Build a small supply of food that is part of your normal, daily diet. One way to do this is to purchase a few extra items each week to build a one-week supply of food. Then you can gradually increase your supply until it is sufficient for three months. These items should be rotated regularly to avoid spoilage.
My brother-in-law sent me a great tool to figure out how much to buy for long-term storage according to family size at this website: www.trackmyfoodstorage.com
Before I finished my three-month supply, I had stocked up on some items. I didn't have a solid plan yet to building my supply, so it was a mixture of all food items. The tax money allowed me to buy everything at once which was wonderful. (Okay, there were a few shopping trips involved! But it all happened in a short time frame.)
But, purchasing everything at once may not be feasible for some people. A great suggestion I heard was to work on a certain mealtime before moving to the next. For example, buy a few extra breakfast items each week till you have three months' worth of breakfast foods. Then work on lunch, etc.
So, this is what I did after I took inventory. Okay, this gets hairy...but hang on and please email me questions so I can clarify if it is too confusing! I planned out a two-week menu for dinner and made a list of things to eat for breakfast and lunch. Then since there are about four weeks in a month (I would use this menu twice a month) I needed to repeat everything in my dinner menu six times. BUT since there are more days than strictly four weeks, I added a seventh week just to be covered (remember my dinner menu has 14 different meals, so for the seventh week I only have to do seven extra meals). For lunch and breakfast, I figured out how much we ate each week and did three-months' worth.
To explain the two-week dinner menu: for example, one of the meals is spaghetti. Since we would eat spaghetti TWICE a month (or once every two weeks), in a three month period I only need enough spaghetti and sauce for approximately 6 meals. (I did seven to be safe.) Here are my different menus:
Lunch: Peanut butter
Beans and rice
Baked beans & homemade bread
Rice and gravy
In planning your menu just think of what you eat and how often. For example at breakfast, we eat oatmeal once or twice a week, have pancakes of some sort once a week and eat cereal the other days. It takes a little bit of figuring how much of what to buy. With my three-month storage, I wanted things that would last a long time, but that were everyday items too. Some things I bought do have a short shelf life--like pepperoni for pizza and the boxed milk for cereal--so I need to make sure and rotate them. Also I bought some things to go in my freezer, like shredded cheese, butter and bacon (I use bacon in fried rice).
I also made a list of condiments and other ingredients that would be used in my menu; ranch dressing, salsa, pickles, baking soda, sugar, garlic powder, olive oil, shortening, etc. I can't make homemade bread if I don't have items like salt and flour. Also, I included items for school lunches for my kids. I normally give them small boxes of chocolate milk in their lunch, but for the food storage I bought juice pouches. Also I like to give them a little treat in their lunches, so when I saw fruit snacks on sale for $0.50 a box, I bought enough for the rest of this school year and three-month's worth for this coming school year. (My kids eat a "sack" lunch 4 days a week, then one day a week at school.) Now that I've droned on and on, here are pictures of the loot....
If you google food storage you will find many resources and ideas. One thing that I have to keep on top of is rotating the food. Lately I have been keeping a mental note that if we use a bottle of syrup from food storage I need to buy one the next time I go shopping. A better idea would be to have a pad of paper and a pen by our shelves to record what we use, or even a white board...but I haven't done that yet. As you might notice on many items I re-wrote the expiration date so it was very obvious to me when that item expires. Expiration dates are so tiny and sometimes in obscure places. Thanks Lena for the idea!
I also went ahead and did a three-month supply of personal and household items. I purchased things like face lotion, shaving cream, razor blades, shampoo, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, hand soap, diapers, wipes, etc. I have a SMALL supply of water, and fuel canisters for an emergency stove. I do need to build up my water supply more and purchase more fuel canisters. So as long as I don't loose power and water, I am fine!
My husband will essentially be starting his own business this fall, so this gives me an added peace that we will be fine food wise for at least three months! And to throw in some money advice, my church leaders and other financial counselors/gurus counsel to have a three to six months worth of money saved up to cover the necessities of life in case of an emergency. Of course save more money if you can. We finished our three-month emergency fund back in August. Now I need to start working on a year supply of food basics like wheat, legumes, powdered milk, chocolate, etc.
Good luck on your food storage! Please share any tips that you have found helpful in building a food supply and rotating it!