Like many military families, my family has a pre-moving tradition of figuring out how to eat all the food that has accumulated in our freezer, refrigerator and pantry. After over two decades of doing this, I think I’ve finally got the process down. Better yet, I’ve figured out how to make this part of our regular routine. It is kind of silly how happy this makes me.
Warning: this strategy works in conjunction with meal planning. It will still be helpful if you don’t plan your meals, but it won’t be as successful.
Each week (or 10 days, or two weeks), I sit down and make a meal plan for the upcoming days. It usually starts by doing a quick inventory of the freezer to see what interesting things are lurking there, and checking out the perishables hiding in the refrigerator. I then (try to) include all the perishables and some of the frozen foods into our planned meals. You probably do something similar.
The PCS-Ready Pantry Plan is an extension of this “checking the freezer.” I have divided our food storage places into sections. In our house, there are about 12 of them: five pantry shelves, the baking cupboard, the condiment cupboard, spare refrigerator, spare freezer, regular refrigerator, top drawer of freezer, and bottom drawer of freezer.
Every time I make a meal plan, I go through one or two or three of these sections. I tidy up, identify things that are near their expiration date (or that I’ve overbought), and pick out items that could be used for upcoming meals. For example, a few weeks back I was on the dry/boxed shelf, and realized that we had too many lentils. It was super-simple to add some lentil soup to the menu one day. We also had an abundance of taco shells, so Taco Tuesday made the list.
When I’m not sure what to do with an item, the internet is an excellent resource. I enter whatever ingredient and find a ton of recipes from which to choose. Bonus points if it includes more ingredients that are hanging around.
I’ve been doing this for about 7 years now, and while things still get a little backed up, it isn’t nearly as out of control as it used to be. And next time we move will be a breeze.
Moving this summer? Check out my Ultimate PCS Guide to Packing Out to Make Your PCS Move Smooth and Organized.