Learn 7 tips to organize and build your homestead food storage and kitchen in this Episode, #129 of the Pioneering Today Podcast.
Let's talk about organization, your kitchen, and food storage and how all of it ties together for a huge impact on your time management, budget, and health. Pretty big statement, I know, but oh so true.
I will be the first to tell you, I am not an organized person by nature. I know some of you were born with that gene, but it skipped over me. Good news is, we can overcome and get that way, even if it's not our first inclination.
Below is Episode #129 of the Pioneering Today Podcast, 7 Tips to Organize and build your homestead food storage and kitchen, where we teach families how to grow, preserve and cook their own food using old-fashioned skill sets and wisdom to create a natural self-sufficient home.
What does organization have to do with your food storage
A lot. First off, how many times have you went to the store and bought a can of coconut cream only to come home and realize you had two jars shoved way in the back, but you are totally out of shredded coconut. Apparently I have a thing for coconuts. But ya get my drift.
Not only did you waste your time, because now you either have to change recipes or go back to the store, which is more of a waste of money because, hello, extra gas funds, and a waste of time. See this vicious cycle?
Or you knew you had a bag of almond flour, and finally decide to try that new recipe, only to discover on opening the bag there's only 1/4 cup left and you need 1 full cup (and of course its after you've mixed all the rest of the ingredients together).
This all comes down to organization my friend, or in these cases, lack thereof.
How to get organized and de-cluttered once and for all
There are somethings I've learned about “getting myself organized”.
Stop wasting time rearranging your clutter. Tidying up the same old mess only to have to do the same thing again in a few weeks means you haven't gotten to the root of your clutter problem, it just means you're rearranging it.
I started in the kitchen this year because not only is it the main room folks walk into when they come to our home, but I spend a lot of time there. We're a from scratch household, which means this homesteading Mama is operating in the kitchen every single day.
Take everything out of it's spot. I mean totally clear the entire cupboard and/or shelves and drawer. Everything comes out.
Wipe down the space with a damp rag and some cleaner if need be.
Criteria for What to Keep and What to Toss
DO NOT (sorry for the yelling, it's really to myself, but this is key) put everything back. Evaluate each and every item.
- How often is it used? Daily, weekly, at least once a month
- Is there another item that do the same job? Example, I had a punch bowl and pitcher. One does not need both, punch bowl got donated and the glass pitcher stayed.
- Is the item in the most logical spot? I need my whisk at the stove, but instead had my spoons and spatulas in a drawer that I had to walk around our island to reach.
I recently took 3 days (yes, 3 days) to revamp my kitchen. The drawer to the immediate right of the stove now hold measuring spoons, immersion blender, and probe thermometer. The drawer to the left of the stove holds canning funnel, jar lifter, spatulas and large cooking spoons. All the items I use right at the stove.
Before these drawers held extra oven mitts, freezer bags, pasta and rice. None of which were used on a daily cooking basis. They'd just always been that way since we moved in 12 years ago and quickly unpacked stuff.
There were things in drawers my husband and I didn't even know what they went to or were for. I'm sure it must have came with something related to a kitchen gadget way back in the day. Don't be afraid to be ruthless about tossing stuff.
And I don't mean throw it all in the garbage. If it's broke and not repairable and can't be recycled, then yes, you'll most likely throw it out. But if it's still in usable shape, donate it to a thrift store or someone in need, but you can't hold on to it, ya need to get rid of it.
Everything you have left has to have a clear home.
The secret to staying organized is everything has a place and you can quickly see when it's not in it's place and immediately take action.
Sometimes you think everything has a place but if you find a small pile somewhere, then you might need to rethink it. This happens in my home office (which is in my kitchen), I have folders for papers and bills, but needed a folder to capture all the mail when it came in before filing.
Once you've organized your cooking supplies, appliances, and flow, it's time to look at the food. While we raise a lot of our own food and can upwards of 500 jars a year of food, I still do purchase some things in bulk from the grocery store, like chocolate chips, cocoa powder, coconut oil, shredded unsweetened coconut, almond meal, ground flax meal, baking powder, you get the drift.
Resource Note: For growing your own food for food storage see Episode #124 How to Plan Your Best Garden & Harvest for a Years Worth of Food
How to Organize Your Kitchen & Food Storage
But here's what I noticed about the food I purchased from the store and my home canned stuff. When my food is in a clear container (aka Mason jars) I can tell at a quick glance exactly how much I have of each food.
When I leave it in the container from the store, I can't tell if it's almost empty unless I pick it up or open it. Plus, bags do not go into neat rows or stack easily like Mason jars or other glass food storage containers.
It's way to easy to toss those bags into a cupboard or on a shelf, and pretty soon, I'm losing things at the back (and then repurchase it when I don't need to) or I spend too much time rummaging through the piles to find what I want.
It's also harder to practice proper rotation when things are a mess. First order of business.
- If possible, put all of the food in one large clear container, so you can easily see at a glance what it is and how much you have. I use quart, 1/2 gallon and 1 gallon Mason jars if at all possible for this. I also went to Hobby Lobby when they had all of their food safe glass containers on sale for 50% to for taller items, like spaghetti noodles, that were too tall for a Mason jar.
- For bulk food items, keep a container in your main pantry or cooking area, and the large part in your long term food storage location.
For example, I usually purchase 50 pound bags of my hard white wheat and spelt grains. I keep a large glass container of all my grains in the kitchen cupboard above my grain mill for convenience. I don't want to run to the back pantry every time I need to grind flour.
When one get's low, I simply refill it from the back stock. Using this method means I reorder when my back stock has reached 25%. That way, I never run out of my staple items but I'm not overstocking either.
- Keep like items together. This is two fold, I keep my baking items together in one cupboard, my flours (almond, small amount of organic all-purpose, ground golden flax), baking soda, baking powder, etc.
I have a bin of miscellaneous baking ingredients like unsweetened shredded coconut, my pie weights which is a quart jar of dried beans, and back of bags of organic semi-sweet chocolate chips (I have a 1/2 gallon Mason jar in my baking cupboard but keep the back up stock in the bin). I have a large shelf of all my dehydrated foods and dry goods beneath my canning jars of home canned foods, which holds pastas, buckwheat, nuts, seeds, dried tomatoes, peas, etc.
How to Build Up Your Food Storage on a Budget
What's the best way to create a back supply and your own food storage?
You'll find my advice to be very practical on this, stock what you're currently using. Buying up a huge 50 pound bag of dried beans may seem like a great deal, but if you're not regularly cooking with dried beans then this is a waste of your money.
Contrary to popular statements, dried beans don't last forever. After about 2 years they loose their moisture and even with soaking and hours of simmering remain tough. Make sure you're using up your stock before it goes bad.
Keep track of the ingredients and food you're using over the next month (this sometimes changes with the seasons, I use a lot more canning salt and vinegar during canning season).
After you have a good handle on the foods you use often, pick a few to buy double of the next time you're at the store or the item comes on sale.
For example, I use about two bags of chocolate chips a month. I keep a large Mason jar full of chocolate chips in my kitchen cupboard. I have a bin in my pantry of extra bags of chocolate chips. When the cupboard jar is empty and I take the bags from the pantry, it goes on my list to replenish, that way, I never run out. As soon as my back stock is depleted (and I try to make sure even the back stock has at least 1 bag of chocolate chips left) I purchase it again.
I only use organic chocolate chips because almost all chocolate uses soy lecithin as an emulsifier and soy is one of the largest genetically modified (GMO) crops. Not only is soy GMO, but it also can be an endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen. *source link for data While organic soy still has endocrine disruptor issues, I'm okay using it sparingly in our baked goods.
However, I just found that my favorite Soy FREE, Gluten FREE and Dairy FREE chocolate chip company just added a bulk buying option of 5 pounds right here, holler, I'm so excited. You can check it out and all of my favorite products and buys from Amazon by clicking right here.<—
I have a “back” grocery store of sugar, salt, flour, wheat berries, rice, beans, butter (this is kept in the freezer), coconut oil, chocolate chips, baking soda, vinegar, and vanilla extract (I make my own but always have a batch brewing). These are items I purchase from the store and never run out of.
When it comes to the items we raise and preserve ourselves I use the inventory system from Episode #124 How to Plan Your Best Garden & Harvest for a Years Worth of Food
There you have it, the steps I use to organize our homestead kitchen and food storage and build it up. What are yours?