Planning Food Storage

When I first started out on the path to building a food storage plan, my initial thoughts were along the lines of “Oh, I’ll buy lots of canned vegetables, some MREs, and some freeze dried food. Then I’ll be good.” I also only was planning for two weeks of food storage, everything fit in our kitchen pantry, I had no idea of how many calories I had on hand, I didn’t know how to calculate daily caloric needs for our family of five, and in general I didn’t even know how much I didn’t know.

That was three years ago. Today, we have around six months of food storage at any given time. It’s all inventoried, shelved, organized, and in a dedicated store room that’s kept relatively cool to increase the shelf life as much as possible. The kids actually joke about it, occasionally asking if they can “go to the store” to grab a can of fruit for dessert. 🙂

I’ve made a number of mistakes along the way, but I feel that I’ve learned enough to put my knowledge out there in the hope that someone else can avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made. Before I talk about suggestions, let’s get the mistakes out of the way…

Mistakes I’ve Made

This isn’t all of the mistakes I’ve made, as that would make for a terribly long post by itself, but these are the big ones in my mind. When I think of all the time, money, and food wasted… Let’s just say I can be my own worst critic at times.

Buying Foods My Family Won’t Eat

This one… I really don’t know how this one happened. I even bought foods that I wouldn’t eat. When I recently relocated a large amount of our food storage from our kitchen pantry to our store room (more on that later), I found a number of items that absolutely nobody in our family will eat. Food storage is of minimal value if nobody wants to eat it. Yes, I’m sure people will eat anything when they’re hungry enough, but I’d prefer to avoid eating canned artichokes for breakfast while I’m struggling to live through the collapse of civilization.

I ended up donating about 3 dozen cans to the local food bank to free up the storage space for foods we actually enjoy.

Relying Too Heavily on Canned Goods

Honestly this occurred because I had done little to no research and canned goods were the only thing I knew. “But Jeremy, there’s nothing wrong with canned goods!” you say. Well, you’re right. What was wrong with it was that I had no variety in my canned goods. When I finally stopped and looked at our food storage, I had purchased multiple cases of canned corn and canned green beans, with a few dozen cans of everything else. No fruits, no black beans, no other vegetables, a very small amount of soups, only a small amount of canned meats.

If I had only discovered this when it really mattered, that would have really, really sucked. While I like canned corn and canned green beans, they can’t provide anything close to a healthy diet by themselves, and I had such a ridiculously small amount of protein on hand that we likely wouldn’t have had the energy to do anything.

Also, as stupid as this sounds, I had never actually checked to see how many servings were in the #10 cans of my “Long Term Storage” freeze dried foods, assuming they had vastly more servings than they actually did.

Not Keeping an Inventory

If I had kept an inventory of my food storage from the start, I would have become aware of the issues I talked about above a heck of a lot sooner than I did. By keeping an inventory it’s relatively easy to calculate the amount of calories you have on hand, as well as creating shopping lists so you know what you need to pick up each week.

Brown Rice

I purchased twelve 6 lb bags of brown rice without knowing that it had a shelf life of 6-8 months. Even had I sealed it in mylar bags and buckets – which I did not – it wouldn’t have extended the shelf life long enough for our family of five to eat seventy two pounds of brown rice. It turns out that only my wife and one of my daughters really like it, and they only like it occasionally. This should be included in “Buying foods my family won’t eat”, but I wanted it to have it’s own section as I’m still fairly sore about it. Brown rice, beyond having a short shelf life, is quite expensive compared to white rice. While it may be healthier for you, I don’t store large amounts of it anymore; we have a five pound bag in the pantry that will last us about six months, which is pretty much it’s shelf life.

Purchasing Freeze Dried Foods Without Tasting Them

Those #10 cans I mentioned above? I bought a good quantity of them on sales I found around the web. Then I stuck them on a shelf and forgot about them. After sampling some of them, I don’t even like them that much. However, they’re still edible and not that bad, so I’m keeping them around. I am, however, not purchasing anymore of those we don’t enjoy.

The ones that I’m glad I bought are the Mountain House entrees. We have yet to find a single one of those that isn’t good.

If I Could Start Again

As they say, hindsight is 20/20. Hopefully some of this info will prove useful to you, helping you avoid some of the mistakes I made.

Involve The Whole Family

Don’t assume you know what is needed or desired in your food storage. Even if you’re the only prepper in the house, you have a responsibility to do the best job possible for your family. If you’re a man, you probably didn’t think about some things that your wife will tell you about, and vice versa. Also, by involving the whole family from the start you can ensure that the food you’re storing at great expense will be enjoyed when it’s needed the most.

Plan Your Storage Area

As I have mentioned a few times so far, we now have a dedicated store room, but we didn’t use to. Instead we had a completely disorganized kitchen pantry literally overflowing with food. I attempted to solve this once by installing shelving but there simply wasn’t enough room, and the pantry was too frequently used to keep any kind of organization system. The worst part was that trying to rotate food was a nightmare. Even moving to the store room was a pain because I didn’t know exactly what I had. If I’d planned out a storage area from the start, this wouldn’t have been an issue. Luckily for us, our kitchen has a small 10’x13′ room attached to the end of it that I was able to clear out and dedicate to food storage (among other preps).


I measured the room, measured the shelves and cabinets I wanted to use, and popped everything into Visio. Then I played around with locations until I got the maximum amount of storage. The room doesn’t look 100% like this as my wife kindly pointed out that the cases of MREs (the purchase of which I considered putting in the mistakes section above) needed a place to go, that wasn’t where they were. As usual, she was right, and after doing what she asked me to do I realized that I needed a place to store buckets as well.

All that said, take the time to find whatever area you’re going to dedicate to food storage and even if you don’t go to the level of detail and effort that I did, make sure you have a plan before you start filling in nooks and crannies. After this I even went and created a layout for our kitchen pantry, where we store our more commonly used goods.

To achieve a solid plan, know what you’re going to store, know the space you have, and put together a picture of how it’s going to look in the end.

Keep Inventory

I now inventory everything as it comes in, do my best to watch it as it goes out, and once a month inventory everything in storage. By doing this, you can convert to a rough number of calories stored, which will give you a good idea of just how long your food storage will last your group.

I tried using an iOS app for this, but it didn’t quite fit my needs. I don’t want to know that I have four cans of Del Monte Green Beans and four cans of Safeway Green Beans, I just care that I have eight cans of green beans. Because of this, I’ve reverted to manually keeping inventory in an Excel spreadsheet. This suits my personality better anyways, so I’m going to stick with it.

Invest More Time and Money in Bulk Goods

For the first two years I was working on increasing the amount of food we have stored, I almost completely neglected bulk goods. I had some white rice, some brown rice (don’t get me started on that again), some beans, and that was pretty much it. Then I discovered Cash & Carry. At least for the one near me, you don’t need a business license even though their website says you do. I found this out when calling them, after I’d spent 20 minutes finding the wallet card of my business license.

Now I’ve got considerable stores of rice, black beans, navy beans, barley, and lentils that I purchased in 25 lb bags for incredibly good prices. Note that these are all grains that our family eats, yours may differ. My wife makes an excellent navy bean, barley, lentil, and canned ham soup on a somewhat regular basis, of which every ingredient is something we have in bulk and canned food storage.

If I would have done this earlier on, I could have ramped up my food storage in a quicker manner, with a lower cost and more nutrition. While canned goods have their place, and fill a very specific need, bulk grains and legumes are a very cost efficient manner of filling in your food storage.

Seal In Mylar Bags and Buckets from Day 1

I love sealing in mylar bags, as does my older daughter. I find it very stress relieving. I posted about it awhile ago also. I actually bought the mylar bags and buckets in 2012, but only used the buckets for easy access to rice and beans, and never even touched the mylar bags until the summer of 2014. Once I did, I was hooked. One nice thing I’ve discovered is that those 25 lb bags that I purchase at Cash & Carry, can be brought home, opened, and split into five 1 gallon mylar bags. Those five bags fit perfectly in a 5 gallon bucket with a gamma lid too.

The best part? You’re increasing the shelf life of the food you paid for with your labor by multiples over keeping it in the bag it came in.

Buy Small Samples of Freeze Dried Foods

Freeze dried food is simply amazing. You can essentially cook a meal with less than three minutes of work. However, not all freeze dried foods are the same. There are some (Wise Foods for example) that I will never again purchase as they are somewhat revolting. I made the mistake of buying case deals on freeze dried foods I’d never tasted, which I won’t be doing again. Now, if I’m inerested in a new flavor or brand of freeze dried food, I buy a single pouch of it to see if we like it. If we do, then I can budget for some #10 cans of it, knowing that we’ll like it.

Don’t Neglect Canned Meat

While my wife still can’t bring herself to handle canned meats prior to cooking, even she admitted that the flavor is almost identical. I keep a good selection of canned ham, beef, pork, chicken, and salmon on hand. Protein is a significant portion of a healthy diet, and while I like beans I don’t want to eat them every day if I can avoid it.

Planning Food Production

The biggest part that I would do if I could start again would be planning for food production from the very beginning. For us that means a sizable garden, and possibly some chickens, is going in our back yard this year. For you, it could mean something different. It does need to be included in your “food storage” plans though; what happens when the food you’ve stored runs out and the grocery stores aren’t open anymore?


Related Articles:

Copyright – Content on The Prepper Dad (unless the work of a Third-Party) may be reproduced in part or whole with attribution through a link to

It's only fair to share...Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneBuffer this pageShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrDigg thisPrint this page

Receive New Posts by Email

Subscribe to my newsletter to receive new posts by email as well as a weekly compilation of must read news articles and blog posts.


  1. […] in Mylar bags stored in five gallon buckets, we also keep a number of buckets with gamma lids in our pantry for daily usage. Recently, we managed to burn through 25 pounds of white rice and my lovely wife […]

Speak Your Mind


%d bloggers like this: