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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Using My Emergency Food Supply

Back to my emergency food supply . . .

Building a supply is just the first part of utilizing an emergency food storage. Using everything up in a timely manner, minimizing redundancy, and maintaining variety in meals for the duration of the supply is the next step.

The other week, I mentioned that I have a simple but very effective manner for using all of the foods that I've stockpiled. This is literally a quickly scratched out plan, using a leftover calendar and page of a notebook.

Back in early May, I spent an afternoon taking inventory of several of the backbone ingredients to our meals, such as grains, meat and other protein sources, and fruits and vegetables. I could easily see that for some foods, we had an ample supply. So, metering out the use would be as simple as deciding to use each a set number of times per week. For example, we have enough rice and pasta to just say, "okay, we'll have rice 3 dinners per week and pasta for two." No need to make any sort of elaborate use-scheme for metering out those ingredients. Similarly, I bought enough raisins, peanut butter, and jarred applesauce to simply bring out 1 or 2 containers of each at the beginning of each month. Other foods, such as dinner protein sources, were a tiny bit more complex and therefore required more calculations and planning. 

For dinner protein, I have quite a variety in the freezer and pantry, including canned tuna, canned chicken, chicken leg quarters, b/s chicken breasts, whole chickens, breakfast sausage, pork bacon, turkey bacon, loose ground beef, frozen burger patties, hot dogs, a whole ham, frozen eggs, TVP, and an assortment of beans. I tallied up the servings of each protein source, then plotted out their use on a sheet of paper, allotting an entire calendar year. I've used tally marks to indicate how many meals of each protein source are to be used in each month. I made sure to plan for some holidays and celebrations, for which we might want specific foods/meats. 

not at all elaborate -- my quickly scratched out distribution of dinner protein
foods, using a page in a notebook. A bit of a mess, but it works.

To use this distribution chart, I circle the tally marks as I plan for each meat/protein when making out a rough menu plan each week. I received a free, small calendar this past January and had not yet figured out how I would use it. Anyway, this seemed like the perfect little planning tool for our dinner menus. Once per week, I take out the distribution chart and plot out the protein sources for each night of the week, noting the meats for the week first, then filling in with eggs, TVP, or beans for the non-meat days. If for some reason we don't use one or more of the meats for a month, then those foods become bonus meats to use in lunches. For example, we didn't use 1 batch of hotdogs and 2 cans of chicken in July. Those meats will now be added to August lunches.

July's dinner ingredient planning.
The upper left corner of the menu is where I add my grocery shopping totals.
I shopped twice for groceries in July.  Most of July's food
came from the emergency pantry/freezer stocked in April and May.

I spend about 5 minutes per week rough-planning our dinners. I don't choose recipes during this planning time, but merely allocate what meats we'll be eating on which night. As I do other things during the week, I figure out how we'll prepare the meats. In addition, our garden's abundance is also plotted out on the calendar as I see what needs using up. The other household members each cook a night per week, so the calendar (posted on our fridge) is there for them, too, to see what foods they should use in their meal.

I'm not one to go to elaborate planning for meals. This solution was simple, cost nothing, and has been a boon to our dinner planning for the past 3 months. I expect it will continue to be a success as we go into fall and winter, too.

I mentioned above that I took note of celebrations and holidays when distributing the protein foods by month on the first chart. With Thanksgiving and Christmas in a yet unknown period of transmission of the coronavirus, I've saved whole chickens to be used in lieu of turkeys for those holiday meals. I've also set aside special breakfast foods, such as sausage and bacon for holiday and other celebratory breakfasts.

You may be wondering, how is this an emergency food supply if we're currently using it up? Every couple of months, I am refilling most of the basic foods in our storage, so that we could continue to have an emergency supply for as long as we feel it's needed. This approach gives me the freedom to watch for sales and deals as I fill the developing gaps.

Anyway, this is the scheme that I've developed for using our stockpile. An easy-peasy plan for our emergency pantry -- no waste, no redundancy, and low effort meal planning. 

I hope you're all having a wonderful first week of August!


  1. As ever, you are very efficient. I agree with you that you need to use the stash periodically and then refill it. I like your idea of buying ahead on special items for holidays as a precaution. When all of this started in our area, I bought a few treats that I don't typically purchase and slowly pulled them out as a pick me up.

    1. Hi Kris,
      I did as you did -- I bought a couple of treat foods to pull out periodically. I think this helped cheer us up when we felt so shut out from life.

      My thought with Thanksgiving/Christmas and the whole chickens -- if I can go out and but a turkey, then the chickens can be used in January or February. But if I can't get a turkey for whatever reason, I've got the chickens as a stand-in.

      Have a wonderful evening, Kris!

  2. Hi, Lili--

    Good timing for your post for me. I have all my inventory lists out this afternoon, trying to plan out our next few months' eating, based on some previously-bought long-term storage we need to use up, and some new items I have found in bulk the last month or so.

    I do it very similarly to you, and this year protein has been the hardest thing to dole out, because we're always shorter than we're used to being. I hear a lot of people say that the stores are back to normal, but our family is still seeing a lot of empty spaces in our stores in three different states. That makes me even more motivated to plan our usage as well as we can.

    Hugs-- Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      that's interesting about stores in 3 states still having shortages for you. I've only shopped in 2 stores in person and 1 store as for pick-ups since April. At all of these stores, a couple of items are sold out with each shopping trip. I don't think any of us could imagine that this virus could have so many non-medical repercussions.

      Good luck with your planning, Sara! Have a wonderful evening.

  3. And such a good plan for sure! My daughter and I spent some time at an Amish store and purchased a lot of the bulk spices we use a lot of. Last week we stocked up on canned goods. I cleared and organized a spot under steps in my basement where I store a lot of extra dish soaps, body soaps, canning jars and made space for extra canned good. I still have about 1 1/2 shelves for things like home canned tomatoes and other stuff. We stocked up on toilet paper even though there was still a limit of one but she bought one and I bought one.

    We feel like there is more "stay in place" coming and we want to be prepared this time around.

    My freezer is full to the brim. My son was out and about and saw some discounted meat deals. He bought those for our family. I thought that was the nicest thing. Apparently he is learning to look for deals as well.


    1. Hi Alice,
      It sounds like you've managed to stock up on several items, between yourself, your daughter and son. Those supplies will be so appreciated, I'm sure. It's wonderful when our kids seem to have "gotten" it. Such a sense of satisfaction that our kids will be able to manage their finances in the future.

      Have a lovely evening, Alice!

  4. I have not had much success planning when to eat what for several reasons. Not a good micro manager type. Husband cooks and he's definitely a worse planner than I am. We plan that day for lunch and the night before for dinner. I may suggest we need to use some meats, so I thaw a few days ahead. We always have leftovers, and need to eat the same meat dish for several days. We sometimes freeze leftovers, but that's when we know we won't be eating it all. And because the pandemic keeps us confined, to add spice and variety we like to go with the flow about our meals rather than plan well. So I guess the saying goes, if it ain't broke why fix it. But I think you've done well finding the right balance drafting a skeleton plan and letting the unexpected fill the rest. At least for the protein group you are assured a nice rotation.

    1. Hey, Laura--

      While I do project out how far our supplies ought to stretch, because of the dynamic around here, I'm not as able as Lili to say exactly what I'll cook any given day. Mine's more of a "skeleton plan" like yours. (I like that term.) What I do is sort of an overview of more the proportion of each food type I can/should each day; but how that gets implemented is like yours, free-form depending on leftovers, who's home/eating, any windfall of fresh food, etc.

      Leftovers are one of the things that always change my "plan" when I make one. There's always more or less of them than I expect. Case in point, I have a full serving of leftover quinoa from last night, which I didn't expect. Lunch is now easy. (Smile)

      You mentioned thawing. Do you have trouble timing your meals for thawed meats? I have SO much trouble guessing when meat will be thawed. It's either earlier or later than I planned, so that also complicates planning ahead.

      Best-- Sara

    2. Hi there, Sara,
      We don't plan when to cook the meats that we thaw, so we never run into problems. If not fully thawed we eat something else. I reread my post, and made an error. We don't eat a meal at dinner hour, so our lunchtime meal is dinner. We don't serve typical American meals, just vegetarian type side dishes, so substitutions are easy. Just a few slices of meat per meal, and we usually eat our meals in rice paper wraps so the meals don't even have to look presentable. We're the laziest food preppers, but it works for us.

    3. Oops, error again, we plan the night before for our first meal, breakfast, and that day for lunch. Sorry.

    4. Sounds yummy, Laura, and very practical. I end up just cooking our meat when it's thawed, too; and it's inconvenient mostly only because in our family schedule sometimes I'm cooking for someone else, and sometimes it's just me. Luckily DH likes leftovers. LOL Days I'm alone, my meals are often very simple, like yours. Fresh and easy. Have a great day! Sara

    5. Hi Laura,
      We each find the method that works best for our situations. in my house, we're trying to make sure that we spread out our use of the animal-based protein sources while at the same time trying to not let anything garden produce go to waste. for many, many years, I was a plan-on-the-day-of cook. But for now, with 3 other cooks in the house and only one inventory manager, my approach is working. You and your husband compliment each other so well.

      Have a great day, Laura!

    6. Hi Sara,
      dinner leftovers become lunches for us most of the time. This works well with 4 hungry people every day at lunch. About once per week, I check all of the containers in the fridge and try to incorporate all of them into a dinner meal with the planned protein and produce items. It seems to be working and everyone is satisfied.

      I hope you're enjoying some lovely summer weather, Sara.

  5. Rotating the stockups is one of the hardest things to do well. It's so easy for it to be out of sight, out of mind. However, you have shown that planning is the key to being successful.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Yes, I think planning is very helpful. Also, for someone who isn't always a great planner (me), simply taking extra time periodically to check on my supplies (check dates and amounts) goes a long way toward using everything efficiently. If I were an uber-planner, I'd likely make a chart with products and their expiration dates. But alas, I have more fun things that I want to do with my time. :-)

      Have a great day, Live and Learn!

  6. Thank you, this plan seems easy to follow. Sometimes I do a freeze/pantry inventory and as I go I make a list of meals that we have all the ingredients for. Then as we make menus for the week we add these meals and cross them out from the list. I usually do this when we are eating the freezer down before hunting season or after Christmas to recover from a high budget grocery month. Then the next couple months I shop for deals to refill. That strategy doesn't work right now so if I find a pretty good deal I will add it if I can and we are rotating our freezer food more gradually now.

    1. Hi Kathryn,
      I love your approach! That's something I could do and would definitely be a help to our household. Thank you!

      I hope you're enjoying a beautiful summer afternoon, Kathryn!


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