Pantry Food Storage 101

Food Storage 101 – What To Store In Your Pantry

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!).

[ Read: Grocery Store Canned Foods For Preparedness ]

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.

[ Read: Use-by, Best-by, Sell-by | Food Expiration Dates ]

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 ]

[ Read: Vacuum-Sealed Flour In Its Original Packaging ]

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.

[ Read: Wheat in a 5 Gallon Bucket – Pounds, Calories, #Loaves Bread ]

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 ]


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).

[ Read: MRE Meals for Food Storage & Survival Kit ]

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.

[ Read: Favorite Spices – Long Term Storage ‘Must Have’ Spices? ]

It depends…

‘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 ]


  1. good article Ken,
    your last tip on appetite fatigue is important. red beans and rice is a favorite dish for us and they both store well, but it could get old real fast. diversifying your food storage is important if for nothing else than to keep up morale.

  2. Yes multiple varieties of brass and yea..

    I was never good at rotation, when I moved to the new location most the cooking was done for me and to preserve (not have things taken without knowledge or permission) I never told the cook about my stash.
    So It sat for years as I slowly added to it, much hidden behind a facade of things, little items and 5 gallon buckets.
    I have in the area of 300+ cans, 400 pounds of rice those being the bulk of it.
    There are buckets of oatmeal, wheat, oats 4 or 5 buckets of quick fix foods like Au Gratin Potato packs, rice/noodle sides, dry soup mixes and other things I don’t feel like listing.

    I used to eat a lot of bushes baked beans, at least 100 of my cans are baked beans.
    I have user 5 this year.
    Complete failure to rotate.

    Lots of powdered drink mixes, hot choc, lemonade, gatorade, welch’s grape something.
    These I am going to get more of, water is fine but being an American I expect some limited variety.

    All that and only a single 5lb bag of sugar, I should have more it’s great for wounds, that and betadine.

    1. I have done a lot of what you mentioned with bulk foods but also added Salt in various forms baking soda and vinegar all multi purpose items just like bleach- cleaning, laundry and to treat water if needed. Medications, 1st Aid, Castile Soap, toiletries, seeds & Ammo..we garden, and keep our propane take full and our well has a new tank..I started planting a good variety of sustainable fruit trees & berries 8 yrs ago with our existing 46 Pecan trees. I plan to start raising chickens again soon..I feel like we could hold out for quite some time in a collapse if we Bug In- Buging Out would be a last resort however I have also planned for that as well, I just hope it never comes to that.

  3. Ken:

    You mentioned coffee (assuming drip variety here). I am not sure how long it remains fresh in those plastic containers it usually comes in. Sam’s club sells their packer’s label brand in red metal cans (I think 48 oz) for around $6-7 per can (before bidenflation). The seal on top is metal coated plastic and holds a slight vacuum. I’m guessing if you can tolerate the blend – there is some choice (I like it ‘medium’) it might store better than the total plastic deal.


  4. bb_in_GA,
    i,m told that freeze dried coffee will last indefinably. i have no direct experience in storing it long term but that is the general consensus on most prepper websites.
    i would like to hear Ken’s opinion on this.

    1. nyscout
      I like the taste of freeze dried coffee added to my perked coffee. The plastic jar I am currently using dated “2004”. Flavorful, not bitter at all, just makes for some “road tar” coffee. Lol

    2. At Amazon, they sell a box of 1000 regular Tasters Choice in the single serve packets. They are 1.5 grams each and cost right now is $109.00. Throw them in a bucket. Should last a long time. Decafe cost more and does not come in a large box.
      I also consider these to be a good trade item as coffee is an addiction!

      1. I have the same thing but Folgers, I think I have about 300. great for the GHB and if I had to barter coffee they would be an easy way to do it ( that’s why I bought them ) i also store jars of freeze dried coffee and about 500 tea bags

      2. I can see the reasoning behind getting the box of 1,000 single 1.5 gram instant coffee packets. But as this comes to around $33 per pound that’s more than three times what buying it in an 8 oz jar costs.

  5. My parents lived thru the Great Depression. Growing up, I remember large (gallon size?) jars of coffee beans stashed away.
    Then there is roasted dandelion root and roasted chicory root coffee. Chicory doesn’t grow naturally here, so get chicory seeds from Strictly Medicinal.
    If fireweed grows where you live, you can make black (fermented) fireweed tea. Our Science teacher, as a science experiment(?) made sassafras tea in class.
    Never been much of a coffee drinker, but have jars of loose tea in the larder. But good point about coffee as a barter item.

  6. Still a good Article Ken.
    Remember reading this many years ago.
    I’ll reiterate the suggestions I made back a few years.
    As you said “Store what you eat, Eat what you store”.
    FIFO (First in, First out) meaning rotate your supplies.
    Make and MAINTAIN an Inventory. Tis very, VERY, easy to forget about those items you have stashed wayyyyy back behind the Furnace in the Basement.
    Make a Plan/List on what and how much you believe you’ll need when everyone you expect to show up When/If TSHTF, than add 25%.
    Lastly, even though not a “Food” please remember everything that goes ‘in’ MUST come ‘out’ sooner or later, Got Toilet Paper?

  7. This is an excellent article Ken. I am sure many newbies appreciate the info. It is actually time for me to run through my pantry and take anything we won’t get to down to the local food pantry. We keep 5 lb packages of flour for emergencies and will occasionally mix that flour with fresh ground to use it up but We will still have a couple bags to donate. I also purchase cans of pasta sauce and spaghetti to donate, along with peanut butter and jam, and canned chicken. The condiments also get rotated out. The canned veggies of green beans and corn are another item we take to local food pantry. We prefer our home grown corn but will use a can here and there for stews. Mostly these are purchased as an additional hedge and are considered along the lines of “insurance”. Someone will benefit from the stocking of these extra items. Budgets get tight for people in December and January (taxes due) so they are good months to give food that We won’t be using.

  8. Article re new international shipping legislation at Fox News today. Contains this tidbit “ “Farmers in my district are already looking at shortages on farm equipment and chemicals along with skyrocketing costs, which will impact what they are able to plant next year,” Illinois congressional candidate Esther Joy King, a Republican, told FOX Business.” So guess the answer to the question posed in this article is EVERYTHING.

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