I’ve been preserving my garden produce for years – I’d say at least 25 years or so. Only within the last few years, though, have I found a solution to using my canned goods in an organized manner, making sure that we had enough to last us until the next season or avoiding an excess of something that wasn’t a favorite. Prior to moving to an apple-less location (sob!) I made hundreds of pounds of apples into applesauce every year. This was by far my kids’ favorite pantry item, so it was easy for us to use it all up and then find ourselves without any for months on end. Or the opposite would happen: those six jars of pickled peppers that tasted fine but turned out mushy kept getting pushed to the back of the pantry, leaving us with canned peppers at the height of fresh pepper season.
I found the solution in a copy of The Tightwad Gazette years ago. In it, the author shared her plan for making sure her preserved foods were used up before the next season’s glut of zucchini and green beans without depleting the stores too soon: A simple chart.
Once my canning for the season was done, I’d create a chart similar to the one above by determining how many jars of each item I had and dividing it by how many month’s I’d like my stock to last. I’d mark the result in each month using little circles to represent the number of jars and then tape the chart inside the pantry. Every time I pulled out a jar of applesauce or peaches, I’d fill in a circle. It was easy to tell at a glance what I had plenty of. Or what I needed to serve more of. I generally started my chart in November, since that’s about when the garden stopped producing. Keeping track of the canned goods in the pantry in this manner meant that we had a nice variety all winter long.
Do you have a system for using your canned goods? Or do you just use them willy-nilly until they’re gone?