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A Common Sense Food Storage Program

December 22, 2008

A good food storage program is a must for anyone who is preparing for a possible disaster in the future. But what sort of program should you adopt? There are companies that will gladly sell you cases of nitrogen packed, freeze-dried foods that will keep for 10 years. Another option is to stock up on MRE’s so that you have a supply of pre-packed individual meals.

I took a different route when I started my food storage program. I had noticed that several of my friends who purchased freeze-dried storage programs never use the food that they bought. They just leave the food in storage and presumably will replace it all before it expires. I consider this wasteful, but I also think it’s not a good idea for another reason. If you are suddenly thrown into a survival situation, I feel that a sudden and complete change in diet will only add to your stress level. Being able to have a little continuity from your former life, even if it’s only the food that you eat, might make life a little more bearable. For this reason I developed a storage program based on the foods that my family already eats. Granted we had to make a few changes in products and storage methods; but for the most part, I could live off of my stored food and not change my diet much at all.

Here is how my program works. I have a kitchen pantry in which I keep cans of fruits and vegetables, jars of grains and dried beans, jars of rice and pasta, bags of dried fruit, canned nuts, canned meat, spices and condiments, vinegar, cans of soup, dried soup, large jars of flour and cornmeal, large jars of sugar and salt, cooking oil, powdered milk, cake mixes, boxes of pudding, canned baking powder, baking soda, yeast, tea, coffee, pickles, olives, home canned cheese, home canned hamburger, home dried fruits and vegetables, and canned juices. This pantry is not huge, so there are rarely more than one or two cans of any one item.

In another part of the house is a walk-in-closet that we refer to as the “grocery store.” This closet is equipped with industrial steel storage shelves, shallow wooden shelves, and stackable plastic storage units with pull out drawers. In the “grocery store” we keep the same items that we have in the kitchen pantry but in much larger quantities. Where I have two cans of stewed tomatoes in the kitchen pantry, I may have sixteen cans in the “grocery store.” Where there are two cans of tuna in the kitchen pantry, there might be twenty cans in the “grocery store.” Dried beans, flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt are stored in plastic bags that are sealed inside of food-grade 5 gallon plastic buckets.

Now one of the most important aspects of the “grocery store” is the grocery list. This is a computer-generated list of all the items in the “grocery store” and a par level of how many of each item we like to keep on hand. When we remove an item from the “grocery store” we put a hash mark next to that item on the list. Every week or two we take the list to town and buy all the items necessary to bring our storage up to par. When we get the items home, we use a permanent marking pen to write the date of purchase on each item. We then place these items on the shelf, pulling the older dates to the front and putting the new purchases at the back. This way we keep constantly rotating our stock. Nearly any grocery item that you buy these days has a “use by” date on it, and these dates are very conservative. Most canned goods are stamped as being good for a year, but they are actually good for a lot longer than that. The food doesn’t automatically go bad at the end of a year. Instead, it gradually loses its nutritional value. Most canned goods lose about 20% of their nutritional value in a year’s time, so if you have a canned good that is two years old, it will still be edible and will have about 60% of its originally listed nutritional value. We find that most of our canned items rotate through in eight to ten months. Dried goods like pasta, rice and beans move much slower, but if they are kept dry, air tight, cool, and dark they will last for several years. Heck, I read about some archeologists that sprouted some 4000-year-old wheat that they found in an Egyptian pyramid. Now that’s long-term storage.

We have found that using this food storage program makes the best use of our food dollars. Nothing gets thrown out, and we are eating the same basic foods as always. Of course we still buy fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products, but we know that we can get by without them if we have to, and we won’t have to make any major changes in our diet.

  1. Excellent advice. Keep it simple, right?!

  2. Rebekah permalink

    Hi! Just discovered your website and am finding it very informative and useful. Do you have a detailed list of what items you keep in your “grocery” storage area or are all the items listed above within the post?

    • Rebekah, We keep dried beans, rice, sugar, and salt in sealed 5 gallon buckets. Other dry goods include oatmeal, grits, flour, raisins, almonds, cashew nuts, instant potatoes, powdered milk, and cornmeal all in sealed buckets or containers. Canned meats: tuna, spam, ham, salmon, sardines, chicken, Vienna sausage. Canned fruits: peaches, pears, pineapple. Canned vegetables: green beans, northern beans, black eye peas, kidney beans, black beans, chick peas, corn, tomatoes, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, mushrooms, jalapenos, banana peppers, pickeled green tomatoes, black olives, green olives, pepperocini, potatoes, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts. Other: vegetable oil, vinegar, baking soda, baking powder, corn starch, gatoraide, powdered lemonade, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, canned butter, canned cheese, Worcestershire sauce, rice vinegar, chili sauce, soy sauce, chinese mustard, Thai fish sauce. Bulk Spices: black pepper, chili powder, cumin, ginger, dried onion, powdered garlic, pickling spices. Dried soup. A wide assortment of cooking foil and storage bags. Canning jar lids and rings. Toilet paper, paper towels. We’ve been operating our food storage for about 8 years now and it has worked well for us. Very little waste. Thanks for reading, Hank.

      • Rebekah permalink

        Thank you so much for such a quick and thorough response, Hank! I truly appreciate it! This will help give me a guideline as to where to start with supplies for my family. Thank you!

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