The COVID-19 pandemic left an indelible mark on the world. I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone who wasn't touched by it in some way. I remember a particular trip to the grocery store with absolute clarity. It was like a scene taken straight from a zombie apocalypse movie. There was nothing. Aisle after aisle of empty shelves, freezers and coolers. I recall taking a picture with my phone, sending it to husband and then calling him in a panic.
What were we going to do? I grabbed what little was left behind. It was, of course, the stuff nobody else wanted but I did not care. I wasn't going to let my family starve - black-eyed peas and Spam it was! And remember the toilet paper scare? I admit I had a case of single ply Scott tush tissue in my closet for close to eight months. We never needed it, but I couldn't bring myself to donate it, just in case...
We are nearly 24 months past the days of completely bare shelves and using sandpaper to wipe but the damage is still visible in kitchen cabinets and pantries across suburban Dallas. Clients, still raw in many ways from the fear of not having enough, buy more product than they need, just in case. The result is overcrowded, disorganized spaces and frustrated family members.
Here are a few ways to manage overstocked items, and prevent build-up in the future.
Organize and Donate
Go through all of your canned, dried and other non-perishable goods and determine the maximum number of overstocked items you are willing to keep. For example, if you have four cans of green beans, your new maximum should be two cans (depending on how often your family eats green beans.)
Donate your extras to a local food bank, church or other organization that helps those in need.
Organize your remaining items so that each item can be clearly seen or put items in bins that are clearly labeled so family members know where to look for canned vegetables for instance.
Make an overstock list
Next, make a list of your overstocked items, including the quantity of the overstock. For example, if you have garlic salt already open on your spice rack and you have three extra bottles in overstock (hey, your family likes garlic), on your overstock list you'll write 'garlic salt - 3'.
Store your overstocked items on a high shelf or somewhere else that does not impede day-to-day flow through the kitchen.
Put your overstock list in very close proximity to your items. When you get low on something, check the overstock list to see if you've already got a backup. When someone takes an item from overstock, they need to adjust the overstock quantity on the list accordingly. The garlic salt for example, would have the '3' next to it marked out and replaced with a '2' when one is moving into use on the spice shelf.
Have a grocery list available
Place a pad of paper and pencil, chalkboard or white board near the pantry/cabinets where most items are stored. When someone grabs the last of an item, and double checks that there isn't already a replacement in overstock, they can easily and conveniently write it on the list.
Having a system in place will help you pair down your overstock and prevent an unnecessary build up again in the future. If it feels hard to let go of the extras, or resist the urge to stock up on certain items, just think of the items as dollar bills sitting on the shelf. That's what they are after all. According to an article by Yahoo Finance, the average family of four will spend between $599 and $766.40 each month on food, and that's on the conservative end. So if you buy double what you normally would in order to "stock up", well, you get the idea.
While supply chain issues continue to a problem, we are generally able to get the food items we need and want on a same or next day basis. I finally donated the case of toilet paper I was hoarding to a local homeless shelter. And even though it felt a bit risky, it felt even better having it out of my closet. So take a deep breath and let go of the fear. I promise, you'll be happy you did.