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Using Canning Jars For All Food Stores and More-Part 3, by Sarah Latimer

Managing Your Jarred Larder

Moving a single jar at a time is cumbersome when managing so many. I have kept the original Ball cardboard boxes that the jars came in because they assist in moving multiple jars and placing them on shelves easily, but we are gentle with them to help them last. Occasionally they require some reinforcement with duct tape [1] or replacement altogether; however, so far, most have held up well for a minimum of four years.

Labels can easily be placed on the ends of the Ball boxes, identifying the contents and their dates, so that it is easy to walk down an aisle, look up onto a shelf, and see which box contains needed items. I classify the boxes by category and detail with the year. For example, the box might say “FD Vegetables- peas, corn, carrots 2015”. The “FD” is an abbreviation we use to distinguish freeze-dried items from wet canned items. Lids on jars always have the contents and year on them also. I just put some wheat in half gallon jars today and labeled the lid with “WW 2016” for Winter White 2016. That is the most extreme abbreviation we use. Most of the time we spell things out and say things like “FD Corn 6/16”. When you are looking down at a box of quart jar lids in a fairly dark space, it is nice to be able to read the lid and not have to lift a bunch of jars out of the box to see which one contains freeze-dried corn. I want to reach in and get the one I want the first time. I live a busy life after all, and you probably do too.

By keeping each type of food in the same size jars and in common areas, it is easy to stack them together in sections and locate contents. Freeze-dried meats are stacked in quart jars together. Meals in quarts are stacked together. I have a dairy section with quart jars filled with various freeze-dried items, such as cheese [2], milk, sour cream [3], and so forth. There is a section of freeze-dried raw eggs and another with already scrambled eggs. I have a section of canned vegetables and another of freeze-dried vegetables. Then, I have canned and dried fruits [4] in a section. Of course, there is also a large spice, herb, and tea section, with a good amount of medicinal herbs, flowers, bark, and roots included. I keep a section of elderberry syrup already made and canned as well as jars of dried elderberries [5] in stock for making future batches to provide continuous protection again viruses. (We enjoy this syrup in our smoothies, shakes, or just by itself and have noticed a significant reduction in colds, flu, and illnesses since we began taking this.)

I also have dried pastas, rice, potato flakes, and multiple types of beans and grains stored in half gallon jars. The LDS-Mormon Store is an excellent source for many of these items. I find that I can buy a bulk supply of the winter white wheat (which is what I use for my cakes, pancakes and muffins, pastries, and bread) at the Mormon Store for less than what I pay for chicken scratch at the local feed store! Still, I can’t bear the thought of feeding my wonderful, high quality wheat berries to the chickens! They have to eat that cracked mixed grain so I can keep all of the wheat berries for our family.

Within each section of the long-term pantry, I stack boxes of half gallon jars no more than three high and quart jars are stacked only four high because of the weight on the bottom jars and the need to move boxes to get to what is on the bottom. Hugh has built wonderful shelvings that are just the perfect height for this stacking system. We just stack the cardboard boxes on top of the jars below, making sure that they are squared and centered well. We’ve never had a mishap with any falling down or breaking. We do not have issues with significant earthquakes here, so if you live somewhere that does you should consider straps or shelves for every layer to hold your food securely. There is one caveat in our system though; when removing jars from the bottom box, it is necessary to fill in empty spaces to provide good, even support for the weight above. This is another reason why it is important to keep like items together. Pulling from the bottom is rare, as I usually have multiple boxes of a single item and we rotate to keep the oldest items on top. However, sometimes I have a rare item with just one or a few jars of that type of item, such as saffron spice or a purchased medicinal plant root, that may end up in a bottom box.

In rotating supplies, oldest items are on top and in the front, so that they are easy to obtain, one jar at a time. It takes periodic rotation and inventory to keep the larder in check, especially since multiple family members are sent to obtain supplies and may not always pull from the same box and location and multiple family members are sent to place items, too. It is a regular job to keep the long-term food storage well organized. A complete inventory should be done at least annually, but I do inspections more frequently.

While in college, I once thought about a career as a research librarian because I enjoy research and writing. With the Internet, the days of a library’s seemingly endless periodical, microfiche, and full reference section is over, but my cataloging skills are now useful for the pantry. What I am finding is that I occasionally have to reorganize the storage as a type of food outgrows its allocated area. When opportunities arise for extraordinary good deals on products that we use regularly, I take advantage of them. However, I am then in a quandary of where to put those items. The shuffling must begin. Fortunately, I am not required to stick with the Dewey decimal system with the food and can rearrange the storage area as I see fit. If the canned meats need a larger section, they can be traded with another category of food that will fit where the meats were and that is currently is on the periphery where there is some empty space for expansion.

Safely Transporting Jars

When we travel, we always take freeze-dried meals with us. Our health needs keep us from being able to eat exclusively at restaurants when we travel. For example, we cannot tolerate a lot of salt, and most restaurants use too much for us. We also need a lot of fiber and, frankly, are spoiled in liking to eat things “our way”. Eating out just isn’t that much of a treat for any of us, except me, because I don’t have to do the cooking. However, if I get one of my freeze-dried meals I am very happy. I get to eat what I like without any fuss!

On a recent trip that Hugh and one of our sons made, they took homemade freeze-dried meals with them, including Beef Stroganoff; Roast Beef, Sliced Potatoes, Carrots, and Peas with Brown Gravy; and Chicken Fried Rice. All they had to do was add a cup of hot water to each quart jar, gently roll the jars around occasionally over the course of five minutes, open the jars, and eat. I offered to send a thermos of hot water with them, but Hugh said his rocket stove [6] was fine and he’d need to stop and stretch at meal times.

Several times a year, our family has taken one- to three-week long trips and taken all of our food with us, including our snacks, breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. We only needed one large cooler plus our jars. For the three week trip, I believe we took about 48 jars, but we didn’t consume all of the contents. I am known for having much more than enough. The LORD is good, and His bounty is evident at our table! I thank Him daily as I work in our garden. We are preparing for a bountiful harvest again this year, thanks to our great Creator and His provisions.

Anyway, taking jars with us has been no problem. We have carried them in our SUV, pickup, and trailer without a problem. We have never had one break yet, but when we carry them, we do not let the glass jars “clink” against one another. I use pieces of cardboard or other food items to separate them. Hugh has built wooden carrying boxes with lids. Each box holds 12 quarts, and I use strips of cardboard between the jars to give some cushion as they vibrate and bounce going down bumpy roads. There isn’t much space between the jars, so that helps to minimize the amount of bouncing, too. I have not had to put anything under the jars, though someone might want to do this. The main concern has been to protect the glass from hitting against other glass. The boxes Hugh made only fit quart jars, so any products that are normally stored in half gallons are repackaged into quarts for trips.

Quick oatmeal cereal mixed with brown sugar and dried fruit is another great product to carry on a trip. Dried apples and fruit, nuts, and beverages can also help make trips more pleasant. If it is cold, mix up some cocoa mix or spiced tea to carry for hot water. If it is hot outside, mix up Kool-aid or a drink mix and sugar or stevia so that you can add the mix by the spoonful to cold water bottles out of the cooler.

The larder mentioned above can be built and arranged in your bugout location in advance of SHTF. With vacuum-sealed jars stored in the dark, especially in a cellar environment, which is cool year around, the properly canned contents should last at least a decade or so. You can have your meats/proteins, dairy, vegetables, fruits, starches, and also your herbs, teas, green coffee, herbal medicines, and whatever else you need stored in air tight jars that water, air, light, and pests cannot easily get into to destroy.

When SHTF, just dust off those jars, open, heat/add hot water, and eat. Once you have emptied some jars, they can be cleaned and used for heating and serving food. For heating food, they can go into a pan of boiling water. They can be used as drinking glasses, too, and have a lid to keep the contents clean and bug free while you are living and working in the great outdoors.