R. Ann Parris on Pro-Cons of Stocking Styles


Pro-Cons of Stocking Styles by R. Ann Parris

There are two general styles of stocking food storage — setting things up in boxes, totes, or cartons in “grab and go” ratios that provide what we need for meals and-or days, or setting our supplies up more like a supermarket, divided by general categories of food groups and preservation methods. As with anything, there are pros and cons to both systems.

Pro-Con: Ratio Packing & Stocking
One upside is that it’s easy to grab and use (if we got our proportions right).

That can be especially beneficial for a short-term crisis that extends beyond our everyday pantry’s uses, or if we have foods stored at a second location — arrive tired, no biggie, pull a case that’s totally balanced for X days of snacks, breakfast, lunch/dinner and supper/tea or a set of cases that provide those items as individual sets.

It can also give us fast-loading expansions to our kits if we need to leave and have some spare time and space.

The biggest benefit is for some is that it’s easier to tally meals and days covered by their storage if it’s already fairly balanced into those meals and days. (Compared to going through the individual ingredients in a food group system). With some setups, it can even provide at-a-glance tallies or quick-adds.

The downside, though, is that foods are going to be expiring at different rates (even in pre-packed combos and kits; yes, really).

It also gets painful if we get our proportions wrong or if we’re aiming for easy, generally modular storage cases/shelving.

Pro-Con: Food Group Packing & Stocking
This is a really tried and true method. Humans have gone for it since we started digging pits in the permafrost, and kept right on through to today, all over the world.

We see it in almost every canning pantry and cold cellar: arrangements by specific food (and treatment of that food) — canned peaches versus jam, individual veggies and beans and meats together and separate from medleys and prepared soups/stews, our storage potatoes together and separate from our turnips and our autumn squashes.

(Okay, honestly, autumn squashes tend to fit wherever they fit in a lot of cellars and cool rooms, but mostly we do try to keep them together.)

For many, it makes it easier to see how much of something we have, and can go right to our mini supermarket for exactly what we want and the amount we need as we want and need it.

There’s a slight downside to only having things set up individually and “open” on shelves if we have to leave, because we have to move down a row grabbing instead of kicking a dolly under a case of water, a tote with X days, and a bucket of X days, and rolling away with a backpack on our shoulders and the dogs at heel.

It really only has significant downsides if that food is all in cases/buckets/tubs instead of individual containers ready to grab off shelves.

If so, see, we have to either fill those all at once (problematic because it leaves our storage imbalanced unless we’re plopping loads of money down all at once), or every time we expand, we have to open multiple containers to put each item away.

That offers an additional downside if there’s a significant expiration difference in items inside the same case/tote. If the contents are outside 1-2 years of each other (some longer for certain types), we’re writing a lot of dates on the notecard or box that gives us quick-look access, and in our pantry ledger.

It also slows us further if we want to grab part of our stockpile to relocate.

There are also people for whom tallying meals from those contents is tougher, and coming up with the right ratios without buying and stocking in those ratios is more difficult (although, there are fixes for that).

It’s almost never all or nothing.

That includes our food storage system. We might use one system for some portion of our storage and the other for half or the majority of our supplies. We might use one for a certain type of storage foods, like cans and buckets of freeze-dried and dry-packed goods that should be good for 5-25 years, and the other water-bath and pressure canned foods and supermarket items that have shorter shelf lives of 1-5 years.

Picking One
Especially early, which suits us better will largely come down to which we more highly value:
– the ability to glance, see shallow spots immediately, and quickly tally general categories, or
– the ability to see in sets of meals, and the different shallow areas that may become apparent from that view,
– the ability to pull a “case” of contents that’s already in solid ratio to each other for using now/rotating or ease in a disaster, or
– the ability to readily modify and augment foods, preparing based on tastes, with less hassle in digging alternatives out of different boxes and then having to deal with imbalances in those boxes.

It’s all about what suits us best, at our stage in preparedness.