What’s in YOUR cupboards? No really, don’t tell me, I don’t want to know. The amount of food on hand varies from household to household. Everyone was brought up with different levels of food comfort. And people who get paid regular and have ready access to groceries can get by with a lot less food taking up space in their apartment. People who get paid irregularly or have to make a trek to bring home the bacon, should and often do keep more on hand, especially those of us in the snow belt.
“But I’m only one person, I don’t need to have that much stuff around the house.” In many ways, keeping a few weeks or months of cupboard food on hand is like having another emergency bank account. If you DON’T get paid on time, or your vehicle fails you, or you get snowed in, or your break a leg, you will at least eat. The obverse of that is, with only one consumer, wastage does have to be taken into account. It can take as little as $1 to $5 dollars extra a week to quickly build up a good safety level of stored foods. Especially if you take advantage of sales and seasons.
There are like a bazillion websites on the internet devoted to ‘prepping’ and stockpiling and couponing…..this ain’t that..this is just what a good old fashioned Yankee family had socked away someplace in the house, usually in a cupboard near the laundry room. A small abode can usually find some extra space to store some extra essentials like toilet-paper and kidney beans – check under the furniture. It is also a great joy to quickly make up a care package from your larder for anyone who suddenly finds themselves in need.
#LOYO rule 1: don’t buy things you won’t eat, sardines are a great little bundles of protein and omega-3 that last forever, but if you just made a face, don’t waste them or your money.
#LOYO rule 2: don’t buy things you won’t consume within a reasonable time frame, you will be eating this food not ignoring it, so don’t buy a case of beans unless you will go through it.
The idea is to have at least ONE extra of something on hand, and when you open the spare one, you add the item to the bottom of your shopping list. And since you aren’t out completely, you don’t need to buy it until it’s on sale or you have the extra cash. For instance condiments go on sale in summer and before football weekends – so you could pick up your extra at that time. Obviously one would keep MORE on hand of consumables like toilet paper, shampoo, coffee filters, sugar, tea etc…
According to the USDA, high-acid canned goods, like tomatoes and citrus fruits, will keep for up to 1½ years. Low-acid canned goods—that’s pretty much everything else, including vegetables, meat, and fish—will last for up to 5 years. Canned and boxed goods also carry expiration guestimates. Marking them when you first shelve them, is WAY easier than trying to read embossed letters or smudged ink later on.
Case in point: I keep a box gingerbread/cookie mix on hand during the year, it makes a good emergency thing to bring to someone’s house. When it goes on sale at the holidays, I buy a few more to make gift cookies and by labeling the expiration dates on the side, I make sure I am using the oldest one first.
Dry goods where the expiration is very important, such as oatmeal, flour, or baking mix can be transferred to airtight containers and last 6-8 months. Extra can be stored in a freezer to extend its life, yeast should always be in the freezer. Pasta will keep for ages, it will keep longer if moved from cardboard to glass….but packets of dried cheese powder has a definite expiration date. Highly salted things like dried potato and noodle entrees keep longer because of the salt. (I will make no derogatory comments about their consumption.) And nearly everything will keep longer if kept in a cool dry dark place. BTW if you are gonna store boxed goods under the bed or in a closet, put them in a plastic storage box first…and you know why.
When it comes to moving your larder, I have one piece of advice…don’t. Donate it all and start from scratch. Pick and choose the choicest items, items you are going to dig into right away in your new digs, perhaps make up a box of your first week’s meals. But as for the rest, box it and donate it, or put it on craigslist for someone less fortunate. The time and energy spent lugging it to your new home isn’t worth it, you will have so many other things to do. And what happens is that the ‘extra’ food doesn’t get unboxed right away or at all, making the expiration dates pointless. Your storage space allocations will be up in the air for months, putting the boxes outside of your living space becomes problematic…(experienced that when my newly cemented basement flooded and my stockpile was underwater….i’m still opening rusty sardine cans.) Just donate it and move on.
Great, now I’m all hungry.