Today, right after Sacrament, I was asked by our Food Storage person to give a 2-3 minute talk on "How I use my food storage:|"
First, she wanted me to give it in less than an hour...TWICE... and second she was asking someone who gets panic attacks (for real) when people look at her funny. She knows that I buy bulk items from the cannery from her each year when I can, and that I am on a strict budget and rotate food storage
But despite misgivings, I said yes.
Auntie Flo had made a surprise visit during sacrament, so I rushed home during what is essentially the 'Sunday School' portion of church, and got supplies. Jumping on the computer I quickly wrote down the salient points I wanted to cover in my "Using food storage". I made it short and sweet and covered the highlights of what I am about to write for you. It went really well and I enjoyed it. I do love to teach about couponing and food storage.
The main things I wanted to cover is planning. Spur of the moment has it's place in eating, but it wastes food to do it everyday and all month and year long. You can't rotate AS successfully the food you have without planning ahead to a certain extent.
So, the first thing I did when I started rotating my food inventory was to TAKE inventory.
This gives you a basis on which to plan out menus. If you have powdered milk, you need to plan to use that in some way to use it up. Dried eggs? Make sure you plan to use them in baking. Beans? Soups. Whatever...plan. When you do your menu and you find out that you never use pinto beans once and your family HATES them...find another home for that food.
So how do you plan out a YEARS worth of menus? One bite at a time!
First, my kids and I sat down and brainstormed all the meals that we could think of that we as a family likes. (Or that I THOUGHT they liked...big surpises were ahead). I put all the meals on 3x5 cards. For instance a card says: Chicken Pot Pie, Mom's cucumber Salad, Peach brown betty, Milk. Another one says: Sausage, rice with beans, carrots (from dehydrated), salad, oranges. I made about 50 menus for dinner and about the same amounts for breakfast and lunch. It isn't as hard as it sounds -- you KNOW what you like to eat! I didn't naysay ANY of the menu ideas the kids had (that comes later).
So we had the basic cards. Next was that hard thing that is called "Listening to the Truth...it sometimes hurts". LOL The kids and I 'voted' on the menu ideas. Chili was voted down, so was my favorite meal -- STEW! I never knew that not one of my kids liked stew! Bad mama. Found out my older daughter doesn't like spaghetti, but she was outvoted and we have a spaghetti dinner night once a month. We trimmed the total number of cards down to 31 for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We tweeked it until it fit us. Now we had one menu for each day of month. Some of the 'favorite meals' for each of the children that were outvoted were put down on the lunch menu. (Like my stew!) There are four of us. If two people voted for and two against, it was put in the 'lunch pile' there had to be three people voting for a dinner to make it to the menu.
On each of the card the menu ingredients were listed out, as well as basic preperation needs -- like Jello can't be made THAT NIGHT, you have to make it the day before. Meat has to be taken out and put in the fridge two days before. Salad prep is going to take about X number of minutes, meat has to be put in X number of minutes before dinner -- this is for my kids sake. You can pretty much do this automatically, but sometimes reminders help.
Next comes the hard part. It takes some effort, but only has to be done once (snort - unless you have guests move in on you, or your family grows). I went through the cards, and listed all the ingredients THAT ARE STORABLE on each of the cards, and then, multiplied by 12 -- once for every month of the year! So, for the menu : Beef roast, Salad, potatoes, carrots, and Orange drink mix. The list looks like this:
- 12 Jello, assorted flavors. (pantry)
- 12 beef roasts (freezer)
- 12 tablespoons of garlic/herbal seasoning mix (panty, seasoning)
- 12 T salt (pantry)
- 6 t pepper (pantry)
- 12 bottles of salad dressing (assorted flavors) (pantry)
- 48 servings dyhydrated carrots (#10 can is approximately 41 servings) (Pantry)
- 72 servings of orange drink mix (from the cannery, 44 servings in each plastic pouch)
Once I got past that massive amount of time consuming WORK...and let me tell you it is time consuming figuring out portion sizes, guessing or by experience knowing that at least two of your kids are going to have a second cup of juice, finding out how many servings are in a can of peas etc...
Now comes the next part of the fun.
Make a 'Year's Master Ingredient list'. You go through all the cards, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and you add up the number of times you need the CORE INGREDIENTS that are STORAGE for the ENTIRE YEAR. Now two of my kids eat lunch at school. I need to plan for that. Also I have to plan as much as I can for holidays and days off from school, like summer and spring breaks.
Then you make seperate MONTHLY lists of fresh ingredients for when you go through for each month's grocery shopping.
Now comes the more interesting part. Planning ahead.
You now have a list of all the pantry items you will need for an ENTIRE YEAR of meals. It probably will take you the better part of 6-12 hours or MORE to put this all together. It is worth it though. Tailor it to YOUR needs. Tinker with it until you get it right for you! You might want a goal of just 1 month or 3 months> My short term goal is a year. My LONG TERM goal is 7 years.
Now, make a menu for the next month. Use your cards, you plug in the menu items and the date and if you have multiple people responsible for cooking, who is cooking etc. Mine looks like this ( I was going to post a month of menu items but the coding doesn't work. Pfft.). So a DAY of my menu looks like this:
BREAKFAST (make it yourself) LUNCH (Mom) DINNER AND CLEAN UP: Ricky
cereal Soup (canned) Roased chicken
Milk crackers Green beans
Fresh fruit koolaide Rice pilaf
peaches Corn muffins
Fruit drink mix
Just on a side note, my kids 11, 12, almost 13, all cook twice a week (with my help and guidance). I cook once, and help them. However they know how to make all the items on the menu. We rotate the items and the KIDS get to look at their calendars and pick the day they're going to cook. If something comes up, THEY are responsible for finding someone to cook for them that day, and if they can't find someone they trade with me...I hate that. LOL! My day to cook is Sunday. The kids look at the calendar and choose what days they want to cook each week. (Wednesdays for now are by default always my daughter Tya's because Ricky has Scouting and Katy has Young Womens on that night.)
My kids and I are responsible to making sure the menu is 'Stuck to'. Sometimes it is hard, because people forget to get their card out and plan ahead. Sometimes we have to switch around menus because meat didn't get taken out. However, it IS flexible, because you have food for the entire MONTH in the house!
When you are only doing a WEEKS plan at a time, you can buy your fresh vegetables and items on sale. Look for the best buys and buy those. If tomatoes are on sale this week, buy what you need for next week as firm as you can so they can ripen for NEXT week.
Couponing and Buying in bulk: I buy a lot with coupons. Sometimes I BUY coupons when there is a good sale. For instance, I had 1$ manufacturers coupons for Garnier Fructis shampoo. It went on sale at the local pharmacy for 1.99. There was a store coupon for 1$ off -- I combined the coupons and got the shampoo free. I regularly save 40-90% off my food budget from couponing alone.
I barter, trade, beg, glean, pick friends and families fruit trees. and I garden (this is new to me here in AZ). Also I purchase things in bulk and when I am able, I use a Tilia Food saver that I bought 10 years ago, to repackage large amounts of food into jars or bags. I water bath can fruits, juices, and jellies and jams. I dehydrate items with my L'quip food dehydrator that a friend helped me to buy! I make bread crumbs and croutons and my own salad dressings. I frequently get things from the food bank (buying it at a low cost to me) and have to use what is given or save, freeze or preserve what has been given to me.
When I can afford one, I will be getting a canner. Then I will be canning meats for the year, vegetables, soups, and sauces. In short, I do EVERYTHING I can to reduce my ultimate outgo and food budget. Hope some of this information can help you do the same.