Take a peek in my stockpile and pantry

26 May 2016
I realised in the past couple of days that soon I'll go through another life change. On Saturday June 11 at 11am, I'm giving my last public talk. As many of you know I retired after the book tour and this talk at the Toowoomba Library is the last part of the tour. It's the last time I'll ever be out and about spreading the word about simple life. I've been doing it for a long time now, sometimes at libraries and sometimes with like-minded folk at workshops. I feel very grateful to have been given the chance to connect with so many people and I've been surprised at the number of people who have come along. It's been a highlight of my life. But the time has come to withdraw back into my own life and let someone else take the spotlight.

If you've been thinking of coming along to one of my talks, this is the last one. If you can come along, I'd love to meet you. Hanno will be with me and we'll hang around for a while after the event to talk to whoever is there. The event is free but you must book, the booking page is here.

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It is well known over at the forum that Rose's organisation posts are great motivators and help us set up various routines for house work. Recently Rose started a month long series of posts called The Simply Organised Challenge. The challenge ran for 28 days focusing on different tasks and ways of working. The full challenge is there for you to read through and if you have the time to do that, I know you'll be pleased you did it.  She's just started on a decluttering challenge but start with the organisational challenge first because it will help you organise yourself and think about your work in a different way.  Day one is here.

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I cleaned out and organised my stockpile, pantry cupboards and freezer in the last couple of weeks. It was a job I didn't particularly want to do but I knew it had to be done. My sidekick Hanno was there to help so we rolled up our sleeves and got to it. I love looking in those cupboards now and I feel pleased that we put in the time to clean and organise all the goodies we have in there.

This is our stockpile cupboard. I store unopened food and jars in here. When a product is being used, I take it from the stockpile, often store the contents in a glass jar, and then store it in the pantry.

There is no real secret to organising groceries or cleaning the cupboards that contain them. Vacuum the cupboards, especially along the shelf edges to get rid of any small insect eggs or dust. Use something mild like vinegar or soap and water to clean the shelves, then allow them to dry completely before returning the food. Check and wipe every jar or tin as you return it to the cupboard. Look at use-by dates and if that date has already passed, if it's in glass, clear plastic or cellophane, check the contents. Remove anything that is mouldy, obviously fermenting in a jar or jars with bulging, rusty or damaged lids. Remove tins that are bulging too.

These two photos are of our pantry.  Only opened food, currently in use, is kept in the pantry.

When you bring dried foods home from the shop, place them in the freezer for two days to kill off anything lurking in the packet.  Then place the packet on the shelf in your cupboard. If you already have stock in the cupboard, place newly purchased products at the back, and take from the front.

Above is the layer of meat placed in the freezer when we restocked it. It's mostly beef, chicken, pork and lamb, with a pack of puff pastry on the side.  Below is the freezer yesterday, it still has the layer of meat at the bottom and now has a pack of salmon portions, rosellas, elderberries and a container of soup in there as well.

It's a good idea to run your freezer down at least once a year, defrost it, clean it out and return everything as soon as possible.  We did this before we went away in March and left the freezer empty for almost four weeks. When we restocked, I placed a layer of various meats at the bottom of the chest freezer, I may go to two layers later on, but more more. On top of the meat I have at various times, bread, fruit juice, frozen vegetables or fruit picked from the garden. I have nearly 6kg of rosellas and a few packs of elderberries in there at the moment. I always store the fruit and bread either in the baskets or on top to prevent them being squashed before they freeze solid.  A written inventory of the freezer helps a lot, especially with a chest freezer. Just itemise what's already in there and list new items when you add them. Make sure you describe and date everything and cross off what you take from the freezer.

And just a quick word about the fridge because we all store food in there too.  About a year ago I discovered sealing clips and bought a pack of 10. Since then I've become a convert and have them in constant use to seal plastic bags in the vegetable crisper and open packets of frozen peas in the freezer.  My vegetables are lasting much longer and those clips have saved me wasting food. Currently I have a cauliflower and broccoli in bags sealed with the clips and they've kept extremely well for the past two weeks. Even soft vegetables like capsicums have kept in these bags unwrinkled for 3 - 4 weeks. When I showed these clips to a friend she said they'd been out for years but as I rarely shop nowadays I'd never seen them. You may well using them too and if you are, I'd love to know your opinion of them.

And finally, the best way to keep celery fresh is to cut off the top and store that in a bag for use in soups and stews, then wash the celery under the cold tap, shake out the excess water and wrap the it in aluminium foil.  If you completely cover the celery in foil, it will stay crisp and useable for six weeks.

If you have time, tell me about your storage methods. We all buy or grow food so it's an important topic, and having tried and true storage methods will help us all cook healthy food with little or no waste.