Published February 14, 2022

Food Storage Part II

Written by
Charlene Nelson
| The Dakotan

Chances are good that your grandma kept a well-stocked pantry. She called it “putting by” and she thought it was just common sense to always have a good supply of food on hand. But with the prosperity in the decades following the Great Depression, this practice has fallen into disuse. Maybe it's time to revive it.  

If you are just getting started on building a food supply, the idea of stocking enough food to last three months may seem daunting. But don’t let that slow you down, because it really isn’t that difficult. Just follow these five steps. Each of these steps requires very little time input. You will only need to visit the process once or twice a month, for just a few minutes each time and soon you will have a world-class food storage. 

Decide how much you need 

There are three ways to determine your family’s needs:  

The first is a food storage calculator. Do an online search for "food storage calculator." Dozens of prepper sites have ready-made lists of foods that you should be storing. Usually, it is a list of 35-40 very basic foods. You just plug in the number of people in your household, and the calculator will tell you how much of these foods you should have in reserve. This may be a good starting point if you're not sure where to begin. 

Or you can use an app or desktop program. My all-time favorite is Food Storage Planner by Revelar. It has the 35-40 basic foods that you see in the online calculators, but it lets you customize the list with foods you regularly use. It also helps you break the process down into weekly shopping trips and helps keep a running inventory. There are also a couple other free apps that you may find helpful. 

The third method may be the simplest method for those just getting started: make a two-week menu of the kinds of meals your family routinely eats. Then, using that menu, write out a list of all the ingredients needed to prepare those meals. Multiply this list of ingredients by nine. This is your shopping list. 

Take inventory 

You probably have a lot of things already on hand. Go through your pantry and freezer and see what you currently have. Take into consideration your garden or any produce you may have access to this summer. Add up what you already have on hand and what you'll get from your garden and deduct that from your shopping list. 

[Image: Charlene Nelson]

Set a monthly budget 

Now decide how much you can afford to spend. Acquiring food storage should not jeopardize your family budget. Decide on an amount that you can put aside for preparedness purposes. You might set aside 3-5% of your take-home pay. Maybe you'll earmark all your bonus pay or tax return for food storage. Or you can set a dollar amount, say $20-30 per person per month. Then use this budgeted amount to buy a few items on your shopping list each month. Or put it into an envelope or a separate savings account. Then when you’ve saved enough, you can make a big bulk purchase. The advantage of doing it this way is that you may get better prices by buying in bulk. But in order for this to work, you must keep your budgeted savings separate from your family funds. 

Keep a running inventory 

Don’t just buy a lot of food, put it into the garage or basement storage and forget about it. Make it part of your daily menus. You don't want your food to sit on the shelf so long that it passes its expiration (or “best if used by”) date. Write the date of purchase on the container with a Sharpie pen and each time you shop, put the new food in the back of the shelves and bring the older food to the front. 

You may want to put food that is in plastic bags or cardboard boxes inside a plastic tote. This will help protect the packaging from getting damaged and ruining the food. 

As you use your food, you’ll want to replace it. You should have a spread sheet or checklist of the foods that are in your food storage. When you take something off the shelves, make a tally mark or subtract it from the spreadsheet so that you know how many are left on the shelf. 

Replace as you go 

For most of your food, just watch for the next time it goes on sale and buy a bunch to replenish what you've used. Or plan to buy a few replacements each time you go shopping. For foods that you buy in bulk you'll want to set aside some money so that when it's time to make another bulk purchase, you have enough pay for it. Set a trigger of how much you'll allow your supplies to be depleted before it's time to buy replacements for that item.  

When you use a spreadsheet or inventory of what's in your pantry, you can be sure that you will always have enough in reserve to feed your family and you'll know when it's time to replenish your supply. Constantly using older food and replacing it with newer food when it goes on sale is a great way to help you keep control of food costs. 

That’s really not so hard, is it? Now go make your grandma proud. 

Download free spreadsheet: https://theprepperjournal.com/2014/08/26/food-storage-calculator-spreadsheet-free-download/ 
My favorite food storage program: https://www.foodstorageplanner.com/ 
Email comments, questions, and suggestions to: charlene@providenthomecompanion.com  
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