I don’t know about you, but “eat what you store and store what you eat” sounds kind of… well, impractical.
Here’s the problem: there are always thing I will prefer to eat fresh if I have the choice. Like milk, for instance. No way am I going to switch to dried milk in the interests of “rotating my stores.” But if the “Big One” earthquake hit, I might be willing to hold my nose and get used to the taste. (Or give it to a neighbor with kids if I found I really couldn’t hack it.)
Dried milk is kind of an extreme example (or maybe it just is in my mind). For other items, I don’t mind the “shelf storage” version, but I still don’t eat it for one reason or another. I’m fine with potato flakes, for example, but my family doesn’t favor them. In this case, the whole point of keeping potato flakes is that after an earthquake that disrupts the entire multi-state region, the local Freddie’s isn’t going to be dispensing fresh ones for a while — if it’s even still standing.
One solution to all this is to only buy the 30-year-expiration-date hardcore stuff. (I’m pretty sure you can get freeze dried potato flakes in a number 10 can.)
Ok, I see the benefit in that. It takes some dedication, though. You have to go out of your way and be really deliberate and research. It’s also hard to toss in a smallish purchase you can afford this week with that style of disaster prepping. It’s not really a “here and there” thing, if you know what I mean.
I was kind of stumped for a while for this reason. I would feel rightfully awful if I bought food just for the purpose of keeping it around for a while, then tossing it when it went rancid, or otherwise inedible. (I know some things practically last forever regardless of best-by date, but not all of them.)
Eventually I hit on a solution that is arguably kind of expensive in the long term (but in a good way). Actually, it’s kind of obvious, in retrospect.
I picked up some things like canned soup, etc. and marked them clearly with post-it notes as to the month and year of their expiration date. When they start getting near(ish) their date (mostly they were 1-3 years before expiring when I bought them), I donate them to people who will use them. After all, they are shelf stable staples — exactly the sort of thing families in need could use. Then I’ll just replace and repeat.
Of course, that means a can of soup that isn’t being eaten by a hungry child today, because it’s sitting around doing nothing, waiting for a disaster. But there is guaranteed to still be a hungry child who would benefit from it later as well.
It only takes about a year for this system to start semi-regularly feeding healthy food into the food pantry system, and at that point, it has no significant difference from occasionally buying cans of soup and putting them directly in a donation barrel. (After all, it’s still healthy, in date food going to people in need. Money suffers from inflation, but cans of soup don’t. Or at least if they do, you know something has gone really wrong.)
So, in total, it means I go from:
– not having staples on hand
– not giving to people in need (at least in this particular way!)
– Keeping important disaster food items on hand that I don’t regularly eat
– getting a great new way to give (in a way I haven’t made a habit of before)
All around, it’s a win.
So, anyone want to comment and self-righteously tell me how I’m an awful person for not donating the food instantly, or otherwise not immediately giving every cent of my disposable income to people who are in greater need than I am?
Or if you have even more out-of-the-box thinking on food storage, I would love to hear that too.