With food prices rising sharply, buying food in bulk when it’s on sale is an excellent money-saving strategy. However, any savings may be lost if you don’t have an efficient system for organizing and using stored food. Wasted food equals wasted money.
Over the years, I’ve developed a food storage system that works very well for me in my small home. I follow the “first in – first out” rule. Newly purchased food goes behind the existing supply, so that the oldest food always gets eaten first. In my kitchen, I store dry goods in my pantry, and canned goods in one of my upper cabinets. I organize canned goods neatly by expiration date, fronted and faced forward (like at the grocery store), so I can always see exactly what I have:
We run a dehumidifier in this room, to ensure that the cans don’t rust (rusty cans have a tendency to leak). Also, please note that food products are stored on one side, and non-food products are on the other side. This is for safety reasons, to help reduce the risk of chemical contamination.
Dry food staples such as flour, crackers, cake mixes, and seasonings should be stored in a cool, dry place, in their original packages or tightly closed airtight containers. I particularly like these $1 glass containers from Dollar General. The screw-on lid makes a nice, air-tight seal:
I store my spices together in one closed cabinet, in tightly sealed containers, arranged alphabetically. I have tons of herbs and spices – if I didn’t have some kind of system, I would never be able to find what I’m looking for! My spice cabinet is located far from all appliances, because heat, air and light cause aromatic oils to evaporate, which causes spices and herbs to lose their flavor. I bought the rotating baby food organizer on the bottom shelf for 25 cents at a garage sale. I took the top part off, and it makes a nice, two-tiered organizer for small spice containers:
I use my garage freezer a lot. Few people realize the wide variety of foods that can be successfully frozen. In addition to meats and garden surplus, I also freeze margarine, bulk cheeses, coffee, flour, rice and other dry goods because they stay fresh longer. Some things don’t freeze well, such as mayonnaise, cream sauces and lettuce. To learn more about freezing guidelines for food, I highly recommend the book, “Will It Freeze” by Joan Hood.
My freezer used to be a disorganized mess until I bought 6 plastic milk crates, to bring order to the cavernous space (note all the frozen breast milk. Babycakes would NEVER take a bottle of expressed milk, so I built up quite a surplus. I tried to donate it to a milk bank, but they wouldn’t take it because it was too old. Yet, I can’t bring myself to throw it out!)
My husband cut the top two crates down to fit, and they’re a perfect, inexpensive solution to my freezer mess. The bottom two contain meats, the middle two contain fruits and vegetables, and the top two contain baking supplies and other miscellaneous items. They’re lightweight, and I can easily lift and move them:
Each time I bring in an item from the garage freezer, I put an X in one of the blanks on my inventory sheet. This inventory tracking helps me with menu planning and grocery list making, and ensures that we eat a variety of foods.
My bulk shopping and food storage systems save a lot of money, and they allowed us to eat from our pantry for 7 weeks during The Pantry Challenge. These systems really work!
To learn more about food storage and safety, including a handy chart of storage times, see this detailed article from FoodSafety.gov. For more information on bulk shopping, read my article, “Thrifty Tip #7 – Buy in Bulk.”