I’ve had this type of question come up at least half a dozen times now so I thought I’d post the answer in case there are any others of you who are wondering the same thing.
Q: How do you rotate your pantry meals and other food storage food? Do you just add in one pantry meal per week to your regular menu plan?
With a busy family, pantry meals work easily into a weekly menu because they’re fast and convenient to make. Honestly, I don’t put much thought into “planning” them into our menu, they work themselves into it due to necessity. To demonstrate, our usual week looks like this…
Sunday: relaxed family meal (*I grocery shop for a “fresh” meal — usually a family favorite from our regular family cookbook)
Monday: relaxed family dinner (*again, I grocery shop for a “fresh” meal — I like trying one new meal out a week, Monday’s are a good night for me to do that)
Tuesday: evening kid commitment (I’m the taxi service), dinner needs to be done quickly. “Hey, kids…what do you want to eat? Choose a pantry meal!”
Wednesday: Again, there’s lots of driving kids to and from, so dinner needs to get done fast. Choose a pantry meal!
Thursday: Not so busy, I choose a food storage meal that takes a little bit longer to make.
Friday: It’s a toss up…a lot of times we do family pizza night or my husband cooks.
Saturday: Date night for Mom and Dad. It becomes the 13 year old’s turn to cook and guess what’s the easiest (and most available) thing to make… either Pasta Roni (his old standby) or a pantry meal.
So, without a lot of thought, we use pantry meals 2-3 times a week and work in a regular food storage meal about once a week. I know you’re probably thinking “how am I going to rotate all this food storage if I’m only cooking with it half the week?” My answer is that you’ve got to think about the whole picture:
- I’m constantly using some of my biggest food storage mainstays (wheat, flour, yeast, honey) to make our day to day bread.
- Breakfast largely uses food storage at some level. Fresh fruit is almost always a part of it but rarely do we buy breakfast cereal unless we have guests visiting.
- Likewise, snacks are largely from food storage.
I can hear you asking “but what about all of your long term meats veggies and cheese…how are those going to get rotated in time?”
Think about this, let’s say you’re working to have a year’s worth of food storage. Once you have that storage you have anywhere from 7-25 years to rotate ONE year’s worth of long term food storage. And that’s not counting grains into the picture which have a much longer shelf life. Here’s a link to read a few studies that have been done on the shelf life of canned/freeze dried food if you’re interested. But the point is…
If you’re storing the ingredients belonging to recipes that your family will eat there’s not going to be a problem.
And that’s really the key, storing what you’re family will honestly eat. The problem is that we’ve all been doing it backwards. We’ve been going to the grocery store so to speak (our “food storage” grocery stores) without a list, buying this and that and whatever, storing it away where we forget about it and then wondering (10 years later) why we haven’t used what we bought!
You’ve got to store what your going to eat, there’s just no other way to make it work. (Insert shameless plug for the value of food storage recipes here :))
Another few words about pantry meals and how I pack and use them…
I pack all my pantry meals as if I had nothing fresh or frozen to make them with because I want to be able to grab them and go in an emergency if needed. That said, when it comes time to make them in our day to day menu plan I’ll often swap out 3 month ingredients so they become a three month variation of the same recipe. Every other time or so I’ll use the long term ingredients in the pantry meals, but not every time. Really, the only difference you’ll see in a 3 month (short term) meal versus a long term meal is the vegetable, meat, butter or cheese if there is any. Everything else remains the same. This is what I mean..
- In my Ground Beef Stroganoff pantry meal I alternate between using my already cooked ground beef in the freezer (3 month) and using my freeze dried ground beef, which is my long term substitute (or if you use canned ground beef that would work as a long term option too).
- With my Clam Chowder pantry meal I buy restaurant sized cans of chopped clams from Costco because they’re about half the price of the smaller cans at the store. I open the big can and freeze the clams in the portions needed for the recipe. Also, I keep potatoes which have already been baked in the fridge (which helps my potatoes to keep moving–they’re good for 3-5 days and are great for fast lunches and to throw into soups, etc.). So the canned clams and the fresh potatoes become my 3 month variation.
Even with these “swaps” they’re still fast to make meals but in addition to recycling the box I pack it in I also might have some long term ingredients that I recycle as well and I keep a clear plastic box in the pantry closet to collect those as needed.
Well, that’s it for today. Hopefully these explanations help so that you can see how everything I’ve been talking about translates into real life!
This following picture isn’t mine but I love the idea – it’s so cute! Here’s the website for the instructions to make it.