Newbie Food Storage on the Cheap

admin March 6th, 2011

Events being what they are, I’m getting a lot of email about the very basics of food storage, and I thought it was a good time to start revisiting this topic.  And lo and behold, the wonderful Kathy Harrison covered how not to waste your money  before I got there – and there’s lots more good advice at her site:

1. Know how you are going to store whatever you buy. Get the buckets before you get the 50 pound sack of wheat. Have the storage space before you buy the case lot.
2. Watch your unit price. The old adage of bigger being cheaper is no longer always true. Marketers are pulling out all the stops to get you to spend more money. Packages are smaller, pricing is all over the map, specials are not always the bargain they appear and coupons are a waste of money if they make you buy something you don’t want.
3. Don’t store what you can’t eat. Gluten intolerant people should not store wheat.
4. Don’t store what you won’t eat. I know you think that you’ll eat the canned string beans during the apocalypse but why not store something you actually like. I gave my canned green beans to the food pantry where someone who likes them can use them. I now only store those canned things I really like and use. I have lots of canned pineapple and mandarin oranges and very few canned vegetables except for corn and peas as my family will eat those in soups and chowders. I dry or home can or freeze the veges my family likes.
5. Make a price book. You don’t know a good buy unless you know the best price. It’s just too hard to keep track of the prices in all the places we can purchase food without a price book. I keep the prices for staples like peanut butter, concentrated juices and rice in my little book. When a true deal is out there I know it.
6. Eat the food. You may eat the 20-year-old can of salmon if you find yourself living the live from Earth Abides but otherwise, I don’t think so. Make salmon cakes a few times a month now. They’re easy and tasty and they’ll be familiar if you have to make them more often.

There’s a lot of information about food storage on this site (check the “categories” section) and of course, I wrote a book about food storage and food preservation (which are really two sides of the same coin in a lot of ways).

A few posts to look at if you are at the beginning stages of saying “hey, maybe it isn’t such a bad idea to have some food around.”

1. Some real life stories that readers have sent me about how food storage changed their lives and helped them through some tough time.  This is a good reminder that zombies don’t have to be roaming the streets to make a food reserve useful.

2. Food Storage Baby Steps: Do these things before you shop!

3. The Menu Project: It really helps to have a plan for how you will integrate your food storage into your daily life.

4. A few of my favorite food storage recipes.

5. The $5 a week super-simple beginner method: This was a post by a friend of mine, A Nonny Mouse, and it helps people who are true, absolute beginners with no money just get a measure of security.

I do hope this helps someone – this is important stuff!  Maybe I’ll restart my Friday Food Storage Quickies as well!


16 Responses to “Newbie Food Storage on the Cheap”

  1. risa b says:

    We contacted our local organic wholesaler and got a handout explaining the food club rules. Sent out an email to local friends. Explained how it works, got initial commitment from two friends. Now that’s not a lot; but it’s enough to start under the rules, the main one being spend $150 a month to get wholesale pricing. The first three families will keep this going while we recruit more, by each taking a month in turn for our “annual order.” I just picked up $150 worth of stuff and delivered it to the first member! My order will be picked up in April …

  2. Milton Dixon says:

    A simple way to start is to examine your current eating habits and buy extra of the things that you already eat that store well.

  3. Jess says:

    I just found your blog so I really appreciated this post and the links to prior posts regarding food storage. This is something that my husband and I are looking into more as a means of saving money on good food but the in-case-of-emergency reasons are also good. I started canning last summer so we have a good supply of pasta sauce, applesauce, crushed tomatoes and apple pie filling (I know, probably not needed in a true emergency but I have it so…). I’m excited to try out some other things this summer to see what we do like and eat all year.

    We belong to a local CSA and get fresh veggies at a nearby farm once a week in the summer and every other week in the winter. I keep a small kitchen garden and generally grow tomatoes, green beans, wax beans, sugar peas and cucumbers in addition to lots of herbs. I try one or two new things every year.

    We recently purchased a freezer for the garage and ordered our first half hog to share with another like-minded couple. The four of us are also going to be getting a quarter or half cow next month to split.

    We definitely need to work on building up a supply of things like canned beans, canned tuna and other standard, easy things. This post has really gotten me thinking and talking with my husband about being more organized and intentional about our food storage.

    Thank you – I’m excited to have found your blog!

  4. dixiebelle says:

    I highly recommend those who can, buy your Independence Days book, I learnt so much and it gave me the move along to do a Be Prepared Challenge on my blog…

  5. Matriarchy says:

    We recently went through a very tough time, financially, with a period of unemployment. Our food storage really got us through, and I am very busy building it back up as we recover. It was also a good test of what we will and won’t eat – which was a bit different than we thought. Two picky eaters – one young and one elderly – needed foods we didn’t store.

    We need to store more tea, peanut butter, certain condiments, honey. I need to can more jam and pasta sauce. We saw what did not last as long as we thought – I need to use dry milk faster than we have been doing, or stick to canned evap milk – the dry milk had expired two years previously, and was rancid, even though I kept it sealed in buckets. I was very happy to have lots of beans, corn, yeast, flour, dried herbs, whole spices to grind, cooking oil. I was able to keep making pizza and pasta sauce, hummus, refried beans, and bread. We were able to focus our remaining food budget on green vegetables, apples, bananas, white and sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, milk, eggs, chicken, yogurt starter, cheese. I am planting a larger garden this year, and canning more.

    I do keep a pantry inventory list and a price book, but I need to get better at rotating things that are in bins and buckets. Lost some pasta, rice, and cereal to weevils. Sad, to work so hard at finding bargains, only to lose them to bugs and inattention.

  6. [...] – the basics March 7, 2011, 6:45 am Filed under: Uncategorized Sharon Astyk has a great post on her blog, with links to lots of her great, introductory posts on food storage, plus a lovely [...]

  7. admin says:

    Matriarchy, that’s a really useful experiment to do, isn’t it! You should write up what you learned – that’s very useful to a lot of people, and I’d happily guest post it!


  8. Katy says:

    Good thoughts on food storage!

    We live in a converted school bus in a small mountain town, so we buy our staples once a month in bulk to avoid taking too many trips to the tiny grocery store in our town. Storage can be an issue when one lives in 200 sq ft, but we have good cabinets. At one point we stored a 20 lb bag of flour in the back of our car, but since then we’ve gotten better at fitting our food in our space.

    We have a propane stove and oven for cooking and a wood stove for heat. We sometimes heat water on the wood stove, so I think we could use it for cooking in an emergency.

  9. Nicole C says:

    Excellent food storage summary. In particular #2 and #3. I buy my beans at the grocery store on sale for half the price per pound of 6 gallon buckets worth. And especially watch the package sizes, as the boxes are staying the same but the weights are dropping.

    And as for #3 — eat what you store and only store what you eat. Once you think you are “done” — try eating for a month only from your storage and see what you run low on or just don’t eat. Milk is my downfall — I don’t eat enough of it to get through a quart before it goes bad, but you have to have *some.* I try to store judicious amounts of dried milk, but the right balance is hard to find. Eggs… well, same problem. If I kept chickens I’d never eat that many eggs and I can’t really store them.

    I store all my grain and rice in mylar bags with O2 absorbers. Wheat, since I go through so much of it and it stores so well, goes in 6 gallon buckets with mylar liners and gamma seal lids. I buy meat direct from farmers — and just took delivery of a quarter of bison this weekend. Superior quality, reasonable prices — but you do need a good chest freezer.

    You know you are getting close when you go to the grocery store and realize there’s nothing there you want to buy. It happened this weekend as it was a GREAT feeling!

  10. Nicole C says:

    P.S. Know your storage times. The “preparedness” companies will try to sell you a 7 year supply of rolled oatmeal, but it’s still only going to be good for a year even perfectly stored.

  11. Trina says:

    A friend of mine just steered me to your site. How interesting and wonderful. Thanks!

    I label myself as somewhat of a “food hoarder”. This came about as I survived in Hurricane Andrew in 1992. I was 18. It really reshaped my entire thought system in one night. My father and I were not prepared with food. Once the news began to report that we were going to take a direct hit, stores became mobbed, armed guards requiring large bribes blocked entrances, and the food disappeared. Sharing a can of beans with my father each day changed how I look at food.

    Now that I am a mom, I’ve learned to organize my “food hoard”. The above tips are great! Here are a few more:

    “Take from the back, load from the front.” I cook from stockpile, so I have it all organized by food type, and I reach to the back and restock the rows from the font, that way I am eating the oldest goods first, so food doesn’t get forgotten about and expire.

    “Get a really good cooler!” They make 5 day coolers now, and they really work! I did a side-by-side comparison at my parents during a hurricane, and the new Max cooler I made them buy worked for days, while their 1970′s camping cooler let the food thaw overnight. Once the power is off, your freezer isn’t going to work. Every time you open it, you are shortening the life of the food in there. If you are thinking you are going to lose power, freeze bags or jars of water. Put them in your cooler with food you can easily eat (or needs to be eaten anyway). When the storm hits, you will be ready. Then keep your freezer closed until you need to restock your cooler. Best scenario: you get power restored quickly and all your freezer food is still good!!!

    “Feed your neighbors.” If you live in a suburban area, neighbors can be your lifeline. Once you get in the habit of helping and knowing neighbors, you feel safer because you are safer. Maybe you went a little nuts strawberry picking? Bake a few fresh strawberry pies and bring them to some neighbors. Surprise someone with a loaf of fresh bread or a bag of dried herbal tea you made from your garden bounty. You just might get a tasty treat back the next day as a thank you. There is nothing that bonds people more than sharing good food. When an emergency of any kind hits, they will be there for you.

    “Donate!” Pick a day to sort your food stockpile each year. Pick a meaningful day for you and make it a special thoughtful time for yourself. Yes, organizing can be spiritual! :) Are there things getting close to expiring? Are there things you bought that you shouldn’t have? Did you buy way to much of something? Donate it to the food pantry. Send it off with a blessing of gratitude that you had plenty in your life that year. (This is a tip from my mother who donates her hurricane food supplies every year.) It might sound counter-intuitive to give away your food, but I have seen over and over how giving to others brings the things you really need into your life. Don’t be shocked if the next week you suddenly “stumble” onto the deal of a lifetime so you can restock your shelves.

  12. admin says:

    Trina, I don’t think I knew there was such a thing as a 5 day cooler – interesting. I don’t generally advise people to have anything in their freezer that they can’t afford to lose, or that couldn’t be rapidly pressure canned (ie, meats) after freezing, but that does give you some leeway.



  13. MEA says:

    isinglass for egg storage.

  14. Judy says:

    I would love to see the Friday Food Storage Quickies again. I miss them. Right now, I have learned how to feed us well enough that I spent several months feeding 7 people on the food stamps for 6 ($900/month in my case). Yes, the food stamps are my only grocery budget at this point. When we finally got the 7th person added to my case, I got an extra $100/month, and we are now examining where else we can store food in this tiny house so we can put that $100 to work building up our food storage. Admittedly, part of that is the fact that my kids get free lunch at school, but even in the summer when school was out, I had a cushion, if not quite as large. Once we have a good supply, the plan is to effectively donate that extra money to the local food pantry by calling up and asking what they need most that we can purchase for them. It is a great feeling to know that the food stamps will provide extra food security, not just for us, but for others as well. If we don’t use them all within a certain time frame (don’t remember how long) the government just claims them back. And in my state, they have tried to make it very easy for farms and farmer’s markets to accept food stamps so you can buy directly from the farms. I am just waiting now for some of the local farms to get the setup done. I can’t wait for farm-fresh milk again.

  15. Sharon, why is it I think of you each time I work on storing food? ;D

    Today I was able to pick up 30 boxes of pasta for .50 each after coupons. EXCELLENT for my area. Then on each box of pasta was a coupon for $1.00 of of pasta sauce that just happened to be on sale making each bottle .65 each.

    My onion and garlic sets arrived in the mail today too!

    What I need to work on next is my protein storage. That is the area that is continually lacking.

  16. Michelle says:

    My MIL gave me a pack of diapers and a container of wipes. I put them right up with my other emergency supplies. We plan to cloth diaper, but I hope to have plenty of disposables on hand for church, bad laundry days ;) etc. We’ve been given a few packs of diapers, but I got to thinking, having an extra stash of diapers could really come in handy!

    We tried (but they were out!) to get two extra bags of chicken feed today too. That way, if we can’t get in to get more, we’re not completely out. We’ll just replace them as we go through them so that we always have 2 spare bags.

    We’re working on water. That’s a challenge for us. My husband put all the water in the 2L pop bottles I’ve been filling into the freezer! At first, I thought, ya big dummy! but then I remembered that doing that can be really good to take up extra space and in case of power failure, turns your freezer into a cooler for a while. As the “cold packs” start to melt, you have the water, and the food in the freezer can at least be kept cool, giving you a little more time to get it used up. If it’s a short (several day) power failure, then the food can be cooked and refrozen.

    Otherwise, we’re slowly stocking up. I have juice, canned beans, granola bars, powdered milk, a fruit and veggie box of the big cans from Emergency Essentials that we got from my sweet brother and his family for Christmas last year, some cereal, etc. Instead of just scarfing the food when there’s a BOGO free deal at the store or saving money by just buying one, I get both and store one.

    Love all the ideas. It ISN’T hard to get started when every little bit makes a difference! :)


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