Food Storage – Explained

While I am not one to preach gloom and doom, I do think it is a good idea to be prepared in this economy. When I realized I had a reader who stockpiled I begged asked Keeley to write a guest post on the topic. If you think about it, stockpiling was a way of life 100 years ago. People planted in the spring, harvested and preserved in the summer and fall in order to store up for the winter. With the convenience of supermarkets on every corner, stockpiling is unfamiliar to many people today. Keeley does a great job of explaining and encouraging us to start this old tradition again.

Keeley Brooks is the child of English army parents who converted to Americanism several years after she married her CA native husband.  She has three children who are all pretty much as nutty as she is.  At this moment in time they are gleefully taking pictures of a tie-bedecked dog.  Keeley does not know why, but she is grateful for the gentle nature of said dog.  Food storage is one of her numerous obsessions, along with cloth diapers, running, homeschooling and sushi.  She has a blog of meandering thoughts of interest to no-one in particular.  She no longer lives in Michigan, and finds it a tragedy that no-one has yet invented a usable transporter.

Store what you eat. Eat what you store.

What on earth is food storage?

Food storage is basically pantry living. You gather supplies that will last a certain period of time and store them in your home rather than pop over to the store every week – or several times a week. This may sound funky – and in some countries, believe it or not, it’s illegal – it actually brings amazing peace of mind. You know that, come what may, you have the supplies on hand to feed your family.

Why would I want to store food?

There are as many reasons as there are people. Perhaps your church recommends it. Perhaps your husband works on commission and you can’t count on a certain amount of money each month. Perhaps your husband works in a volatile industry and you may be out of work for several months at a time. Perhaps you simply like to be prepared. Whatever the reason, food storage = peace of mind. And a full stomach.

How much do I store?

It depends. I’d shoot for a year’s food storage, but frankly, every little bit helps. Just remember: Store what you eat. Eat what you store. Rotate, rotate, rotate. And don’t be like me and get all excited because you finally have a complete year’s food storage – then eat it and forget to replace it so you’re back where you started. *sigh*.

What do I store?

There are so many food storage plans out there you could easily find one that works for you. For beginners, I recommend making a weekly menu and shopping list. On the list, write down *everything* you need for that menu, including the stuff you already have in-house. Keep this list in a binder set aside for food-storage record keeping. After three months of doing this – Voila! Three months of data on the food you family actually eats and the supplies needed to feed them. If you rotate through this menu four times – Voila! One year of data on the food your family actually eats and the supplies needed to feed them.

How do I afford this?

Let’s assume you’re rich and can afford to double your grocery budget each week. Then do that. Just buy double of what you were going to buy. In three months you’ll have three months of storage. In a year you’ll have a year’s worth of storage.

Presuming you can’t do that, =), you’ll need to carve some money out of your budget for food storage. Even a little bit helps. There’s even a plan that helps you pull together your food storage on $5 a week. You can find that here and discussions about it here and here.

You have your plan though – it’s right there on the menu and shopping list pages you put in your binder. Look at the amount of money you’re able to spend on food storage, then look at your shopping list for week one and say “I can afford these items this week”. After you’ve purchased the items, put a tick by them on the list. The next week look at the list again and decide what you’re going to buy. Before you know it your problem will not be “how can I afford this?” because it will simply be a part of your budget. Your problem will be “I’m running out of room! Where do I put all this stuff?”

Where do I store all this stuff?

If you have a child that just got married, send them all their stuff and use the room as storage. Okay, okay, not many people have that happen. And many live in tight living spaces. Presuming you can’t just move into a larger house that has a ready-made storage room for you, you have to find spaces in your house to store the food. You may:

  • organize your pantry to free up some space
  • go through your house and give away stuff you haven’t used for several years
  • utilize the space under beds, using bed risers if need be
  • store your towels in the bathroom rather than in the linen closet
  • store sheets between the mattress and box spring rather than in the linen closet and voila! More space in your linen closet

Wherever you put your food storage I advise keeping all like-items together. For example, all the sugar under one bed, all the wheat under another etc. This enables you to quickly find what you need.

Wait! Some of this stuff is perishable! I can’t buy a year’s worth of lettuce and store it under the living room couch!

Convert fresh vegetables to canned if you can. For example, your weekly menu calls for carrots. Buy the fresh ones for eating right now and the canned ones for storage. If your family screams and runs away at the sight of canned carrots, keep that in mind and make a substitute. You know your family. Would they prefer a different canned vegetable, or can you purchase freeze dried vegetables? How about starting a garden? That’s a wholesome family activity there. You can then can your produce together. Do you know how to dry green beans? Snap the beans into the size you like, get a needle and thread and string ‘em up. Hang them somewhere to dry – et voila! Dried beans ready for the winter.

Where do I purchase this stuff?

Your local grocery store is great for purchasing foods that will last a short time ie under two years. However, if you’re looking for much longer-term storage, then look into something like Walton Feed or Emergency Essentials.

Long term storage?

Cans of carrots only last a certain time. This is great if you’re rotating through them. However, perhaps you’re interested in longer storage ie something that will last 30 years or more. Long-term food storage is good preparedness for extreme circumstances (ie, the unemployment lasts a year or more) where you need the basics; rice, wheat, corn, beans. At this point, a food storage calculator is what you need. You enter in the amount of people in your family, and it will let you know how much of which item to purchase.

Online Food Storage calculator

I found Food Storage made Easy whilst searching for a food calculator. It looks fabulous! Recipes and everything! This calculator is downloadable.

One last important item. Don’t forget toiletry supplies. You need a year’s worth of soap, too. And you would not BELIEVE how much toilet paper you can go through in one year. =)

Wishing you joy and peace of mind. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments.

“Many more people could ride out the storm-tossed waves in their economic lives if they had their . . . supply of food . . . and were debt-free. Today we find that many have followed this counsel in reverse: they have at least a year’s supply of debt and are food-free.”


  1. Is it just me, or is there a problem with the links? Specifically the church, here, here and here links gave me 404 error messages.

  2. How do you manage all of this being in the military and moving every 2-3 years? We’re in the military and are currently stationed in Germany. Just wondering! Love your blog!

  3. I’ve heard of some doing this, but I’ve never even thought of doign it myself being a military family. Good idea though as you never know! It would be especially helpful if something happened as we have tornadoes.

  4. We aren’t gloom and doom either, but have been talking more and more about the coming economic times and needing at least one year’s worth. About ten years ago, a bunch of us brought in an entire semi from Montana Wheat (we live in NC). I still have grain and we used dry ice for all the buckets making sure it had a shelf life of at least 10 years. Just ground some wheat yesterday and it’s still perfect.

  5. I guess I call it stockpiling LOL but we do basically the same thing. In fact, we are keeping our grocery budget very low right now and using up some of what we have stored so that we can save more money for a month or so. But you are right, we can’t forget to replace it.

  6. I am doing a similar thing in preparation of having a baby. Only, the foods I am gathering are admittedly, more convenient that what we usually eat. Don’t believe me? I have 50 cans of spaghetti-o’s that disagree.

    It makes it easier for me to take advantage of great deals at the grocery store because we shop the loss leaders. This week I am getting canned chili. We have pasta, sauce, pizza crust mix, tuna & mayo for tuna salad, as well as assorted canned fruits and vegetables.

    When I have a brand new baby in the middle of flu season (right around new years), I can stay away from the grocery store, and just have the hubby pick up produce and milk from the store. Plus, if our electricity gets knocked out for a few days in a winter storm, we have plenty of easy to eat foods that don’t need cooking.

    • ChristinaP says:

      also consider grocery delivery if its available in your area, definitely a good way to get what you need conveniently

  7. We’re military and have always had at least 2 weeks’ worth of food (we call it “earthquake food” at my house) in case of emergency. It’s not a huge stockpile but it is a small cushion against disaster. About 2 months before we PCS we start eating down all the food in the house. You’ll find, too, that packers will ship canned items, so your main tasks are to remember to include canned/tinned items in your weight allowance and to eat everything that isn’t canned first.

    We even shipped 5 liter tins of olive oil from Italy – twice. They were metal containers, so the packers took them.

  8. What a great post! This is a great idea. My mom was always really great at this while I was growing up. I need to be better. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Great post! We’ve always done this. We haven’t quite saved up a years worth of food, but we usually have on hand what we need and there’s a lot less trips to the grocery store.

  10. Great post for beginners to food storage – very well explained.

    I also have a food storage blog – we also focus on emergency preparedness.

    Thanks again for the post!


  11. A period of both of us being unemployed has taught me to stockpile. I normally only buy enough to last until the next sale cycle (12 weeks for most things). There’s some fascinating discussion about it in the stockpiling forums on Some people really take it to extremes, but it’s great to get ideas on how to make it work for your own family.

  12. Don’t let the 1 year suggestion scare you. Start with a 3 month stockpile and gradually expand from there.

    We are only allowed our 3 month stockpile. Our landlord specifically asked to not store more.

  13. Great post! Thanks for the valuable information.

    What caught my attention most though was where you state that in some countries this is illegal – I am curious which countries? And if you happen to know what their rationale behind such laws are? Sometimes its amazing what we take for granted in the US. Imagine not having the freedom to prepare and take care of your own family!

  14. ChristinaP says:

    A year long stockpile in preparation of unemployment seems a bit much. Money could be saved in a savings account, earning interest and used for emergencies. Not all of us have lots of space to store food.

  15. Love the post on stockpiling. It is something that I am very interested in and trying to implement. I have a question though about the $5/week stockpiling list. It says to buy 50 lbs of wheat 10 times a year. I know it said to put the extra change in a “kitty” for the weeks you have to buy wheat and milk, but 50 lbs of wheat runs about $40 right now. So spending $400 on wheat/year adds up to quite a bit more than $5/week. Not to mention all the other things it said to buy with the $5/week. Is the list simply outdated? I can see being able to buy all those things including the wheat and dried milk for $50/week. Or do you know where to get really cheap wheat?

    • Ok. I am replying to my own post- Sorry! I didn’t realize there was such a price difference in organic and just some plain old wheat with pesticides! Guess I am just picky.
      Love your blog! 🙂

  16. I have only been stockpile for about a year now and I do it with the cycles of sales and my abaility to buy at the grocery store. I have been trying to build up a good supply.

  17. I agree that people should be saving money, but storing food is smart. If you couldn’t get to your money (we had power out for a week after a wind storm with power POLES and phone POLES down, not just the lines, and icy roads, so we couldn’t use the internet, drive anywhere, go shopping for a while), or if the market crashed so that there was a run or if the value of the dollar was so bad it wouldn’t get you much, you would still have food to eat and water to drink. I also store diapers, wipes, pull ups, pads, toilet paper, etc. If we were snowed in, it wouldn’t matter how much money we had if we couldn’t get to the store.

  18. One more thing, if you are so down on your luck that the money saved has to pay the mortgage/rent and power bill with precious little left over, it is good to have food in the house. We keep a supply of food, water, toilet paper/diapers/wipes and blankets in the car along with flashlights and lighters or matches and a first aid kit in case we are stranded somewhere also.

    • It would only take a day or so of no deliveries to local grocery stores for people to run out. People forget that because we see the full shelves all the time, but the stores have deliveries every day. We used to live across a bridge and we knew if the big earthquake came and that bridge went down, we’d be stuck for a long time without replenished supplies in the store. Even our small town would have used up that food and the supplies fairly quickly.

  19. i’ve done this in various forms for a number of years as we have lived in some rather volatile countries. My staples that I would never walk by in the market: milk powder, sugar, flour, oil. Those seemed to come and go in our living situation and when they were gone they could be gone for years. Then I started in on tomatoes and eggs. Tomatoes can be stewed up and put in the freezer/ canned. Eggs, if they haven’t been refrigerated can be kept at room temp for quite a while. When we are in the states, i find it hard to walk past milk powder and flour in the store aisle. Our first month in the states, i brought home 10lbs of each. my husband knew i had gone round the bend:)But we used it.

    In our current situation we are vulnerable to floods. Last rainy season we were in the house for 10 days- and our neighbors house had 2feet of water. I was thankful for my food supply because I was able to gladly invite in the neighbors and whoever else.

  20. Since I’ve started couponing (and even slightly before that when I was just keeping my BOGO cabinet), I have acquired a nice stash. I thought I was acquiring too much. But now I can’t wait to visit those links & learn more about how to store a year’s worth of food.

    In addition to the growing stockpile, we have a hurricane box (or 2 or 3 etc). Guess what we can eat when the power goes out? MREs.

  21. Budget Nazi says:

    I’m such a blog-lurker. I don’t usually comment, but I’m a food storage addict…LOL. You mention storing like items together. Usually that works, but if your food storage is all over the place, one thing that’s worked for us is to make a list (kind of a master menu)of all of the storage foods you’ll need for one month (ie, 10 cans beans, 8 cans stewed tomatoes, 10 cans cream of chicken soup…etc.) Then get 12 large boxes and start dividing out the food by month. You can even label the boxes November, December, January, etc. Then each month you just pull out a full box of food and stack the cans in your pantry. With the empty box, you can start filling it again with the food on your list. Oh, and it also helps to have a master list of where you put each box. Seven years ago we moved from a house to a tiny apartment. My sister let us store our “food storage” at her house for a while. It was so convenient to just grab a new box of food once a month rather than have to rumage around through 20 different boxes to get what we needed.

  22. I second the comment about “Store what you eat and rotate rotate rotate”. My mom always made way more canned goods than we’d ever eat. I finally had to go through the food storage to clean up the house after she passed away. Oh man what a task. There were jars that once were peaches (I don’t know what they morphed to), that were about 20 years old. Yikes.

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