How To Build A Food Storage Cellar | Build a Stash

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One of the biggest pitfalls for homeowners is storage and rotten food. What if you could fix both at once? Homemade food storage cellars are the cure for all.

You can construct a food storage cellar when building your home or add one as a new addition later. The project can be pretty simple with the right process. An in-ground food cellar requires proper digging, a well-covered area with gravel, insulated walls, and a roof to optimize storage capabilities.

Building a storage cellar to keep your root vegetables and other produce fresh is easy. All you need are some cheap building materials and storage space. The good news is that it does not require any special skills. Anyone can build a highly effective food storage cellar by following the tips and steps in this guide.

I learned how to construct different root cellar options when I cultivated the root veggies in my garden. Since I had all this produce that needed to be adequately stored, researching ways to keep them fresh was the only option. A food storage cellar was the most effective method after various trial and error tests, and you can do it too!

Table of contents


How to Dig a Food Storage Cellar

You can leverage the earth’s temperature to store your food items by digging a separate storage space. These few steps will get you through it!

Step 1: Digging the Storage Cellar

The first thing to do is dig down a few feet, depending on the temperature below the frost line in your location. For instance, you’ll need to dig about 4ft to get to 52 degrees in Maine.

Step 2: Use gravel to cover the floor

When you finish digging the space, you’ll need to cover the floor with gravel. The gravel prevents any muddy mess that could form due to ground moisture.

Step 3: Cover the space with insulated walls and a roof

You will also want to cover the root storage cellar with insulated walls and a roof. Thus, your farm produce can avoid any excess moisture that could creep in when covered the right way.

An adequately dug root storage cellar allows enough air into the storage space to not become too dry or too moist. But, on the other hand, you don’t want the moisture level to get too low that the air becomes musky and the crops dry out.

How to Clean Your Food Storage Cellar in the Spring

The beginning of each growing season is the best time to clean out your storage space. It’s a pretty easy task that you can do with the few steps below.

Step 1: Remove everything, including food and boxes.

Start by taking things out to air and dry them under the sun for a couple of days. While this happens, you have an empty storage cellar to clean correctly.

Step 2: Sweep up and remove debris.

Now that the storage space is empty, use a broom to sweep floors and throw away any trash or other debris you can find. The objective is for the cellar to be open to clean the hard-to-reach spaces too.

Step 3: Spray with bleach or hydrogen peroxide.

You will need to go in early during the spring and spray your root cellar with bleach or hydrogen peroxide. These are the most effective cleaning solutions to rely on.

Step 4: Rinse and Restock

Finally, you finished! Rinse down space one time after using the chemicals to be safe and wipe down all surfaces. After doing so, you can restock all of your items back into storage again.

How to Use Totes in Your Food Storage Cellar

You can replicate root cellar conditions using sand or peat moss in plastic totes. These options are great for storing vegetables such as onions.

If you are looking for ways to keep vegetables that need moisture, you can use peat moss in a plastic tote. Peat moss helps to maintain the humidity at the desired level.

Once the temperature does not exceed the mid-30s and 40s, the vegetable will remain dormant and not sprout. You can use peat moss instead of sand. But the disadvantage of using sand is that it is difficult to wash off the vegetables.

What Makes a Good Food Storage Cellar?

There are different root cellar storage options. Some are pretty simple, like peat moss in rubber totes. However, there are more complex solutions too. One example is a separate subterranean structure.

A good root cellar has a suitable microclimate for the food items you wish to store. For example, there are four different microclimates feet for storing fruits and veggies.

The microclimates are warm and moist, warm and dry, cool and humid, and cool and dry conditions. Basements are often cool and damp, but it becomes drier if you have a furnace down there.

Sand or peat moss in totes is excellent for storing veggies like carrots – a replica of root cellar conditions. A good root cellar should be at the recommended humidity and temperature for its stored food items.

Monitoring the food cellar is highly important. You should take out time to check the storage place every week. See if you will find any product that has begun to spoil. If you find any spoiling produce, get rid of them as one rotten produce can damage the whole crop.

You store apples for up to 12 months in conditions where the humidity levels range between 90-95% and the temperatures between 30-40 degrees.

On the other hand, winter squash thrives when you store them where the humidity levels range between 50 and 70% and the temperature at 50 degrees. They can stay fresh for up to six months.

Produce such as beets, carrots, parsnips, or celery roots require being stored in a place where they can hold onto moisture. This way, they won’t end up shriveled and inedible in a few months.

What Fruits and Vegetables Should You Store in a Storage Cellar?

There are so many options to choose from when preparing your healthy meals. The same goes for when you need to find the proper foods to store in your new cellar. Here is a list that includes the optimal temperatures and humidity levels to keep them stored, along with their estimated shelf life.

Vegetables Temp F. Humidity (%) Storage Time
Cabbage 38° 90 to 95 4 months
Cucumbers 50° 85 to 90 3 weeks
Cauliflower 32° 85 to 90 3 weeks
Tomatoes 60° 55 to 60 8 weeks
Small fruits 32° 85 to 90 7 days
Potatoes 38° 85 to 90 8 months
Celery 32° 90 to 95 4 months
Parsnip 32° 90 to 95 6 months
Carrots 32° 90 to 95 5 months
Brussels sprouts 32° 90 to 95 4 weeks
Onions 32° 55 to 60 8 months
Beets 32° 90 to 95 3 months
Chinese cabbage 32° 90 to 95 2 months
Kohlrabi 38° 90 to 95 3 months
Turnips 38° 90 to 95 3 months
Squash 60° 55 to 60 3 months

Different Storage Cellar Ideas to Keep Your Produce Fresh

If you’re looking for excellent root cellar ideas that you can build on your own, you’re in the right place.

Many creative solutions are available such as putting a trash can into the ground and using hay bales to cover it to converting a barrel into a root cellar. These ideas are pretty easy to implement and cost-effective too.

You don’t even need to have any special carpentry skills to construct the root cellar options we listed here. So, if you need a root cellar idea that is cheap and easy to build, the following ideas might be perfect for you. So, let’s check them out!

The Backyard Cellars

Backyard root cellars are economical, easy to build and offer you flexibility. You can customize it any way you like, and when it comes to size, you’re only limited by the space in your backyard. Building a backyard cellar is as easy as digging a hole and placing a pail in it.

Once you’re done, you can cover the hole with a piece of wood or a bale of straw. To keep the storage cellar secure, you can place a rock on top of it.

Alternatively, you can put an old freezer in the ground to serve as a root cellar. These two options are both cost-effective and do not require much work.

In-Ground Root Cellar

An in-ground root cellar is a beautiful and traditional way to store your food items. One good thing about this storage cellar is how disguised it is. It stays hidden and does not stand out on your property. It’s an excellent storage option that can be used for your root vegetables.

Another advantage of using an in-ground root cellar is that it offers excellent protection from storms. Since they are built in the ground, they make a perfect all-around addition to a home.

Earthbags Root Cellar

Earthbags Root Cellar is also an in-ground food cellar that you can build by yourself. Instead of building the walls with cinder blocks, you can use earthbags. You may make the sandbags by yourself or purchase them from a store. They all work the same.

This storage cellar option is highly affordable because the required materials to build them are economical. So, if you need a cheap, detailed, and beautiful storage cellar idea, this might be the one for you.

The Multi-Purpose Root Cellar

A multi-purpose root cellar is an excellent project. It does not only serve as a root cellar for storing produce; it can also be a storm shelter above the ground. In addition, building a multi-purpose root cellar offers flexibility. You can even use recycled materials when creating yours.

A sealed multi-purpose root cellar is highly secure. You won’t have to deal with mice, snakes, or spiders spoiling your food. So people like me, who dislike slithery, creepy, crawly things, would enjoy having this excellent addition in their home.

Build-it Cellar

Building your food storage cellar is highly beneficial. It offers you more than enough flexibility to customize your storage space just the way you want it. Going through the step-by-step process of building a cellar can be fun! You get to decide on how large you want the storage cellar to be, depending on the size of the storage space.

In the end, you can have unlimited space to store your food and more than enough room for you to move around. So if you would love to carry out a small building project, this option might be right for you.

Earth Bag Dome

Earthbag domes are built using earthbags. They are straightforward to make. Earthbags are made by putting sand or other earth matter inside a bag. To create an earthbag dome, you need to stack up a couple of earthbags like bricks.

Earthbag dome is a beautiful, cost-effective, and unique way to store your food items. It’s undoubtedly a good root cellar option.

The Green Roof Root Cellar

If you’re looking for a pleasant and unique way to store farm produce, the green roof root cellar is one option to consider. The structure can be built using cordwood and a green roof added to it.

This root cellar is backed into the earth and can keep your veggies cool and fresh throughout the year. A unique feature of this storage option is its green roof.

You can easily create a modular green roof for your root cellar. It’s a neat and excellent idea that many people love.

Alternative Option: What is a Food Storage Closet?

A more elaborate food storage option than totes is building an insulated small closet in an unused corner of the basement in your house. The storage space allows you to keep items at different humidity and temperature from other parts of your basement or home.

One crucial element to include while creating your food storage closet is a space with a ground-level window to help modulate humidity and temperatures and allow air inflow.

It is also good to include a PVC pipe running from the window to the bottom of your storage space. The pipe helps to funnel cool air to the lower part of the storage space, causing it to become warmer toward the upper part. This way, the microclimate of your insulated storage space will have sub-microclimates.