Sunday, February 7, 2010

How is your food storage organized?

Ok, so people ask me all the time how I organize my food storage so I'm posting a not-so-brief overview. Let me just start with a disclaimer about myself though. I am a highly organized person. Seriously. Almost to the point of it being a clinical sickness. I literally have lists of my lists. However, I think that the system I have is very user friendly and could be adapted and used by anyone.

First of all, I don't know if any of you have ever seen a year's worth of food for 8 people but it is a TREMENDOUS amount of food, and I do not live in a large house, nor do I have a basement, attic, large closets, or even a walk in pantry. I realized early on that I would have to make some sacrifices to get that much food into the house.

For example, my kids don't have beds. Their beds are a mattress on top of food storage boxes. They are literally sleeping on food storage. You can't see the boxes with the dust ruffle but it's there. That was hard for me. We all want the perfect Martha Stewart home but I quickly realized I couldn't have that and food storage. In fact one day my mother-in-law (who's not LDS) discovered the kids were sleeping on boxes and demanded to know why. Try explaining THAT without sounding like a crazed, religious, hoarder!! LOL

Don't get me wrong, if you come into my house, you won't be able to see the food, but it's EVERYWHERE, and it has defintely limited my decorating choices. When it came down to it though, it's not a hard choice whether to follow the prophet, or Martha Stewart :) And there are SO many creative ideas out there on how to hide your food storage, even in small areas. Here is a link to one of my favorites: Hidden Can Rotator Please don't let a perceived lack of space hinder you. When people tell me they don't have room, most of the time it's not a space issue, but rather a priority issue.

So now I have food masquerading as beds, in the coat closet, in the garage, even in the bathtub, which can make it difficult to keep track of and rotate, so the first thing I did was make up a spreadsheet. This spreadsheet tells me exactly what I have stored, where in the house it is located, and when it is set to expire, plus the cheapest place to buy it so I know where to go when I need to replace it. That is important. Know what you have, where it is, and when it will expire.

Living off food storage presented a unique problem because I am now needing to get into food I normally wouldn't. I don't rotate items that last 20 years or more so those are the foods I was keeping under the beds. Now that I need to get into those foods it's a real bummer to have to lift up the mattress, find the right box, and dig a can out. Then I have to do it all over again every time we empty a can. WAY too much work. So I asked my husband to build me some shelves out in the garage that were just long enough to hold 5 cans. That way, when I open a box I can take all 6 cans out, put one can in my pantry, and the other 5 on the shelves for easy future access.

Typically you do NOT want to store food in the garage since the heat will cause it to spoil much faster but since I am using these cans up so quickly, they are ok out there. There are some items you can store in the garage that can take the heat like sugar, honey, wheat (although it can make it unsproutable), jam, vinegar, and of course, all your non-food items.

I also have my 3 month's supply foods that we rotate regularly in the master bathtub. Normally I would not store food in a bathtub but the brilliant builders of our home built a tub that actually holds more water than my hot water heater, making it impossible to use the tub, and there is no way I could let all that space go to waste, so I bought one of those fancy can rotators. We bought ours from which was somewhat cheaper (this is what I spent my christmas bonus money on) but if you are particularly handy, you can make them like this guy did: Homemade Can Rotator Or you can purchase some relatively inexpensive can rotators that go on your pantry shelves like these.

Finally, my absolute FAVORITE tool for tracking and rotating food storage is an idea that came from someone else. Inside my pantry I have taped small envelopes, each one labeled with a different food storage item. Whenever I open a new can of food, I take one strip of paper and put it in the envelope for that food item. SO easy and simple, and convenient since it's right there where my food is!

Now I can see at a glance exactly what needs to be replaced when I go to the store, or the cannery. If you don't have a convenient place for the envelopes in your pantry, you can also mount them on a large poster board and put it anywhere in your house that is near your food storage.

And last of all, because living off food storage is so different from what we are used to, my family sometimes has a hard time coming up with ideas of what they can eat for breakfast, pack for lunch, or just snack on. So I created lists that I posted inside my pantry cupboard doors with ideas for them for these meals. Plus I arranged my pantry by meals so one shelf is all breakfast foods, one shelf is all lunch foods, one shelf is snack and dessert foods, etc. Normally this is not how my pantry is arranged but it was necessary for the duration of this food storage experiment so my kids don't starve to death. It's a different feeling to open your pantry and have nothing but #10 cans staring back at you. :)

Hopefully you can get something useful out of all of this gibberish. I guess if there is any advice I consistently give to people it is this: Just start small. If you think of all the things you need to do and have, you will quickly get overwhelmed. Don't do that to yourself. Just start where you are and do a little each week. I go to the cannery once a month (date night!!), and check out the canner once a month to can at home. And each week when I make my Walmart list, I add a couple of extra things to the list for storage. You will be amazed how quickly you will be able to gather what you need. We got our whole year's supply doing that.

I am a FIRM believer that the Lord wants us to succeed in the endeavor to follow the Prophet and become self reliant. If we put the smallest effort forward, He will double the returns. That's better than any 401k! :)


  1. You are so right - it's about priorities. I'm blessed to have a large house with shelving now, but when we lived in our apartment, I got creative. I didn't use the dishwasher, so I stashed cake mixes and dressing bottles in there. Spaghetti sauce was under the bathroom sink. The shoes in the closet were on top of several boxes of canned fruit.

    I love your idea of the lists of what to eat for each meal. My husband is bad at figuring out what to eat, especially as we don't have a lot of convenience foods around right now. I think I'll try the list idea.

    I'm loving your blog!

  2. Thanks! I like yours too. I checked it out the day you started following mine. I saw your husband lost his job. Sorry! Thank goodness for food storage :)

  3. Again I am so impressed with you! You are my idol. Many hugs and keep up the good work!

  4. My son sleeps on our food storage too. We have those large buckets with sugar and flour stored in them and then those hold up some plywood that makes a platform for the mattress. He's pretty high up off the ground, but we can stack two boxes of the number 10 cans underneath. Not easily accessible, but out of the way.

    My husband also recently built shelving in our tiny storage room underneath our stairs between the studs. I hadn't ever thought of that as usable space, but we were able to put a lot of cans and even my home canning jars fit there. Creates a lot more space you don't even think you have.

  5. I really appreciate you for all the valuable information that you are providing us through your blog.

  6. I went with a software solution for tracking, Food Storage Planner. It really helps a lot.

  7. I saw on the other page, how you store your spices on the back of a cabinet door. I would love to know where you bought those canisters! Thanks.

  8. I bought the containers at our local WinCo grocery store. super cheap. But I bought the little things to attache them to the shelves at our local "Organize It" store. I'm sure you could find them elsewhere, or online.

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