So, I generally stock up on food and whatnot in the fall (like a squirrel). The goal is to have enough to get through spring without having to do a big grocery shop. The issue has been lack of organization in planning and storing this so that it was the right amount and I actually used it. When you don't know where things are, you don't use them up. By "you" I mean "me."
A couple of weeks ago I spent a couple of hours gathering together everything I had that was canned (home canned) or dried and stored. There were a few things from 2008 and a few that had lost their integrity (broken seals) and some that it was now clear that I won't use up (too many dried plums). Those jars were emptied into the compost to grow again in a new form next year.
The rest, including this year's canning and drying products, were grouped by type on the living room floor. It was all in jars so no carpets were harmed in the process.
Then, I counted and catalogued the whole she-bam.
I took a day to think about how long this stuff could last me. Prices for fruit and veg are highest in the late winter/ early spring so I figured it would be most frugal to eat the most canned/dried/stored stuff from January through April.
Then I assessed my total amounts. It looked like it would break up into 7 groups fairly evenly and any extra good would go into the January through April groups.
Finally, I found 7 sturdy boxes. They are fairly uniform in size, fruit boxes, but not entirely so the biggest ones were for the January through April months. I labeled the ends and lined them up in a semi-circle around the goods.
A bit more math...and I knew how much would go in each box. Then the divy-ing began. I started with canned and dried tomatoes since I had the most of those and they are a real staple item in my cooking. This ensures a pretty steady stream of good tomatoes for soup, stew, chili and salsa all winter, with extra in the usual months.
The few odds and ends, like 2 small jars of dried onions, were put in those late winter month boxes too.
I made sure there were 2 or more jars of apple butter or other sweet treat in each box, with 3 in the late winter boxes when there will be less cheap fresh and local fruit available.
You get the picture.
Once everything was divided up, I of course ran across one last box of perfectly usable canned and dried goods that I'd missed! Darn it! But a jar of dried hot or medium peppers got to go into each month's box, which will make for much better chili.
The 7 boxes were then lined up under my bed in order...of course I didn't plan all that well as getting to the "November" box this afternoon will require me to move 2 other boxes. I will reverse the line-up order next year so that the "November" box is the easiest to get to.
There are other stored items I'll need to remember. The potatoes, onions and squash are all in the front bedroom/root cellar. The bedroom isn't exactly warm (about 51-55 degrees) but the temperature fluxuates all the way up into the 60s on a sunny winter day and I don't want to do that to the stored vegies. Those will stay in the north bedroom in cold storage. I love potatoes and onions so I don't think I'll forget them. I haven't devised a system for how many per month I can consume, but given that they also tend to go soft at variable rates, I'll just try to stay ahead of the rot.
I didn't get many squash, only about 5 or so, this year due to scheduling problems (couldn't get to the final day of farmers market when they are cheap) so I'll have to see what can be done with other things.
I also have quite a bit stuffed in the freezer. It's just the freezer above the fridge, but I must have 30lbs of meat in there (chicken, lamb, pork and beef) along with frozen fruit mush from making shrubs (more on that in another post) and various other fruit/vegie things. I tried to do a better job of labeling and packaging this year. Meats were divided into single servings where possible (don't really want to do that with a roast), well wrapped and labeled. The fruit/vegies were similarly divided and labeled.
I left basic condiments, dried beans, grains, flours, and my stock of zevia brand pop in the cupboard and on the kitchen shelves. I may move the Zevia to the monthly boxes so I don't drink it all at once. I don't usually buy a case at at time but will write a blog on why I did this time.
Now the plan is to get out a box on the first of each month and try to use it up before I get the next one out. This should cut down on my waste as well as keep me from eating out as much in the winter. I can't decide if I should put the food on the kitchen shelf unit, or put the box on the kitchen table like a center piece so I can remember to use it up. Probably the latter this year. That way I can track what does and doesn't get used, what I had too much or not enough of, etc.