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Managing Your Food Supply – Inventory, Label, And Rotate

Food storage is one of the most important aspects of prepping and survival planning. Even if you have a nice homestead set up with a garden and livestock, you should be prepared with stored foods. This can include canned goods, dried goods, preserved meats, and the fruits of your own garden, canned and preserved. And, of course, don’t forget water. If you have a year’s worth of food stored in couple of different locations around your homestead as well as a garden and animals, you are in an excellent position for when society falls.

Getting your food storage going by preserving your harvest and purchasing supplemental canned and dried foods is just the beginning, though. There is no point in keeping all of that food if you are not managing your inventory. Without proper management, you may find when the time comes that you are lacking certain nutrients in your supply. Or, worse, you may find that you have let a good portion of your food go bad without replacing it. With the right plan that includes labeling, inventorying, and rotating your foods, you can keep your supply organized, fresh, and up to date.

Taking Inventory

The first step in good food storage management is knowing what you have. Taking inventory is something that you should do along the way as you add to your stocks. However, if you began storing without keeping a record, you can remedy that by taking an inventory. That could be a big job if you already have a big supply, so get the whole family involved and make a day of it.

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Inventorying simply means making a record of what you have. It could be a simple list of everything, but a more useful record is one that is organized in some way. For instance, you could organize your inventory by food type: canned, dried, vegetables, fruits, meats, spices, and so on. You could also do an alphabetical list of everything in storage. The way you choose to organize it in your record, however, should mimic what you actually have in the storage area. If you are not happy with how your foods are arranged, change the set up while you take inventory and make the record match what you actually see.

Alphabetical order is one way in which to keep your inventory, but it is not necessarily practical for your food storage. The alphabet has nothing to do with the storage needs of a food. It is more helpful to store foods according to their types. Alphabetizing, though, can be useful when you need to find information about a food quickly. Consider keeping an inventory that matches your food arrangement in storage, but also a list of your stock in alphabetical order. You can do this easily if you create your inventory on a spreadsheet. The software can quickly alphabetize your list and create a second document so that you have two records in no time. Making updates on a spreadsheet is also easy. As you make changes to the stock, changes to your document are simple and quick to make. Of course, you cannot count on having power for your computer, so be sure to print out your updated inventory from time to time.

Also consider creating a map of your storage areas. You can keep these at the entrance to the food storage for quick access to exactly what you are looking for. The map need not be detailed, but label it with the main groupings of your foods and the different types within each grouping. For instance, label the canned vegetable section and the types of vegetables within that section so you can find what you want quickly or send someone else to find what you need.

Labeling

Once you have a good inventory of your food storage area and have organized them in the manner that you find most useful, it’s time to label everything. Labeling is important even if you have cans with labels already on them. Your own labels can give you quick and vital information about each food such as what it is, when you stored it, and when it is expected to expire. With a simple yet effective labeling system, you will not have to search each can for the small-printed expiration date. And you can determine your own expiration dates, as the ones given are often conservative estimates.

Buy labels, or make your own with blank stickers and your printer, that will allow you to record the information you want to know about each food item. This should include the name of the food. Be as descriptive as you feel you need to be, but keep in mind that your labels should give you a quick method for seeing what you have. Also include the date that you put the food in storage and the date at which you expect it to expire. The latter will be an estimate, so keep in mind that you may need to check a food before you throw it away. Read up on the shelf life of various foods so that you can make the most accurate expiration estimate possible.

For a very quick way to note the age of your foods, use small, colored stickers. Circle stickers in a variety of colors are useful for this. On the wall make a chart that describes the meaning of each color and then label the foods with the appropriate sticker. Each color, for example, could refer to the approximate date at which you stored the food, or the time at which the food will expire. For long-lasting foods, each color can represent a different year. For short-term foods, each color can stand for a different month. In addition to a more detailed label, the colored stickers give you information at a glance.

Rotating

Rotating your foods in storage is the final, yet most important part of your plan. If you simply collect foods and leave them in place, they will all go bad. You should be constantly using and replenishing your supply to keep it up to date. Use your short-term storage items most frequently and your longer-lasting foods less frequently to be most efficient. The basic principle behind using and replacing your food items is simple: put the new stuff in the back and eat from the front. As you use an item, push the whole row forward and put a new item at the back of the line.

To be successful at rotating, you need to have a very tidy and well-organized storage area. Each food item should be stored in a line with the newest and freshest representative at the back of the line. Depending on how much you have, you may need more than one line for each item, which means that you will need to order from left to right as well. When you use up the row on the far right, push the other rows of items over and create a new row on the left with new items. For cans, you can purchase or make shelves that slant forward. That way, when you take out the first can in a row, the other cans will roll forward, leaving you an empty spot in the back for a new can. Having the colored stickers is helpful when considering rotation. A quick glance at the colors will tell you if your cans and other foods are still in the correct order or if they have gotten mixed up.

Make sure you use your stored foods. Whatever you store should be foods that you actually intend to eat. If not, they will sit there collecting dust and will expire. Supplement your diet of fresh vegetables and fruits from your garden and fresh dairy, eggs, and meat from your animals with canned, preserved, and dried foods from storage. By using your stored foods, you will not only keep your supply fresh and up to date, you will also be forced to keep an eye on it daily to keep it organized and well-labeled.

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