Basic Food Storage Planning

[Note: This is an abridged version of an article that first appeared in Prepper Survival Guide magazine.]

Putting together a food pantry isn’t difficult, but doing it right involves a fair amount of planning. You do not need to go out and purchase a pallet’s worth of specially packaged, and expensive, survival foods. In fact, that’s not a great approach even if you can afford the purchase. Many of the dehydrated and freeze-dried foods marketed to campers, hikers, and survivalists are high in sodium or can have an adverse effect on your digestive system if you’re not used to eating them regularly.

Instead, you can amass a comprehensive supply of food just by purchasing things you normally buy at the grocery store.

Store What You Eat

It makes very little sense to devote time, money, and energy into storing foods nobody in the house likes to eat. Not when you have a free and open choice as to what to purchase. Focus on foods that are not only enjoyed by the family but that are also shelf-stable. Think about it like this. When it comes to food, many people are reluctant to try new things when times are normal. Add in the stress and anxiety from the disaster at hand and people will much rather have something familiar on the dinner plate. It will provide a bit of normalcy in the crisis.

Eat What You Store

The other half of the equation is that your food should be rotated on a regular basis. This means you’re regularly consuming and replacing items, rather than just sticking them on a shelf and forgetting about them. This serves to ensure that what you have stored is as fresh as can be, if push comes to shove and you’re relying strictly upon what you have stored without trips to the grocery. Come up with a system that works for you, whether it is a computer spreadsheet or old-fashioned spiral notebook and a pen, to keep track of what goes in and out.

Forever Foods

There are many items that will last years, in some cases even decades, without going bad. The idea here is to have some of these things to form the base layer of your food storage program. You obviously cannot rely on these items entirely.

• White rice: keep it dry and cool, in an airtight container, and it will be good almost indefinitely.
• Honey: if it crystalizes, put it in the sun or apply gentle heat and it will liquify again.
• Dry beans: the older they are, the more water they’ll require. Extremely old beans can be powdered and added to soups and stews as a thickener.
• Instant coffee: not everybody’s favorite, but it’ll do if nothing else is available.
• Sugar: an important ingredient in many baked goods, and generally inexpensive to purchase now.
• Salt: look for plain salt, with nothing added to it, for longevity.


The bulk of your stored food should consist of things that will remain viable for a long time without the need for refrigeration or other special storage requirements. Fortunately, there is a wide range of items that fall into that category.

• Canned goods: vegetables, fruits, meat, soups, stews.
• Pouched meat: these are particularly good for saving space and weight in your storage area.
• Peanut butter: great source of protein.
• Dry pasta: boil it, add a jar of sauce and you’re good to go.
• Soup mixes: dump them into boiling water and dinner is served shortly.
• Baking mix: this will make biscuits, dumplings, pancakes, and more.

Home Preserved

Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from learning how to preserve food yourself. Canning food at home is a great skill to have. While it does require a small investment in a canner as well as jars, lids, and other necessities, it can allow you to not only have less food go to waste, such as canning extra soup or stew, but you can take better advantage of sales at the grocery store.

Let’s say they are running a great special on ground beef, but your freezer is packed full. You could still buy extra and can it using the hot pack method, then store it on the shelf for about a year.

Dehydration is another preservation method you can explore at home. You can sometimes find good quality dehydrators at thrift stores for a good price. They work well for fruits and vegetables in particular, though beef jerky is always an option, too.

Take It Slow

Don’t plan to buy everything at once. That’s just asking for trouble. Instead, shop like you normally do, just add a little bit extra to the cart at each visit. Take advantage of sales and use coupons when they make sense to do so. Add to your food pantry a little at a time and you’ll be surprised at how quickly it builds up.

Order of Consumption

When a crisis hits, you shouldn’t just immediately jump to opening your food stash and boiling water for the dehydrated packets. There needs to be a method to the madness.

Odds are, you’ll have food in your refrigerator and freezer. Rather than letting those things go to waste, do what you can to use them up before they go bad. Whatever you won’t be able to cook and eat should be preserved in some way, if at all possible. This might mean dehydration, pressure canning, or some other method.

Whatever can’t be preserved should be consumed. Doing so accomplishes two things at once. First, the food won’t just go to waste. Second, it extends the time you have before you need to dig into your food storage, at least in earnest. Even if you have to invite a friendly neighbor over for a feast, it is better that the food go into bellies than the trash can.

Under more or less normal conditions, the food in your freezer should stay viable for at least 24 hours, provided you don’t open the door every ten minutes to gawk at what you have left inside. As a general rule, if the food is cold to the touch and still has some amount of ice crystals, it should be safe to either refreeze or thaw and cook.

With the food in the refrigerator, things are going to go downhill a lot quicker. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), food kept in the refrigerator will stay cold for maybe four hours. They recommend that any meat, milk, eggs, and cooked pasta be tossed after two hours above 40°F. More of their guidelines can be found at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *