How To Prepare For Food Storage | Build a Stash

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Having food storage at home is becoming quite the standard, but you want to make sure that you’re well-stocked and prepared, as there is a lot to take in.

Preparing a food storage system is quite different from the way that you approach the rest of the food in your home - given that this is the food that you will primarily utilize in an emergency and it could potentially mean the difference between life and death.

To prepare for food storage you will need to buy food items that are long-lasting and appropriate for emergencies such as grains, legumes, and canned goods. Then, you must store your food in air-tight containers in areas around your home that are cool and dry.

For many of us, having food storage is not just an extra precaution, but basic common sense. We live in a world where disaster tends to strike when we least expect it and the only thing that we can really do at the end of the day is be as prepared as possible for when it does. Having an adequate supply of food at home for emergencies is the most basic precaution that you can take to keep yourself and your loved ones safe in this situation. With that being said, being prepared for food storage will require that you do a bit of planning in order to have an adequate system in place. A solid food storage system must be equipped with all of the essential food items that you need to keep you alive for an extended period of time. To help you understand this better, we are going to take a closer look at how to prepare for food storage in more detail.

After years of working as a professional food storage specialist, I have had an extensive amount of experience planning and orchestrating food storage systems. My experience has taught me that the best way to prepare for food storage is to create a system based on the number of people in your household and the timeframe that you want to rely on your stockpile.

Table of contents


Food Storage Preparation

At the end of the day, a food storage system can be as basic or as complex as you want it to be. There are a lot of different approaches that you can take when preparing your stockpile but, ultimately, you want to ensure that you have enough food to last a bare minimum of one month in the case of an emergency. One of the golden rules of food storage preparation is that it is much better to be over preprepared than underprepared!

The reason for this is that having a lack of preparation for an emergency can often be catastrophic. When disaster does strike, the time to take action and gather supplies has likely already passed. What usually happens whenever there is a general panic is that most people tend to rush to stores to buy the things that they needed. The last position that you want to find yourself in is joining the mob of desperate shoppers fighting over a box of cereal.

You can easily avoid the panicked hysteria of the masses by simply thinking ahead and taking the initiative to buy some supplies beforehand. You can set up your food storage system relatively easily and quite affordably. Most of the things that you buy for your stockpile should be goods that are going to last a long time, which means that you should primarily be focused on dry and canned goods. This is good news for survivalists that want to plan their system out on a budget, as these are often some of the cheapest items that you can buy in the store.

With that being, you also want to keep nutrition as a priority of your food storage preparation. Keep in mind, if you are in a survival situation, you want to select food that is legitimately going to help you survive. Although junk food sounds tempting (and yes, it does last long), you should really consider that this kind of food is not going to do you much justice in the long haul. Instead, you want to store food that is packed with nutrition and is going to give your body exactly what it needs. Keep reading to learn more about how to prepare for food storage.

Food Storage Items

Now, as we just discussed, choosing the right items is going to be crucial for having a well-prepared food storage system. You want to think of foods that are nutritious and relatively healthy but that does not mean that they cannot be delicious as well.

There are so many different options for you to consider and there are a number of different ways that you can go about it. Many people out there have modest food storage systems with just a couple of sacks of rice and some basic canned goods. Whereas others like to go all out and have a very well-thought-out system that is versatile and stocked to the brim. Ultimately, you should be the judge of what and how much you store, but for the sake of general preparedness, we are going to approach our food storage system based on a standard one-month timeframe.

A defeating factor for some survivalists is their budget. Having a fancy food storage system can certainly add up but that is by no means the case across the board, as creating a stockpile can actually be very cheap. If you need to keep costs to a minimum focus on the most essential food items first and then see what you are left with to add on to your system.

In addition, you can always be a smart shopper and pick up food items periodically instead of all at once by buying things that are on sale when you see them during your casual grocery runs. Let’s dive into some food storage items that are going to be ideal for your system.


Surprisingly, this is one of the first things that people forget when preparing food storage. Humans are capable of surviving weeks without food but water is something that we desperately every single day.

That is why you want to have a solid backup source of water on your property. In an ideal disaster situation, your taps will be running, and having access to water will not be a problem, but you should not assume that will always be the case.

You are going to need roughly ¾ of a gallon of water per day for every adult in your household and roughly ½ a gallon for every child (under the age of 12), which means that you need 22.5 gallons for every adult and 15 gallons for every child to last you a month.

Keep in mind, however, that you will need water for more than just drinking, as you will also need it for cooking. Whatever figure you calculate for your personal water intake, you should add an additional 25% to take care of your cooking needs. When you add it all up, you are going to need a considerable amount of water stored in your home to be adequately prepared for an emergency.


The most fundamental food items that you should plan on storing in your food storage are going to be grains. When it comes to giving you nutrients that are going to give you energy and longevity in a survival situation, grains are going to get the job done better than anything else.

With that being said, at face value, grains are not going to be the most appealing food item for flavor, but they are going to be the most useful and most versatile in the long run. That is because grains can be used in such a variety of different ways and they can be incorporated into so many meals. You can make some dynamic meals with grains or you can simply have them as they are (if worst comes to worst).

The great thing about grains is that they are very easy to store and they are often dirt cheap, which means that you can afford to have a stockpile of them in your food storage system - regardless of what your budget is. However, you should note that not all grains are going to be as beneficial to you as others - given that there are different levels of nutrition for specific grains.

You may be thinking of traditional grain items such as white rice and white bread. While these food items certainly will fill your belly, that is about all that they are going to do for your body. The reason for this is that grains like white rice and white bread are made out of simple carbohydrates, which are essentially empty calories and are not going to be ideal for a survival scenario.

What you are going to want to look for are grains that have complex carbohydrates. These are going to be found in grain products that have whole wheat or are labeled as whole food. Your body is going to be much healthier over a longer period of time if you are consuming complex vs simply carbs in your diet. So, when you go shopping for your grain products at the grocery store, put an emphasis on prioritizing whatever you buy to fit this specification. Let’s take a look at some great grain products that are perfect for a food storage system.

  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Oats
  • Wheat
  • Barley

These are common grain food items that you can buy at virtually any supermarket. However, you may want to consider some additional grain items that are even better for providing your body with nutrition such as quinoa, buckwheat, and chia, as these have a lot of added benefits on top of carbs to help your body optimally perform.

Now, you are going to want to buy a considerable amount of grains when you go out shopping. In fact, you will have more grains in your food storage than pretty much everything else that you put in it combined.

The average adult needs roughly 30 lbs of grains to last for a one-month supply of food storage. Whereas the average child under the age of 12 will need 20 lbs for this timeframe. Feel free to add additional quantities as you see fit to meet your personal needs.


Once you have got your grains in order, the next thing you will want to focus on is legumes. Legumes are vegetable food items such as beans, lentils, and peas. These are going to be excellent additions to your food storage stockpile as they are full of nutrients and are an excellent source of protein.

There are a lot of different legumes out there and when it comes to choosing which ones to add to your food storage system, there is really no wrong answer, as they all have something to offer. The best way that you can approach your legumes is to try to have a variety of different kinds so that you can diversify your nutrient intake but also have a changeup in your meal planning. More on this later.

Here are some examples of common legumes that you can add to your food storage system:

  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Black Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Kidney Beans
  • Green Peas

What you want to prioritize when shopping for legumes is to buy them dry. Dry legumes are going to be considerably easier to store and you will have a better guarantee for longer shelf life with them. Legumes that have been stored properly in dry form can literally last for decades, which makes them one of the most versatile and reliable food items that you can keep in your stockpile.

For the average adult, you are going to want to have at least 5 lbs of dried legumes in your food storage system. Whereas for a child under the age of 12, you should have a minimum of 3 lbs.

Additional Food Items

Once you have gotten your dried grains and legumes out of the way, you have pretty much taken care of your most essential food items. At this point, you can start filling up your space with additional food that is either necessary for cooking or is simply convenient.

You can get quite creative with how you approach your additional food items, as you can make a list based on your personal tastes and preferences. A key thing that you should try to keep in mind is to prioritize balanced nutrition wherever possible. Let’s take a look at some additional food items.


Dairy products can be an excellent addition to a food storage system. This will give your food storage some variety in nutrients as well as flavor.

However, what you want to be careful with when shopping for dairy is to buy products that are dry. You will see plenty of ‘long life’ dairy products out there that are fresh in one way or another, but you are going to want to stay clear of them, as they will not be ideal for long-term storage. Look for products such as:

  • Powdered Milk
  • Powdered Cheese
  • Canned Cheese.

These will be excellent items for adding to your meals, in addition to being consumed on their own. You should try to have a few lbs of dairy for every adult in the house. However, this is a food item that you can be quite flexible with when it comes to quantity, so plan based on preference.

Canned Foods

The canned food items that you choose to add to your food storage are going to be entirely up to you, as there are so many different things to consider.

Canned foods are not quite as ideal as dry goods but they are fantastic food storage items to incorporate nonetheless. Although they will not last as long, just about every canned good has a shelf life that will last for years. Here are some canned foods to consider.

  • Canned Fruit
  • Canned Meat
  • Canned Beans
  • Canned Vegetables
  • Canned Soups

What is great about canned food items is that they can pretty much be consumed right out of the can. They of course will be better utilized if they are cooked (for flavor) but if you are in a pinch and find yourself without power or gas, they can be excellent resources to have.

If you have adequately supplied your essential grains and legumes, then you can play around with the quantities of your canned goods. If you want to be well-prepared for an emergency, it never hurts to have more canned goods than you think you need.

Cooking Essentials

The one thing that many people often seem to forget when preparing their food storage is essential cooking items.

It is easy to get carried with having a stockpile of food and then no way to cook it or make it tasty. To ensure that you are able to prepare your meals and make them delicious at the same time, be sure not to forget the following items:

  • Sugar
  • Oil
  • Salt
  • Spices
  • Dried Herbs

A considerable amount of essential cooking items will be necessary to get you through the month. However, items such as herbs and spices can really be decided based on your taste preferences, as well as how much you think you will use. If stored properly, all of these items will last for years,

Food Storage: Locations & Containers

If you really want to make your food storage last, you are going to want to ensure that you are storing your goods in ideal locations. Ultimately, your food storage is not going to be of much use to you it has been subject to contamination because it was stored in a poor location.

The first and most important thing that you want to focus on when storing your food is finding areas around your home that are cool, dry, and away from direct sunlight. Each person has a different layout of their home but there are certainly some areas that are going to be synonymous across the board. Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • Kitchen
  • Pantry
  • Basement
  • Attic
  • Closet
  • Shed
  • Under furniture

For the most part, if you are only storing enough food in your stockpile to last you 1 month, then you should be able to get away with having your food in any one of the above-mentioned locations. However, if you want to keep your food storage as protected and secure as possible, it would make sense to choose somewhere that will be out of the way but will still be easily accessible in an emergency.

With that being said, many people opt for having food storage that lasts them and their families for several months (or even more). If that is the case, then you are going to want to spread your food across various areas of your property by combining some of the locations mentioned above.

In addition to locations, you are going to want to make sure that your food is stored in containers or sealed boxes. There are a lot of approaches for food storage containers such as plastic containers, sacks, a storage bins. The most important thing that you need to do is store your food in a way so that it is air-tight and completely sealed. If you have done so and are keeping your food in a good spot, then it will be safe from contamination.

Meal Planning & Organization

If an emergency situation arises, you may easily forget where you stored each specific item in your food storage system. In addition, you may not be in the right state of mind to cook well-structured meals and you may just resort to cooking whatever is in the first box that you open.

While this is totally understandable, it can be avoided by organizing your food storage and creating a basic meal plan for your system. To start, you should try to keep labels on all of your containers so that you know exactly what their contents are instead of needing to open up each box and sack to confirm this.

This can be made even more clear by creating a log that lists all of your items in it with their locations. This log should be kept in a spot that is very easy to access so that you can effectively utilize it during an emergency. You may also want to add expiration dates for each of your food items as labeled on the packaging so that you can check up on your food storage routinely.

There are a number of different ways that you can approach your food storage organization but ultimately, you should create a system that works best for you based on the amount of food that you have in your stockpile. It may make sense to have all of your grains and legumes in one section and all of your additional food items in another. On the other hand, you may find it more logical to combine all of these food items and spread them out across various sections of your property so that you are not putting all of your eggs in one basket.

Once you have established an organized system, you should try to think of some basic meal planning based on the foods that you have available in your stockpile. You can get very dynamic with your meals - even with limited ingredients but, undeniably, food storage goods can get redundant if you do not think outside of the box with your cooking, which is why you should highly consider having a handful of go-to meals in mind so that you do not get bored too quickly of what is available.

Logistics & Preperation

If you have got all of your food items bought, properly stored away, and established a well-organized system - your food storage is essentially complete.

Most people call it a day at this stage but you may want to consider going the extra mile to guarantee that you have practical use of your items in case the emergency is very severe. You may find that you do not have access to some of your most essential utilities during an emergency such as electricity, gas, or even tap water.

Losing either of these can pose some serious problems during an emergency, which can complicate your ability to use your food storage. To ensure that this does not become a serious problem for you, consider having the following at home as part of your food storage system:

  • Generator
  • Outdoor Water Tank
  • Camping Stoves
  • Propane Gas Tanks(s)
  • Water Filter
  • Solar Panel (with charging capability)
  • Flashlights

You can add further items to secure your food storage access but having some of the above-mentioned things at home can give you an added sense of safety. Ultimately, if you find yourself in a situation where you are not able to have adequate access or use of your food storage goods, then your stockpile is essentially useless - preparation is prevention.