I don’t know about you, but I love to keep track of things using apps, lists, anything that proves itself to be handy. It takes a little time to get organized with tools like this but ultimately, it’s very worthwhile and it can save time and money with prepping.
For several years, I used an app to keep track of my food storage. I loved it. I could use the app to scan the food I was putting on my shelf and it would automatically pull up the information for the database. I was able to add the quantity of each food, the expiration dates, and then use the app to help make my grocery lists. To make the deal even sweeter, I could export the data in a .CSV file to create an Excel file backup on my computer.
Suddenly, the app’s creator stopped updating the app. There was no warning and I lost access to the app and all my stored information. I waited almost 6 months to see if the creator would update the app or respond to my messages, all while letting my food storage sink into disarray.
By the time I finally gave up on the app, I needed to start over completely and find a new way to organize and keep track of my food storage. For sure, I didn’t want to rely on another app and then a friend mentioned she was starting a bullet journal. Once she explained what it was, I knew I had found a great long-term solution, not just for keeping track of my food storage but for all my prepping, too.
What is a bullet journal?
A bullet journal is simply a notebook with numbered pages and a table of contents on the journal’s first page to tell you where various lists are in the notebook. There are pre-numbered bullet journals available to buy, but I took a notebook leftover from my daughter’s school year and decided to try it out. I made my own table of contents on page 1 and then numbered a few pages with roman numerals. On these pages, I put diagrams of our food storage shelves to give a visual overview of what is located where. Then, I started numbering the pages from 1 to 100.
Another option to keep a bullet journal organized is to color-code the journal. I decided to do this. I had colored reinforcement labels (red, green, yellow and blue) and went through and gave each section a color, rotating through in the same order. I colored the bottom line of the page in the color and put a sticker overlapping on the side. It makes it very easy to find the section I need as I colored the name of the section in the table of contents, too.
How can a bullet journal be used for food storage?
Using a bullet journal for food storage can be very simple, especially if you can divide your food storage into categories. I have eight shelves that I divide the food between, but I also group like items on the shelves. It’s a personal choice how many categories to divide your food storage into, but it mainly depends on if you prefer long lists with many foods in that category listed or short lists with fewer foods listed in each. I prefer short lists, so I made lots of categories.
I figured that four pages per category would give me plenty of room for each food group. Along with the name of each food, I also included a column for expiration dates.
To get started, I listed items oldest to newest because I make it a habit to rotate through my stored food, using the oldest food on the shelf first and replacing it with new.
Page 2 begins with my Meat/Protein category. I drew a line down the middle of the page to create 2 columns, one labeled Item, and the other Expiration. I included cans of tuna, chicken, peanut butter and Spam. If I had more than one item that had the same expiration date, I drew boxes and numbered the boxes with how many of that item I had. If I had three and used one, I would then cross off the box with the number 3 in it.
That’s the system that works and makes sense to me. You may arrive at a different system for your food storage.
If you are like me, you live with other people and also need a system so other family members will mark down when they grab something from food storage. I took the last page in the notebook and wrote “I took …” on the top and divided the page in half again with Item on the left and Expiration on the right. I leave the notebook open to that page with a pen right on one of the shelves. Everyone knows to jot down if they grab something off the shelf. Then, when it comes time to make my grocery list, I can put that item on my list and cross it off in the bullet journal.
What else can a prepper use a bullet journal for?
A bullet journal can be used for many other things for emergency preparedness:
- Contents of emergency kits — each kit gets its own page
- List of skills I want to learn
- Survival supplies stored in a closet (See my organization tips here)
- Camping equipment
- Vehicle emergency kit contents (Printable checklist here.)
- Inventory of firearms and ammo
- Canning inventory
Each list, whatever it is, gets its own page(s) and those pages are annotated on the table of contents. I am using a bullet journal to keep track of our local weather. Each day gets a page and on each page, each year gets two lines. I plan to keep track of a decade’s worth of weather trends by jotting down the weather, the moon’s phases and the high and low of each day.
Journals can be small to fit in pockets or purses or large to keep on nightstands and desks. The best thing is that you specifically tailor each journal for your purpose.
You can extend the use of a bullet journal into other areas of your life like to do lists, shopping lists, holiday gift ideas and even things like movies you want to watch and books you want to read.
Why get in the habit of using low-tech tools?
The reason I am most excited about using a bullet journal for tracking food storage is that it’s a low-tech option. I just need a notebook and a pen or pencil. While it may not be as convenient as an app, it will last through any power outage, EMP or technical glitches.
In many of the situations where I would need to depend on my long-term food storage, I won’t be able to rely on technology to help me keep an inventory anyway. A bullet journal is a way to keep my inventory closet at hand, up to date, and always “online”.
Do you have any experience using bullet journals? If so, share your tips with us!