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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Maintenance Work for My Emergency Pantry

I made a brief mention of our back-up or emergency pantry in my grocery recap for January. I thought I'd share some of the thoughts that have come to mind over the past 10 months, since beginning this major stock-up.

An emergency pantry can be a blessing, providing food during a time when you most need it, as well as a way to save money by buying in bulk when you find a deal. It can also be an enormous waste of money if you don't do the work to maintain it.

  • if possible, free-standing shelves that you can walk behind as well as in front are preferable to shelves up against a wall. Being able to walk to the back would allow for easier rotation of stock -- stock from the back, take from the front. As is, my shelves are in a pocket tucked into a wall, so not only can I not get behind my shelves, but I also can't get in from either side. When I restock, I have to clear the entire shelf. There's a temptation to not bother putting new stock behind old, but expiration dates do creep up on items that you thought might keep for years. Case in point, jarred Parmesan cheese usually has a best-by date of only a few months into the future at the time of purchase. Surprise to me!
This is my emergency pantry, tucked
 into a wall behind a door -- not ideal,
but it's better than nothing.

  • it's important to work in your emergency pantry about once a month, to inventory, organize, sort, check expiration dates, and to make note of what is in abundance and what is lacking. I once again sorted through our back-up pantry yesterday and found a couple of surprises. I have plenty of regular instant coffee, but no decaf. Also, I have one 10-lb bag of high protein all-purpose flour (I use for yeast bread) and not two, as I'd thought. Each bag ensures we have high quality homemade bread for 2 months. So, by only having half of what I had thought means that I will need to replenish this flour sooner than planned. I also discovered that we're not going through raisins as quickly as I had anticipated. Knowing that now, I'll step up pushing the raisins for snacking and baking.
  • I grab a box from the garage every other week and fill it with items from the back-up pantry to add to the kitchen supplies. Regularly using what's in the emergency pantry will help prevent waste due to expiry.
my restocked kitchen pantry
  • This is key to using what you've stored -- I actually base my meal plans on what I bring to the kitchen from the emergency pantry. 
  • In tandem with resupplying the kitchen with items from the e-pantry, it's also important to have a plan to restock those back-up supplies. This is also a good time to assess the value of your emergency pantry. For our family, having all of this extra food on-hand has meant I didn't need to go out to get groceries more often than once every 3 to 4 weeks -- especially important during this period of increased virus spread. During a non-pandemic year, I can also see value in limiting grocery shopping during the cold and flu season. I will keep a back-up pantry in future years, as well, focusing my greatest stocking up in the months of August, September, and October each year. Also, I'll keep emergency supplies for the duration of this pandemic, which means I'll restock in the spring this year as well as summer/fall.
  • As I restock, I will use the information about my family's preferences that gathered as I reorganized the back-up panty each month. For example, we don't need as much jarred applesauce or raisins for the future, but could use more canned vegetables. And we prefer the natural-style peanut butter. 

If you stocked up in advance of this winter, what have you learned about keeping an emergency pantry?


  1. We don't stock up as much as you do and presently, don't have a convenient space to to store extras. Our emergency food supplies are in the basement in tubs that can easily be picked up and cared out if needed. We did stock up with a few weeks' supply of extra food in case we have to quarantine for a couple of weeks because of COVID. We figured out that no one wanted to deliver here because it was too far away from the stores and they could get better jobs than ours. We moved dishes around and stored that food in one of our cabinets. However, there are other places in the house away from the kitchen where we could do more food storage. But I don't think we'll be buying too much in bulk because we wouldn't' use it up before it went bad, but it seems to work great for you especially with your organizational and shopping skills.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      I think you've figured out what works best for you, and that's what counts.
      I've heard similar stories of not being able to get delivery other than shipped due to living too far from stores. It's such a shame there aren't better options.

  2. I'm probably somewhere between you and L&L when it comes to pantry items. We have a pantry in our kitchen which I stock with items we use more frequently. In the basement we have a large shelf which is used for stocking canned goods, boxes of pasta, and so on. I'm pulling from the downstairs one enough to keep up fairly well with my stock rotation but a more formalized approach would be ideal.

    1. Hi Kris,
      I think just that your making an effort to use your back-up supplies is good. Another approach to regular inventory-taking is once every 6-9 months, set aside a couple of weeks where you make meals only from your emergency supplies, and simply run through it all, then restock afterward. It's a forced way to use goods before they expire.


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