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Food Storage Tips: Organizing all of this stuff

Organizing your food storage–in other words, knowing where everything is and being able to put your hands on a particular item quickly–is important. If it’s not organized, it’s not useful. You can’t use the food to rotate it if you don’t know where it is.

I learned this again last week. I still don’t know where the kidney beans are in my basement. It’s making me mad.

It also takes organization to know when to restock.

Organizing home storage: Knowing where everything is

Label, label, label. Label the top and sides of the box or bucket. I had to move around a bunch of heavy buckets last week because a label wasn’t on the side of the bucket. When you stack the buckets, make sure the label is facing outward when the buckets are stacked. Put a date on the label. We buy 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of printer labels and use those to label our food. Sometimes I use a date stamp from an office supply store to more quickly date the labels.

Keep like items together. It’s easier to find items if the baking items are together, the canned vegetables are together, the pastas are together, and so on.

Make sure you can see the item from the front of the shelf. We don’t have any fancy Shelf Reliance-type can dispensers, so we just put things on the shelf, newest in back. We like to stack the cans so they are one can wide, two or three cans high, and 10 (or so) cans deep, to the back of the shelf. This way we can fit a whole case of food on the shelf with just the width of one can. That way we can see at a glance what items we have, without having to dig to the back of the shelf. I like to turn the cans so the labels are facing forward (a little trick I picked up from a home staging book). That does make it easier to see what you have, but it’s a little neurotic.

Keep records. This is especially important if you have to use creative storage ideas that are not easily accessible. Keep a page in a household notebook that records where the different items are.

Keeping inventory: Knowing when you need to buy more

Keep a master list of staples you like to have on hand. I got this idea from Marie Ricks, a speaker on household organization at BYU’s Education Week. She suggests doing an annual inventory of your storage. To make this easier, make a master list of everything you want to stock in your home store. I made an Excel document that lists everything, from big items like wheat or canned tomatoes, to small things that are easy to overlook, like unflavored gelatin and vanilla extract and soy sauce. I also wrote up a rough guess of how much of each item is a year’s supply of that item.

Use that list to take inventory periodically. When it is time to restock the food storage, I print out this form and walk around the storage room, jotting down about how many cans I have of the different items. I notice which piles are low and what we need to restock. From that inventory list, I make up a separate shopping list of the items I need to restock. I might separate that shopping list by store: some items are best bought at Costco, others at case lot sales. I watch for good deals on those items over the next couple of months.

I dread taking inventory each year, because it seems like it will be a lot of work. I am usually surprised that once I decide to do it, I’m done in a half hour. With the pre-printed form it doesn’t take long.

I’ve read about systems that keep track of how many cans you have at all times, that require you to mark when you take an item from storage. That seems like way too much work to me. I don’t need to know how much I have at all times; I just need to know that I have roughly enough for a year or so. A quick look at the storage room once a year is good enough for me.

How do you organize your storage?

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