30 May 2015
The Pantry Principle means you save money by buying in advance when the price is right. You store the groceries you purchase, using them up in the usual way, until the sale comes round again and it’s time to stock up again. The Pantry Principle lets you build up your food supplies while saving money!
But now you have to think about where to put all those cans of tuna. I addressed this briefly earlier: food storage consists of two parts. First In, First Out (FIFO) whereby you use up the oldest items first, and following best-storage practices of cool, dry, pest-free, and in the dark.
First and foremost, don’t store anything that you and your family won’t eat. It doesn’t matter how good a sale is (candied squash for 29 cents a pound!) or how well a food item will last (whole-wheat berries and Army meals-ready-to-eat!). If you don’t know how to cook with it, and your family wouldn’t eat it, it is money down the drain. And you wasted your precious time, storage space, and life energy dealing with that stuff.
Stored properly, whole-wheat berries will last until the next ice age. But you need a grain grinder and knowledge of how to cook with them. Before you store large quantities of anything new, practice cooking and eating it. You may find that you love grinding wheat berries to make porridge and bake bread. Your family loves it too. Or maybe not. My point is, practice this sort of thing first before you shell out serious money and storage space.
The great thing about using the Pantry Principle is you aren’t buying anything you normally wouldn’t eat. A lot of stuff at the grocery store will last a year or more without any effort on your part at all. If it comes in a can, a glass jar, a plastic container, or even a cardboard box, you can store it as is.
This is where the products’ expiration dates come in so handy. They give you an idea of how long something will last in a worst-case scenario. So for good food storage, the first thing we do is buy our usual products, but check the expiration dates. Get the ones that are farthest in the future.
When you get them home, write the expiration date in big letters on the front of the can or box so you can easily read it. Tiresome as this is, it is still easier than trying to read those tiny dates every time you need something or you restock your shelves. A Sharpie or grease pencil works best for this; pencils aren’t dark enough and pens don’t always write on the slick paper on a can.
Then, you rearrange your collection of canned tuna, putting the farthest away dates in the back and the oldest ones in the front so they get used first. This step is where most people fall down as it is so much easier to push the older stuff to the back and reload the newer stuff in front. Grocery stores stockers do this, too, which is why you should never assume that the newest items are at the back of the shelf. Check each product for the date. If you do not rearrange your canned soup, from newest at the back to oldest at the front, you will end up discovering years-old cans. They aren’t necessarily spoiled, but they won’t be at their best either. You also cannot ever rely on other family members taking the time to get the oldest jar of peanut butter from the pantry. Your Dear Husband or Dear Daughter will grab the one in front and never look at the date.
Rotating your stock as you buy new stuff will also keep you in tune with what you actually use. If you never use up those canned bean sprouts, then you should stop buying them. When you discover much older stuff, then it is time to start cooking with it. If you buy food and then throw it out, uneaten, you might just as well have put the cash into the shredder.
That’s all FIFO is. Use up the oldest stuff first, even if you have to get creative with your cooking. Use the newest stuff last.