Whether our world begins to resemble something somewhere between Mad Max and The Walking Dead, or the Fed (and the CDC!) manages to keep things rolling merrily along for the foreseeable future, the benefits to being prepared, to having a pantry so well-stocked your friends think you’ve started a COSTCO in your basement, are numerous and easy to list (the main one, for me anyway, being that we don’t have to go to the grocery store every other day!).
There aren’t really any drawbacks, none that I can think of anyway, but there is one issue that the more skeptical among our friends and acquaintances will occasionally bring up. While we’re trying to ‘sell’ someone on the concept of prepping or, at the very least, storing extra food for a ‘rainy day,’ they’ll inevitably say, “Aren’t you worried that some of that food will go bad before you can eat it?”
It’s a good question and perfectly valid point! Besides the fact that that jar of pickled asparagus on the back top shelf you forgot about, the one you bought back in 2009 when the Russians invaded Georgia because you thought, well, processed pickled asparagus might come in handy when the dead start walking, will probably now taste a bit more ‘pickled’ than you, or your dog, would prefer, the $2.29 you spent at Big Lots back then isn’t really a good investment if you have to toss it in the trash. You’d have been better off putting it into silver, or storing it under your mattress!
If you’re honest you’d have to admit that food spoilage is a major problem, or at least a major potential problem, for those of us who prep. And the sad part is we all know what the answer is – food rotation, or – FIFO – first in, first out! We all know it, but do all of us practice it all of the time? After all, the drawback to having COSCO-like pallets of foodstuffs in one’s basement (we don’t, but the imagery is comforting isn’t it?) is there’s a lot of WORK involved in rotating it, especially given the fact that we all have to run a household!
Maybe nobody else struggles with it but us, but if anybody out there needs a little help with their FIFO practices, here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way.
- Make space – We all have to do what we can with the resources available to us, but if you don’t have dedicated space for your preps it’ll become less like prepping and more like something the crazy cat lady would do on ‘Hoarders.’ So, build some shelves or get some from Lowe’s and get rid of that pile of useless junk in your basement you’ve managed to hang onto through three moves… which leads to the next point…
- Fight clutter – Despite the fact that the definition of ‘prepping’ is basically accumulating a bunch of stuff, clutter is the prepper’s worst enemy and the best friend of every form of bacteria that ever dreamed of growing in one of your Mason jars. Organization, having a place for everything and putting everything in its place, is the only way to find what was the ‘first in’ of any item you’re looking for.
- Get some gear – Any shelving is better than none at all, but incorporating at least one or two free-standing shelf rotation systems (such as the ones from Shelf Reliance) can make your job a lot easier.
- Prep what you eat and eat what you prep – Ultimately, this is the key to food preparedness as a lifestyle. If you eat it regularly, it won’t go bad (as long as you rotate!), and it’s easier to keep track of.
- Put it away right, right away – This is where the ‘rotation’ comes in. When you get home from the store with that trunk-full of goodies, resist the temptation to play with the kids, start dinner, or do anything else before the groceries are put away properly, ‘properly’ being the key. Of course, ‘putting groceries away’ for the prepper is a bit more complicated than it is for everyone else since it involves moving older inventory and putting the new in the back instead of the front, but if you don’t do it right you’ll find yourself using something with several years of shelf life instead of something that expires next month.
- Take inventory – If you are doing a good job prepping, you’ll obviously accumulate a lot of food. However, if you lose track of what you have you won’t cook with it. And if you don’t cook with it, it’ll eventually go bad. Everyone will have a different level of organization with how they do inventory. Some will write it down, some will use apps, iPads, or computers, and some will just make a mental note, but regularly going over your preps is an absolute necessity.
- Know & understand your expirations – This involves much more than just knowing what you have and when it expires, although that’s certainly important. It also involves knowing how far past the expiration date you can safety eat food. Here is a great guide to food expiration dates, but some things can be safety eaten even longer than you might think.
- Make a list – You don’t want to get home from one of your few grocery shopping trips only to realize that you bought something you didn’t need and forgot something you did. If you’re aiming to have food for a year, or 6 months, or two years, and use an item that’s part of that plan, add it to your shopping list for the next trip.
- Learn to cook – If you understand expirations and you know what you have by taking inventory once in a while, you’ll know what is about to expire. That, my prepper friend, is what’s for dinner this week! Take a lesson from Food Network’s ‘Chopped’ and learn to cook something delicious with whatever you have available. If you are stocking what you like to eat, this won’t be too hard.
There are certainly more (if you think of any, please comment!), and we aren’t perfect at these by any imaginable stretch, but trying to following these principles has helped us get the best value out of the money we save by prepping food.