Friday Food Storage Not-Quite-So Quickie – $5 Week Beginner Food Storage

Sharon October 17th, 2008

This is a guest post by a little mouse who’d like to remain anonymous.  I think she’s written a superb piece for such a small creature, and that this might help someone who feels unable financially or personally to begin with food storage to take a step.  The piece is long, but valuable I think.

The Curious Tail (er…Tale) of How This Piece Came to this Blog:

I was surprised … no, shocked…when I heard Ms. Anon E. Mouse squeaking
at me yesterday afternoon.  Ms. Mouse and I have frequent chats, but always
before they have been in the dead of night, when EvilKitty is safely shut
into the laundry room, dreaming of catching a…….well, never mind that.
The dogs are also sound asleep, and only the twitch of a paw or a soft
puppy-bark reveals that rabbits are romping through their dreams.

‘Ms. Mouse,’ I said, ‘What are you doing out of Mousel in broad daylight?’
(Ms. Mouse does have her little harmless affectations and naming her Mouse
Hole after a village in Cornwall is one of them.  She spells it the way it
is pronounced.)

‘Urgent, urgent, urgent,’ squeaked Ms. Mouse in reply.  ’It has come to my
attention that some Feckless and Foolish Humans have no food storage

‘Yes, I’m afraid that’s true,’ I replied.

‘Everymouse knows that food storage is important.  Everymouse has bread
crumbs, cheese and peanut butter set aside for an emergency!’ squeaked my
small friend.

‘I have even heard,’ continued the furry creature twitching her ears, ‘that
some humans think they don’t have enough money for a basic food storage.’

‘Yes, I’m afraid that’s true also,’ said I.

‘Foolish humans!  I always knew that mice are more intelligent!’ said Ms.
Mouse in reply, hastily adding ‘Present company excepted, of course,’ so as
not to hurt my feelings.

‘I’ve written a Very Cheap Food Storage Plan for foolish humans,’ continued
the benevolent rodent, ‘and I want you to send it to Sharon so that she can
use it.’

‘But Ms. Mouse,’ I protested ‘Sharon is a sophisticate,’ I continued ‘She
already knows about food storage.’

‘Cat?  Cat?  Where’s a cat?’ exclaimed my furry pal in alarm, glancing
nervously over her shoulder.

‘No, no, Ms. Mouse,’ I reassured her, ‘Not that kind of cat.’

‘Oh,’ she said, mollified.

‘But even if Sharon is a … sophisti…no, I cannot say that
word.  Even if she is knowledgeable, how do you know that she doesn’t have
friends or neighbors who don’t already know these things?’ demanded Ms.

I was forced to admit that I don’t know.

‘So,’ instructed Ms. Mouse, ‘Send it to Sharon! But don’t reveal
my identity,’ she instructed.

‘But Ms. Mouse, don’t you want to be credited with the Plan?’

‘No, no, no, positively no.  No time to answer questions, no time at all,’
she replied.

‘OK, OK, Ms. Mouse,’ said I, ‘Would you care for a thimbleful of mint tea?’

‘No, no, must rush, must rush, work to do, work to do,’ exclaimed the

‘What are you doing now, Ms. Mouse?’ I inquired.

‘Must rearrange food storage, must move bread crumbs behind cheese to make
more room for winter food,’ squeaked Ms. Mouse.  ’Must go, must go, must
go:  too much work to do!’

And with scarcely a twitch of her ears, Ms. Mouse scampered back into
Mousel, and dragged out a very long piece of paper.

‘Here’s the Plan,’ she exclaimed, ‘Send it to Sharon!’ and off
she disappeared into Mousel.

The ANYWAY, Very Cheap, System of Food Storage for
Emergencies and/or Inflation for People Who Think They Cannot Afford Food

While people in other countries MAY think that their government will come
to their assistance quickly in a natural disaster, and Americans *used to*
think this, we know from bitter experience in New Orleans that this is no
longer true,  More recently, three entire years after Katrina, we know that
many, many people in Houston received very inadequate help after Hurricane

We have a very large country, very prone to natural disasters of one
kind or another. Hurricanes, forest fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, ice
storms, mud slides:  fortunately, the bad effects of at least some of these
disasters can be mitigated by sensible preparations.

Americans have also seen TERRIBLE inflation in food costs for the past
year.  Foods costs across the USA vary a lot by area, but my husband and I
estimate that – in our area – the prices for foods have risen from 30% to

These figures are, of course, not reflected in the official
government-issued statistics on inflation; the government removed both food
and energy costs from the inflation statistics a while ago.  But we are
experiencing this terrible inflation in food costs, and we know darned well
what we are experiencing.  We aren’t stupid.

OK, moving right along – what can we do?

Can you scrape together $5 extra each week for about three months (at MOST,
and maybe you will need the extra $5/week for less time than this)?  If you
can, I can suggest a food storage plan for you.  If you cannot, then I
cannot help you with storing food.

I believe that most people can manage $5 extra per week for about three
months (at most – and it should be less time than this, as you will see in
Part Two). This can be in food stamps instead of in actual money;
food stamps will work for this.  If you can get food from a food pantry or
food bank, that will also help.

If you can get more money together, you can accomplish this plan faster.
But if you can only get that little bit extra money together – and not
permanently, only for a while – you can do this plan; you cannot do it
*instantly*, but you can do it.

In what follows, I’m assuming that you live alone. If you live with other
people, you’ll need to increase quantities.

1.  First step:  Set a goal, make a plan, write it down.  Write down what
you need to do each week to accomplish your goal.
The initial goal I suggest is this:

Initial Goal

To have on hand, at all times, enough water to keep you alive for one

To have on hand, at all times, enough natural and nutritious food -
no junk food – to keep you alive and functioning for one month *without
needing to cook anything*.

This food must not require refrigeration, and it must keep for a fairly
long time.


This – to me – seems like a very reasonable *initial* goal.  When you have
accomplished this initial goal, then you can stop and re-assess the

You may want to stop there.  You may want to increase the variety of food
that you store.  You may want to get some means of cooking in a power
failure (assuming that your kitchen stove is electric, which is the worst

You will probably cook some of the foods that I suggest *in normal times*.
But you can safely eat these foods without any cooking at all, if

If you need to evacuate the area, if you have a car, or a friend or
relative with a car, you can take some of this water and all of this food
with you.

If you need to evacuate the area and you must do it by public
transport, then you can only take what you can carry.  Some things cannot
be helped.  So there’s no point in worrying about them.  I try hard to be
prepared for what I can be prepared for, and to let the rest go without
fretting about it.  I pretty much succeed at this now.

OK, so how are you going to accomplish this initial goal?

First, you must learn and follow the Basic Rule of Food Storage:  Use what
you store, and store what you use.

This means that you must ONLY store what you will actually eat.  You will
*regularly eat all the items you store*.

People with more money can afford to buy other foods for storage.

But people with very little money – like you and like me too – cannot

I am assuming also that you can only get to a regular, normal supermarket.
So I’m going to suggest a plan that can be accomplished completely, totally
at a normal supermarket (as they exist in the USA, the UK, Canada, probably
Australia and all of Europe and so on).

If you have an Aldi’s you can get to, or a Wal-Mart Supercenter, these will
probably have the same foods cheaper, so that would help.  If you can get
to a store that sells bulk foods, you can probably get one particular item
cheaper, so that will help.  But if you cannot – OK, you can do this at a
normal supermarket.

Don’t forget – you are going to set your own goal (which may be the goal I
suggest or may not).  And you are going to write down a plan to accomplish
this goal; week by week.

Then you will start on your Plan.

Here’s what I would suggest for Phase One of your Plan.  Phase One may take
you a week; it shouldn’t take more.

1.  A hand-operated can opener.  I think there are people who only have
electric can openers (I myself have never had an electric can opener). If
you only have an electric can opener, then please buy a hand-operated can
opener the first week.  It can be a cheap one.  You can buy these in normal
supermarkets, although perhaps a Dollar Store will have one cheaper.

2.  If you have a gas stove, make sure that you have matches.  We have a
gas stove; it has electric ignition.  But when the power is off, we can
light the top burners (only) with a match.  We cannot light the oven with a
match, because the burners are sealed in and inaccessible. But we can light
the top. So far as I know, you can light the top burners of ALL gas stoves
with a match.  So buy a box of matches if you don’t already have them.

4.  Do you have a bottle of multi-vitamins on hand?  If not, please buy a
bottle of multi-vitamins.  They don’t need to be expensive ones, the
cheapest ones available will do.  If you can only afford a small bottle,
buy a small bottle now and get a larger bottle later.  We try to keep one
year’s supply of multi-vitamins on hand.  But please get enough for at
least 30 days, that’s important.

3.  Store enough water for a month.  Water should definitely come before
food: people can go without food an awful lot longer than they can without

So far as I know, everyone who has running water in the USA and Canada can
safely drink the water that comes out of their taps.  You cannot afford to
buy water.  So you will store the water right as it comes from the tap. You
are going to store enough water to keep you alive for a month.

This is a minimum of one gallon per day.  You’re not going to drink a whole
gallon of water any day, but you are going to wash your hands at least once
per day and you can splash some water on your face (then catch it in a
dishpan or pot and use it to wash your hands).

So you’ll need 30 gallons for one person, for one month.  What can you keep
it in?

You may already have this much water: if you have a hot water heater in
your home or apartment, see if you can figure out to drain it.  You might
need to slide a dishpan under the drain place, but you can probably do

I don’t want you to do it now; I just want you to know that is a
possible source of water if you need it.  I want you to know how to do it
if you need to.  If you cannot figure it out, ask someone who knows how if
you possibly can.

Large, empty clean soda bottles, with tops, are great for storing water.
Ask everyone you know if they can please give you the empty bottles if they
drink any soda at all.

Empty clean apple juice bottles are equally good – or any fruit juice
bottles.  Ask everyone you know to give you fruit juice bottles.  I drink
V-8 juice occasionally, and it comes in very nice reusable bottles too.

Empty clean whisky or wine bottles are also fine – again, ask everyone you
know.  (Some cheap wine comes in gallon or half-gallon glass jugs – these
are perfect.)

If anyone you know buys bottled water, those bottles are fine too.

If you cannot find ANYTHING else, then you can keep water in clean plastic
milk jugs.  They are not the best container, but they are better than not
keeping any water at all.  Milk jugs will become brittle and break
eventually, but they should be OK for a month. (Meanwhile you can work on
getting better containers.)  Wash milk jugs very carefully and rinse,
rinse, rinse – then fill with water and keep them out of the sun.

If you have any empty 5-gallon buckets, they will be fine too.

I do not recommend drinking water from a bucket UNLESS THAT BUCKET IS FOOD
SAFE; some are, but some aren’t.  Would I drink water from a bucket that is
would; it would be an awful lot better than no water at all.

You might be able to get large buckets by asking at a doughnut shop – the
icing for doughnuts comes in buckets.  They are food safe.  You might be
able to get some from a supermarket bakery and again they will be food safe
- also perhaps from a sandwich shop.

If you have a cat, you may have empty cat litter buckets.  I do NOT
recommend drinking water stored in a cat litter bucket – although they are
not dirty: the actual cat has been nowhere near them.  They are not
food-safe plastic.  But if you have no other possible way to store water,
it would be better than having no water at all.  Maybe you have a friend
with a cat who will give you some of these.

You don’t need to treat water in any way if you replace one-third of it
every month.  Just count how many bottles of water you have stored, and
dump out, rinse, and refill one-third of them each month on the first of
the month.  Then none of the water will be more than three months old.

Where to put the water?  Let’s just say this:  if you really want to do
this, you’ll find a place to put the water.

I will also make one more suggestion about water:  for some natural
disasters, people have considerable warning.  Hurricanes do not sneak up on
people; ice storms or blizzards generally don’t either.  We have warning.

I have always seen advice to fill your bathtub with water if you think the
power may go off.  It seems to me that this is terribly bad advice:  I have
always tested the bathtub in every one of the many, many places where I
have lived and every single one of them has a slow leak through the drain.
No bathtub that I ever lived with will store water overnight – in the
morning, it’s all gone.

But what you can do is to put any kind of large container(s) in your
bathtub and then fill the container(s) with water.  I’m thinking here
specifically of the very common 18-gallon Rubbermaid or similar totes used
to store various items. Many people have these around.  But ANY large
container will do for this purpose.

That way, if the container should spring a leak, OK, it’s in the tub
anyhow, no problem.  If the container does not spring a leak, you’ll have
more water.

You can flush the toilet with this water or drink it (in an emergency only)
or wash with it, whatever.  If you have warning, you can also fill any
large pots and pans you have with water, and any 5-gallon or cat-litter
buckets you have too.  Fill any containers you have with water if you have
warning of a hurricane or ice storm.

You should be able to accomplish the initial water storage goal (and the
can opener, matches, and multivitamins, if necessary) within one week.

Next you sit down and think about water.  You might decide to store more
water, or you might decide that this is enough water.  You can work on
getting better containers for the water too, especially if you had to use
milk jugs – they will become brittle and fall apart eventually.

Congratulations on a job well done!  You’ve accomplished Part One now.  Now
we’ll move right along to Part Two.


By the way, I’m calling this the ANYWAY, Very Cheap System of Food Storage,
because you are going to eat these foods *anyway*.  You’re going to eat
them as part of your regular diet.

People with more money can store foods that are different from their
regular diet.  People with very little money cannot do this.  They must
store foods they’ll eat anyway…. problems or (hopefully) no problems!

In Part One, you took care of water storage for a month. You also
determined that you already have – or you bought – a manual can opener, and
matches if you have a gas stove, and at least a month’s supply of

Now we need to think about food.  The initial food goal I suggest is this:

To have on hand, at all times, enough natural and nutritious food -
not junk food – to keep you alive for one month *without needing to cook

This food must not require refrigeration – and it must keep a long time.


This seems to me a very reasonable *initial* goal; after you have
accomplished this, then you can reassess the situation and decide where you
want to go from there.  You may want to stop there.  You may want to get
more varied foods.  You may want to get some way to cook in an emergency.
You may want to continue to with more of the same foods.

OK, how to accomplish this initial goal, and to spend the minimum necessary

This is what I suggest; but I caution you:  you are going to be eating
these foods *regularly* and *anyway*.  If you are allergic to any of the
foods I suggest or cannot eat them for some other reason, or you just
cannot stand them, then you need to find a substitute.

The quantities given are for one month for one person.  If you have more
than one person in your household, you will need to increase the

The first food that I suggest you buy is rolled oats:  you can buy – in
every supermarket that I have ever seen in the USA or Canada – regular
rolled oats or quick-cooking rolled oats.  (I hope you can eat oats; it is
difficult to find a substitute for them because you can eat them uncooked,
and that is not true of most grains.  I know of two possible substitutes,
but they cost considerably more.  More on that later.)

Please don’t buy instant oats which are generally jammed full of sugar and
artificial flavor and are a rip-off. But regular or quick-cooking rolled
oats are a very valuable food.

You may call these ‘oatmeal’ or (as in the UK) ‘porridge’ or ‘porridge
oats’.  They’re the same thing.

The usual brand I see in supermarkets is Quaker Oats.  Store brands would
be fine, and might well be cheaper.  If you can get to a store that sells
foods in bulk, they might well be cheaper there.

Yesterday, we bought regular rolled oats – in two large plastic bags – at a
little general store here that has a few bulk foods.  We paid $0.71 per
pound – we bought approximately 15 lbs of rolled oats.

I eat these regularly.  My husband also eats ‘porridge’ for his breakfast
regularly – he prefers the quick-cooking oats and he has enough on hand at
present; so we didn’t need to buy any for him yesterday.

We’ll come back to the price per pound in a little bit…..

You can eat these oats in one of three ways – and two of them do not
require any cooking because oats are actually partially cooked before we
buy them, as part of their processing.  This is why we can eat them
uncooked.  I do eat them uncooked, regularly, in homemade muesli.

1.  Cooked, in normal times.  Then you have hot oatmeal for some of your
breakfasts.  This is a very valuable and nutritious food.  Add raisins, or
other fruit, and if you wish, serve with milk.  My father didn’t put milk
on hot cereal (including oatmeal), he dotted it with butter or margarine,
then sprinkled a little cinnamon and brown sugar on it.  Hot cereal is nice
that way too.  You can cook oatmeal either on the stove top or in the
microwave.  Just follow the directions on the box.  If you cook it in the
microwave, it wants to puff up and get all over the place.  Use a VERY
oversized glass cup or casserole dish:  that will prevent this.

2.  Uncooked, and mixed with fruit and yogurt – this is called muesli.  I
eat it for breakfast most days.  Just the uncooked oats, fruit, plus
yogurt. Add raisins and sunflower seeds if you wish, during normal times.
You can soften the oats by mixing them with yogurt (or fruit juice) ahead
of time, or you can do it, and then eat them right away.

3.  As a cold cereal:  in this case (and I eat this too), you put the oats
in a bowl, add raisins if you have them, perhaps a sliced banana if you
have bananas.  Then you pour milk over them and eat them as a cold cereal.
If you have no milk, you could use fruit juice.  If you have no fruit
juice, you could use water.

The nutritional value of rolled oats (with no additions) is as follows:

Rolled oats, dry – 4 oz   Calories – 434
                         Grams of protein – 18

EMERGENCY – 8 oz of oats daily.  That would give you 868 calories and 36
grams of protein.  This is a *very* substantial part of a woman’s calorie
and protein requirements; it’s even a substantial part of a man’s calorie
and protein requirements, for that matter.

So I’m going to recommend that you wind up with 15 lbs of rolled oats *per
person* for storage for emergencies – figuring on eating 8 oz of them per
day.  I do *not* recommend that you eat this many ounces of oats except in
case of dire emergency.

I do recommend that you eat oats for breakfast two or three times per week
*in normal times*.  I do this, I eat about 4 oz of oats for breakfast
(about 1/2 cup), along with fruit and yogurt.  Or if I want a hot
breakfast, then I cook the rolled oats with raisins, then slice a banana on
top, and add milk.  It’s a very substantial and good-tasting breakfast.

How much will this 15 lbs of rolled oats cost?  Well, let’s assume that you
must pay more than the $0.71 we just paid per pound.  Let’s assume you pay
as much as $1.00 per pound.  The 15 lbs of oats will have cost you about

Once you have managed to save the 15 lbs, then you just keep replacing it;
never let it go much lower than this.  Or you can decide to buy more and
keep 20 pounds on hand, if you prefer.  Or 30 lbs or even 50 lbs.  I
wouldn’t keep much more oats per person on hand than that.  But they do
keep a long time.

Note that you are now buying the oats *as part of your normal breakfast
regime*.  So you don’t need to set aside separate ‘food storage money’ for
oats anymore; you can use your normal food budget for this.  This gives you
more money for other food storage.

If you cannot eat oats for some reason, the only two substitutes that I can
think of *that don’t require cooking, do not require refrigeration, and
keep a long time and are very nutritious* are sunflower seeds or
Scandinavian-style crisp bread, such as Kavli and Wasa Brod.  The crisp
breads are available in normal supermarkets.  The crisp breads are mainly
whole grains; they are nutritious.  I don’t know if sunflower seeds are
available in normal supermarkets or not.  If they are, you want to buy
uncooked, unsalted, sunflower seeds if at all possible.  They won’t keep as
long as oats or crispbread, however.  (Sunflower seeds would be a really
valuable addition to your oats, if you can afford to buy them.  In normal
times, they should be kept refrigerated or frozen.)

Now what other foods do I recommend you start buying for the *bare bones
minimal, cheapest possible, useful food storage*?

I recommend that you buy canned beans too.  Not baked beans, just plain
canned beans.  There are many kinds, they all have approximately the same
food values, and they all cost about the same as far as I know.  If you
live alone I suggest you buy the small cans of beans – approximately 16 oz
per can.  There are black beans, kidney beans, white beans, pinto beans,
many, many varieties.

In normal times, you can base many, many dinners on beans – tacos, chili,
soups, frijoles refritos, salads, beans and rice, etc.

In normal times, you’ll probably want to cook most of the beans (but they
are used in salads and cold plates too).  You don’t *need* to cook them.
You can buy one kind of beans only, or two or three, etc.

I base our dinners on beans *at the very least* two nights per week.  I
recommend that canned beans be rinsed very well with cold water before
eating (in normal, non-emergency times) if you are concerned about sodium.
Even if you aren’t concerned about sodium, I think they taste better if you
rinse them first.

You can find hundreds, probably even thousands, of bean recipes on the Web. is one of my favorite recipe sites; just put ‘beans’ in
the search box and you will be presented with 2008 recipes using beans!
That’s a lot of bean recipes.

Beans are *good food*, and they are a very versatile food.  They are also
good for your health.

I’m looking at a can of black beans; they are probably my favorite kind of
beans.  The can of beans has (the whole can, in total) 315 calories, and
24.5 grams of protein.  If you ate the whole can of beans, which I only
recommend in case of emergency, plus 8 oz of oatmeal, this would give you:
1183 calories, which – together with two other foods I will recommend in a
minute – would be enough for a woman to keep going for quite a while in an
emergency, indefinitely, in fact – unless you are already emaciated BEFORE
the emergency.  You also probably have at least some other food in your
house, which you could add to your diet.

It would also give you 42 grams of protein.  This is not the RDA for a
woman’s protein, but it would certainly keep you going for quite a while,
well more than a month.  You wouldn’t develop malnourishment in a month’s
time if you were eating this much protein each day together with the
calories you would have.  Many women throughout the world live *their
entire lives* with lower daily protein figures.

Other beans have very similar food values.

What does a can of beans cost?  We can get them (or we could get them
anyway, until very recently for about $0.50/can ON SALE ONLY).  But let’s
even say that you need to pay $1.00 a can.  I don’t think you will, but I
don’t know what food costs in other places, after all.

If you plan to store 30 cans of beans (per person), then you would need to
spend $30.  BUT you can also start eating these beans regularly, as part of
your normal food.  And I would recommend that.  Then if you know that you
have eaten two cans of beans in a week, and you are still increasing your
supply of beans, you buy four or six cans.  Simple.

When you get up to 30 cans of beans, then reassess the situation.  You can
maintain that inventory, or buy more beans.  Up to you.

Let’s assume that you want to accumulate the 15 lbs of oats and the 30 cans
of beans before you start eating them…. You have now spent $45.  If you
can only spend $5 per week for food storage, this will have taken you nine
weeks.  If you can spend more, you can do it faster.

But it’s really not fair to consider these costs all as food storage costs;
you are going to put these foods into your regular diet, after all.  Some
of this money can come out of your regular food budget.

Now what other food do I recommend you buy as part of your basic,
bare-bones food storage?

I recommend that you buy cans of tomatoes too; they are very useful when
cooking beans (in non-emergency times as well as in emergencies).  You can
buy stewed tomatoes, or diced tomatoes, or whole tomatoes – they are
equally useful.  Perhaps the diced tomatoes are a little more useful.  You
can eat them without cooking them.  They are perfectly safe to eat

These will provide you some vitamins and some more calories (but not many).
They will also make the beans much more palatable.

So for a month’s storage for one person, I suggest you buy – as quickly as
your money will allow – 30 (small – 16-oz) cans of tomatoes. I recommend
that you use them as part of your regular diet also.

When you have 30 cans of tomatoes, you can either maintain that level, or
increase it.  Treat the tomatoes just as you are treating the beans: always
replenish or increase your supply of them.  Rotate them – eat the oldest
ones first.

The last recommendation for a basic, bare bones emergency food storage
supply:  I’d get cans or jars of fruit.  Applesauce is very useful and
nutritious, and most people like it.  If you live alone, get the smaller
jars.  It will make the rolled oats more palatable.  Many people normally
eat applesauce; it can fit into your normal food regime nicely.

I also recommend that you get some other fruit in cans – both my husband
and I like canned pineapple packed in its own juice, so we keep a supply of
that on hand.  If you prefer peaches, then get peaches, or some of each, or
some other fruit altogether.

I’d recommend building up to 30 cans or jars of fruit, just as you did with
the beans and tomatoes.  Treat the fruit just as you treat the rolled oats,
beans, and tomatoes – replenish whatever you use.

At the end of this plan, you’ll have the following on hand, and your supply
of these will not diminish:  you will always replenish them.

15 lbs of rolled oats
30 cans of beans
30 cans of tomatoes
30 cans or jars of fruit

All of these are now being eaten as part of your normal food regime, so all
the money to replace them should now come out of your normal food budget.

NONE OF THESE FOODS IS EXPENSIVE.  And you would have enough to live on for

Don’t forget to take one vitamin pill per day.

Now that you have one entire month’s food supply safely on hand,
congratulate yourself on a job well done!  Then think about what you want
to do next.

The foods I personally would add next would probably be raisins and dry
skim milk. Both would add interest to the rolled oats.  And you can use
both of them in your normal food regime.

The next thing I would probably want to buy is a guaranteed method of
cooking food:  Sterno would do (don’t forget that you need matches to light
it).  You can probably buy it in a normal supermarket or hardware store – I
have often seen it in regular, normal supermarkets.  You can build a little
holder for it from bricks.  Then you put your pot on the bricks, and the
Sterno under the pot.

After that, I would probably want a few herbs and spices – maybe oregano,
cumin, and chili powder for the beans, and cinnamon for the oats.  Some
brown sugar would be nice on the oats as well.  Maybe you already have
these in your kitchen.

I cannot think of any food storage plan that would be cheaper, and yet have
the following features:

1.  The food must all be nutritious.
2.  It must all keep a long time without refrigeration.
3.  You must be able to eat it uncooked if necessary.
4.  It must all fit into a normal diet.

If you do this, I absolutely guarantee that you’ll be glad, and that it
will give you a very good feeling of security.

I hope you will never have an emergency, but even if you don’t, you will
always feel a more secure with (at least) one month’s food on hand. This is
definitely worth the little bit of work and expense it requires.

You may want to continue and gradually build up to a three-month’s supply
or to vary the foods.  You may want to think about non-food items too:
garbage bags, a basic first-aid kit, whatever you would really need in an

But always keep that bedrock, bare-bones one month’s supply – always
replenish what you use.

82 Responses to “Friday Food Storage Not-Quite-So Quickie – $5 Week Beginner Food Storage”

  1. Cynthia says:

    Excellent article – makes food storage not so intimidating. Thanks,

  2. bridget says:

    Hats off to Ms. Mouse. Very good plan. I like that it is no cook; I had no idea I could eat my ‘oatmeal’ raw if needed. And, I have accidentally accumulated 15 pounds of oatmeal, with my haphazard food storage.

    This is something I will refer others to for bare bones emergency food storage.

  3. Hummingbird says:

    Great advice, Ms. Mouse! I always knew you were the frugal expert.

    The mention of sunflower seeds ( no doubt obtained by Ms. Mouse from under my bird feeder) reminds me that I usually have a 25. lb. sack of sunflower seeds and a 50 lb. sack of millet seeds stored as bird seed. I assume these would also serve as people food in an emergency.

  4. MEA says:

    I’ve been thinking in my usual half-assed way, that I NEED to do something about food storage for my brothers and his family of 5 — something that was on site for them since I couldn’t expect them to treck some 20 miles every day (assuming they weren’t with me) to eat. So for five people it (if my math isn’t wrong) come to $240, which is a bit steep, I have to confess, and I need to think about store what you eat in terms of their basic diet (which differs from mine), but this whole plan is a great place for me to start. I can put it together, box it up, and the first time I get an opening on coversation when they are down here (which is almost daily, since my mother looks after their son) I can shove it in there car. They are going to be on there own for water, though.

    Thanks, Ms. Mouse.

    (I have a cat called Mouser which has the some root as Mousel, but don’t tell Ms. Mouse)

  5. WOW Trainee says:

    Please tell Mrs. Mouse thanks! This is something I can do. I also suggest putting aside some boxes of salt. We are used to having salt available. But it may not always be so.

  6. Chris says:

    Just a brief tip: if you soak oats (or any other grain) in water overnight, they will be much more digestible when eaten raw or cooked. If you add a little yogurt or kefir to the soaking water, the oats will ferment slightly and be even more digestible than when soaked with water alone. This is how most grains were prepared in traditional cultures that used them. In terms of modern science, what’s happening is that the soaking breaks down molecules called phytates which impair intestinal absorption.

  7. Greenpa says:

    Really, Sharon, I’m appalled at your insensitive use of the “r****t” word! Those of us who are on intimate terms with mice know that it’s a pejorative term they abhor. I mean, really, would YOU want to be lumped together with squirrels and porcupines- and rats??

  8. Ms. Anon E. Mouse says:

    Urgent, urgent comment from Ms. Anon E. Mouse:


    I made a mistake! An important one too. Urgent, urgent.

    Hurricane Ike was not two full years after Katrina, but three full years.

    I don’t want to let the r***s off too easily. I want to reveal their r****ish deeds in full.

    Sharon, can you please fix this for me?

    All this jumping around on the keyboard to press the keys is becoming very tiring for A Very Small Mouse.

    Thank you!

    Signed: A Mouse Who Wishes to Remain Nameless

  9. Jennifer says:

    Just wanted to mention that I have lived a very healthy 20 years on about 40 grams of protein a day. The doctors always proclaim me wonderfully healthy! I eat oatmeal for breakfast every morning already, and we have so many beans and tomatoes as vegetarians.

  10. Cathy says:

    What a coincidence! I was just making a list of the common elements needed for recipes in my crockpot cookbook — and your list reflects much of the same. I would add to the list (in phase 2):
    canned vegetables like peas, corn and green beans;
    canned soups like tomato, cream of chicken and mushroom, beef and chicken broth;
    canned meats like corned beef, chicken, Spam, tuna, and salmon;
    and finally, bags of noodles, macaroni, spaghetti, and rice.
    Also a solar cooker would help keep everyone well fed.

  11. Theresa says:

    Thank you Ms. Mouse for forwarding this very useful information to Sharon to post! Now I know I can store enough food for an emergency and not freak out about it in the meantime :)

  12. Sarah says:

    I would add that if you are doing this in a hurry and think that you will have to switch to a heavily oatmeal-and-bean-based diet in case of sudden emergency, you should also add some raisins, prunes, or other dried fruit. Otherwise, that much fiber at once will make you unhappy.

  13. MEA says:

    Just dawned on me that there is no reason the canned toms can’t be homemade bottled ones. Save a penny there.

  14. ctdaffodil says:

    Thank Sharon.
    I was at walmart to day and bought a case (12 cans) of cranberry sauce. I know – loaded with sugar, but in my house if it gets my kids to eat anything – I want to be prepared.
    Vegetarian chili canned is something we keep on hand. I use it mostly to make taco dip – but have in a pinch (low $ week) taken a can of that a can of diced tomatos and another can of kidney beans heated them all up and served the whole thing over grits, with a little shaved cheddar over it. I can get the canned stuff for $50c a can and the grits and cheese we always have around. The kids call it cowboy mush

  15. Alicia says:

    Wow, this is really helpful! A food storage plan that isn’t overwhelming and it’s all stuff I already use!

  16. This is a great post, thank you very much with sharing your views and ideas to the world so that others may benefit.

  17. Lance says:

    I love this plan and am working on it, since I am broke as ever…the wasa bread reminder was genius, thanks :-)

    The only three things I would add in phase 2 for myself:

    1. Trash bags – for hygiene if the water goes out for a long period of time
    2. No-refrigerator giant jars of peanut butter (Jif, Skippy, etc.)
    3. First aid kid with antibiotic ointment

    I like the sterno-brick structure idea for those of us renting who do not have gas stoves

    As an aside, I bought Katz’ Wild Fermentation and started my first batch of homemade sauerkraut yesterday…and ordered a kombucha starter yesterday too

  18. Lance says:

    Oh, Sharon or anyone else…I would love a posting on what you think about regarding the 800-pound gorilla in the room:

    …The stress and increasing mental unhinging of people in desperate times… how to help keep yourself and family and friends from cracking up… how to deal with deranged folks, mobs, etc. People who want what you’ve got…or what they THINK you have that they do not

    Personally, I think a keg of beer (wine etc.) is a good thing to have on hand in a stress situation…not just for personal use…but if faced with a hostile group, a way to make everybody happy and drunk enough (party!) that you can slip out the back as necessary…don’t laugh, the old fairy tales and folktales have lots of hints about bad situations and trickery needed to survive :-)

  19. Anon of Florida says:

    I wonder why Ms. Mouse didn’t mention water cooler bottles. These can usually be nicked from the office or some other workplace as empty containers and they hold a reasonable five gallons of water.

  20. risa b says:

    “Nicked?” … oh, my!

    We have four of these, rhather old ones, left over from my dad’s wine-making. Very handy.

    You can hide oatmeal in all kinds of soups and breads as a filler. My loaves always contain at least one, sometimes three, handfuls.

  21. Heather Gray says:

    Good post, thanks Mrs. Mouse!

    On the bath tub not holding water overnight, were they all the modern type? My mom would always fill the tub when we had a really bad storm coming in, but we had one of the old ones where you have to put a rubber stopper in it, which held just fine. I haven’t tested the tub here, but I think I might try it with a flat disk of rubber over the drain and see if it holds (we got given one for a jar-opener). In any case, the thought of storing water containers short-term in the tub is great, thanks!

    Thanks for the info on the oats — I knew they were partially cooked but hadn’t really thought about that meaning I could just throw it into yogurt without cooking it some more.

    I had a thought for future storage — if any of the fruit or other foods come in jars instead of cans, wash and save them for dry storage – “free” containers! Sure they only hold a cup or two (or maybe 4 depending on the container), but a meal or two’s worth of beans in a jar means not having to measure them for a meal, just pour and soak. Same with rice, lentils, etc. Lyle occasionally buys a big container of pretzels and we’ve saved them for storing herbs and other dry goods. Might be good idea for folks who haven’t built up a collection of storage containers?

    ?? Question on the sunflower seeds ?? Do they store for longer uncooked and unsalted, or is it that they lose a lot of nutritional value if this is done? I grew sunflowers this year and haven’t done anything with mine yet but had thought that roasting them for a few minutes would mean they’d keep for longer.

  22. Anonymous says:


    Could you please ask Ms. Mouse to clarify two things:

    1- Does she mean that if you rotate the water as you mention, we don’t need to add any bleach to the soda bottles when filling them or before drinking the water?

    2- She mentioned a couple times that it is completely safe to eat this stuff raw out of the can (beans, tomatoes). What about the BPA risk? Is this diminished by rinsing the beans? If we’re actually eating this stuff regularly and not just in an emergency, I worry about this (particularly as a woman of child-bearing age). Do you, I mean, does she think it’s not a big deal, or would you recommend dried fruit and home, glass-jarred tomato products instead? What about the beans? Just rinse?

    Thank you both. I think this was the motivation my family needs.

  23. Meadowlark says:

    Brilliant Lance. My whiskey-hoarding doesn’t seem so odd now. (But the hoarded gin is just for me)

  24. Devin Quince says:

    In regards to this, we have never had a problem with keeping our filled for days on end sometimes. We take on bath a week for all four of us starting with the cleanest first and adding hot water as the water temp drops. Since we use biodegradable soaps and very little, we either siphon this into our rain barrels or onto one of our many beds of veggies.
    No bathtub that I ever lived with will store water overnight – in the
    morning, it’s all gone.

  25. Shamba says:

    After having tried many differenet manual can openers, I have a recommendation: If you spend a little extra for a manual can opener, it will last longer and it will be MUCH easier to use! I hae had a lot of trouble with the cheaper ones after a few months: or some how I don’t don’t always have the strength–or manipulative ability–to use it to open some kinds of cans. And I don’t have any arthritis or any strength issues and I use weights for arms and shoulder exercises. I’ve just discovered over the years that tha more expensive can openers will last and are easier to use.

    Wonderful informative post and comments, ya’ll.


  26. Hausfrau says:

    Oddly enough, this looks a lot like what I normally eat…..but I would have to somehow scrape up the $4 for one jar of peanut butter (for the fat content). It keeps a long time and does not need cooking to eat, and one jar would last a month if you only eat 2 tbsps a day.

    Thanks! This would make a great email forward!

  27. Henry says:

    Great stuff. We moved to a new (to us – it’s actually 80 years old) house, and I’m putting in shelving in the basement just for this purpose. A real pantry is a “good thing”. I’d like to add something I have found useful: garlic powder. I bought a Very Large container of the stuff for all of 6 bucks, and it is really great at adding just a touch of zest to a meal, especially beans. Real garlic is the best, of course, but one may not have a fresh garlic plant on hand…

    We going to be installing a wood burning stove to our fireplace next year. I bought a foot powered log splitter, so we’re in business. Making our “urban rowhouse” a vibrant and livable place. Nice!



  28. LoL I know who Ms Mouse is in that I read other lists :) and I was intrigued by eating oatmeal raw. I shouldn’t have been because I’ve eaten it raw in off the shelf cereals and liked it very much. Keep up the good work Sharon and Ms. Mouse. Beth in Massachusetts

  29. Paula Hewitt says:

    great post – this is the sort of food storage you need to make my chickpea stew (from the recipe post) with some greens from the garden/roadside. These food items are all included in my food storage (but not quite at the levels recommended for 5 people yet)

  30. sweet marjoram says:

    Please thank Ms. Mouse for caring about us humans and telling us how to be prepared. Having a plan and writing it down makes everything seem so simple. I have added dog food to our list as well as drinking water for the pooch. Also maybe some hard candy to cheer up the kids and a little stash of vino to cheer up the husband.

  31. Robyn M. says:

    Really wonderful post–thank you so much Ms. Mouse!

    For keeping water in a bathtub–you could go to a hardware store and buy a cheap rubber drain cover. That should take care of any leaking problems.

    Also, I roll oat groats fresh for oatmeal & muesli, and I think even these work okay raw, especially if you can soak them for a bit. Oat groats will keep even longer than rolled oats, and are a little bit more nutritious. Of course, you also need to get a roller, and hopefully one that can be hand-cranked, so it’s not necessarily in the *cheap* category, but it can be very useful for storage if you can afford it.

  32. tasterspoon says:

    I’d like to second the question re water storage. I’ve long wondered whether to store tap water at all, or if it will go funky at some point. Is Ms. Mouse saying that 3 months is that point? Thanks!

  33. Laurie says:

    I read this in pieces today between chores and a visit from my daughter. This was very fun to read, as the little voice I was hearing in my head was very mouselike!

  34. Laurie says:

    Oh, as well as informative!

  35. RC says:

    The hurricane was bearing down upon us the other day, so I filled the clothes washing machine up, or, actually, it filled itself.
    I can’t eat oats anymore, and would never dare eat powdered milk. {allergies}
    But the rest of the suggestions and the general concept are wonderful.
    My food basics are pretty much all out back in the ground. The carbs are almost all tropical potatoes, the beans grow on trees here {pigeon peas — gandul}, and we have fresh fruit on the trees always, something is in season, the big item this month is avocados.
    As to the amount of protein eaten each day, most of us are eating vastly more than we need, and eating too much protein leads to failure to absorb calcium.
    Thanks for the great post, Ms Mouse and Ms Sharon.

  36. Sharon says:

    Re: Water – 3 months is the outside safe period without bleach in the water. As long as you rotate them carefully, you don’t need bleach as long as you never keep it longer than 3 months. With bleach, you can change it 1x per year. BTW, I’ve found that washed out clorox bottles are actually great water storage containers – much heavier duty than soda bottles, so if you have access to them.

    Another way I routinely eat raw rolled oats is mixed into fruit sauces, or even a little diluted jam from the bottom of the jar. Raw oats mixed in applesauce, or a bit of strawberry jam gotten out of the jar with some water is delicious for breakfast.


  37. Sharon says:

    Lance, I’m going to write a post about dealing with stress and anxiety – in ourselves and other people. And yes, I think your liquor solution is a pretty good one.

    More to come on that – and I’m glad you are able to make a little progress on this one.


  38. Cheri says:

    I have a 6 gallon water storage container for camping in which I keep water. Also, as we eat up the contents of our home canned goods, I fill them with water. Gotta store the jars anyway for next year!

  39. urth says:

    Ms Mouse,

    We humans also need a bit of fat to keep our skin happy and to keep the tummy feeling full. The Old Home Economist recommends the addition of a couple of 18 oz jars of peanut butter to the 30 day stash.

    For me, I’d also add 15 packs of ramen. A gas stove, sterno or a camp stove lets you make soup. Soup, hot soup can be wonderful, and ramen is really good with a bit of peanut butter or soy sauce and hot sauce stirred in the broth. Ramen also adds fat to the diet, not the best fat,but is also a comfort food for some folks. Ramen can also be eaten “raw” from the package as something crunchy, save the broth powder packet, or may mixed with beans or tomatoes. Ramen probably fits your criteria of “junk”, but kids like it and it takes far less cooking than regular pasta or rice.

  40. Maeve says:

    Someone mentioned bird seed. Bird seed doesn’t fall under “food for human consumption” laws. I personally wouldn’t eat any of it, especially if it’s the kind that has had nutritional additives mixed in (a lot of seed is coated with who-knows-what, supposedly for the better health of wild birds).

  41. Diane says:

    I occasionally take a hot bath with Epsom salts for aches and pains. During the summer I would leave the water in the tub to be used in the garden the next day. I use an old-fashioned rubber stopper and never have any trouble with it leaking out by morning. I think it would be the modern lever stoppers that would allow the leakage.
    Hope this helps.

  42. Rosa says:

    Yes, tell Mrs. Anony Mouse thank you.

    I’m linking to this on LJ, too, on the Cheap Cooking.

    (which reminds me, I should ask Suzette Haden if I can add her corn pone recipe to your list.)

  43. Limna says:

    Thanks for keeping it light. I’m planning to start building my food storage this weekend. None of my family or friends, even the peak oil-aware ones, seem to feel any urgency about it yet.

    Does anyone know a good way to keep bugs out of grains, bread and nuts when you are storing them? We get these brown skinny moth-like bugs in everything that’s not refrigerated. I’ve heard it works to freeze stuff first to kill bug larvae…

  44. Jerry says:

    Excellent advice Ms Mouse. I do hope that if you are drinking water out of buckets, you are a lot more careful than several of your brethren I have discovered over the years.

    On a more serious note, I know this is more expensive but I am surprised to not have seen any reference to storing hemp seed or hemp seed oil. Both are some of the healthiest, and easiest to store, food sources during times of scarcity or otherwise.

    If someone else made reference to hemp seed and I missed it, I apologize for the repeat. I do highly suggest that people look into it.

  45. I like this post and yet for passing on to my friends I would edit heavily for brevity, with attribution. It’s a good post but people who are just coming to this and don’t read long articles need a briefer summary.

    From reading Sharon over the years, I’d add to the canned fruit list: Pumpkin! Get it on sale around Thanksgiving and Christmas (or after). My local drugstore is a great source of sale food items, especially flour, pumpkin, pasta and other staples. They sell a lot of crap food, too, so one has to shop wisely. And I read the store circulars just for a sense of what’s the common price and what’s really cheap.

    Trader Joe’s and the Grocery Outlet (the latter is in Bay Area and Seattle) feature canned beans at 69 or 79 cents for a 14 oz. can.

    I have not yet priced bulk canned beans and fruits at Smart and Final or other food service stores. Since I have a family of four, buying large cans *may* be worth it, but I have to bring a little price book and calculator with me to make sure I’m really getting a good deal. Also we couldn’t use a really humongous can of beans day-to-day, so it’s a trade-off.

    Giant sized pickles from the bulk aisle section yield great large storage jars! It’s worth it to buy giant jars of pickles because they keep a while in the fridge after opening.

    BTW I learned about MIddle Eastern produce preserving on a recent trip to Lebanon and Syria and am planning to snap up the season’s last eggplants to try preserved eggplant. You need to refrigerate these vegetable pickles, as if they were kimchee. My Lebanese and Syrian relatives were busy, busy busy brining olives and eggplants, picking dates and drying herbs.

    Claudia Roden in the New Book of Middle Eastern Food discusses preserved vegetables, as does Anissa Helou in the less widely available paperback on Lebanese Food.

  46. I’m going to research the recipe for candied pumpkin… a lovely Syrian housewife served me her homemade candied pumpkin as part of a sweet course with coconut-covered date rolls and dried apricots. She also served homemade yogurt cheese, preserved eggplant (stuffed with red pepper and garlic), and spinach pies. There was more food, too, and this was for breakfast!!!

  47. [...] $5/Week Beginner Food Storage at Casaubon’s [...]

  48. Laney says:

    Thanks to Ms. Mouse for a great guest post and to Sharon for passing it along.

    I do have a couple of questions:
    I’ve been trying to switch from canned beans to dried beans — they store more compactly, burn fewer resources on their way to my pantry, produce less waste (even if I do recycle the cans), and I’ve finally figured out that using a pressure cooker makes them cook quickly and with less fuel. So, how do I justify storing 90 cans of beans for my family of 3? I don’t store any food we don’t eat. Is there a means of preparing dried beans (in an emergency) without cooking them?

    You discuss beans, tomatoes, and fruit here. What other commercially canned foods are safe to eat without cooking? green beans? corn? hominy? chili? soups?

  49. I would suggest burghul wheat (bulgar wheat) for storage if you want a grain that doesn’t need cooking. Burghul has already been parboiled, then dried and cracked, so you don’t have to cook it although people do (for pilaf). You just add cold water. You could add hot water if you want the process to go faster, or you’re concerned about germs. I rinse the burghul first just to get dust off it.

    Lentils, especially split lentils, are a good dry bean option – they need cooking but not as much as say, pintos or black beans. Split lentils cook up quickly. See the internet’s most famous red lentil soup recipe, on my blog. Google turns it up.

    Whole lentils can be sprouted with ease for a source of greens.

  50. Dan says:

    1 Gallon Crystal Geyser Water Bottles.

    Can usually be found on sale, sometimes at Whole Foods, for $0.79-$0.99. I’d imagine a few cases of them would keep very well and the bottles are reusable.

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