January is an excellent month to do many things. Many people view the start of the year as a way to start over. I view January as a way to take stock of my life and see where I need to improve. I also find that January is an excellent month to tackle your food storage.
Generally, people are home more during the winter, which means we eat more meals at home. It’s easier to meal plan and easier to take time to make meals. Also, you are not in the middle of a growing season or canning for dear life. This is a good time to take stock of your pantries and freezers and eat up anything that will be going out of date.
Some people would call this a pantry challenge. The general rules of a pantry challenge are that you try to go an allotted amount of time (i.e., a month) without buying any groceries or just buying milk and fresh produce. However, in these times, I don’t feel comfortable asking anyone to stop stockpiling food and goods for the sake of a pantry challenge. So I’m changing the rules.
The rules are simple. You make up your own rules for your own pantry challenge. You do what you are comfortable doing, but I know and understand the prepper mindset so I know this will be tough for some of you. However, taking time each year to clean out the old in your pantry and freezer gives you the chance to continually refresh your pantries and freezers. This is important because when the S hits the fan, you don’t want to be wondering if your flour from 2015 is good or not.
While I don’t want to tell you how to do your pantry challenge, I want to give you some tips and ideas on the process you can use to get started. The method I use is pretty simple but can take you a day (or so). However, you will be ready to go when you decide to start.
1. Find a card table, empty counter space, a table, area on the floor, or whatever works for you. This is where you will be putting the food you clear out of your food storage.
2. Time to tackle your food storage. Whether in one area of your home or all over your home, you need to go through your food storage, pantries, and kitchen cabinets. You need to find any food that is expired, about to expire, has been in storage for longer than five years, or that you have waaaaaay too much purchased. You need to put that food on the empty space you have created in #1.
Some of you will proclaim that you have no such food in your food storage. If you are that person, good for you. However, I know we get busy and some things get neglected and overlooked. Now is a good time to make sure that is not happening and you don’t have a package of couscous from 2011 hiding on the top shelf of your kitchen cabinet.
If your food is expired, use caution. Some food is processed well and expiration dates are just suggestions. However, some food does not do well past the expiration date. So use your common sense and do a smell, feel, and taste test. Also, check the packaging for tears, holes, bulging, and dents. If you are not comfortable at all eating it, throw it. Food poisoning and botulism are not the best ways to exit this world.
3. Take inventory of what you still have in storage and what you pulled out of storage to be used up in future meals. This is important because you want to start the year off knowing what you already have on hand to know what you need to buy more of (or not buy more of).
4. With the things you have pulled out of storage, take some time to make lists of meals that could be made from those things. You might want to also taste test a few things to make sure they are still good even if they aren’t expired. Those sunflower seeds from 2013 might need to be fed to the chickens if you know what I mean.
5. Time to tackle the freezers. Pull everything out of the freezers and take an inventory. Put everything into a bag or box that needs to be used up in the freezer. If that is not an option, make a separate list of what needs to be used up first in the freezers to add to your meal plan.
This would also be an ideal time to defrost your freezers. If it is winter outside with temps of 30 degrees F or colder, you can take your food outside in coolers or totes. Your food will stay frozen while you defrost the freezers. That way, if you forget to get back to that project for a few days, your food will still be frozen.
6. Time to make a meal plan. Most people get to this point in a pantry challenge and fail because they fail to make a plan. You need to plan what meals you will be making, how you will be making them, and have a rough idea of when you will be making those meals.
7. Choose a start date and implement your plan. If you make this feel normal, your family will probably complain very little. If you explain why you are doing this, they will probably understand. You can throw in keywords like saving money and food waste so they follow your reasoning.
The rules are your own rules. If you want to go the whole month without grocery shopping, go ahead. If you want to only purchase milk and fresh produce during the month, knock yourself out. If you want to keep stockpiling while making a conscious effort to use up the old food, whatever works. If you’re going to make this last longer than a month, that is great! Basically, the rules are your own so you do you.
Throughout January and February, I will try to post what I will be doing in my food storage and some of the meals I make. I also like to make some snacks and bake if I have time and I will be posting that as well. You can find me just about everywhere, but I will consistently post to Patreon, MeWe, Telegram, Facebook, and Instagram. If you are not following me on one of those sites, feel free to start following me.
Thanks for reading and good luck,