Good afternoon all! I can't believe we are currently being burried under snow and it's not even Halloween yet! Since we are all freezing and baking like crazy to keep warm, I thought I'd give some tips on one of my most common questions from mom's getting into couponing - how to store everything so it doesn't go bad.
This seems like a no brainer, but in reality it takes some creativity to get the tons of food you can purchase to last as long as possible. If you've ever seen TLC's Extreme Couponing show, you've probably noticed the people often have large stores of food and supplies that they got either free or pennies on the dollar. The amount of stock a person chooses to have is usually based on organization and space. I live in a tiny 2 bedroom apartment with my DH, 2 kids and 2 cats. Technically it's a one bedroom apartment; but my DH and I sleep on the couch/fouton so it's a mix of bedroom/livingroom. There are also only 2 small closets - 1 in the kitchen (a small pantry that is about 2 feet wide and about 1 foot deep), and 1 in the livingroom/my bedroom that is super tiny - only as wide as the standard door and about 12 inches deep - it's literally as deep as a standard hanger! So storage space is at a premium. Many people would asume that I would have no stock but they would be wrong. I've just learned how to store food so that it doesn't go bad and so that it takes up the least amount of space.
1. I only keep a few things in my actual pantry - usually up to 3 of our most commonly used items - spaghetti sauce jars, salad dressing, potatos, rice, etc, the rest is kept in the 'stock' room. I organize the 4 shelves and the floor so that the things the kids use are lowest. The pantry breaks down as follows: Top shelf = cleaners (1 bottle of each), laundry detergent, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, ziplock bags, garbage bags, aluminum baking pans (the disposable kind). Shelf 2 =(mom & dad shelf lol) chex mix, chip dip, salad dressing, bottles of soda (as the kids aren't allowed soda), snack items for us not the kids, etc. Shelf 3 = Jars & Cans...soup, spaghetti sauce, container of speghetti noodles, etc. Shelf 4 = (kids shelf) snack items, chips, granola bars, cereal, drink mixes, juice boxes, etc. Floor = large seasonings, potatoes, larger items.
2. As you can see from #1 group things together by use or type. Spaghetti is taken out of their boxes and added to a tupperware spaghetti noodle container. Same goes for rice.
3. Take things out of bulky packaging. I like things in clear stackable containers. If the kids want a fruit snack, then they can grab the fruit snack container and grab one then put the container back. This keeps from getting tons of empty boxes from collecting in the corners.
4. My obsession - the label machine! I label the shelves so the kids know where everything goes. I also label the stackable containers so they are easy to grab.
5. We are a coffee, hot cocoa, and tea loving family. I purchased a shoe organizer, the kind that hangs over a door and hung it on the pantry door - each pocket holds a different type of drink....k-cups of coffee, tea, etc. Hot Cocoa packets, coffee grounds (in ziplock of course..lol) etc. It keep it all organized and out of the way. And it holds a lot!
Stock Room Tips:
1. Remove most food from packaging. Generally speaking, most pantry items like cereal, for instance, has a sealed bag and the bag is then in a box. If an item has more than one part - like those casseroles in the boxes, there are packets of seasoning, pouches, etc. I keep these in the boxes. But most things I take out of packaging - all packaging except air-tight.
2. Rubbermaid containers - I generally have a rubbermaid container that I use for cereals - I take the bags out of all the boxes, in permanent marker I write the date of purchase and the name of the cereal on the bag. When I buy more cereal I put it at the bottom of the tub so the older cereal gets eaten first. This container is stored in our storage room (aka dining room...lol...but out table is in the kitchen). It doesn't seem like there would be much of a difference, but it saves a bit of space. If you don't have a tub then I'd probably keep them in the boxes and stack them on a shelf and I'd write the date of purchase on the part of the box easily visible. But the tubs are stackable and I can Label the container with what goes inside! (love my label maker..lol). This way I can organize by use - Breakfast Items, Dinner Items (ie. Taco stuffs, casserole in boxes, etc. ) Cleaners, Snacks, Paper products...These containers keep things dry and out of the way! We only have 5 but they hold TONS of stuff and they stack out of the way.
3. Metal Racks - You can pick up a sturdy metal rack at Home Depot for not too much money. I use this to organize baking items, as we go through these fast and I don't keep them in the pantry so I need easy access. I also put most of this stuff in ziplock bags - flour, sugar, etc. I'll label the bag with date of purchase. I just feel keeping them in the ziplock helps to extend the life of the item. Flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, etc is kept on one shelf. I have shelf organizers that I use for all my Betty Crocker (bags of pizza crust mix, cookies, brownies, cakes, frosting, fondant, etc) I have 2 metal racks. The second rack is for cans.
I'll add some more later, and I'll be doing another post on proper freezing and how to keep a freezer organized....