Rotating Food Storage
I've come to learn how important this is because we just went through our sad little food storage at the new year to find a whole box of some food that is uncomfortably expired. Here are a few tips that I plan to enact myself to make sure there's no waste:
1. Buy a varied food storage. There are the "long term" items (HERE is a list of items that will easily last 30+ years when stored correctly) and there are "short term" food storage items (i.e. your favorite pasta sauce when it's on sale-stock up and they'll have likely 1-3 years until expiration)---get a mix of both long term and short term items. A big rule is always to get items you actually like-especially with the short term items since you will have to eat them more often to avoid spoilage.
2. FIFO-An acronym I learned in culinary school-First In, First Out. Take the time when you're unloading the groceries to put them on the shelves according to expiration. Remember that just because you bought one later than the other doesn't necessarily mean the expiration is later, you never know. Take the time and don't get disappointed down the road to find the one in the back to be "uncomfortably expired".
3. Schedule regular inventory. I'm thinking on a quarterly basis, or at least twice a year, we're going to do an inventory. See what we have, and see what needs to be used up sooner than later. When looking through our food storage around new year's I took out all of the expired food or foods that would expire within the next month. My husband and I agreed on what to toss and what was ok. I prioritized foods to eat and for the month of January our challenge is to try and buy as few groceries as possible, and go off of our food storage to use up items that might be expiring soon or looking like they've been in the storage freezer too long. It has been a fun challenge for me to plan a menu (something I'm usually terrible at) and look up new recipe ideas just to use up the stuff we need to.
4. Plan long term menu additions. You might do a great job of stocking up on 30 cans of pinto beans for the future, and they last 30 or more years....but in 30 years, assuming you haven't needed to get into your long term storage, what will you do with 30 whole cans of beans?! One of my goals for this year is to plan a rotating menu so this isn't an issue. Plan a couple of recipes that incorporate long term food storage items. Eat them once every month or two. Calculate it out so every year you will consume and then replace just 1 can of those 30 cans of pinto beans and you'll keep a fresh rotation! Not to mention-a lot of people don't necessarily cook with dry beans, they take the short cut and use canned beans. It's good to be able to actually cook with your items and make something you know you'll enjoy as well as something that will sustain you in need. Some people don't love the idea of storing white rice in food storage because of its lack of nutrition compared to brown rice or other rices...but the fact of the matter is that white rice doesn't spoil as easily as others-perhaps buy some white rice for long term storage, brown rice for short term, make a pilaf with both, and you'll be just fine ;)
5. Search out and have printed recipes. You'll be amazed at what you can do with food storage items. I've seen youtube videos on how to turn nonfat dry milk into yogurt and cheese-things you definitely wouldn't think to be able to enjoy in an emergency! Especially when you are going through your inventory-this is a great time to get creative with what you need to use up. PRINT those recipes! That's one thing I know I'm slacking on. Sure, I have them pinned on pinterest, or bookmarked on my browser...but in an emergency where we don't have power, I'm in serious trouble!
I hope these little tips have helped you think about how you manage your food storage, I know putting it down in words has helped me come up with a more concrete plan! Here's a little bonus for you:
Last week I had a bit of a dinner party-13 people to feed at my little apartment...where there are usually just 2 of us. It was a blast and I was so grateful for my food storage inventory because most of our meal was made with those "should be used soon" items. We had a favorite of mine-Chicken Curry Broccoli over rice as well as a layered jello dessert. With the curry, it called for cans of cream of chicken soup. I had the exact number needed of cream of mushroom soup that needed to be used and it made a tasty substitution. Of course rice was plenty as well ;) I don't actually eat jello that often but I must have gotten several boxes on good sales before. They were in the "need to eat stash" and so was evaporated milk-exactly what a recipe I found called for! It took forever to make the layered jello but it was so fun and tasty-and the crowd loved it!
Basically, make up half of a flavor/color as usual, pour it into your dish(es), wait half an hour (refrigerated) for a soft set. With the other half of that flavor/color, mix according to the instructions but add evaporated milk for the cold water portion. Keep going as many times as you'd like with different colors and flavors!