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I try to keep my pantry stocked with a years supply of basic foods and canned items that I use frequently. I try to rotate it so that things get used before they expire. Rotating like this is something I have to stay on top of to avoid waste and to save money and to keep my family healthy. This past week, we had family with us and a bunch of get-togethers throughout the week. It was a lot of fun and I was grateful to have a good supply of staples on hand!
Trying to keep my pantry stocked can be tricky. I hate going into the pantry to get a can of tomato sauce or tuna or peanut butter and finding I don't have any. So, I have devised an inventory system that works for me and maybe it will work for you as well. I touched on my method on a recent Friday Faves, and you can read about that here. People have asked me to expound a bit, so here goes!
Make a List
In order to get started, you have to make a list of staples that you use regularly. It helps to make a list of a base of about 20-30 items and added to it as I continued to use my system. Here is my initial list:
Pasta Peanut Butter Tomato Sauce Diced Tomatoes Granulated Sugar
Powdered Sugar Brown Sugar Canned Vegetables Canned Fruits Jams
Diced Green Chilies Canned Chili Ready to Eat Soups Condensed Soups
Flour Corn Meal Vegetable Oil Ketchup Mustard Mayonnaise
Canned Meats Pancake Syrup Corn Syrup Canned Milk
As time has gone on, I have broken some of these into sub-categories. For example, under canned meats, I have Tuna, Salmon, Beef Chunks, Pork Chunks, Chicken Chunks, Spam, etc. So, depending on what you use and what works for you, this list is totally customize-able.
Next, decide how many of each item you will use in the amount of time that you are doing your inventory for. I figured mine for roughly a year, but some of the items have more or less that that depending on my budget and their shelf life compared to how quickly we will use them. The inventory is always in flux.
Sentence Strip Charts
For my inventory chart, I used sentence strips similar to these. I actually found mine in the Target One Spot a few years ago. I have seen them there periodically from time to time. The ones I used are 16" wide and 25" long. They have 8 plastic pockets going down the length of the chart. You can use any size you can find at a good price and just alter the dimensions that I used to fit them.
At the top of the sections I wrote the words "Have" and "Have Not". Then, on the first section on the right of the 2 sections, I used a sticker label to name an item. For example, this section says, "Canned Fruit". I just wrote mine, or you can print them. So, each 16" x 25" chart can keep track of 16 food items.
Next, I typed and printed and copied onto card stock the item names. The pink ones are single items, the yellow ones are multiples of 10. When I first started this system, I put everything in the "Have Not" section. Then I did an inventory of what I had and moved that amount of tabs into the "Have" section. That showed me how much I wanted to add to my food supply. As I use items out of my pantry, I move the tabs from the "Have" to the "Have Not" section. Then, when I make my grocery list, I can look at the "Have Nots" and add to my inventory.
Hang the Chart
I now have 3 of these charts that I hang in my pantry from peg boards that are on one side of my pantry. They hang from hooks.
The most difficult part about this system is getting everyone on board to remember to move items over when they use them! You do have to be diligent to keep track of what you are using so you don't look and see that you have 14 bags of spaghetti and then when you go to get some, you only have 2.
I guess that you could keep a way of tracking your inventory on your phone or something, but to me this is much easier than getting onto my phone to do it all of the time and when I want to go shopping or make a recipe I can see what I have and what I need very quickly.
This weekend, we celebrated two of my grandsons' birthdays together since they are only a week apart. My daughter was making a dinosaur cake for them and she asked me if I had everything that she needed. It was so nice to know that I did. It saved us another trip to the store and the cake was easy to whip up! (It came out super cute and the boys loved it! Not only that, it was delicious!)
So, this is my method of keeping track of my pantry inventory. I hope it helps you. Let us know ways that you like to use!
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You know, getting an idea to do something you've never done before can be very exciting, but it can also be a lot of hard work. Lucky for you, I am putting in the work so you can learn from me and make your life a lot easier. As my mom told you in this post, I bought a bushel of apples from somebody in my church that was selling them. We decided to split them and I thought it would be fun to try making my own fruit leather. I've never made my own before, so I did some internet research on best practices, and I am going to share with you what did and did not work.
In the midst of all this, strawberries were on sale at the grocery store again. So I bought four cartons and thought, "hey, I know! I'll make two kinds of fruit leather, in two ways!!!" I am so foolishly ambitious. I ran out of steam and only ended up making the strawberry fruit leather, because, pregnancy +visitors coming to town to stay with us this week = I do not get to doing the kitchen things I planned on doing. Lucky for you however, there are still apples left, and I am going to make some apple butter with them. So hold on to your hats for that!
Making the puree was simple enough, and you can see the recipe below. I borrowed my parent's dehydrator (I really need to get me one of those). Here are a few tips.
1. In my internet research many people said you could use parchment paper to dehydrate your leather. That is a lie. Don't believe those people, they are not your friend.
2. My parents' dehydrator came with one fruit leather tray. The tray is really the best thing to use. I also tried to use nonstick lining paper. While it worked better than the parchment paper, it still didn't work as well as the tray that came with the dehydrator. If you want to do your own food storage and make your own healthy snacks I highly recommend buying your own fruit leather trays. I've provided a link below for your convenience.
3. Some dehydrators apparently have a temperature gauge as many places where I researched said to set your dehydrator for 140 degrees Fahrenheit. My parent's dehydrator does not have a temperature control. You just turn it on and let it to it's thing. So I would suggest checking your trays periodically and rotating them if necessary. My bottom tray was done right away and I feel like it got a little too dry in certain spots, while the upper trays still had wet spots.
4. Going along with evenness, try to spread out your puree as evenly as possible to avoid over drying certain spots. I smoothed mine out as evenly as I could, and your edges are still going to dry first, but you don't want to ruin half your leather while you wait for the other half to dry.
If you use these tips going forward, making fruit leather really isn't too hard. Making the puree itself was quick and easy. I used my ninja to blend everything together and then poured it on one tray at a time. The wait comes from letting the dehydrator do it's work, but in the end you get a tasty snack that you know doesn't have weird added preservatives in it! Happy fruit leather making!
Creators of Hot Cocoa Bombs! (copyrighted)
Helen Reynolds: Mother of six children , grandmother to ten and counting! I love to cook, craft and create things and I especially love doing that with my family, So, when my lawyer daughter, Lindsey, and my artist daughter, Madalynn, and I came up with the idea of Hot Cocoa Bombs, this blog was born. Then, one more daughter, with her technical and science skills, plus creativity has joined in to round us out! Read more about us here!
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