Saturday, March 13, 2010

My 5 Rules of Food Storage

There are several systems and helpful hints for getting started on food storage,
some of which I hope to cover later.

Whatever you decide to do,
the most important thing is to find what system works best for you.

However, in my opinion there are important rules to food storage, that should be followed no matter what system you use.

These are my 5 personal rules of food storage:
  1. Anything is better than nothing
  2. Buy what you eat
  3. Rotate
  4. Prioritize
  5. Eat what you store
RULE #1: Anything is Better than Nothing
The idea of food storage can seem overwhelming. 
And costly. 
And time consuming.
Especially if it seems that you have no food in your pantry, and no resources to get it.
The most important thing is to start by setting small, realistic goals.

For a person who has no food storage, a year's supply can seem too unattainable.
Those who know nothing about what to store or how to store it can become overwhelmed by the idea.

Whether it is something as small as buying one additional item per shopping trip, or simply educating yourself, the idea is to start somewhere.
Anything is better than nothing.

RULE #2: Buy What You Eat
What does that mean?
If you don't eat wheat, let alone even know how to prepare it, don't store 500 lbs. of it in your basement.

My idea of food storage isn't cracked wheat and powdered milk, unless that is what you enjoy and are used to eating on a daily basis.
Especially in the beginning stages, stocking food that is meant to be stored only for emergency purposes should not be your priority.

Food Storage should start with what you eat regularly, on a daily basis.

Don't know what to store?
Try looking at your grocery list.
What items do you find yourself continually purchasing on a week to week, month to month basis?

Obviously fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and produce can go bad quickly, so think about non-perishable items at first.

I like to think of it as having a 'backup' for everything.
When you are about to run out of something, you put it on your grocery list, right?
Next time you are at the store, pick up two of them instead of one.
When you use up one of the two items, put it on your list again.
You're doing the same thing you've always done, but now you have an extra in your pantry.

Repeat this same process (buying an additional item when shopping), until you have the desired amount; enough to last you a week, a month, and eventually a year.
And yes, I do realize that this sounds a lot easier than it really is.  
Doubling everything in your pantry is like doubling your grocery bill.
Remember, make small goals at first.
Shop for sales, buy in bulk, use a coupon...  Whatever you do, start somewhere.

RULE #3: Rotation
Rotation simply implies that you use the oldest item first.

For me, items in my pantry are organized by stacking one on top of the other, or they are put into rows.
When I buy new items, they are put away in the back of the row, or on the bottom of the stack.
When I use an item it is taken from the front of the row or the top of the stack.
This ensures that I always use the oldest item first.

This also requires you to get organized.  I find that an organized pantry generally means more room for food, and it is easier to find everything.

Be mindful of expiration dates.
Just because you bought a case of canned goods last month, don't assume the expiration date is automatically sooner than the case you bought this month.
Many items are on sale for a reason - they are soon to expire.

Another good tip is to label items.
This is especially relevant when you get into longer-term food storage.
Bagged items like rice and wheat are often put into separate containers when brought home from the grocery stores (not to mention they store better that way).
And foods packaged specifically for food storage (like #10 cans), unless purchased from the cannery, don't have a date on them at all.
I prefer to label all items in these categories with the month/day and year that I purchased it, but I know some people prefer to date them with their tentative expiration or use-by date.
Find whatever works best for you.

RULE #4: Prioritize
I am talking mostly about what types of foods to store, and when.

For example: I remember testing out my food storage supply by not going grocery shopping.
After a few months I was wondering what I was doing with all of that ketchup, and why I didn't have anything stored that I could actually put it on.

Every family will have different priorities, but I classify mine into 4:
Priority #1:
Have at the very least a 3 day supply of quality (safe to drink) water per person.
Your body can survive a lot longer without food than it can without water.
The recommended amount is 1 gallon per person per day for drinking / preparing food.
** For more information about water storage click here

Priority #2:
Have a well stocked pantry

A well stocked pantry, in my opinion, contains enough food for you and your family to eat comfortably for at least 2-4 weeks (preferably up to 3 months).
What I mean by eating comfortably is having food that you regularly eat.

Every family eats differently, so every family will have different types of food.
My personal pantry contains:
Fresh, frozen, bottled and canned Fruits, Vegetables, and Meats
Baking Goods: flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, etc.
Grains: pasta, cereal, wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, etc.
Treats and Snacks: crackers, chips, candy, granola bars, etc.
Spices: having a variety of spices will help tremendously in making what food you do have taste better, as well as Condiments.
Fats and Oils: shortening, butter, and oils are needed to prepare several types of dishes, and can add great flavor to foods.
Convenience Items: canned soups, stews, chili, instant mashed potatoes, etc.  Meal in a can type of things.
In addition to the above mentioned, fridge and freezer items should also be considered pantry staples.

A pantry staple (to me) means that my family uses it on a daily/weekly/ monthly basis.
If you don't eat it regularly, don't make it a top priority.

Priority #3:
Up to a 1 year supply of food storage.
This category combines continually adding to your 'pantry', as well as the introduction of longer-term storage items.
This would be a good time to consider adding to your water supply.
This is also when you want to take into account things like powdered milk and powdered eggs.
Butter and Cheese can be purchased in powder form or canned.
Freeze dried and dehydrated foods would also be good additions.
 Fresh and frozen fruits, vegetables and meats would be replaced with Bottled and Canned versions.
 This list can go on and on.
The key is to find a way to store foods that you already eat for longer periods of time - whether it be seeds for your garden, bottled/canned foods, dehydrated, frozen, etc.

Priority #4:
Long-term Emergency Only Food Storage

If there ever came a time when you had to really rely solely on your food storage for an entire year, this priority would probably overlap with the last one.
 You would be combining the long-term storage items listed above, but also include items that have an extremely long shelf life (20-30 years).
I am talking large amounts of wheat, white rice, dried beans, etc.

This category also includes things like MRE's (meals ready to eat).
Survival food, if you will.
At this point I am not thinking about comfort, convenience, or even nutrition.
This is strictly a 'stay alive' menu.

Which again brings me back to the importance of water.
You are now getting to a point where almost everything you eat requires it - unless you want to be chewing on raw rice...

However, it is important to note that several pantry items will last much longer than just a year.
The average shelf life of canned goods is 5-7 years.
Several long-term food storage items can last 5-10 years.
Several items can (and will) lose their nutritional value over time, but still maintain life-sustaining qualities.

This all eventually ties into my last rule.

RULE #5: Eat What You Store
Unless you intend to have large amounts of food go bad,
or give older food items away as you replace them with others,
you are going to have to learn to eat what you store.

This can be intimidating for some people, and I have discovered that this is more of a personal preference for me than it is for others.

I don't like the idea of storing something I am not going to use - even if it is just for an emergency.
There are several items that can be used sparingly, over time, without having to taste the full effects of 'food storage'.
For instance, powdered milk and eggs can be added to recipes, allowing you to gradually rotate through your supply without having to sacrifice any taste differences.

Another reason I find this beneficial is that it allows you (and your family) to become accustomed to the food(s), both your body and your palate.

Lastly, it gives you the necessary experience.  For example, if there came a time that you needed to use your dehydrated/freeze dried/canned foods, having the knowledge of how to prepare them, what types of meals to prepare them with, etc. would be a huge stress reliever in an emergency.

Hopefully you found some of this information to be useful.
Like I said before, these are just the major things I think about when planning my food storage.
So much of it is situational.  The point is to start!


  1. I love your pantry! I want to be so prepared. You are an inspiration!
    thank you, thank you