Inventory your stored food

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by Wendy S. Delmater, Peak Prosperity:

One of the chores you can do in the winter season is to inventory your stored food. Whether  it’s dehydrated, canned or frozen, it all has an expiration date. 

I always start my inventory with frozen things, since they have the shortest shelf life. I don’t have a lot of this sort of storage, since I like to keep the amount of frozen things below what I can can immediately if there is an extended power outage – for whatever reason. You’ve been labeling everything so you know how old it is, right?

  Individual portions of chopped bell peppers from 2017's garden, and ground beef, labeled for the freezer.
Individual portions of chopped bell peppers from 2017’s garden, and ground beef, labeled for the freezer.

Clean out the entire freezer and change the box of baking soda that pulls odors from the freezer. Set the items you need to use up right away into the refrigerator, and plan your next few meals around them. IMPORTANT. When in doubt about freezer burn, cook the ingredients separately and see how it tastes before adding it to any other ingredients. That way, if it tastes “off ” you only throw away that one item.

Next are the home-canned goods. I keep mine in the dining room, under a side table. It’s cooler near the floor and that means they keep longer in my hot climate than in the pantry. 

The clipboard at the start of this post is several pages long, and when I use something up, I note it on the clipboard. When I do my inventory, I put anything that needs to be used up soon on the kitchen counter and use those until they’re gone. NOTE: If you still have a lot of something, then don’t plant as much the next year. If you ran out, plant and can more of it. IMPORTANT: bulged and leaking home-canned goods can kill you. Throw them out! A certain percentage of spoilage is normal. 

Next is the dried or dehydrated food. There are a lot of dried things in mason jars in the same area as the home canned food: dried figs, dried apples, sun-dried tomatoes, fruit leathers, dried blueberries, spices, and roasted nuts. They all go on the inventory sheets. I find it useful to put a silica gel desiccant in each dried fruit jar. I also jar the nuts hot, in hot dry jars, and they form a natural seal that makes them last longer. (You may have other dried things like grains, elsewhere. You ARE using those up, right? They will not last forever.) These also go into your inventory. 

Finally, there is the pantry. If might you have a problem with insects for goods, like flour and sugar, those items need to go in metal or thick plastic containers. Plastic bags will not provide as much protection. If you FIND insect problems, throw all of the affected foods out, wash inside the cabinet, and I like to spray with a bug killer that will not harm humans (neem oil). 

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