Mini Food Caches: An Easy Back Up

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image: box with canned food and bottled water

There is a golden rule in prepping circles that goes like this: two is one and one is none. The term has been shamelessly appropriated from the military and means that when Murphy’s law kicks in and things go wrong, you want to have a backup for your most critical gear. Enter the mini food cache.

While we fervently hope it never happens, the possibility exists that the food we have so carefully stashed away for emergencies could be destroyed or stolen. Fires, floods, or theft can wipe us out pretty effectively.

As a way to ensure you have at least something to bridge the gap if your primary food storage was stolen or destroyed, you can create a mini food cache. It can dually serve as both a small backup to your food storage (an interesting take on the concept of Two is One, One is None) and an emergency food bucket to grab and go in case of evacuation.

Keep Your Food Cache Simple

You might be thinking, “Wait, I finally pulled together some emergency food storage on a budget and you want me to do more?”

Nope, not at all. A mini food cache is just a small portion of that same food storage tucked away in a separate location. Putting it together is just a matter of shopping in your existing food storage. Once you assemble your first food cache and tuck it away somewhere safe, you might want to make additional caches and store them in different locations.

Or, if you are beginning your food storage journey, this can be a great way to start that process. Simply collect a few food items that can create basic meals and find somewhere to store them. Remember, this is a stopgap measure that shouldn’t take up a lot of space so think SIMPLE.

You can include as much as you think appropriate, but it should:

  • include what your family likes and will actually eat,
  • account for any food allergies and sensitivities,
  • account for the sizes and ages of your family,
  • be non-perishable,
  • afford enough calories for a high-stress, hard work situation.

Store Only Planned Meals

You will take a slightly different approach for building a food cache than for primary food storage.

Here, you want to be very specific about planning a few meals and storing just those items together. Regular food storage is more about storing lots of ingredients you can mix and match. Building specific meals will make food prep much easier if you have to fall back on your cache.

The most space-efficient way to plan a few basic meals is to start with a base like a bag of rice, quinoa, or pasta and then choose complementary foods to go with it. I literally planned every meal in my mini food cache using rice.

You can use commercially canned, home-canned, or freeze-dried ingredients, really whatever you have on hand. It’s pricier and requires more water, but it’s even fine if your mini food cache consists of a few backpacker-style freeze-dried meals.

Think “easy to prepare” and “takes little space”

There are lots of options, but here is a shortlist of typical long-term foods you can include in your mini food cache. Use it to spark your own ideas.

  • rice, pasta, quinoa
  • chicken or beef bouillon
  • canned meat, canned veggies
  • canned beans
  • soup, chili, Sloppy Joe’s, Beef Stew
  • marinara sauce, Alfredo sauce, pesto
  • freeze-dried foods
  • dehydrated foods
  • powdered or canned milk, coconut milk
  • pancake mix (must be rotated)
  • peanut and nut butters
  • spices, hot sauce, soy sauce

How to Store Your Mini Food Cache

You can use any available container…or no container at all for your mini food cache. There are no rules.

Focus more on how much food you want to include and find a space to store it. A 5-gallon bucket, a 50-gallon barrel, a plastic bin, or a box would work. However, a shelf in a closet, a storage chest, or an out-of-the-way cupboard to store loose items would also work. I know one mom who stores a cache of food somewhat randomly in a hallway bench. As long as you find a discrete location inaccessible to critters, you’re good.

I chose a 5-gallon bucket for my cache. It was available, it’s portable, and fairly secure from rodents. Plus, unless it’s filled with gold, a 5-gallon bucket is a size and weight that I can grab and go in an emergency.

READ MORE: If you’ve ever wondered about using a storage unit to house a large cache of survival food and gear, this article discusses the pros and cons.

Will I Seem Crazy If I Bury My Mini Food Cache?

If security is a priority, you can bury your mini food cache in a bucket or barrel in your backyard or other safe location. (I do not recommend burying anything on property that doesn’t belong to you!) Make sure you seal and waterproof your container if you go that route. Burying a cache has the benefit of protecting supplies from theft and some natural disasters, but it’s an epic fail if you’re hit by a flood.

Burying a food cache really depends on your priorities, what you are preparing for, and how much labor you’re willing to expend. Most of us are not digging holes in our backyard to bury a bucket —  we’re just not. Instead, just find a space that is separate from your other food, but still has decent storage conditions.

Also, do what you can to protect the longevity of the food. If you are not familiar with the enemies of long-term food storage, check out this article to learn more. The last thing you want to do is spend money on the food, spend time on hiding it somewhere or burying it, and then in a crisis, your food is completely spoiled by insects, rodents, moisture, etc.

My Food Cache for Four

This is the process I followed to create my mini food cache. I planned it for 4 people to eat 2 meals a day plus high-calorie snacks. The meals use food storage I already had on hand that is super easy to prepare.

I filled a 5-gallon bucket with as much food as it would hold and discovered it fit about 4 days’ worth. That works for me. I’m not trying to duplicate what I already have and this is worst-case scenario only. If I have other food on hand at the time, I can expand these meals, but at least I have all the basics in my bucket.

Please note, I didn’t include any survival gear other than a can opener in my cache. I just want this to serve as a food backup, but you can include whatever seems important to you, such as a way to heat water. I  do store 2 2-gallon water bricks with my bucket for cooking purposes.

READ MORE: Curious about water bricks? Read Survival Mom’s review.

Simple Menus

To save space, I based all of my meals on the bulk and stretching power of rice. I calculated how many servings are in a 5 lb bag of rice (37.5 1 cup servings) and then chose foods that pair with rice for every single meal. If you need more ideas about how to incorporate rice into a variety of meals, this article is helpful. 

I admit I have included some unusual meals, but I’m limited by some food issues in my family so I got creative. Plus, we’re talking space-efficient, basic survival food here, not gourmet!

Day 1

  • Sloppy Joe’s over rice (Sloppy Joe’s, rice, freeze-dried green beans)
  • Beans and Rice (rice, dried beans, can diced tomatoes, dehydrated garlic, and onion, cumin)

Day 2

  • Beef and Rice Soup (beef bouillon, rice, canned beef, canned veggies)
  • Spam and Pineapple over Coconut Rice (Spam, Pineapple, coconut milk, rice, freeze-dried carrots)

Day 3

  • Beans and Rice
  • Buffalo Chicken over rice (canned chicken, Frank’s hot sauce, rice)

Day 4

I also fit a jar of peanut butter, packets of maple almond butter, freeze-dried apples, freeze-dried yogurt bites, and some high-calorie emergency ration food bars for snacks and extra calories.

No doubt after 4 days we will be thinner and dislike rice, but we will also be profoundly grateful to have any food at all.

TIP: When you’re putting together a mini food cache, it’s vital to conserve weight. I’ve listed a few freeze-dried foods here because compared with canned foods, they weigh almost nothing. I get my freeze-dried food from Thrive Life.

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy

There’s no question that creating a mini food cache might be a lower priority than some other emergency preparations. However, it took more time to write out what I included in my mini food cache than it did to put it together. So if you already have food storage, this is crazy easy. If you are building food storage, you can always put together a mini food cache as your starting point and build from there.

If you’re just starting out building food storage and prepping and want some help, you might check out The Survival Mom’s Prepping 101 course.

All told, it’s surprisingly easy to create a backup for your backup.

Have you created a mini food cache? Let me know in the comments what you included and any creative hiding places you’ve thought of.

9 thoughts on “Mini Food Caches: An Easy Back Up”

  1. I would add quinoa to the rice., replace approximately 2 T of rice/cup with the quinoa. The red quinoa is better tasting, in my opinion. It boosts protein and cooks in the same amount of time as rice ~20 minutes.

    1. It does have additional nutritional value, Mary. However, it’s also considered a soft grain and therefore won’t store as long.

  2. I would really like to be find out what would last and in what conditions I could bury food in the ground. If your house burns down so does all your prepped.

  3. I like your idea of a mini food cache. I did have a thought. You did not mention plates, cups, utensils, etc. Nor is there mention of any way to cook the food (rice) – sauce pan, skillet. Perhaps a way to start a fire would be helpful. Unless, of course it is necessary to eat straight out of the can and save the rice for later. Just a thought if you must grab and go.

    1. The Survival Mom

      That’s a really good suggestion, Pat. I have stocked up on things like paper plates and disposable cups and utensils, so maybe a few of those thrown in with the food cache would be a good idea.

  4. I would add dried fruit and fruit leathers, oatmeal packets, beef jerky and I didn’t see rice on the list. Salt and pepper, sugar or sweetener and coffee packets. Small water heater of some kind. I’d like to find one that plugs into the cigarette lighter of the car. My husband daily has ginger ale, so that’s another to include. I like dried eggs reconstituted. Hubby likes cookies. My bucket will be fairly heavy at this rate.

  5. I’m going to bury some glass in a bucket, it’s going to be deep to prevent freezing and just pray if I’d have to all that beef awaits for fuel for the soul . I’ll start with some burger just to be safe. Anybody got tips on waterproofing a 5 gallon bucket for underground storage? My meats are in glass and the seals could get moisture issues so I wanna avoid that of course.

    1. Are you saying you have canned beef — home-canned in glass jars — that you are going to bury? Good luck with that. It’s not something I would recommend. Freezing, rust, growth of tree roots — there are a lot of potential problems. Are you able to build a root cellar and use that for storage?

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