Food Storage 101 begins with the question, “What should I store in my food storage pantry?”
Food Storage 101
What food should I store?
The first real tip here for ‘Food Storage 101’ is this: Store what you will eat! You can spend lots of time analyzing calories, shelf life, nutritional content, and other factors. But I think the bottom line here is if you store what you eat on a daily basis, I think you’ll be just fine.
Here are more basic tips to get started with food storage:
(UPDATED) I enjoy going back to old articles (like this one) and revamping some of them. I’ve been writing these articles for more than 10 years, and this particular one was originally from 2011. If you’re new here or happened upon this article from a search, I encourage you to browse this site (some of the more popular topic categories are in the menu), use the search functionality, and read the many helpful comments. There’s lots of info on this subject, and more…
Note: When I said “you’ll be just fine” regarding simply storing more foods that you already eat, let me emphasize that this philosophy will get you through all short term emergency situations, most medium term disasters, but will probably come up short in the event of a complete long-term collapse (but that’s not ‘Food Storage 101’) ;)
[ Read: Preparedness Level 1 – 4 ]
Storing More Of What You Regularly Eat
Storing what you regularly eat will also help with good rotation of your food storage. If you store foods that you’re not eating very often, they will just sit there and not be rotated in and out. After awhile, shelf life might catch up with you.
[ Read: FOOD STORAGE – Date and Rotate ]
Start with a look at what you currently have in your pantry & cupboards, and expand on that first. More specifically, the foods that you regularly consume. This is the most obvious and simple way to get started.
This logic does not factor a purposeful diversification beyond your ‘normal’ foods that you currently eat. But, it’s a quick way to start and get motivated.
You might keep your ‘extra’ food storage in a separate place, if you have the room (or dry basement?) for it. Depending on your space, this can be in a basement, garage, spare bedroom, closet, etc. Also, be aware of the four things that affect food storage.
[ Read: 4 Things That Affect Your Food Storage ]
In general, canned foods make an excellent ‘Food Storage 101’ item. Why? It’s easy. Typically, most canned foods have a shelf life of several years, some even longer. And there’s plenty to choose from.
Canned foods come in many varieties such as vegetables, meats, soups, fruits – just to name a few. I have some of my extra storage as ordinary grocery store canned foods.
Personally, I have put an emphasis on having some various canned meats too (protein). Spam anyone? A quick peek into my pantry/cupboards reveal the following canned ‘meats’… spam, beef, chicken breast, canned ham, pulled-pork, as well as canned tuna, clams, sardines, salmon…
Don’t leave out the veggies. I enjoy spinach (excellent source of potassium), so among my variety, I have plenty of that (tastes great with bacon and a bit of bacon grease drizzled in!).
Most canned foods in an emergency situation will not require that you heat or cook them before eating them. This is (could be) important!! They may not taste as good when cold, but they will sustain you. Canned foods are already processed adequately for safety, such as pasteurized – so they are perfectly safe to eat cold.
They often go on sale too, so take advantage of great sale opportunities and stock up.
BULK DRY FOODS like Rice, Grains, Beans, Flour
Another choice for food storage are dry bulk foods. Generally they are more cost effective because you are buying them in bulk quantities.
Many of the foods that you can buy in bulk are those such as rice, grains (oats, wheat berries, etc.), beans, or simply extra flour (I vacuum seal the bags).
[ Read: Rice and Beans, A Survival Combination ]
If you are not familiar with cooking these items from ‘scratch’, you will need to educate yourself now. Cooking or baking with whole grains (making your own bread, etc.) takes a little practice. Better to learn now.
Buying bulk food items is taking it to the next level (and beyond). Here are some recommendations from the LDS community who are very active in promoting food storage:
[ Read: Food Storage List For 1 Year ]
MREs (MEALS READY TO EAT)
Here’s an idea… While a good overall food storage plan involves variety and diversity, you might consider adding some MRE’s (Meal Ready to Eat). One reason is you could have a nice hot meal without having to cook (some MRE’s come with a disposable ‘heater’ packet which provides a chemical reaction sufficient to heat the food).
Another plus is the portability of these meals. They are small and easy to store, perfect for an evacuation scenario and keeping some in your 72-hour emergency kit. Perhaps a camping trip. They can also be surprisingly tasty (they’re better than they used to be years ago). One disadvantage is that they can be pricey and they are not intended for long-term consumption.
[ Read: 72-Hour Emergency Kit ]
How do I know if I have enough in my food storage pantry?
I don’t know if you can ever really be sure if you have enough (haha). ‘Enough’ is a personal opinion based on your own assessment of the risks that we may face. Let me tell you that I have been into preparedness for years, and I still occasionally find something to add to my food storage.
As an example, I remember years ago after beginning storing some extra food and supplies, I realized one important item that we did not have extra in our storage…COFFEE! That’s right, I had absolutely no extra coffee in my food storage pantry. You better believe that the next time it went on sale, I went out and picked up more to start my extra stock of coffee.
A few months later, I realized that I did not have many additional spices beyond my working inventory. Whoops. So we began purchasing some of our favorite herbs and spices in bulk.
‘Enough’ depends on how many people are in your family and how long you want your food storage to last. One thing I can suggest that works for me is to ask yourself every time you take an item from your pantry, “Do I have enough of these?” Many times that simple question will prompt me to add an item to my storage.
Another trick that helps me is browsing through the supermarket. I’ll walk up and down every aisle looking at everything with a focus on foods that might be good for preparedness. Occasionally, I come across an item and decide to add it to my stock. One example from years ago… I read the label on a can of ‘canned corned beef hash’ and was surprised to discover how many calories are packed in there (an important survival consideration!). It was somewhere around 800 calories! So, I bought a number of them…
The key is to simply think about it. That’s the first step that leads to action.
Final Tip: Appetite Fatigue can set in quickly – so consider diversifying your food storage! Comfort foods too!
[ Read: Appetite Fatigue ]