SALT LAKE CITY — In recent weeks, we have all been hearing the advice to have two weeks worth of food stored at our homes in case we are required to self-quarantine due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This advice may seem overwhelming or instill fear.
Often, the result is people rushing to the store to buy large quantities of random foods and other consumable products. This can lead to problems for suppliers of these goods, and it will waste your valuable money on foods and products that you don’t necessarily need.
So, how do you avoid spending your hard-earned money on food you will never eat? You simply take a minute to plan. Here are a few tips to help create a functional food storage, which won’t break the bank and — if done correctly — can help you be prepared for any unforeseen financial difficulties or natural disasters.
Tip No. 1: Plan
The first step in creating a functional and healthy food storage is to create a plan. Start by making a list of foods and meals that you regularly eat. Think about what is needed to make those meals, and then break it down into shelf-stable, freezer-friendly and fresh foods. This will help you determine what items can be easily stored.
Next, think about how frequently you eat those foods. If they are eaten on a regular basis, you should plan to store more of those food items and restock more frequently. If the food is eaten less frequently, you will not need to store as much of that item. Planning this way will help you have a functional food storage that you can use on a weekly basis for your meal prep.
If (foods) are eaten on a regular basis, you should plan to store more of those food items and restock more frequently. ... Planning this way will help you have a functional food storage that you can use on a weekly basis for your meal prep.
It’s also important to think about the nutritional quality of your food storage. This can be tricky since a lot of shelf-stable foods are high in sodium or sugar. When shopping for canned foods, try to purchase low-sodium options to help improve the nutritional quality of your food storage.
Also, make sure you are storing food from all of the five food groups (dairy, grains, protein, fruits, vegetables). Some food groups can be trickier than others. If you are able to store foods in a freezer, this will help give you the freshest way to store fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy items (like cheese or milk).
Once you have a plan of the food you will need to store, it is time to create a shopping list.
Tip No. 2: Buying
Now that you have created a plan, have a list of foods you eat and know the frequency you eat those foods, it is time to buy the food. This is where it is important to not panic.
Remember, you want to store, not hoard food items. If you want a functional food storage, which won’t go to waste or cost a fortune, you need to stick to your plan. Only buy foods you will actually eat and in quantities you can get through before the expiration date.
Don’t run to the store and buy 50 pounds of cracked wheat thinking that in a crisis (whether a job lost, natural disaster or pandemic) you are suddenly going to want cracked wheat. If you don’t eat cracked wheat regularly, don’t buy it for your functional food storage. This is why having a plan is so important before going shopping.
The most cost-effective way to build food storage is to buy a few extra cans or supplies each week with your regular grocery shopping. Instead of just buying one can of something, buy two or three. This will help you build a food storage without breaking the bank. Also, take advantage of weekly sales. If a food item you regularly use is on sale, take that opportunity to buy a larger quantity.
Tip No. 3: Organize
Some people may feel that an obstacle inhibiting them from starting a functional food storage is a lack of space to store the food. Not everyone has large storage rooms where food can be safely stored.
This can be a real struggle for some. But with little creativity, this obstacle can be overcome. Take a few minutes to walk around your home and see if you can rearrange a coat closet to store shelf-stable food in. You can also store shelf-stable foods under beds.
When storing your food, it is important to create some kind of rotation routine. To avoid wasting food and money, use food with the earliest expiration date first. Any food, meat, cheese, bread, etc., which is frozen should be dated with the date it was frozen. This will help make sure the oldest food is used before the newer food, which will help prevent food waste.
Tip No. 4: Minimum limits
Once you have implemented the first three tips, the final tip is to set a minimum amount of food needed before restocking on a particular item.
The idea of setting minimums is a common practice used in commercial kitchens. Commercial kitchens, such as a hospital, will set a minimum quantity for each food. When the minimum quantity is reached, they will reorder the food item. This ensures the hospital is always able to provide meals for the patients.
This same idea can be applied in home food storage. For example, my family frequently eats black bean soup. I know the recipe requires two cans of black beans; as such, I like to always have enough black beans to make two batches of soup. This means my minimum quantity for black beans is four cans or two batches. I like to apply this method to other household items that I don’t want to run out of, such as toilet paper, tissues and dishwasher soap.
It may take some time to figure out the minimum quantity of each food. It is a trial-and-error process. However, as you practice this method, you will find that it helps you maintain your functional food storage and ease anxiety about running out of food in a crisis.
The most important thing to remember when creating a functional food storage is that it needs to contain food you eat on a regular basis. A time of crisis is not a time to switch up your family’s eating habits. You want familiar and comforting food.
To truly have the most functional food storage, "shop" first from your storage, then go to the store to restock. Food storage that isn’t used regularly or filled with food you will eat will waste both your money and food. Remember, you want to store food, not hoard it.
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