Organizing Bulk Food Storage
More and more people are taking advantage of opportunities to buy items in bulk, either from a sale at their grocery store, online or at a warehouse store. Buying in bulk can both save money and cut down on trips to the store. If you have a warehouse club membership or belong to a food co-op, you may have some food items that you purchase in bulk. Here are some tips for bulk food storage.
Organizational Principles for Bulk Food Storage
There are five important organizational principles involved for bulk items:
• You need adequate storage space for the large container you purchase and small containers in which you keep a reasonable portion for frequent use OR for repackaged contents of your large purchase.
• You need a good place to transfer foodstuffs when the smaller container needs to be replenished, or the original pack needs to be repackaged as smaller batches.
• You need a good labeling system to know what is in the packages and what its “use by” date is.
• You need good organization in the storage areas so items get used by their “use by” date.
• And you need a list to note when the bulk storage is getting low and more of the item needs to be purchased.
Adequate Space for Bulk Food Storage
For many people, buying bulk food items means two types of storage for a single food item. So, for example, you may have a large tub of honey, peanut butter, raisins, flour, etc. in a storage area in your pantry, basement, mudroom, or other location and a more practical amount for everyday use, easily accessible in the kitchen. For meat or cheese, you might buy a ten-pound package of chicken, pork, or beef or shredded mozzarella cheese and repackage it into smaller amounts, placing most of the repackaged items in a standalone freezer that is in the basement or garage, and a single package in the freezer portion of the refrigerator for easy access.
Bulk food storage tends to be heavy. So you want to plan space that isn’t too high to be able to move items safely. It’s also best not to store food in areas that could have issues with fumes, so avoid the garage if a vehicle is stored there and the food could be exposed to the exhaust.
Transferring Bulk Food Purchases to Smaller Containers
It might be the last thing you want to do when you get home from bulk shopping, but just when you arrive home can be a really good time to transfer your “use” portions from the bulk container to more manageable containers. Important things to remember:
• Get items that need cold into the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible.
• Laying out the containers, pre-labeling them, and having the closure, if any, accessible, will help you avoid touching any items unnecessarily once you’ve begun transferring food.
• Don’t throw out bulk packaging until you’ve noted any important information. The weight may help you guesstimate the weight of each of your smaller packages, for example.
• Wearing disposable gloves can help keep the process sanitary.
• Always clean up thoroughly after touching/transferring any kind of raw meat, shellfish, or similar item.
• If you can move items such as cheese without touching them — for example, by pouring for the larger container to the smaller — it keeps everything cleaner.
• Use recommended wrapping/containers for items, depending on where you’re storing them. Use freezer safe material in the freezer, and use the type of material recommended for the item you’re storing.
Labeling and Bulk Food Storage
Some foods may not need labeling. It’ll be obvious to everyone that the honey pot has honey in it and the peanut butter jar has peanut butter. Meat, and other items that should be used by a certain date, should be clearly labeled with the type of food, amount, and date. Use a reliable source to determine the “use by” date. State extension service websites often have this information. The South Carolina extension service at Clemson University provides a useful chart.
Grouping food by type is recommended. You may find it easiest to use shelves or half shelves to group related items.
Using a List to Keep Your Bulk Food Storage Up-to-date
Part of the beauty of having bulk food storage is not running out of items easily. To keep the system working smoothly, it’s helpful to keep a master list, or a list in each food storage area — for example, on the freezer door, on a bulletin board beside the bulk dry goods storage, etc. — to keep track of when the bulk part is getting used up.
Written by Mary Elizabeth
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