Check Your Pantry Day is not an official holiday, although it should be. It’s time to go digging into your food storage areas, shelves, closets, root cellars, freezers and see how your food is holding up. Here is a quick list to keep from being overwhelmed with the task:
This means anywhere you are storing boxes, jars, and cans of shelf-stable food. Take a section, remove the food, check the shelf for signs of moisture or bug/mouse activity before putting your food items back, newest to oldest. It’s a great time to count what you have and list it, so you know what’s left. I take a look to see what we are using a lot of or not so much now as well and keep track of that for my canning efforts later this year.
Who am I kidding? I also use this opportunity to organize the food that is there. No one in my family seems to have the ability to keep things sorted. LOL
The freezer can be just a little trickier because it’s best to keep food as cold as you can. You don’t have a lot of time to keep that door open. This is a good time to quickly check for signs of freezer burn, broken containers, and squashed things like bread
List the number of items that are remaining and what the foods are. I keep them on a list to give myself an idea of the meals I can make in the future. It’s also a good time to straighten the food in there—stack the flat bags, the containers, and the meats for easier access.
A word about freezer burn
So many times, I see people throwing out food that has freezer burn or signs of it forming (ice crystals, change of color patches on the meat itself). You don’t have to throw out freezer-burned food unless it’s some old piece that you lost years ago under a pile of fresher frozen food.
Freezer-burned food has changed the taste, but it has not spoiled. You will not get sick eating it.
You may, however, want to cook it in a highly seasoned sauce or gravy. It’s hard to tell if it’s necessary until the meat is actually cooked, but the entire thing is rarely inedible. I like spaghetti sauce to hide many less than desirable pieces of meat. Just give it a try before immediately wasting it by throwing it away.
In the root cellar, check for spoilage. For example, I have bins of pumpkins and winter squash. I empty all of the vegetables and look them over for broken stems, soft spots, mold, moisture leaking. This means decay has set in. I chop any of the vegetables up for the chickens and goats for a winter treat of fresh food. There is very little waste and it comes back to the family as healthy milk and eggs.
Be sure to thoroughly check all the cold storage foods. It’s so easy for something to turn and that speeds up the decay of everything it touches. Check the temperature and humidity in the room as well. Hygrometers are inexpensive and can give you both numbers at a glance. Place more than one in each location and you will have a backup.
If you keep your home canned foods in the root cellar check for signs of decay in your jars. They should not have bands on them, only lids. Each lid should still be securely attached with no bulging. Check for leakage, visible mold and dramatic color changes in the canned food.
Final thoughts on food storage
Storing food can start any time of year, and you don’t have to have an extensive larder to be successful.
If you store food, looking it over from time to time is just as important as figuring out what to store and how much to store. A revolving food pantry is a healthy one.
I hope some of these tips help you either get started or keep your food pantry in tip-top shape.
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