One of our readers shared the following story:
"I served a mission in Ontario, Canada, and as a service project we were called upon to help a lady move some stuff around in her storage room. When she flicked on the light to the basement, she had shelves upon shelves of canned goods, most of which she did herself with canning jars. Though she was proud of her accomplishment, I took a closer look and noticed VERY expired fuzzy green peaches in brown water, among other things I don't dare mention. She HAD food storage, but I bet she hadn't touched her hoard of food in like, 10 years! Oh, to come to the day when you run out of daily resources only to find that your backup plan has long since passed it's prime... Moving her stuff around was a testimony to me of not only STORING but USING what it is you have on a regular basis. The moral of the story: ROTATE!!"
About the same time I read this, I was talking with a friend who mentioned the same thing. That if you are not using your food storage you are not STORING it you are HOARDING it.
New guidelines in recent years concerning longer-term food storage suggest that you only need the basics (wheat, rice, beans) which if stored properly can last 30 years. But if you do not know how to cook this food, and if your family isn't used to eating it, it will do you little good when the time comes. So get into the mindset that you aren't only going to STORE the food you are purchasing, you are going to EAT it too! And of course replace the food that you eat. And so on and so forth. Forever. Just kidding. Sort of.
Another reader left this comment:
I have made a one-month menu of dinners (haven't tried tackling breakfast or lunch yet) to multiply by three. However, now I feel like this means I have to make these meals and live off of them forever and rotate the food so none of it goes bad! How can I incorporate eating meals based on what's on sale as well as being able to spontaneously decide to make something else. What are your thoughts on this? You gals are awesome!
I left that part in about being awesome just because I like reading it. Sometimes when my daughter tells me that she wants her daddy to read her a story instead of me, I read this comment over and over. I'm awesome. And then I realize that I'm also pathetic.
Anyway, the first thing to point out is this: Don't store any meals that your family doesn't like to eat. It doesn't make sense. That having been said, when you buy things at the store, look at the expiration date and choose the farthest date in the future. You may look weird as you pull cans off the shelf to reach for the back row, but, you shouldn't have to eat your 3-Month Supply every other month. You should be able to mix and match your meals based on expiration date and on desire.
Let me reiterate: don't store food that you don't like to eat! Period (or exclamation mark as the case may be). Even if it's a great deal. It's not worth it if you will hate eating it, or if it's just going to expire and go to waste. Food storage should give you peace of mind and empowerment. It shouldn't make you feel tied down without creative license in cooking and menu planning. My menu for our family's 3-Month Supply contains only foods that my family loves to eat. They are easy, simple meals that I can prepare without thinking about. However, I planned these menus around non-perishables so I can go months without eating spaghetti if I wanted to, and won't worry about the ingredients going bad.
So what do we do now?
The very first thing to do, even before deciding what system of rotation to use, is to do an INVENTORY of your current food storage. This doesn't mean just the stuff in buckets and #10 cans. Any unopened food in your pantry is food storage. Go through and write it all down. Check how much you have, you might be surprised, and check the expiration date. When I went through my food storage I was surprised at the number of things I had to throw away because they were past the date. Also, I noticed I had several boxes of cereal that were getting close.
If you want, use the new free printable on the left sidebar. Nothing fancy, just a worksheet I wrote up for myself while I was inventorying. Also, on the larger items (like cereal boxes) I wrote the expiration date on the box in a permanent marker, just so I would know which to use first.
Don't put it off, go get inventorying and we'll see you back next week for some rotation systems.
Let us know about what surprised you about the amount of food you have stored, the variety, and if you have any green fuzzies!