Spring Cleaning and Food Storage

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There is something about spring cleaning, de-cluttering, and organizing that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. When I’m stressed out, I organize a closet or drawer. It’s almost as good as Cadbury Mini-Eggs -sigh for Easter season being over- The following is a guest post I did that shows some organizing techniques for your food storage area.

Here are some tips that I have found have made my food storage more organized, useful, and rotated. I find building and using your food storage to be an ever changing thing, and I keep adapting as I learn more. I have a food storage area in an unfinished part of my basement (I know we’re lucky to have basements). I also have a little cupboard space upstairs I use for day to day cooking.

MY FOOD STORAGE AREA: I call this my food storage area, because it’s just against a wall in my basement. In my “dream” home, I’ll have a whole dedicated room, with all sorts of super cool shelves and stuff, but for now this is like heaven compared to my condo before. I have three areas along the wall. One is for long term foods, the shelves are for three month supply, and I have an area for water. Ok- ok, I have a fourth area – it’s called a big fat pile of non-food items, and appliances that are waiting for a new shelf area I also keep some water and my 72 hour kits upstairs in case we had to evacuate, or my whole basement got smooshed in a disaster. Oh and this reminds me, I need to put up a blanket against that window to block light from getting onto my long term food. I just moved everything around and before this wasn’t an issue. Light makes food go bad faster.

TIP FOR FEELING MOTIVATED: My first tip would be to get an area with shelves that you feel excited about. If your area looks like mine did at first (see below), you won’t feel excited to get started. It’s hard to go buy a bunch of food with the constant thought of “where am I going to put this?” going on in your mind. If you don’t know what kinds of shelves to get, look at our tutorial on building rotating racks here, at some cardboard options here, and at some great shelving units from Thrive Life at JodiandJulie.ThriveLife.com/shop. If you don’t have a lot of space, make sure you check out our Small Spaces Storage Solutions.

TIP FOR KEEPING MY STORAGE ORGANIZED: In my food storage room downstairs I try to keep like foods together on shelves. That way I can quickly get stuff assessed and know where everything is easily. I like to keep fats together, sugars together, condiments, and all sorts of other logical (to me) groupings.

TIP FOR MAKING USING FOOD STORAGE EASIER: I put all the ingredients I need for making bread on one shelf in one of my cupboards. That way when it’s bread making day, I just pull all the things off that one shelf and I’m ready to go. Having to dig, and push through other ingredients is something I have always hated about baking, so this way I’m ready to go right away.

TIP FOR ROTATING MY FOOD STORAGE: These are ALL the cans in my upstairs pantry. How is this Food Storage? Well you see by keeping very, very few of my three month supply types of foods upstairs, I am FORCED to go downstairs to get food out of my food storage and use it. When I go grocery shopping, I come STRAIGHT home and put my food in the basement. Then when I need food, I have to go down there (send one of my cute little kids) to get it. I know it sounds annoying, but if I don’t do it this way, I’d end up using everything I just barely bought first, and my food storage in the basement would just collect dust.

TIP FOR USING MY LONG TERM FOOD STORAGE: One way I encourage myself to use my long term food storage such as grains and legumes is I keep smaller containers of them upstairs. I know this contradicts my previous tip a little – but it’s different- trust me. I save containers from nuts I get at Costco and use them to store the smaller quantities of my long term foods. This makes making pancakes, or muffins and all that kind of stuff with whole grains a lot easier. I also use my legumes a lot more in soups and chili’s.

TIP FOR REPLACING FOODS I’VE USED: Placed conveniently on a work table right next to the food storage is a pad of paper for me to write down things I take out of my food storage so I can replace them next time I’m shopping, or next time there is a sale. My dear husband knows if he takes something off a shelf he BEST be writing it down on that paper – or else 😉

HEY WAIT! How did this get in here. Ok fine- when I go grocery shopping I DON’T immediately put the food in the basement. I put it on the stairs DOWN to the basement and deal with it later.

What are some of your tips for staying staying organized and motivated?

  • If you don’t mind me asking, what shelving units do you use?  I like the idea of plastic stacking ones, but I worry about whether or not they can take the weight without sagging over time.

    • I started out with some plastic shelves from walmart. They worked well for a few years, but I have since moved and now use those in my garage and have more heavy duty ones I found from Lowes. I was worried they wouldn’t hold up forever, however they hadn’t shown any signs of sagging yet. I also have 2 Shelf Reliance Harvest Shelves that carry just #10 cans. I love those for my freeze dried fruits, vegetables, meats, and legumes. I consider to store my wheat and oats in buckets since I use them so quickly.
      Hope that helped. For discounts on any shelf reliance shelves, visit http://jodiandjulie.shelfreliance.com/home. Most of of the shelves wont show the cheapest price until you hit add to cart. They are deeply discounted at that link. Hope that helped 🙂

  • Rachel B.

    Can I just say how refreshing it is to see that someone else has to work hard to keep their food storage current? It’s been my biggest challenge; remembering to rotate, write down what I use, and like you say “get motivated” to keep it all together. And you’re an expert! Thanks for posting. I really enjoy seeing how it is for other people. 

  • oh, this is surely an interesting blog. thank you for the shared information. Could use it for my own organization. Very useful stuff.

  • Kristy

    I live in North Texas — land of no basements — so my long-term goes in a spare closet and my short term is in my regular pantry. I label all “storage” in my pantry with a color-coded garage sale sticker that has the month and year (color-coded by year) so that when I’m grabbing stuff off that shelf, I make sure to get the things that will expire first (or close to first). There’s a white board on the wall for writing down what I use or add. My husband also has strict instructions — if there’s a sticker, WRITE IT DOWN! Thank you for all your knowledge and inspiration through your blog!

  • Twistedoakfarm1

    This doesn’t really fit here, but I couldn’t find any way of contacting you. I signed up for your baby steps delivered to my email. I got #1 right away (4/1) and today got #3. I somehow missed #2.

    Laurie S. of Twisted Oak Farm

  • Dochiny Wade

    I do something similar to your ongoing list when you need to replace something. Also, I LOVE your 3 month inventory spreadsheet, and every month or two I use that to take inventory and add anything I’m short on to my shopping list.

  • Dochiny Wade

    I do something similar to your ongoing list when you need to replace something. Also, I LOVE your 3 month inventory spreadsheet, and every month or two I use that to take inventory and add anything I’m short on to my shopping list.

  • I’m learning so much from you. Thanks for the time you take to post. I’m brand-new to the world of food storage. I’m still at the “where-the-heck-do-I-put-all-this-stuff” point, trying to figure out a good system with our very limited space. I live in FL (meaning, no basements here, and attics are so intolerably hot they will melt aluminum cans….okay maybe not but they are hot!) So with our space limitations, I’m really having to figure this out….
    Again, thanks for your posts and especially the pictures. They help.

    • Sandra

      Jamie, I used to live in South Florida. If you have a linen closet maybe you could use it to store foods and put the linens in the bedroom closet 🙂 I don’t have a basement either so I have to think outside the box.

  • Thanks for this great post! It gets me motivated to do a little bit of organizing. I love the idea of a sharpie and notebook down with the food storage. I have read about all kinds of complicated ways of keeping track of what is used up and this is brilliantly simple. I also keep almost everything downstairs so that it is easy to see and FIFO happens.

  • Ourfamily

    ok, don’t laugh but my question is about your food, ok lol.
    where do you buy your maple syrup, olive oil, AND, what is that next to your maple syrup in the smaller jars, I know, but still, don’t laugh.

    • hehe- not laughing at all. the mystery item is agave, and I buy all three of
      those things at Costco. I’m not sure they are the BEST priced there, but
      they are reasonable. I don’t like to use a lot of white sugar, or oils
      outside of olive oil, so I make the sacrifice and buy the pricier stuff.

      • Sandra

        Jodi – what is the shelf life of olive oil? I’ve been worried about buying a lot but I see you’ve got quite a bit stored. I don’t have a basement just a small pantry off the kitchen

        • OutdoorsMom

          Olive oil is only good for about a year, and needs to be kept cool and dark.  Heat and light will make it degrade faster.

          If you want it to last longer, you can freeze it–but not in the original container unless you take out about 10-20% first (below the top of the straight part of the bottle before it narrows at the neck) to allow room for expansion as it freezes.

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