In addition to our year’s supply of basic staple foods, we have been counseled to keep on hand three months’ worth of the foods that we usually eat. To keep these foods fresh and useable, you will want to rotate through them more frequently—yearly is adequate for most items. This supply may include canned and shelf-stable items, frozen foods, dehydrated and freeze-dried foods. While it may be impractical to purchase, store and rotate a year’s supply of these items, three months will be a reachable goal for most households. This will be sufficient to weather most short-term crises or to make necessary adjustments if facing a longer-term setback.
Deciding what to store.
One approach is to plan three months of meals that your family typically eats and create a list of ingredients from these menus. You can be sure that you will have exactly three months’ worth of food as well as having meals already planned for a time of crisis.
Another approach is to track how long it takes to get through a flat of diced tomatoes, a dozen eggs, a bottle of ketchup, etc. then multiply to determine how much will be required to cover three months. This approach requires a bit less up-front planning, but may require a bit more creativity should you need to live off your stores.
Once you have your list, purchase a few items every week until you have completed your storage. This can be a little slow, but is easy on the budget. You can also take advantage of bonuses and tax refunds to build up this supply more quickly—not glamorous, but a great load-off-your-mind way to spend these funds. We will often spend our Costco rebate check to replenish or expand this storage.
Rotation and storage.
Use a permanent marker to write the month and year of purchase or expiration (either way, just be consistent!) directly on your packages to tell at a glance which need to be used first.
When you do your grocery shopping, purchase the items you would use for the week, but then date and place the new items in storage and use the oldest from your stores. This way you will maintain your storage with fresh items.
As your rotation will be more frequent, ideal storage conditions may not be as critical. I have often set up shelves in the laundry room or garage, knowing that my canned goods will only have to withstand the heat and/or humidity for a couple of months before they are used and replaced.