezing it, but I do think I should come up with a plan before I jump in. One thing I'm actually quite intrigued about is the dried, powdered butter. I'm sorta thinking it might work out quite well (as in more convenient than fresh butter) for things like certain baking recipes and for sprinkling on popcorn. So we'll probably give that a go in the relatively near future. I'll be sure to write about it when I try it out.

      Sorry to write such a long response. It is really fun to chat with someone who shares my crazy love of always having food on hand.

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