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  • Writer's pictureSheri

A Beginner's Guide to Starting a Food Storage Plan

I was reading some statistics on food supplies and storage plans and was shocked when the writer asked the question, "How much food do you think the average American has in their house right now?" I was thinking probably a week's worth because most people shop once a week (this was my assumption, anyway.) When the writer said that it was actually only 2-3 day's worth I was shocked! Really? Could this be correct?

I haven't been able to find many statistics on this but it caused me to consider if this could be true of many Americans. Living in the city, in apartments where there is less storage space, or just living a fast moving life that means eating out a lot, I could see how easy it could be to have only a few day's worth in some homes. Whatever the cause, it is wise to consider taking more control over your own food supply no matter where you live. Just because you don't live on a farm, or perhaps you aren't able or willing to preserve and can your own food, doesn't mean you can't have food preparedness in your home.

So here are some ideas and tips to get you started if you would like to put in place some common sense preparedness into your routine.

Getting Started

To begin with, your budget may not allow you to purchase everything at once. But if you take small steps you can build up a good storage. Find a cool place such as a basement if possible, to ensure longer storage life. Research some storage options for bulk items so you can be prepared with these. I use 5 gallon containers that are easily purchased at Lowes or similar stores - the food grade variety.

Then, when you make your regular trip to the grocery store you can purchase just a little bit more of what you already were planning on purchasing. For example, if you were going to purchase 1 bag of rice, instead make it 2 bags. And continue on that path until you have extra items in your storage area that you can go to when you need them. Building up to 10-20 lbs. of each bulk item.

Another, possibly better way to do it if you are able, is to join a food co-op such as Azure Standard (or one of the many others available today), and order items in bulk! Get in the habit of doing that on a monthly basis or even less often as you are able, and you'll be surprised at how much money you save over the long term. There are many excellent food co-ops available even in fairly rural areas now.

What to purchase? Here are some good basics to start with:

Rice. As boring as it may sound, rice is one of the backbones of every food storage plan. It is filling, nutritious, and with the use of varied seasonings and condiments, highly adaptable in a variety of tasty meals. The choice of white, brown, or a combination of the two is up to you. White rice has a longer shelf life but brown rice has more nutritional benefits. In our house we love to use Jasmine rice with many meals so this is what I have the most of in my storage.

Beans. Like rice, beans are another foundations to every food storage plan. You may substitute white, kidney or other types of dried beans. We use these in chili, soups, casseroles and even as a main dish by cooking pinto beans with ham bones.

Canned Vegetables. While we prefer to can, preserve or freeze as much as we can from our own gardens, this is not mandatory. (Although it IS more nutritious so work towards a garden as soon as you can!) But in the meantime, purchase vegetables at the store that you know you will eat. Purchase a few extra cans when they are on sale or just add one additional to your normal purchases. Then be sure to rotate them in your storage area so you are always using the oldest ones first. Over time, you can easily get 3 - 4 weeks worth of veggies on your shelf.

If you start a garden, consider growing veggies that have a naturally long shelf life. There are many onion and potato or sweet potato varieties that last a long time. Butternut squash also have a very long shelf life in cool, dry storage and we grow them to use throughout the year. You can even purchase butternut squash in the fresh produce section rather than canned, and store it in your basement or cool storage.

Soup or Broth. I am NOT a fan of broth our soup purchased in the stores in terms of nutrition. It is much better to make your own and can it or even freeze it. But if you are just starting out and not ready for that step yet, then store bought is okay. Purchase the best your budget can afford. Soups made by your with homemade chicken broth will always produce the most nutrition. But either way, soups are an all-in-one meal solution. All you need is a can opener and a spoon and you have a meal ready to go. For an extra satisfying meal, try using a can of soup as part of the cooking water for your rice.

Homemade chicken broth is packed with nutrition.  We keep some canned on our shelf and some in packages like these in our freezer.
We keep homemade broth preserved on our shelf or frozen such as these.

Cans of Meat. We love canning our own chicken and excess beef. But if you aren't able to do that, you can purchase chicken, tuna, shrimp, salmon, or even beef stew. Consider investing in some canning equipment if you are able. It is very easy to can your own beef or chicken and store a healthier alternative on your shelf! We typically do this once a year and it is wonderful to go grab a healthy meal right out of the jar.

Oats. Oats store very well if kept sealed. Oats are great for breakfast or anytime and just top with some canned fruit or some cinnamon and you have a filling meal. There are also some great recipes for healthy cookies or energy bars that can be made with oats and stored in the freezer for longer term storage.

Salt. It goes without saying that salt is essential for survival plus it has a lot of uses other than as an enhancement for food. That said, our bodies need salt to survive. Stock up o REAL salt which you can typically buy in bulk from food co-ops and save a ton of money. Our favorite is Celtic Sea Salt.

Honey. We all need some sweetness in our life. Honey tops jam because of the natural nutrients it contains. And it never goes bad! Be sure you are getting the real thing and if possible, get some local honey from a bee keeper and stock up. The health benefits from honey are many.

Pasta. Pasta is familiar and easy to fix. Although it isn't my favorite from a nutrition standpoint, it is a dense form of wheat, but it is so much easier to deal with when you are first starting out. And it is a good comfort food. Consider making your own homemade noodles for future ideas, they are much healthier and can be dried and put into storage for up to a year!

Spaghetti Sauce. Best to make your own and can it when tomatoes are in season. But if you aren't able to do this yet, you can get cheap yet satisfying, canned pasta sauce and add it to a bed of pasta for a satisfying meal that can be put together in minutes.

Oil. Choose olive oil, coconut oil or some other cooking oil, but definitely get some. Oil is essential for good health, fueling our energy stores, and providing support for fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients as they work their way through our system. Not only that, but a bit of fat in your diet adds flavor and makes you feel satisfied when you are done eating.

Spices and Condiments. Spices will allow you to vary the taste of your storage foods, thus mitigating some of the boredom that is likely to occur over time. They also have many health benefits and some can even be used in natural remedies. The choices here will vary by person and family. In our house, ketchup (much to my dismay) is considered a staple and there would be mutiny if I ever allow our pantry to be void of it. LOL. My go-to spices are many but everyday spices are oregano, basil, garlic, onion and pepper. I grow the basil and oregano in the spring and dry enough to last me throughout the year. Spices are well worth the purchase and if you don't currently use many, you should start with a few new ones and add to your pantry over time. Many herbs always have a variety of health benefits so I consider this an important part of the storage pantry.

Eggs. This one will depend on where you live and if you have access to farm-fresh eggs. If you can find access this is a big win. Did you know you can store fresh eggs for up to a full year without refrigeration or freezer? It's super easy and inexpensive. And they are the perfect food! If you want to know more about how to do this, check out our video here:

This is by no means a complete list, but is intended to just get you started if you have never done this sort of preparation in the past. It's a good way to live even if you never "need" it, because you'll find as you prepare this way you'll run to the store less often which saves both time and gas money.

Our family keeps several months worth of food because we live out in the country and raise much of it ourselves during the peak season, then store it through the winter. If you are in the city, you can easily work towards just having two weeks' worth of food in your home and perhaps a month's worth of the longer storage dry goods. However you decide to do it, it's a great savings in time, money and peace of mind to have some food storage plans in your home.

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