If you didn’t know, I’m what you’d call a “prepper”. But I find it amusing that what I grew up doing now has a trendy label. Its not like my parents were tinfoil hat wearing paranoids. Far from it. We put food up for the future because it simply made sense. You can’t grow green beans in December, so we would can them when they would grow. You can’t (legally) deer hunt in May, so we’d freeze and pressure can venison for the “off” season. And we lived so far from town that running out of something meant you’d be out of it for days, if not weeks, before we made a trip to the store.
We simply planned ahead.
In rekindling that mindset, I’ve had to adjust my methods a bit. The sandy soil here in my area of Florida makes a root cellar almost impossible, and very improbable at best. The floor plan of this house includes a pantry, but is inadequate for anything more than storage of foods used daily. So in order to be able to store the amount of food I wanted to keep on hand, I had to come up with some options.
We have a room on the back of the house that is awkward both in space as well as door placement. We’ve opted to convert it into organized storage, since it seem to always end up storing things anyway. At least we have direction in one spot of the house! (This is a shot at me, I’m a packrat. I drive my meticulous, organized wife crazy, probably part of the reason she requires me to know how to make wine!) This room became our walk in pantry.
One of the main issues with long term storage of food is being sure to use FIFO, or “first in, first out”, or use up the oldest foods first. Stacking a shelf 10 cans deep with no notice of expiration dates leaves you using the newer cans, and leaving that last can of green beans ending us staying on the shelf for 15 years – NOT a good idea, and its wasteful. So a shelf system that offered FIFO would be perfect. Some of the options I looked at were:
- FIFO Mini Can Tracker
- FIFO Can Tracker (A bigger version of the one above)
- Make your own using cardboard (I tried it and it works! Not sure why I never followed through??)
- Cansolidator Pantry
- CanOrganizer’s Cupboard Organizer
- Shelf Reliance Food Rotation System
The last one is what I wanted…only I didn’t have the budget for it. What I ended up doing was buying four plastic vented shelving units from Lowes – three are 5 tier, and one is a 4 tier. Shelf depths were either 18 or 24 inches deep. We went with these because they were inexpensive, fairly rugged, and held roughly 200 pounds per shelf.They offered a flexible arrangement, and should we ever upgrade to a Shelf Reliance System,we could use them for something else.
We would adapt them to our needs by adding in a two pairs of FIFO Mini Can Trackers for our every day use cans, and simply stack flats of canned goods, as well as other long term storage items on other shelves.It takes more time to keep things organized, but like most folks, we have more time than we have money to throw at the problem. Its just easier to take the time to sort it manually than it is to buy the Shelf Reliance System. Maybe when we hit the lottery…
Home canned foods would end up on a separate shelf, usually stored in the original box that the jars came in. This keeps our products together, and since they are all processed at the same time, each box has the same “born on date”, no need to rotate anything more than the box itself.
Part of the forward thinking preps for hurricane season is to store fruit juices. (Again a reference to “Happy Wife, Happy Life“.) These would be stacked with the oldest bottles in front. We purchase these only when they are on sale. One of the benefits of buying things on sale, you go to your back room when you NEED one, not the store to pay full retail. We also store beef and chicken broth on this shelf, as well as salsa. This is all kept low to minimize damage, should one break or leak.
Eventually, we ended up using one of our shelving units as our storage spot for our All- American 921 pressure canner, all of our empty jars and other canning supplies, our appliances we used infrequently (meat grinder, KitchenAid mixer, Lodge Dutch oven etc.), and our Excalibur Dehydrator, plugged in and ready for use at all times. The setup actually works well, keeping all of our kitchen needs in one area.
We buy rice, pasta, corn, sugar (yes, all non Paleo) in bulk, break it into smaller portions, then vacuum seal it, label it, and place it in buckets. The buckets are scavenged from concession stands during my daughters’ softball seasons. The originally contained sunflower seeds, and are designed to stack securely. Also, being square bottomed, they seem to have less wasted space. The buckets don’t offer an airtight seal, but the vacuum bags of each package does. The buckets offer stackable storage, and protection from moisture and light.
All of this is in addition to our cupboards, and small pantry in the kitchen. This gives us plenty of room to get through a disaster, be it loss or income, hurricane, or even a small horde of mutant zombie bikers!
It’s already proven itself through two of the three
Looking forward,I would like to make some additional FIFO shelves. This would free up shelf space, allowing us to expand our stores a bit. I’d LOVE to have a couple cases of Yoder’s bacon, as well as more home canned meats, fruits, and vegetables.
I’ve found a few home built shelving systems that have potential:
Build Your Own Can Storage Racks (Sells plans, but you can get a good idea from looking at the models)