Food Storage: Where do I begin?

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image: canned food, dry foods, foods for storage, jars of foodWhen I was finally convinced that we needed to start a supply of prepper food storage, I kept it simple. I know there are many books, websites, and planners out there to help, and I have used some of those to get some tips and suggestions after I made my initial plan, but all you really need is a pencil, some paper and some time.

Start small

I started off with a small goal – having a week’s worth of food. I decided to plan for our most likely scenarios, loss of power or blizzard. The only rules I established was that it needed to be food my family would eat and that the meals wouldn’t require anything that needed to be refrigerated once it was open, like mayonnaise. I assumed that we would just about eat everything that was prepared for that one meal and if not, we have a dog that could eat the leftovers.

Do a meal plan

I used Excel to lay out my plan, but this could be done on paper as well. I created columns for each day and then rows for each meal. It’s important to include snacks and drinks as well. I tried to include a variety of items for lunch and dinner, but some families don’t mind the repetition of food.

I simply planned oatmeal for breakfast, peanut butter, tuna, or chicken sandwiches or soup with bread for lunch and then chose seven dinners that I knew my family liked. I ended up with chili, spaghetti, rice and beans, chicken fried rice, pasta with chicken and vegetables, tortellini soup, and taco soup. For snacks, I wrote down nuts, dried fruit, and some of the typical items we keep in our pantry, like cheese crackers. For drinks, I listed one gallon of water per person and then added in dry milk, drink powder, and coffee.

Make a grocery list for your food storage

After I decided what my meals would be, I went through each one and made a grocery list of what I would need for that week’s worth of food:

  1. One large tub of peanut butter
  2. Four cans of soup
  3. Two big cans of tuna
  4. Four big cans of chicken
  5. Oatmeal
  6. Raisins, etc.

I made sure to write down seasonings for the meals and ingredients for bread. I added jalapenos to the list since my husband likes his food spicier than ours.

Look for smart buys

With a list, I could then look for sales and get our supply started. It took me about a month or so to get a full week’s worth of food stashed away, but it felt like a big accomplishment. Really, I felt like I wanted to throw a party to celebrate our family being prepared. Instead, I took my children on a tour of our “downstairs pantry” and the smile on my oldest child’s face was enough celebration. She is our worrier and now she didn’t have to worry about being hungry if we lost power or were trapped by a blizzard. Mommy and Daddy were all set to take care of her.

Just do it

If you already do meal planning, using a method like this could make starting a food supply really easy. There are other steps to take once you establish food storage, but the first step is to plan. Then, follow your plan and get the food. After that you can figure out what inventory and rotation system works for you as you add to the supply. After I had a week’s worth of food, I challenged myself to get a second week’s supply, and on it goes.

How did you start your food supply? Did you use an established method or figure it out on your own? What would your advice be to someone just getting started?

7 thoughts on “Food Storage: Where do I begin?”

  1. Great article! I, personally, dread putting everything down on paper and at times, the task can seem daunting. What I was able to do in getting my first month’s worth of preps, was ( when financially able to do so) literally double or triple my weekly shopping trips ( instead of 2 jars of spaghetti sauce and four boxes of pasta, I would get 4-6 jars of spaghetti sauce and 8-12 boxes of pasta). I would save enough money monthly to be able to do this, and in no time built up my food storage with foods my family eats! In a little over a year, I had over six months’ worth of food storage.
    Now, when I use any item from food storage, I put it on my shopping list and replace it with two ( or more) of that item when I go shopping.

  2. I started way back in the dark ages when I was a single teenager living in an isolated area. I specifically bought foods that I didn’t usually eat but would if the chips were down — rice, instant potatoes, herbal teas, instant oatmeal, ramen. Because those weren’t foods that I regularly ate, I didn’t have to worry about using them and then forgetting to replace them. It just expanded from there. With a family, I now focus more on the foods that we normally eat, but a portion of our supplies is still a variety of items that we only dip into when it’s time to rotate stock. It goes against all the advice I’ve ever seen, but it’s worked well for us over the years.

  3. I started food storage by putting away a couple of 5 gallon buckets of red winter wheat using dry ice to drive the oxygen out based on the advice from Mother Earth News. Looking back, I’m glad I never had a need to use it because it’s not easy to work with and I was very unprepared to use it.

    Now, anyone can put aside a couple of 5 gallon buckets with some canned meats, dried beans, rice, pearled barley or even something as simple as some Ramen and top them off with Gamma Seals.

    The buckets stack nicely and the Gamma Seals make it easy to get into them. There’s really not much that you can’t store in them and they’re relatively secure. Although squirrels can chew their way into them if you leave them full of bird food and sitting on the porch.


    I live on west coast. Earthquake Preparedness is what got me started years ago when my kids were small. I can tell you that it doesn’t have to be expensive. I have always shopped sales anyway so when I started I just picked up 4 items each shopping trip to start with a case of water. Nothing fancy. Before I knew it, I had a weeks worth of everything we needed for 4 people. JUST START. Now in today’s chaotic mess, I believe everyone should be prepared for anything. It takes public services days to get you in cases of disaster. Wanna be without water and food for possibly a week or more? JUST START! Hope it helps.

  5. I’m trying to get started on food storage, and this has been very helpful. I do have a question though. You said these meals could be prepared without power, but I don’t understand how you plan on cooking these meals without power. What method do you use?

  6. Henry Killingsworth

    You made an interesting point when you explained that the first step to creating food storage is to plan. With that in mind, I would think that the first thing you would want to plan out is the type of foods that you are wanting to store. It seems like it could be a good idea to store dairy and food powders since they have a long shelf life.

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