How to plan your food storage so you can make your favorite recipes years from now

When many people begin storing food, they start amassing cans, boxes, and plastic packages from the grocery store. Ultimately what ends up on their shelves is a miscellany of canned beans, fruit cocktail, Tang drink mix, and pasta. Lots of pasta.

image by Elana's Pantry

image by Elana’s Pantry

If you’ve ever stood in front of your fridge or pantry, viewing the foods available and none of them easily combine to make a decent recipe, you can understand the downside to this herky-jerky approach to food storage.

Well, I suppose if you’re in a scene from World War Z, that approach is fine, but on this side of a worst case scenario, why not take a more sane approach? One that will insure you and your family continue to enjoy favorite recipes, no matter what.

I call this approach, “survivalizing” your recipes. In very simple terms, and frankly, it’s a pretty simple concept, you collect the recipes you enjoy most, analyze their ingredients to determine if the recipe is food-storage friendly, and then begin stocking up on those ingredients.

How to “Survivalize”

I go into much greater detail for utilizing this type of food storage in my book, see Chapter 4, but for now, just begin thinking about the recipes (breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, side dishes) that are your favorites.

Make a list of those dishes and if necessary, track down the recipes.

Take a look at the ingredients for each recipe, and if every ingredient comes in a form (dry, dehydrated, canned, or freeze-dried) that has a long shelf-life and doesn’t require refrigeration, you have a winner.

From my book:

What types of recipes are the easiest to survivalize? Soups, stews, chili recipes, casseroles, and skillet meals are usually the best choices. Meals that feature a large amount of meat, poultry, fish, or other seafood are more difficult because usually the protein isn’t easy to store long-term.

Recipe websites are extremely helpful in coming up with recipes that fit this category. I recommend gathering together at least a dozen soup recipes, since those generally call for ingredients that are TSM_RadioNetwork_webbanner_081413_finalnaturally shelf-stable.

If a recipe calls for a fresh ingredient, consider if a shelf-stable version will make a suitable substitute. In most cases, it can. For example, canned chicken easily replaces fresh, cooked chicken.

Start stocking up!

When you’ve identified not only a number of delicious recipes and you’ve established that their ingredients are all food-storage friendly with long shelf lives, you’re finished with the hardest part! Now it’s just a matter of stocking up on those recipes and insuring you have enough of each ingredient.

image by Sudhamshu

image by Sudhamshu

Plan on storing enough ingredients so that you can make each recipe at least a dozen times. That means that if a recipe calls for 1 can of corn, you purchase 12 cans. If it calls for 1 chopped onion, you have stored enough freeze-dried or dehydrated onion to equal 12 fresh onions. (If you have a thriving veggie garden, make sure to start planting onions!)

During this stage it’s important to stay organized. The best way to do this is to multiply each ingredient times 12 and then using those amounts on a master shopping list.

Here’s a somewhat tricky example

I selected this recipe from because it’s generally easy to survivalize, but as you’ll see, with a couple of ingredients I have to make a decision about substitutions or leaving them out altogether. It calls for a total of 19 ingredients. For recipes you’ll be making during some sort of emergency or worst case scenario, the simpler the recipe, the better.

Catherine’s Spicy Chicken Soup (makes 8 servings)

  • 2 quarts water

  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley

  • 1 tablespoon onion powder

  • 5 cubes chicken bouillon

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 1 (16 ounce) jar chunky salsa

  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans peeled and diced tomatoes

  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes

  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed tomato soup

  • 3 tablespoons chili powder

  • 1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained

  • 2 (16 ounce) cans chili beans, undrained

  • 1 (8 ounce) container sour cream

Let’s survivalize this recipe!

image by >>>WonderMike<<<

image by >>>WonderMike<<<

First, all seasonings, herbs, and spices are very easy to store in large quantities. Keep them in a cool, dark, and dry area. If possible, grow fresh herbs to replenish the dry herbs that you use. For each of these in this recipe, multiply the quantity by 12 to insure you have enough on hand, not just for this recipe but for others as well.

By the way, you can make your own onion and garlic powders by thoroughly dehydrating onions and garlic, and then processing them in a food processor. If you’re ever without power, plan on using a mortar and pestle.

Eight chicken breast halves is quite a bit of chicken for just one recipe, 8 servings. You can buy canned chicken, can your own, use a much smaller amount of chicken flavored TVP (a little goes a long way), or use freeze-dried chicken.  Using less chicken is also an option.

Please don’t stock up on bouillon cubes! Purchase large cans of either bouillon or stock base, available from Thrive Life or other online food storage companies. It’s a much more economical purchase than the cubes.

There are only 2 fresh vegetables in this particular recipe, onions and garlic. Both can be grown in your garden and home dehydrated. You can also buy freeze-dried and dehydrated versions in large amounts. I suggest that when possible, you do both: grow fresh produce as your primary supply but also have a back-up with the dried versions.

Every canned ingredient can be home canned and, in some cases, freeze-dried can be used.

  • Thick and chunky salsa. You can make your own, adding tomato powder to make it thicker and more suitable for some recipes. Salsa is also very easy to home can.
  • Peeled and diced tomatoes. Again, very, very easy to home can. If you purchased commercially canned tomatoes, be sure to rotate through them.
  • Tomato soup. Recipes for home canned tomato soup are delicious and fresh tasting, but the store-bought version is very inexpensive and can be purchased in larger quantities without breaking the budget.
  • Canned corn. Freeze-dried corn is so delicious that I stopped buying canned corn a long time ago. If you find canned corn on sale, by all means, stock up. Otherwise, both Thrive Life and Augason Farms sell freeze-dried.
  • Chili beans. For maximum versatility, I’d pass on the “chili” beans and just stock up on plenty of dried beans and canned beans. You can always add more chili powder or other seasonings to taste.
  • Olive oil. This oil has a longer shelf life and is healthier than vegetable or canola oil. It doesn’t have an unlimited shelf life, however. You can refrigerate or even freeze the oil to extend the shelf life. It’s not a pivotal ingredient, so if I didn’t have any oil at all, I’d just saute the onion and garlic in a bit of water or melted shortening.
  • Sour cream. If you can make homemade sour cream, go for it. Otherwise, it’s just an optional topping, and I’d omit it.

This is the process you’ll go through for each recipe and once you are familiar with the various “food storage” foods available, it’s a pretty quick process.

Now for the math

To make a dozen batches of this soup or any other recipe, this Recipe Converter makes it easy to figure out how much of each ingredient you’ll need. Don’t be scared by the large quantities! You’re going to tackle this one can, one jar at a time!

Here are the ingredients for Catherine’s Spicy Chicken Soup, multiplied by 12:

  • 24 quarts water
  • 96 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (Approximately 3 breast halves per pound.)
  • 6 teaspoon salt
  • 12 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 12 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 24 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 12 tablespoon onion powder
  • 60 cubes chicken bouillon
  • 36 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 onion, chopped
  • 36 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 12 (16 ounce) jar chunky salsa
  • 24 (14.5 ounce) cans peeled and diced tomatoes
  • 12 (14.5 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 12 (10.75 ounce) can condensed tomato soup
  • 36 tablespoons chili powder
  • 12 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 24 (16 ounce) cans chili beans, undrained

When you end up with amounts like 36 tablespoons or 12 teaspoons, you can use this online tool to calculate those amounts in cups.

I buy my spices and other seasonings in bulk, often at Costco.

The master shopping list

Don’t expect to have every ingredient for every recipe purchased and stored in a few days time! Create a master shopping list to keep track of your purchases.

When you’ve purchased enough ingredients to make one recipe 12 times, cross that recipe off your list. You’ll notice that many ingredients overlap from one recipe to the next. That makes your job even easier.

To preserve your budget, I suggest seeking out recipes that call for a few, economical ingredients. Catherine’s Spicy Chicken Soup served as a good example for this article, but personally, I’d find a recipe that called for fewer ingredients and less chicken per batch.

Familiar recipes are comfort foods

During difficult times, we want to provide comfort to our families, and serving hot, delicious, and familiar foods is one way to do that. Survivalizing recipes takes a bit of time, but once you have your grocery list in hand, it’s just a matter of adding a few extra items to your grocery cart each time you’re at the store.

Keep the recipes printed and on hand (don’t rely on recipes stored on your computer!) and you and your loved ones will be enjoying nourishing meals, no matter what.

There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

© Copyright 2013 The Survival Mom, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Survival Mom
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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 5 years. Come join me on my journey to becoming more prepared to handle everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios.

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  1. Kris says

    Love this plan! I’m going to mix all the ingredients together and divide up, then use the vacuum sealer to put these in jars. That way, on hurried nights (or even if I’m sick and unable to cook) Dad can just add water. And what a great gift for a new mom–a homey meal-in-a-jar that the new parents can make quickly. Thanks, LIsa!

  2. Louise says

    I cannot stand canned chicken from the grocery store, and do not (yet) have my own canner, so I use freeze dried chicken in my food storage. Also, you can just put the seasonings for each meal in a ziploc bag (squeeze the air out) and tape it to the jars/cans for that meal. I like to divide each meal into it’s own little box and store them stacked on top of each other, clearly labeled of course!

  3. Martha says

    I’ve read that coconut oil has a really long shelf life and is supposed to be really good for your health. Even if you don’t like the taste much, it wouldn’t be very noticeable in a recipe with this many flavors.

  4. says

    I try to get a lot of my preps from Costco. Yes it can be expensive, but if you set a budget to maybe just buy one extra case or bag of something each trip, you will have a large supply rather quickly. You can get #10 cans of food, bulk sacks of rice, flour, sugar, and salt.
    Another great place is your local LDS home storage center. first off I want to state that I am not affiliated with the Mormon church and I am not trying to get you to join them. what I am telling you as these people have been prepping for years and are more than willing to share with everyone. You don’t need to be a Mormon to go to theses centers.

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