R. Ann Parris on Quick Counts via Containers
Quick Counts by R. Ann Parris
We probably know that keeping preps organized and tracking is important, even if we never really sat down to think about it. Once we’ve been at it a while, we start getting an idea of just how much stuff we have to track.
Food storage is a particular area where it’s easy to get a little behind, and where figuring out exactly how much we have can get overwhelming, especially if we maybe were not real great with our tracking early on. There are a few things that can help make counts quick and easy to get and keep us on track.
Canning Jars & Plastic Bottles for Storage
Many of us turn to canning jars even for dry storage, since we’ll need so many if we have to ramp up production or lose access to a freezer. Many of us also use soda and juice bottles for dry-goods storage since they’re common household items.
When it comes to dry pantry foods, those can be big aides in quick counts. We’ll need two quickie rundowns to use them:
1 gallon = 4 quarts, or, 8 pints, or, 3.8 liters (two 2L soda bottles, or six-and-a-half 20oz bottles)
1 gallon = 7-7.5 pounds of whole grains and 6.5-7 pounds of legumes (7# avg overall)
1 pound dry grains/legumes = about 1500-1600 calories (on average) — that’s minimal/base weight-loss but survival-level calories for one person for one day, while 1.5# puts us in the 2200-2400 range and 2# gives us a near-ideal 3K-3200 calories.
Things like oatmeal and any rolled, flaked, or milled grains deviate significantly both in calories and volume-mass conversions, but for our wheat berries, barley, quinoa, all types of rice, whole corn kernels, and rye, it holds pretty standard.
That means for every gallon we store, we have minimal, survival-level calories for one person for a week.
Whether we just use it as an average for dividing as we figure out how much we have in buckets and bulk bags (or how many storage containers we need for them), or calculate our “days covered” tally by just counting jars or bottles, it can make for faster, easier tracking of those basic ingredients many of us either base our storage around or augment our storage with.
The position of that “#” is important. It’s “number ten” not “ten pounds”. And, for all that many of us say “it’s about a gallon”, they’re 2-3 cups shy.
That’s about a pound of those dry whole grains and legumes.
There’s also a fair bit of wiggle room in how much is in there by company and self-packed can, so we are going to want to check to make sure any we have aren’t more like 5 days instead of 6 days.
Especially if we’re packing a variety of both grains and beans, that 7# per gallon overall average can help us quickly figure how many days/calories we have in each bucket, regardless of bucket size.
5-gallon buckets are particularly helpful, since it allows us to just factor them as base calories for a month per person using either single buckets or pairs.
However, there’s wiggle room involved with averages gets bigger as we go (universally), especially if we’re storing one thing instead of a variety. We also start seeing more variation from how we pack our buckets (compared to smaller variation in bottles and jars).
The quarter- and half- and one-pound differences aren’t too big for “just” a gallon, but as we scale up, they can start making bigger impacts. For every 5-gallon bucket we fill, for example, we can be looking at 2.5-pound difference pretty easily. That’s a day’s survival-level calories.
Just counting on 1-2 buckets a month (versus the 35-37 days at a stricter 1:1 ratio) can buy back that margin of error, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Pint’s a pound the whole world ‘round…
…and quarts hold two pounds. Until we get into dry things, anyway, or start factoring how big you cut your fruits and veggies compared to me (dehydrated or bottling/canning), and how tightly we each pack them down.
Still, once we get rolling, especially if we take good notes, we can quickly come up with our own averages there, too. In some cases we might go with weight. In others, I tend to go with counts (a pint jar of dehydrated bananas is 5-7 bananas the way I cut them).
It’s not quite as fast as counting every-other bucket or jar of beans/grains to come up with a days-so-far count, but knowing our baselines does make for easier conversions from storage on shelves to the meals we’ll be able to put on plates.
We can also use “just” general serving sizes for canned goods, especially fruits and veggies that are belly fillers, flavoring, and nutrients, not vital to calories. A half-pint is about equivalent to the “normal” supermarket cans.
Tap and add tick marks to our tally sheets for however many servings that is for our families, and we’ll know we have something to round out our base diet of beans and grains, or whatever other types of food storage we’re getting/packing.
Harping on Tracking
While “anything is better than nothing” and “the world isn’t enough” theories absolutely apply, and there are times we’d deliberately unbalance our storage (key word: deliberately), we do want at least a general idea of what’s in the pantry.
We want to make sure we have as much as we think we do, both in actual number of days covered and calories per day. The serving sizes we’re looking at from that storage can also be eye-opening sometimes, both high and low.
The general averages some food types offer, and general servings and day counts we can estimate using somewhat modular storage containers can make that tracking a bit faster and easier, which means it’s more likely to get done.