Winter Storage Calculations

While I still have some hardy crops hanging on, basically my yearly food production, gathering and preservation is complete.  I don’t have the money to buy large quantities of commercially dried food, so this is how I get my food reserves.

I’ve got 3.5 people to plan for, and at least 20 weeks before I can start early spring plantings.  20 weeks is my number, that’s an average time between the last of my large falls harvests and the first trickle of spring harvest. You keep harvest and weather records right? If you don’t I highly recommend it. Figure your own number for winter somehow, either using first/last frost dates or your own records, don’t short yourself a few weeks and end up eating grocery store dregs unintentionally.  Here’s a brief rundown on my storage favorites and how I crunch the numbers to figure usage rates.

Onions – I have over 40 pounds of onions.  We use a lot of onions. Divide by the 20 week estimate and I know I can use 2 pounds of onions  a week and get most of the way through winter.  In an emergency that could go up to 5 pounds a week and still last us a couple of months.

Potatoes – I have 30 pounds of potatoes.  I’ve noticed that we go through potatoes like clock work. We eat the same couple of meals every week with potatoes and only rarely make the effort to cook something new. Creatures of habit I suppose. It does make it easy to plan for potatoes though. I know we need 3 pounds of potatoes every week, with one or two weeks where we’ll need 5 pounds.   So, I know we’ll be close to running out of potatoes after 9 or 10 weeks.  I can keep an eye out for cheap potato buys, maybe find a  group order to get in on, or just go buy some 10 pound bags of Russets at the grocery store. After all, I’ve got 30 pounds of potatoes really cheaply, I can afford to buy a couple of bags of Russets. And if a potato shortage started tomorrow, I’ve still got 3 months worth of spuds.

Pumpkins/Squash – I don’t have a weight on the squash stored right now, but it’s a lot.  I’ve got a half a dozen butternuts, one large hubbard and 9 pumpkins.   Short of some SHTF event, we’ll never eat through them all before they go bad. We usually only get through 3 or 4 butternuts and 2 or 3 pumpkins.  Right now I can fix them as side dishes, and we’ll slowly eat some of them, and the rest will get tossed when they become inedible.   I consider it temporarily food insurance.  They were practically free to grow, and require nothing more than cabinet space for storage. So what if we don’t make it through all of them most winters? At least they are there in the cabinet if we do need them, which makes me feel better.  We could up our usage to 2 squash a week and have a couple of months worth easily.

Garlic and Sweet Potatoes make of the rest of my fresh veggie storage right now. But, those were hard to find this year, so I don’t have as many as I’d like.  I have dried garlic to tide me over when I run out of fresh, and I’m hoping to substitute the over abundant pumpkins for many of the sweet potato meals.

This is only one part of the food storage puzzle, it has to integrate with the dried goods, grains, canned and frozen foods that make up the rest of your stores.  I find it is helpful to figure out some of the numbers though, just to make sure I’m in the right ballpark.  What about you? Do you count calories? Pounds? Or do you just wing it?