Food Storage systems are not sexy, but they can make your life easier. Your friends probably imagine you basking on the foredeck while what you are really doing is looking for the pepper which you KNOW should be RIGHT THERE. You may think that since you never needed a food storage system in your kitchen, you certainly don’t need one in your galley. But let’s think about that.
Your kitchen probably has upper shelves, lower shelves, and some drawers. Maybe there’s a pantry as well. Your kitchen probably doesn’t have a deep bin that you have to stand on a step to get to the bottom of. There is unlikely to be storage that you have to lie down and reach through a 5″ space to get into. There are probably no rhomboid-shaped shelves that narrow to three inches wide. My galley has all these and yours probably does too. A food storage system can help make sense of what is stored where in the weird and complex spaces of a typical galley.
Have you ever gone to clean out your galley and found 3 packages of baking powder that you bought because you couldn’t find the one you had? Or that last can of mushroom soup that you thought you had already used? A food storage system can help avoid these scenarios, too. Here are some things that worked for me – I hope you’ll add your own tips in the comments area.
Label all your food storage areas
First come up with a unique naming system, then apply labels so you don’t forget what you decided. I like to put my labels inside the doors rather than on the outside, but with attractive labels you could label them visibly. I named mine by the boatside / section / type / number such as Port Galley Bin 5 (PGB5) or Starboard Settee Shelf 4 (SSS4). My galley has two sections (Galley and Settee) but I also have named storage for non-cooking items in the Head and under the Quarterberths. Some day I’ll get the fo’c’sle and the cockpit labeled… You may lump all the types of storage together, but I found it easier to keep track of things when I had a visual picture of how I accessed them (from top, side etc). Types of storage include:
- Bins (top access) – generally you’ll need tall narrow containers that can be labeled on the top.
- Shelves (side access). Most boat shelves are short so you’ll need short containers.
- Drawers (pull-out, then top access). Most drawers, especially in the galley, are quite tiny – check that you have room for your favorites. You may need to shorten handles on spatulas and such.
Provisioning Lists: How Much is Left and Where It’s Stored
Use a provisioning list for the food you buy and where it’s stored. It’s also invaluable for re-provisioning. Here’s my provisioning list (excel) if you want it although of course you’ll need to adjust it for your own list of ingredients. Note the tabs at the bottom of the sheet for food, supplies, medical, etc. If you’re a stickler for order you’ll mark off ingredients as you use them. But even if you’re not, it is worth the effort to keep things in the indicated places and inventory the remaining items before re-provisioning. The list will remind you how much you keep on board and help you always store things in places you can find them! I place a copy with each two pages back to back in a plastic sheet liner, and place the whole thing in a 3 ring binder next to the logs so it is always handy. When I get the last spare out, if not before, I mark it off in the binder.
Dry Food Storage
Pack dry food in plastic or glass containers with really airtight lids. Some good choices include old water bottles, Tupperware, and Click-clack containers. The latter are expensive so look for them used or on sale. Storage containers also enable you to remove as much paper and cardboard packaging as possible and dispose of it before you leave on a passage. Very important both for reducing homes for bugs as well as places that collect moisture and mold.
Store spices in plastic zip locks. I like thick ones such as 3×5 or 4×6 6-mil envelopes. 4-mil would work, too. I label the envelopes and then store them in alphabetic order in a plastic box such as a photo box or even a refrigerator bin. What I like is that I can pull out the whole box at once, find the spices I need quickly and not be juggling little jars and lids. I measure out all the spices I need for a recipe at once and set them aside in a silicone prep bowl (the silicone ones tend to stay put better). I also leave a teaspoon set in the box with the envelopes so it’s always easy to measure them out, especially for tricky things like cayenne when too much might mean too hot to eat.
Marking Stores and Spaces (legibly!) with a Labeler
A labeler is handy. I love the Brother P-Touch which runs on batteries or with the provided cord. Lots of types of labels are available including waterproof, small-diameter wrapping (think wiring chases!), high-visibility, etc. I label the individual permanent spice bags as well as the boat storage spaces with my p-touch.
Storing Spares and Backups
Your provisioning list should also list where the backup or spare items are – usually not as convenient a storage location as the daily-use container. A vacuum sealer helps to store dry foods safely and with minimal space wastage. I store my vacuum packed stores along the hull under the settees where boxes would be too bulky. You should see me when I have to get one of them out of there! Quite amusing for the rest of the crew, I’m sure.
For your initial provisioning, vacuum pack all the spares in quantities approximately equal to the size of the storage container you have for that item, but make the sealer bag longer than necessary. My sealer uses rolls, so there is no set bag length. The first time I vacuum pack, say the coffee beans, I make the bag longer than I need to by several inches. I still put the right number of ounces in there so it will fit in the daily-use container. Then when I cut open the seal and empty this bag into the daily-use container I keep the bag and re-use in the sealer next time I provision. The few extra inches allows me to re-use this bag for the same spares several times before the bag is too short. Then I can reuse it for something smaller. Don’t throw the sealer bags away after just one use, at least for dry foods.
*Don’t vacuum pack crackers or fragile items. They look fine in the vacuum bag, but disintegrate to dust when opened… very sad for the person wanting that treat. Pack each spare in a sealer bag longer
A food storage system combined with a good provisioning list will definitely save you some aggravation in the galley and throughout the boat. Good air-tight containers, vacuum sealers and labelers make it even easier.
What are some tips you have for keeping track of what’s on your boat?