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!
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.
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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.
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?