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Storing Canned Goods to Last all Winter Long

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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. How to make sure that we had enough to last us until the next season? Or to avoid an excess of something that wasn’t a favorite? I needed a pantry inventory system!

canning jars full of preserved food

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 canned food 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 jars of pickled peppers that tasted fine but turned out mushy ended up in the back of the pantry. That left us with canned peppers at the height of fresh pepper season.

I was not doing such a good job of keeping track of my inventory of canned goods in the pantry.

Full pantry? Lucky you! Here's how to keep track of the canned goods you've put up. This system will assure that your canned food lasts the winter.Pantry inventory

 

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 pantry inventory chart.

With the canning season complete, I made a chart similar to what you see above. I determined how many jars of each item I had. I then divided that by the number of months I’d like my stock to last and marked the result in the column for each month. The marks represented the jars in my pantry. With the chart taped inside the pantry where I stored my canned food, I could easily keep track.

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 pantry inventory system for using your canned goods? Or do you just use them willy-nilly until they’re gone?

close up of pickles in a glass jar

Related: 10+ Food Preservations to Consider

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

18 comments… add one
  • Toni Welch-Hiner Feb 21, 2012, 9:31 am

    willy nilly sort of gal. : )

  • John Weston Feb 21, 2012, 9:31 am

    This is a great idea! We’ve only been canning a couple of years and so we were definitely “willy nilly” beginners. This will help a lot. Thanks for the post!

  • Toni Welch-Hiner Feb 21, 2012, 10:10 am

    however, canned plums that we make into cobbler….you have to fill out an application and be interviewed before you get to open one of those jars for anything other than a very important holiday. I was thinking about pleading my case since my birthday is next week. Its not a big birthday that ends in a 0 or a 5, but maybe they will all agree to it since I plan on sharing it. : )

  • FrugalKiwi Feb 21, 2012, 11:36 am

    Great idea. We had a problem with not getting through our feijoas this year-not because they aren’t desirable, but just not always thinking about them in the winter months. A chart like this would help.

    • Attainable Sustainable Feb 21, 2012, 12:36 pm

      @FrugalKiwi This reminds me – I want to look into feijoas!

      • FrugalKiwi Feb 21, 2012, 12:46 pm

        @Attainable Sustainable Make sure you like them before you get a tree. They have an interesting taste that not everyone loves and the trees can bear prolificly. We got 200 kg of fruit off our one mature tree last year!

        • Attainable Sustainable Feb 22, 2012, 6:49 am

          @FrugalKiwi Oh, yes I do! We had a tree at a rental place we lived in years ago. Kind of a perfume-y taste, but we like it.

        • FrugalKiwi Feb 22, 2012, 6:57 am

          @Attainable Sustainable Perfume-y is a good way to describe it.

  • teresarobeson Feb 21, 2012, 12:48 pm

    Hah! I wish we were that organized. But our root cellar shelving is pretty easy to take in at a glance so canned goods aren’t as hard to keep track of. The freezers…oi…that needs this system you have. :}

  • merr Feb 22, 2012, 5:39 am

    I can’t speak to canned goods, but I do make my own soups and tend to make more than we can eat in one week before it starts to turn. I have come to learn when to freeze some for a month from original cooking time. It’s like discovering something brand new – and always tastes fresh!

  • merr Feb 22, 2012, 5:39 am

    I can’t speak to canned goods, but I do make my own soups and tend to make more than we can eat in one week before it starts to turn. I have come to learn when to freeze some for a month from original cooking time. It’s like discovering something brand new – and always tastes fresh!

  • Jane Boursaw Feb 22, 2012, 6:25 am

    I used to can nearly ALL of our stuff, but not since I’ve taken over the breadwinning role in the family. But thanks for reminding me about the Tightwad Gazette. I think I still have all those awesome newsletters in a file somewhere.

  • ruth pennebaker Feb 22, 2012, 12:48 pm

    I am amazed at your organization and discipline. Very, very impressive.

  • Melanie Haiken Feb 22, 2012, 10:36 pm

    I use a similar system with frozen soups and stews, labeling each tub and keeping track of the dates so I can use them up in order. But my stores are much smaller; this is very impressive indeed!

  • MyKidsEatSquid Feb 25, 2012, 6:09 am

    What a great idea. I have my own system for making sure I have enough food on hand in case of emergencies, but nothing like this. Growing up, my mom was a diehard canner (I wish I would have paid more attention) and she kept track using a similar method

  • Living Large Feb 26, 2012, 11:37 am

    Very good idea. You are so organized!

  • Kim Curiel Mar 1, 2012, 5:37 pm

    I don’t think any management system would keep pickles in my pantry. As soon as there is a case of them they seem to disappear in the night.

  • Kristin Underwood Aug 24, 2016, 12:15 am

    I do something very similar to this with our canned goods, and also have a similar chart on each of our deep freezers. We live on a farm and raise and butcher a steer, 2 pigs and around 30 chickens each year. I try to keep a good record of what we have in each freezer and in the larder so that we get to eat a variety of meals before we butcher or start canning next year.

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