Monday, November 24, 2008

Step 1: Planning

This is the second installment in my ongoing series, "Stocking a Pantry for 6–12 Months." You can read the Intro here.

To prevent myself from running off willy-nilly to Costco to buy a dozen institutional-sized cans of sliced peaches, I completed a three-step process to clarify what and how much my family could eat if we had to depend on nothing but what I stocked in the pantry. I first calculated a rough estimate of how much food I'm going to need to store. Then I created a list of meals we like and what ingredients I would need to prepare them. Lastly, I took a good hard look at where in the house I could store everything without creating an obstacle course (not that my kids would mind climbing over stacks of flour bags one bit).

Food Storage Calculator. I plugged my information into this handy-dandy online calculator, which gave me an overall indication of how many pounds of food I can expect to purchase and store. Let me stress that this was just a guide to keep me on track as I planned, shopped, and organized; I do not intend on bringing home the recommended 6 pounds of molasses. I don't care if I hide it in a chocolate cake, and my apologies to those of you who enjoy molasses, but there is no way Mommy my kids will eat 1 tablespoon of that stuff.

List of Meals and Ingredients. I wanted to stock my pantry with ingredients I could actually use in my every day meal planning. My goal was to come up with a list of 30 meals that I could multiply by 12, which would provide a year's worth of dinners. I asked family members for their five favorite meals, and agreed to make some items (like spaghetti) more than just once a month. I rounded out the list with other dishes that are not only tasty, but easy for me to make. Let me dispel any doubt . . . we are not a family of vegans. Here's what we came up with:

Baked Ziti
Spaghetti & Meatballs (x2)  
Rigatoni ala Vodka  
Tacos, Beef
Chicken & Dumplings  
Sour Cream Enchiladas  
Tacos, Halibut
Salmon Patties & Creamed Peas  
Chili and Rice  
Heavenly Halibut  
Pot Roast
Tuna Noodle Casserole (x2)  
Tamale Pie  
Hot Dogs (x2)
Pork Chops and Stuffing  
Chicken Pot Pie  
Shepherd's Pie
Chicken and Mashed Potatoes  
Pizza, Cheese
Pizza, Pepperoni  
Macaroni & Cheese (x2)

The most time-consuming part of this entire process was creating a master list of ingredients. It took me several sit-down sessions with my recipes and a notebook as I kept a running tally of what I would need to prepare each recipe. Once I had all my ingredients listed, I multiplied everything by 12. It's too long of a list to print here, as you can imagine, so I'll just give you a sample:

12 pounds of ground meat x 12 = 144 lbs.

3 pkgs. whole wheat tortillas x 12 = 36 pkgs.

2 19-oz. cans chili x 12 = 24 cans

4 6-oz. cans tuna x 12 = 48 cans

Emergency preparedness experts recommend your foodstuff be nonperishable, because during power outages you cannot depend on refrigeration. However, I live in Alaska; even if we lost electricity for six months, we'd simply carry the stuff from our freezer to the outdoors, and it'd be fine. To be honest, I don't think I could realistically store a year's worth of food without my chest freezer. Assuming the worst—we lose power in the summer and all of my casseroles, meat, and fish are spoiled—I'd still have 6 months worth of food in the pantry. I could make spaghetti without meatballs, tuna noodle casserole with evaporated milk instead of fresh, or chicken and dumplings with canned ingredients

*Are you feeling overwhelmed yet? If a year's worth of food seems too much, try listing all the ingredients you would need to make 7 meals, then multiply by 4. Now you've got one month's worth of dinners—which is a great start, more affordable, and easier to store.*

Where to Store Everything. Fortunately, I've got some extra space. With the birth of our twins two years ago, we realized that we would need a larger home. My first project upon moving to our new house was to convert a hall closet near the kitchen into a pantry where I could keep all my supplies. Storing a year's supply of food, however, will require a larger area. In addition to the chest freezer in the garage, I'll also be using the back of the closet in the guest room.

If your kitchen wasn't designed with a pantry, maybe you can organize a food storage area in your attic, garage, basement, or shed out in the back yard. Many homes have a closet near the front door; perhaps you could hang coats on hooks in the hallway instead, and turn the closet into your pantry. Think about freeing up a shelf or two where you keep the towels and linens. Towels can be rolled up and kept in a basket in the bathroom and you only need one extra set of sheets per bed, so tuck each set between its corresponding mattress and box spring. Maybe you've got an unused bookshelf, empty corner, or blank wall where you can put up some shelving and then hang a panel of pretty fabric to cover it. Don't forget about under the bed; shallow plastic bins would hold quite a lot and be easy to slide out.  You'd be amazed at all the nooks and crannies you can use when you get creative.

Planning was the hardest part. Now it's on to the most painful part: Budgeting and Purchasing. I'll discuss my thoughts on shopping in the next segment, which I may or may not subtitle, "Hi There, Mr. Paulson! Do You Think I Can Get Some of that Bailout Money for Groceries?" 

Dinner last night: veggie stir fry over rice


twinmamabee said...

I am very intrigued by this. I may cut the amount back to a month to get started, but this is some good stuff, Kim! (We can't count on sub-frigid temperatures here in Ohio. One day it is 30 degrees the next day it is 70 degrees.)

Can't wait for the next installment!

Anonymous said...

If you can't can your own foods, you might want to check out this site. There's canned meats (including hamburger), canned cheese and canned butter as well as dry foods, and no-rinse bathing products.

Anonymous said...

Oops. The site is

Helene said...

Wow, Kim, I'm impressed!!! I have to admit I was overwhelmed reading your list!! But I think I could handle the 7 meals times 4 to keep us good for a month! My husband and I were just talking about needing a freezer in our garage to store food.

Now I'm off to check out your menu ideas....I need some new things on our rotation!!

glitzen said...

so interesting! I can barely plan ahead for a week, so I 'm hoping your plan will rub off on me a little bit. You rock!

Unknown said...

Another great idea to supplement your long term food storage is freeze dried foods. My favorite website (for high quality and excellent tasting products) is If you use the code save15 you can save15% at checkout!