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Overstocked freezer and pantry - how many weeks of meals in your's?

Living in MN there have been a few days each winter when we'd not be able to get to a store. But there's really no need for my freezer (meat, shrimp, veg, cheeses, nuts, sauces) and pantry (commercially canned beans, tomatoes, fruit, diced chilis, artichokes, beets, tuna, rice, pasta, popcorn, cake mixes, baking ingredients, spices) to have the quantity of food I've tucked away, stacked 3 deep. If we ever decide to move, I'm pretty sure I'd need 4 months lead time to use up what's on-hand.

I've set myself a goal to cook from ingredients on-hand until everything's in a single-layer again.

The grocery list should be pretty short for the next few weeks -- milk, OJ, eggs, eventually bread (after I've used up the yeast that's on-hand).

How much is "enough" in the pantry and freezer at your home?

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  1. i have tried to moderate and buy less - but we often have impromptu gatherings and we live out in the country - so i buy way too much. I thought having a smaller freezer would work. No. I have labelled everything religiously. No. Old 1960's habits die hard, for sure. (ps my food collection extends beyond the freezer - to the pantry - crackers and snacks and jars of pepper jelly etc etc. You get the picture. Oh, and several of every cake mix that Trader Joe's makes (which is a seasonal offering, which allows me to justify buying MORE stuff! agh. At least i know what the expiry dates are ; )

    1. Possibly two weeks if I got creative and stretched it out. The freezer is not big enough to hold more than that and I hate food waste so I'm conscious of what's in there, how long its been in there and rotating. As for the pantry, there aren't too many packaged foods we eat so it's mostly just spices, coconut milk, tea, things like that.

      I've had to make a point of buying cans of soup and things of that nature recently as "emergency food." That stuff isn't in the pantry, though since it's not part of our normal eating. We do live in earthquake country.....

      1 Reply
      1. re: weezieduzzit

        I have little in the freezer but a full frig/pantry. Maybe two weeks but that would be tough because I don't keep frozen meat/fish.

      2. I always have convenient access to a supermarket and, given that prices are rarely discounted for volume, I don't find that there's any real incentive to buy more than I need at the time.

        I buy perishable foods that I'll eat while they're still at their best, and of other things I buy only so much that I have some reasonable use for in the near-term. I rarely buy things simply because they're staples e.g. I won't buy rice unless I actually intend to use it.

        There would be perhaps 3-4 days' food in my fridge/cupboards. Beyond that, I would still have supplies of things like grains and spices, but it would be hard to make much of a meal from them.

        1. We're serious preparedness nerds at my house. We keep a 3 to 6 month supply of staples on hand. This sounds crazy, but it came in really handy when my SO was out of work for over a year. The kids didn't even know he wasn't working for several months! It's not expensive to do if you plan and take advantage of sales.

          And we do cook out of our pantry. I just make a habit of restocking what we use up and rotating old and new stuff.

          Don't feel guilty about keep staples on hand, especially knowing you'll use them. Plus, no last minute trips to the store when the weather turns bad.

          1. My freezer and pantry sound pretty much like the OP's. Our sailor son was just home on leave for 10 days, and he helped us put a big dent in the stockpile. I wanted to make a real attempt at clearing out the freezer, so I've stayed away from the meat bin at the grocery store. There's still about two dozen pita breads in there, about 10 pounds of shrimp, lots of frozen vegetables and some assorted meat and bread items.
            The pantry has dried and canned beans, 10 kinds of pasta and at least 4 kinds of rice, amongst other baking and cooking needs.
            I guess we could get another good couple weeks out of it. Plus we have all the jars of jams, pickled things and tomatoes that we put up this summer from our garden.

            1. Well, I have two large deep freezers and my refrigerator freezer jammed full with meats, veggies, breads and dry goods (dried beans, milk powder, rice, yeast, flours, etc.). Also, the bf's refrigerator freezer is full and not to mention my soon to be MIL's freezer contains a turkey that belongs to me as well. We recently made a TON of venison sausage and have venison ribs and hams stored for the season.

              I don't have a lot of pantry space for food storage with the exception of a couple of cabinets in my kitchen so one of my spare bedrooms is my computer room/food storage space which I have stacked up with boxes of canned goods.

              As far as meals that are already cooked, I don't have much stored. I do have some soups; the BF has begged me not to go to the store because we have no more room.... There are only two in the household but I probably could go at least 2 months, maybe more without shopping if I didn't need eggs and fresh produce. I'm challenging myself to cook from the freezer for the next couple of months and to back away from the grocer's meat counter.

              1. I am ashamed to admit that I could probably cook for 3 months from my freezer/pantry. The only things I'd need would be produce and dairy. I'm not much into frozen or canned veggies. We have lots of odd miscellaney such as frozen ravioli, pierogies etc and a fair amount of meat which I really don't cook that much any more. Too many canned tomatoes and too much rice/pasta too.

                1. I've got about a months worth of meat in the freezer for the dogs, and about 2 weeks worth for us humans LOL.

                  1. I keep an inventory - and I know I have 22 days worth of meals in the freezer plus some dry goods (pulses and grains) and an army of condiments.

                    I am currently working through frozen stocks with a view to going to zero and starting again - but when I buy milk I check for food bargains, so it's hard to run down stocks to nothing,

                    1. We could easily last two months. Probably more, but I'm unsure on that. For the past YEAR I've been trying to whittle down our overabundance of supplies. The problem, on my part, is that I am very good at scoring great sales/savings and can't resist a deal, so I eat down the surplus only to buy an excess the next week.
                      The problem with the person I live with is extremely forgetful , and while he doesn't overbuy he does stick 'leftovers ' in the fridge & freezer and forget what they are entirely leading to a ton of unloved containers in the freezer taking up room.

                      I've gotten better at throwing out coupons & flyers when unnecessary though, so the pile is going down. But ''enough ' is much less than we still have.

                      1. We could live a few months off the food in our freezer and pantry. At any given time I have in my freezer a few pounds each of chicken, beef in a variety of cuts, turkey cutlets, frozen shrimp, a whole chicken or two and meatballs I usually have a few quarts each of chicken and beef stock, a few quarts homemade marinara and usually a quart or two of some kind soup and stew. I store nuts in the freezer and usually have almonds, walnuts and pecans.

                        Right now I also have some containers of pesto from last summers garden and a few vacu sealed bags of veggies from this summers farm share along with some bags of commercial frozen veggies. I also have a meat lasagna and 3 meatloaves from my last batch cooking day. I usually have an extra loaf of bread and some bagels in there too.

                        My pantry always has at least two types of flour, sugar (white, brown and powdered), salt (2-3 kinds), vanilla, cornmeal, baking soda/powder, yeast, powdered milk, oatmeal, 2-3 types of rice, couscous, assorted pastas, peanut butter, cans of beans, tuna, jars of salsa, artichoke hearts, commercial marinara, crackers, bread crumbs, chocolate chips, snacks, annies mac n cheese, cooking spray, olive, peanut and vegetable oil.

                        About every three months or so we do a "pantry challenge" and only shop for fresh produce.

                        Once thing I do that helps immensely is to have a white board on the inside of the basement door. We keep a running list of what we have in the basement fridge/freezer. Saves me from taking trips down there to see what we have and it's a quick review when heading out to store.

                        1. Apparently more than two weeks' worth! Expecting sleet and snow, I did a last big shop the Thursday before Christmas, and went into town for the first time since yesterday. I didn't absolutely have to do that, either, but was craving some good cheese and fresh fruit.

                          The fridge is a lot more orderly now, and it was great to launch the year by whittling away at the oldest of the meats and grains. It was also positive reinforcement for the freezer inventory project, because nothing was older than eight months.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ellabee

                            _Almost_ nothing was older than eight months. I did discover some unsweetened coconut in the freezer that could be as old as five years; we enjoyed that (toasted) as a topping for the turkey curry that followed a pre-Christmas feast.

                            And I found that a bag of walnut pieces dated to 2003. They were fine; toasted, they've been nice additions to salads.

                          2. Thanks, all, for the insights and techniques, and days-supply comments.

                            For the record, the "best if used by" date on microwave popcorn doesn't have an 18-month leeway. I've opened up some shelf space by tossing the rest of that box. It was under the pasta boxes and I'd inventoried those recently, but must have been ever-optimistic about the shelf-life of popcorn.

                            I also keep an inventory of freezer and fridge items (excluding condiments and beverages), and cake mixes. I'll be adding an inventory of canned goods now, to help me know what needs to be used.

                            And today's salad of sliced (non-pickled) canned beets with diced apples and candied pecans was quick to make and tasty.

                            1. We could probably live off our pantry/freezer items for nearly a year. (Of course this excludes fresh produce and sundries such as milk.) But then I make most of my own condiments, salsas, preserves, sauces, etc. and can/preserve my own vegetables and fruits as our winters are dreadfully long. We also recently bought ten plump free-range chickens, half a lamb and some beef and pork. I freeze dry many kinds of pesto, make and freeze pizza crusts, pastry, freeze dry herbs, egg whites...the list is long. And several kinds of nuts not to mention 20 kinds of GF flours and grains. However, I am good at using what we have. One of my goals this year is to use everything up and then just buy things fresh whenever I can. We currently have more than enough.

                              ETA: Our freezers also contain many containers of various stocks. Those take up a lot of space as well.

                              1. I had the opportunity to live on the contents of the freezer/pantry, buying only fruit and vegetables for one, for a five week period (November + early December). Managed to empty perhaps 20%.

                                Am severely curtailing purchases at the present time.

                                1. I finished cooking my freezer food a couple months ago and am now in the process of restocking it, and my pantry has a high turn around so I don't have multiple levels of items in there. I estimate I could get 2-3 weeks worth of meals out of what I have on hand.