Thursday, February 9, 2017

Our Pantry Rotation Strategy and Food Storage Tips ~ Proverbs 31 Preparedness Series


(Note: This is part 3 in our Proverbs 31 Preparedness Series)

Our Pantry Rotation Strategy: 

As we don't have the means to purchase buckets of freeze dried food and other such specialty items for long-term food storage, the concept of "rotation" is the solution for our household. It features the classic inventory method -- first food in, means first food out. With this strategy, you will be able to store more bulk food knowing it will go into your meal rotation before it goes bad. This is not rocket science but I know that some of you may be overwhelmed and don't know where to start! Thus, I thought to share our simple system and goals.


We keep most of our bulk foods (grains, beans, flour, sugars, etc.) in the kitchen in large 2.5-gallon glass canisters and Tupperware containers. Our latest strategy was to keep an additional supply (of the same amount) of each of the "popular" items in our storeroom pantry.  I have these nice stackable containers that can house a decent amount of food while being easy to store on the upper shelves. When the kitchen containers start to empty,  I refill them with my back-up storeroom supply.



Now, those items we refilled from the storeroom pantry will be added to a monthly grocery list (and technically, my goal is to have a refill ready before I empty out the storeroom stash!). This way, I have at least an excess month's worth of food on hand at all times. While I can't buy a back-up supply for my basic pantry staples all at once, I have been adding the least expensive and most consumed pantry items as I can afford to each week or month to build up a reserve. That would mean beans, rice, oatmeal, sugar, flour, and popcorn for our household.


My next goal (when we have more funds to work with), is to start adding a 3rd rotation into the ring with 5-gallon bucket containers full of our most used food items which boast a long shelf-life (such as the items listed above). This will hopefully boost us into the 3-6 month food supply arena when you consider all our home-canned goods and year-round garden produce.

Once we achieve the third goal, we will assess the success of our system and our financial budget. If all has worked out well, I would love to be able to store a year's worth of food! So you see, I am quite the beginner and an ambitious dreamer perhaps!  But like they say, "don't despise meager beginnings".


How Much to Store:

How much food to store depends on how much you can (and want to) store! To make it simple, here is an easy method to calculate your family's needs.

"Easiest way to calculate a year’s supply worth of food: Put a date on an item when you open it and see how long it takes you to use it up and then multiply that out for 12 months* Be sure to account for holidays or preserving times when you may use more of a certain ingredient like canning salt or sugar." ~ Melissa Norris

* Obviously this time period can be decreased or increased depending on your food storage goals.

Before we get into the foods that we will be purchasing in larger-bulk for our pantry (as a part of our versatility strategy), I wanted to share some food storage tips. Without the proper care, all your precious investment can be destroyed!


"Temperature, moisture, light, oxygen, rodents, insects, and bacteria are the enemies of stored food, and all deserve careful consideration when you are looking for space for your supplies."

Food Storage Tips:

Here are some basics tips on storing food. I know there are many ideas in this arena but I am including the most practical and "doable" concepts that we use in our household:
  • As there is no way to spot eggs or larvae in your purchased grains, seeds and beans, assume the worst and treat it accordingly. There are many ways to "fumigate" your foods but the simplest method that we use is to freeze grains, seeds and beans for 7 - 10 days prior to storing. This will kill any critters that are lurking in the bags. 
  • Once you have "fumigated", repack anything you purchase in plastic bags, paper sacks, or cardboard boxes and re-store these items in sterilized, bug-proof glass or airtight, food-grade plastic containers. 
  • Now that your food is free of pests and stored properly, tuck a few bay leaves in your containers of grains, seeds and beans (bay acts as a bug repellent). 
  • Foods should be stored in a cool, dark, dry area (like a pantry or closet). For example, do not store food near warm places such as by wood stoves, furnaces and ovens.  Keep food out of direct sunlight for best results as it will compromise the quality of your food. Moisture and humidity are also enemies of proper food storage. Keep foods airtight and in dry areas.  Keep an eye on any dried food items kept in a basement for this very reason. Kathy Harrison suggests adding grains of rice (wrapped in cheesecloth) to your bulk food in humid-prone areas and rotating with fresh rice every few weeks to absorb any moisture in your containers. Basically, food should be given the best storage in the home while things like toilet paper can be stored in less climate protected areas such as hot garages, attics, etc.
  • Practice food rotation. Try and put a date on everything you buy in bulk or at least place the older items up front so they are used first. Place the newer items in the back to keep your inventory fresh.
  • And once again, for practical reasons, store only the foods that your family already loves and eats!

Do you have any basic rotation and food storage strategies you would like to add? I am in no way an expert in this area, but am sharing what is workable for my family (and on our budget) and what I have gleaned from Just in Case: How to Be Self-Sufficient When the Unexpected Happens.

Your homework for the week:
  • Decide upon a system for food storage and organize it. Make sure to date the bulk items you purchase so that you use up those items (via rotation) before they go bad. 
Extra Credit:
  • Start collecting extra food storage containers. You will find some prudent pantry storage solutions here.
All the fine print. This post may be shared with some or all of the following link-ups: The Art of Home-Making MondaysModest Mom Monday'sMonday's MusingsMake Your Home Sing MondayGood Morning Mondays,  The Scoop, Tuesdays with a TwistRaising HomemakersThe Homesteader HopWise Woman Link UpHomestead Blog Hop Wow Us Wednesdays,  Coffee and ConversationHomemaking ThursdaysHome Sweet HomeOur Simple HomesteadAwesome Life Friday Link UpFive Star Frou Frou Friday, and Shabbilicious Friday. Thank you lovely ladies for hosting these. This post may contain affiliate links (which are merchant links that help to support this site at no additional cost to you if you purchase an item through them).  Graphic courtesy of Little Birdie Blessings.

32 comments:

  1. We were able to find all kinds of glass jars with metal lids from our Amish neighbors. Those jars were brought with me during every move since... priceless!

    Great post & thank you.

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    1. Very priceless and useful in so many ways!!! Thank you for sharing Andi! :)

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  2. Excellent pointers, as usual. I freeze my staples before storing them in food grade containers, but hadn't considered using rice to help with moisture. I'll start using this idea right away! Thanks so much.

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    1. It seems to be an easy and doable step that I would take in a wetter climate! Thanks for taking the time to comment and share here today! :)

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  3. Really good advice and I do think that the freezing of the grains and such before storing is a great idea! I love how all your jars and tubs look and how you rotate it. You are a wise woman and you help us to be on track and to encourage us to be better prepare in times of need! Really beans and rice at every meal is such a wonderful and complete protein!
    Loved this!
    Hugs, Roxy

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    1. Thanks Roxy! You are such an encourager! :)

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  4. Dear JES,
    I must say I love your containers and labels! I need to reorganize my pantry and reevaluate what we use on a regular basis. Your advice to keep only what our family actually eats is key to a successful rotation, I think. Sometimes I will buy things on sale and they stay in the pantry for a long time.
    We also like to store our staples in bulk. I keep rice, beans, flour, and sugar in five gallon, food-grade buckets. These were free from our local grocery store (HEB for the Texas ladies) and came with airtight lids. I have small canisters of flour and sugar on the kitchen counter, as I use these frequently, and refill them from my buckets. We initially purchased our food in bulk from Sam's Club, but now we just buy a couple pounds here and there when we go to our local grocery store. I store the bags in between my buckets until the bucket is empty. (Annabel at Bluebirds are Nesting has a post with pictures of my bucket system!) I will say that I learned about freezing dry goods the hard way. It is an awful feeling to have bugs destroy the fifty pounds of rice you just bought!
    Other pantry staples are stored in canning jars in my pantry. The jars were an investment up front, but I chose them because I have a vacuum sealer with a lid attachment that allows me to suck all the air out. All I need to do is print out your cottage rose labels!
    I would also like to add a tip for getting stubborn labels off of jars and canisters. I have found that smearing peanut butter (the cheap stuff) over the label and leaving for an hour or so makes it much easier to remove. Just scrape the peanut butter off and the label comes up with it! Then just wash off the residue in hot soapy water. I do this with price tags, too.
    I hope you are having a lovely week, JES!
    With lots of love, Kelsey

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    1. Thanks for sharing Kelsey! It sounds like you have really fine-tuned your system! I think the sale temptation hits us all and we end up storing many thing we don't use! This takes discipline but we will persevere :) And I think I remember your bucket system... wasn't it stored in a bench? I remember thinking it was both pretty and practical if I am not mistaken? What a blessing to find those buckets for free... There is no such thing in our area but I have heard of bakeries offering the same thing... And thank you for the tip about the peanut butter! I usually soak labels in a hot water/vinegar solution for 24 hours which is more time consuming... I hope the rest of your week is nice and smooth and that you enjoy a wonderful weekend! :)

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    2. P.S. The black/white rose labels are also shared on the blog:

      http://strangersandpilgrimsonearth.blogspot.com/2011/10/pantry-labels.html

      Happy homemaking!

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  5. I love glass jars for storage, but mine are a mish-mash of sizes and decorations on them. Ah well. Have a great rest o the week!

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    1. No worries! :) Mine too are a mishmash of sizes and prizes... They are holding my herbs on the right side of my storeroom pantry. I think it has the nice eclectic look!

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  6. I just love your blog...truly, each time I come here, I get such a blessing. God bless you for sharing your wisdom with us here. You are such an inspiration to me.

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    1. Thank you Cheryl for taking the time to comment so kindly! Have a lovely weekend :)

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  7. JES, I've emailed this post to myself so I can give it and my pantry some serious attention in a few days. Thanks for the info!

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    1. You are most welcome Jean! Have a wonderful weekend!

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  8. Hello JES- love your storage plan! I also store in bulk the basics like beans, rice, cornmeal, oatmeal, flour, sugars and items such as gluten-free flour, barley, split peas, pasta, quinoa, salt, baking soda, which of course, I rotate. Not to mention water, oil, herbs, teas etc. here. Good ideas about working towards a year supply of food! Love your blog �� Very inspirational and motivating! ��

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing! There is something so satisfying about pantry building and I love hearing how everyone else runs their home! Have a lovely weekend! :)

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  9. I have a quick question... I would so so love to do this, but what would work for a house/kitchen that has a huge flux in temp? In the winter, it is colder in the kitchen due to it's proximity to the heat source (kitchen is in the back of the house, the heat is not). In the summer, the AC does not reach the kitchen well, and then add in humidity (southern Kansas here) and things don't last long on the counter. One year I canned, and with the huge flux in temps, the sealed things got really hot and then really cold and the pings happen all year round despite the original "ping". There is no cold storage beyond the small freezer in the summer (basement is a crawlspace and not proper for food storage due to moisture and occasional critters). What do you suggest for storing in the huge swings of temps inside?

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    1. Hi Angie, WOW, I thought we had a flux in temp over here but I think you have me on that! Our kitchen is the hottest room in the home also (and located in the back) but we only store dry foodstuff in there (flour, sugar, rice, oats, etc.) so that isn't a problem for us. Our pantry which is in the middle of the house is where I keep our canned produce... Although it doesn't have an AC in the summer, it is located in a somewhat decent spot regarding climate. Do you you have a closet which is more centered in your home that can be converted into a pantry?

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    2. we have an under the stairs closet with the itty bitty clapboards (think old old house), it may be of use. would have to check temps during the fluxes to see how it holds up. These old houses don't have many closets--1 downstairs, 1 upstairs. :)

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    3. Yes, I understand. Our home has ZERO closets and we had to create a pantry out of a little room. I would give your under the stairs closet a whirl!

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  10. Thank you, JES. I appreciate your common-sense approach that focuses on basic staples rather than freeze-dried specialties. I've hit the five gallon bucket stage with some of our basics but am still working and learning in other areas. I need to depend less on my freezer, but it's so easy and convenient!
    Blessings, Leigh

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    1. Good for you! And yes, those freezers can be very convenient! However, there is still only so much freezer space... once I see those bones piling up in the freezer, I know I need to can some broth to put into the shelves and free up space... And only so many frozen garden tomatoes fit in there also. This keeps us on our toes! :)

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  11. This is a wonderful method! I don't have one like yours. I currently have a hall closet that I've turned into an extra pantry storage of such, and when I take food from it, that food goes on my grocery list, as I know I will need to stock up on it since it has been used. I like your pretty labels on your food storage, so handy! Thanks for sharing your tips for food storage :)

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    1. Hi there, looks like our system is similar! Thank you for sharing! :)

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  12. Hi JES!
    I just love your pantry photos. If your goal is a year's supply of food an easier way to do this is and a close estimate is fine here, but I will use green beans as an example. So let's say I want a year's supply of green beans in my pantry and I serve them 2x a week. I would then take 2x4 which is twice a week for 4 weeks in a month and then multiply that by 12 months so I would need 96 cans of green beans to have a year's supply. Buying your most economical ingredients first is also the best way to do it quicker or for example if your eating mainly from the garden during those months it can be easier to dedicate more of the grocery budget toward a year's supply of other things like flour or sugar. And once you have those items they are out of the grocery budget and you can snowball the grocery dollars to something else. Those dollars can then be used to start your year's supply of the next item even if you can't get it all at once. I hope that makes sense?
    Also for I am wondering if a shelf or cupboard that has wheels and could be moved around would help? then it could be moved to the room with the right temp. during each season even if it would be a bit of a pain. Oops sorry JES I can be a bit windy! LOL
    XOXO
    Vicky

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    1. Hi Vicky, that is a clever way to add to the pantry! You are right, in the summer, less needs to be purchased (and that is where we can catch up on pantry food additions). Thanks also for the estimate idea. I find that is an easier method for canned goods! I hate to think how many jarred tomatoes I would need as we use those often :) I hope Angie reads your comment as that may be an excellent option for her with the rolling cart! And lastly, being a bit windy is welcome here! You have such a wealth of knowledge and I am glad to have you share! :)

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  13. This is a very thoughtful post. I really enjoyed it! I've actually been readin your blog for a while. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. And thank you for taking the time to comment so kindly here today! Have a lovely week! :)

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  14. I'm pretty sure I've visited you blog every week now for some time! Every time I see you at the Raising Homemakers Link Up I just have to click! I love your blog!

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    1. Thank you Amanda! So glad you do visit! It makes this blogging this so much fun :)

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  15. Love the tips, I really need to get better at this!

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