The most important food items in your home should be stored in your pantry and food storage, but what is the difference between the two?
A pantry is a closet-like space, commonly found in most kitchens, used to store food items that are usually dried or preserved. Food storage on the other hand is a designed system of emergency food items that are kept in a safe location within your home in case of disaster situations.
It’s common for many people to confuse pantry storage and food storage with one another. This is an easy misconception to make considering that both of these options tend to have similar food items kept inside of them. While it is important to have an adequate amount of food kept in both your pantry and your food storage, you should understand how to best organize your systems for both of these options so the food in your home can properly support you through the best and the worst situations. To help you understand the difference between pantry and food storage further, we are going to take break down each one in detail.
After years of working as a survivalist trainer, I have had a lot of in-depth experience helping government organizations, businesses, and private households design logical food storage systems to help remedy emergency situations. My experience has taught me that by setting up a well-designed pantry and food storage system, you can help ensure your food supply when emergency goods are required.
When you walk into just about any modern kitchen, you will likely be able to spot a pantry located somewhere in the room. This is one of the largest food storage areas of your entire home and it is incredibly useful for storing dry goods and food items that are preserved.
With that being said, there are many different types of pantries being used in kitchens - with options that vary in design, size, and placement. The most classic pantry design that we are all most familiar with is the closet pantry, which is a food storage area that can easily be mistaken for an ordinary closet. However, we are seeing many other pantry designs in homes these days - with some people opting for pantries that are built into cabinets or others that can be pulled out in the form of drawers.
Regardless, all of these pantries are used to store similar goods that are suited for dry food storage, but you want to know which food items to keep in your pantry so that you can ensure that all of your goods are kept in an ideal environment. In addition, a good way to view your pantry is to utilize this space within your kitchen as a surplus or backup of goods that you either regularly use or vitally need.
The best way to make the most out of your pantry is to create a storage system for your food that is calculated and organized. This will help your kitchen space stay efficient and your food plentiful so that you have always got something around the house - without needing to constantly drive to the grocery store.
At the end of the day, what you really end up keeping in your pantry is completely up to you and you can create a pantry system that is as sophisticated or simple as you want it to be. The most important thing you want to consider when choosing what to keep in your pantry is that most perishable items will not last long in this sort of storage environment.
While you can technically keep some food items in your pantry such as fresh fruits or vegetables for up to 2 or 3 days without any issues, you should approach this with caution, as it is easy to have your food expire without you realizing it. This is why you want to ideally keep anything that is fresh inside of the fridge or freezer. The items that you keep inside of your pantry should predominantly be dried goods that can last for long periods of time in a room-temperature environment.
In addition, you should try to store an extra amount of food items in your pantry that are especially important for your daily meals or for your health. Given that most pantries offer so much space for storing food, it is great to utilize them to keep those items that you need around the house the most such as cooking oil, salt, or a secret stash of chocolate.
To help you identify what kind of food is going to be best for your pantry you should reflect on your diet, cooking process, and your favorite foods so that you can design a system that is catered to your tastes. However, we are also going to suggest to you some of our top picks for food items that are great for pantries.
One of the best things that you can store in your pantry is your grains. The problem with grains is that they tend to take up a lot of space and it is common to buy them in bulk, which can be quite inconvenient for storing them in other parts of your kitchen.
This makes your pantry the perfect place for storing the various grains that you keep at home, as they have got plenty of space and are ideal for dry goods that need to be kept away from moisture. Let’s take a look at some of the common grains we see stored in pantries:
- Chia Seeds
The amount of storage space that you get from your pantry offers up the opportunity to not only store your grains in bulk but also have a variety of them at home always.
If there is one type of food item that pantries are perfect for it’s your canned goods. By having plenty of canned goods around the house, you can have guaranteed ingredients for your meals or even quick snacks.
With that being said, canned foods can vary greatly in their contents, which is why you want to choose the canned goods that are better suited for your home. Here are a few examples of common canned good items:
- Canned Tuna
- Canned Tomatoes
- Canned Corn
- Canned Peas
- Canned Fruit
Having a variety of canned goods at home is always advisable and there is no better place to store them than your pantry.
Essential Cooking Items
There is nothing more frustrating than buying the ingredients for your favorite meal, starting your cook, and then realizing that you are missing some essential cooking items in your kitchen. While you cannot always predict every time this kind of situation every time that it happens, you can be prepared for most of them by simply having some backup goods in your pantry storage.
You should try to think of your food storage as a space that you can keep items and ingredients for cooking emergency situations. This would include having extra quantities of things like salt, baking powder, yeast, or cooking oil.
By organizing a well-structured pantry storage system, you can avoid the inconveniences of cooking your meals by staying stocked with extra ingredients.
No matter what time of day it is, it is hard to resist the temptation of having a little snack in between your meals, which are always best kept inside of your pantry. Snacks come in all shapes and sizes! And if you are like the rest of us, it is hard to keep just one type of snack around the house.
If you have still got room in your pantry for more food, you are going to likely want to fill it up with all of your favorite snacks. This way you have got plenty of popcorn ready to go for your movie nights and a sneaky bite to eat for your midnight snacks. Let’s take a look at some common snack items that are suitable for pantries:
While it is always advisable to allocate pantry space for your most essential food items first, you should always be sure to leave a little room for your guilty pleasure food as well.
Other Food Items
The bottom line is that when you open up most people’s pantries, you are likely to see a bunch of random food items that are catered to the tastes of that person.
With that being said, pantries are the perfect place to chuck your random foods that can’t find a home elsewhere in your kitchen - just be sure that they store well in this kind of environment. Here are some random food items that you can expect to find in a pantry:
- Hot Sauce
- Fish Sauce
If you are organizing a pantry for the first time, you will be delighted to know that you should not have an issue finding plenty of space for storing your random food goods.
Kitchenware & Appliances
While most people generally think of pantries as kitchen storage that is simply used for food, you can actually store a lot of your kitchenware items here as well.
If you are the kind of person that likes to have a lot of appliances around your kitchen, you understand the struggle of having a cluttered countertop that is overloaded with kitchenware and equipment.
While you will have a hard time fitting your oven inside of your pantry, you should be able to have plenty of space to fit most of your smaller kitchen appliances. Let’s take a look at some common kitchenware and appliances that are stored in pantries.
- Baking Equipment
- Coffee Maker
Most households that do not offer pantry space, make it very challenging for people to keep all of their appliances in their kitchen. A good-sized pantry is a perfect spot for neatly storing all of your favorite kitchenware.
These days, we are seeing food storage become a more and more popular practice that is carried out by government organizations, businesses, and even private residents. Food storage is essentially an organized system of food items that are used as a safety net in the case of an emergency situation.
Food storage systems are usually designed to help an individual, a family, or an entire community survive desperate situations over a calculated amount of time. With that being said, all food storage systems are different and created based on the needs of the individual and the situation that they may be dealing with. What we have found is that many food storage systems today are designed for specific emergencies - with the most common being natural disasters.
Given that natural disasters have been such a huge issue that has worsened in recent years, many private individuals are taking it upon themselves to have a plan b for when disaster strikes so that they are ready and prepared with everything that they need to survive. A failure to prepare for these sorts of situations can be catastrophic and even life-threatening, which is why you want to have a well-developed food storage system.
When these situations do occur, it is common to see food shortages in grocery stores - with most shops being completely out of stock of essential food items. The last thing you want to do is find yourself wrestling another shopper over the last jar of peanut butter, which is why you should invest in having at least a basic food storage system at home. What you will want to consider is just how much food you should keep in your food storage system. While you should be fine with a one-month supply, we always recommend having a minimum of at least 3 months of food in your stockpile. Let’s dive right into food storage.
Food Storage Items
As nice as it would be to pack all of your favorite treats and snacks into your food storage, it is not something that we advise. The whole point of a food storage system is to be prepared for emergency situations that could potentially be life-threatening, which is why you want to keep tastes and preferences as a secondary factor when choosing goods for your food storage.
What you are going to want to do is prioritize the food items that are most essential for your survival. This means storing food that is going to last a long time and will provide you with the nutrients that your body needs in a desperate situation. With that being said, a large portion of your food storage goods are going to be either dry food or well-sealed non-perishable food items.
Before you begin buying food items for your storage, you should first determine exactly how long you want to be able to depend on your food storage in an emergency situation. We always recommend keeping a standard of a 3-month food storage supply, but some people take this to the next level by having 6 months to a year’s worth of supplies - and others just 1 to 4 weeks worth.
However, you will also want to consider any potential members of your family/household. You can expect to double the amount of food supply for every additional adult that will be relying on your food storage and you will need roughly ⅔ of the amount of food for every child that is with you, but this number can fluctuate depending on the age and body mass index of each person. Let’s break down a well-designed food storage system that is set up for a 3 month supply.
When it comes to essential food items that are going to be necessary for survival, there is nothing that you want to prioritize more than having an adequate amount of grains in your stockpile.
Given that you are planning a food storage system for a survival situation, you are going to want to ensure that your body is getting the calories and nutrients that it needs the most. Grains provide great energy and complex carbs that are going to be vital for keeping you going. This food item is guaranteed to last a long time and can be stored just about anywhere so long as the conditions are dry.
With that being said, there are a lot of different grains out there for you to choose from. Let’s take a closer look at some grain options that are ideal for food storage:
Having these grains in your food storage is going to be the foundation of your entire diet in an emergency situation, but you may want to choose wisely when selecting your grains. You will find that grains come in varieties and while they all hold some form of nutritional benefit, you can get a lot more bang for your buck by choosing the right ones.
The best way to determine this is to choose grain options that have complex carbs and offer nutritional variety. These grains will generally be either made with whole wheat or will have a brown characteristic to them. You can easily get much more nutrients from your grains by choosing brown rice over white rice and by choosing whole wheat bread over simple white bread.
In addition, some grains are much more dynamic and offer a lot of other nutrients outside of carbohydrates. By having grains such as quinoa and buckwheat in your food storage, you can get additional nutrients such as protein and fiber from your daily grain intake. This can be a huge boost for your food storage goods in case you ever find yourself in an emergency situation.
You should plan to have roughly 92 lbs of grains in your food storage for an average adult and about 60 lbs of grains for a child that is under the age of 12.
While many people like to get their protein from eating meat, this can be extremely challenging for food storage systems given how perishable meat is, which is why you are going to want to keep plenty of legumes in your food storage.
The great thing about legumes is that they are extremely easy to store and are guaranteed to last for a long time. This food item can be kept in your food storage for years so long as the environment is contained and does not receive any form of contamination.
Here are some examples of common legumes that people keep in their food storage:
- Kidney Beans
- Black Beans
- Garbanzo Beans
- Split Peas
There are a couple of different ways that you can go about storing your legumes in your food storage. While both approaches are highly effective, you may find that one suits your food storage system better than the other.
The first is to have dried legumes in your food storage that can either be kept in bags or containers. This is a great way to store your legumes as it ensures an optimal amount of space in your storage. However, dried legumes require a considerable amount of effort to cook and prepare, which can be problematic for many people in disaster situations, as water is often a precious resource that needs to be carefully rationed.
To save yourself on water and the time that it takes to cook your legumes, you should consider having some canned options in your food storage system instead. Canned legumes are precooked and can be thrown into most of the meals that you cook with your food storage ingredients and they will last just as long as the dry option. The key thing to remember is that you want to ensure that your cans are stored in a place where they will not be damaged.
An average adult should have roughly 20 lbs of legumes for a 3 month period and a child under the age of 12 should have about 15 lbs of legumes.
Most people are surprised to hear that dairy products are recommended for food storage systems at all given that they usually do not have a long shelf life. Luckily, there are some great dairy products that are designed to last long and can be kept in your storage for years.
With that being said, you want to pick diary products that are completely dry and are in powdered form. This means that you should not store milk products that are are ‘long-life’ - no matter what the expiration date says. The reason for this is that milk cartons are very easy to break and they can be subject to contamination, which is not what you want to encounter in an emergency situation.
Here are some examples of dairy products that are suitable for your food storage:
- Powdered Milk
- Canned Cheese
- Powdered Cheese
Having these dairy products in your food storage cannot only be a great source of calories and nutrients but also a great source of flavor to add to your diet. Given that most food storage systems are designed solely for survival, you can expect your food to not taste as good as what you would normally be eating, which is why you want to take advantage of the flavors that you have available to you.
You should have roughly 8 lbs of dry dairy goods for an average adult for a 3-month food storage supply and approximately 5 lbs of dry dairy goods for a child that is 12 and under.
While sugars are not necessarily a food item that you need for survival within your stockpile, they can prove to be a very useful ingredient in adding some variety to your meals, but also a great source of additional calories.
The creative use of sugar in some of your cooking will open up a lot of different flavors and food options for when you are getting tired of eating the same things over and over again. Most sugar products will also last for a very long time so long as they are not exposed to contamination or household pests.
Let’s take a look at some sugar items you should keep in your food storage:
- White Sugar
- Brown Sugar
- Powdered Juice Mix
With that being said, sugar is not the healthiest choice of ingredients for your cooking, which may make you want to consider your options a little carefully. Since you are planning for a survival situation, it would be much more beneficial to choose items that are going to give you the most nutrition possible, which is why you should consider swapping a portion of your sugar goods for a healthier option such as honey.
An average adult should have about 14 lbs of sugar in their food storage to last them 3 months and a child under the age of 12 should have roughly 9 lbs of sugar.
The one ingredient that tends to tie so many meals together is salt, which is why you definitely do not want to overlook it as an essential food item when planning your food storage.
Salt can help bring out the flavor in so many of your meals and can make or break the flavor possibilities of your food storage stockpile. Salt is incredibly easy to store and has even traditionally been used as a method of preserving food for long periods of time, which can make this food item even more useful in a survival situation.
However, you do not need to approach salt by getting just regular old table salt and calling it a day. You can get much more dynamic with your options so that you have more meal selections available to you when you cook. Let’s take a look at some solid options for salt products for your food storage:
- Table Salt
- Chicken Cubes
- Soy Sauce
- Chicken Salt
At the end of the day, if you are going to be eating similar food day in and day out, you can at least give your meals a bit of variety by seasoning them with different salt products. This will help you keep your belly happy and your mind sane.
You should have roughly 2 lbs of salt products for an average adult and about 1 lb of salt products for a child under the age of 12 to last you 3 months.
While most people are trying to get rid of fats in their diet, you actually need them in order to stay healthy. This is an important item for your food storage, as it not only gives your food flavor and calories but it also enables you to cook.
You need fats in your food storage system for more reasons than one. In addition, fats are incredibly easy to store and will fit right into your system. However, you are going to want to choose the right fat products so that you can see the most benefit in having them in your food storage system, as some are better suited for specific purposes. Let’s take a look at the fats that you should keep inside of your food storage system:
- Vegetable Oil
- Canned Butter
These fat products will help you get your calories in desperate situations and can also be a great flavor additive to a lot of your meals. However, there is no denying that some of these fat products are incredibly unhealthy.
A great way to avoid an unhealthy diet filled with bad fats is to be selective with the type of fats products that you use regularly. While vegetable oil is a recommended standard oil to use for cooking, you will find that by using canola oil instead you can avoid a lot of the health risks involved. In addition, by using extra virgin olive oil on some of your food instead of canned butter, you can receive mono-unsaturated fats in your diet, which is a much healthier option.
Additional Food Items
Once you have got the basics of your food storage system down, you can take comfort in knowing that you have the most necessary food items to equip you for most survival situations.
While many people that have a food storage system simply call it a day at this stage, you may want to consider adding some additional items to your stockpile.
If you have got your basic setup finished and you are finding that you still have a substantial amount of space for additional food items, it never hurts to have more than what you need. This is great for individuals that want to have some food items that they want as opposed to just ones that they need.
Let’s take a look at some additional food items that you may want to consider for your food storage:
- Protein Bars
With that being said, you can probably afford to throw in some guilty pleasure food into your food storage, which means that you can skip the healthy options if desired. So, do not be shy to add some chip bags, candy bars, and cans of soda if you can afford the space.
The number of additional food items that you end up storing will ultimately be up to you, as this will mainly be determined by the amount of space that you had leftover. The most important thing you should keep in mind when considering additional food items is that you need to first prioritize your essential foods before anything else.
At the end of the day, you can have all of the food in the world, but if you do not have any water, all of that food is essentially worthless. Water is still the most important thing that you need to have access to in your food storage.
A person can go for as long as a couple of weeks or even a month without receiving food, but we can only survive for 3 days (or less) without water, which is why you want to carefully consider your options and your water supply.
Water can prove to be especially tricky to store, as it takes up a whole lot of space and each person needs to drink a considerable amount of it on a daily basis - especially when you need a 3 month supply of it. Having water stored directly in your food storage can be problematic, as you will need a lot of room to achieve this. The best solution is to have a water tank somewhere on your property so that you know your water supply is secured in an emergency.
In an ideal situation, you would have a water tank that is capable of storing at least couple hundred gallons of water to supply an entire family - with an average adult needing roughly 40 gallons for a 3 month period and a child under the age of 12 needing about 28 gallons.
With that being said, if you are creating a food storage system for a single adult, you may be able to skip the water tank by having large water canisters in your food storage system. Just make sure that the canisters are solid and not easily breakable.
Factors To Consider
If you have followed our above guide on preparing a well-equipped pantry and food storage system, then you should have all of the resources and information needed to create your own organized food stockpile.
Having a pantry full of food and a food storage system that is designed for emergency situations, can mean the difference between life and death in some situations - or at the very least - ensure that you have always got snacks ready to go. With that being said, there are some additional factors that you should be aware of.
If there is one thing that you do not want to deal with when an emergency situation occurs it is to run down to your food storage supply and find that the majority of your food has expired.
This can be an incredibly frustrating and even life-threatening situation, which is why you want to be on top of your food storage goods by staying organized. Your food storage should be approached systematically so that your stockpile is secured. You can achieve this by keeping a log that details the inventory of your food storage.
In this log, you should write the contents of your stockpile, which details the quantity of each item and its expiration date. You should then make it a habit to check on the log of your food storage supply once per month so that you are always aware of any upcoming expiration dates. If you see that a product within your food storage is going to expire, simply remove it from the stockpile and replace it with a new one.
The problem that many people face when replacing expired goods is the waste involved in throwing away food that could have been used. The best way to avoid this is to utilize your pantry space by creating a flow system from your food storage. Instead of waiting until a product is going to expire, remove the product 3 to 6 months before it goes off and place it in your pantry so that you can use it for your daily meals. This way you are never wasting your food and you are always staying fully stocked with essential food items.
The conditions of both your pantry and your food storage are especially important. While both of these options are designed to be used for dry food that does not easily perish, you will want to confirm that the environment is suitable for keeping these types of goods before you begin storing food in them.
One of the first things you should be aware of is the average temperature of your pantry and food storage. The ideal temperature of both your pantry and your food storage should be roughly 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
While most of your goods should handle temperatures that drop another 20 degrees without any issues, you should be careful with storage conditions that are in extreme heat. Anything above 85 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit is playing it risky and you may find that some of your goods do not handle this kind of heat well.
This is important to keep in mind for both your pantry and your food storage, but you want to especially ensure that your food storage is not at risk of adverse temperatures. Given that this food stockpile is designed for emergencies, you want to keep it in a safe space that has a balanced room temperature which will not affect the quality of the food.
If there is one thing that is going to contaminate your pantry or food storage it is moisture. The dry goods that you keep in both of these storage options are particularly sensitive to moisture, which can result in food becoming worse in quality or completely contaminated beyond use.
You are going to want to carefully evaluate the conditions of your pantry and food storage to ensure that there is not any moisture in the environment. The first thing you should check is that all of your goods have been properly sealed and do not have any tears or holes in their packaging. It’s often the case that some goods are stored in ideal conditions but damaged packaging results in contaminated products.
Next, you will want to confirm the humidity level of your pantry and food storage. Some humidity is okay and will not have detrimental effects so long as it is not above 45%. If you have a higher humidity percentage than this, you should counterbalance it by having your air conditioning running.
Lastly, it’s often the case that moisture makes its way into our pantries and food storage incidentally. This commonly occurs from common household leaks. While incidents such as this do happen now and then, the key thing is to catch them early on. A major leak is hard to miss but smaller leaks can go unnoticed for days, weeks, or even months. The best way to avoid moisture entering your pantry and food storage is to have routine checkups on them.
A common threat to pantries and food storage stockpiles is household pests. Large quantities of food are a calling for uninvited guests to try to get access to your pantry and food storage.
Malicious pests are notorious for stealing food and often contaminating it. When this occurs with your pantry food, it is generally much easier to identify and deal with, as this food is used much more often. In this situation setting a trap or doing some spraying should take care of the problem.
However, the pests that find their way into your food storage can be harder to catch in the act, as you most likely do not check on your stockpile on a daily basis. Pests such as rats have notoriously made themselves right at home in people’s food storage, which gives them access to an essentially unlimited supply of food with little to no human oversight.
This can be challenging for many people who have a food storage stockpile, which is why you want to be prepared for pests (should they arrive). The first thing you should try to do is check up on your food storage at least every week or two. Keep an eye out for any tears, bite marks, or droppings. If you can catch the problem early on, you can take care of it without risking your stockpile. After you have identified the pest, simply take whatever extermination procedure necessary to dispose of the critter.
Your location can be a great determining factor for what kind of food storage you need and how long you should expect to plan for. While we always advise that each household has at least a basic food storage system in place, you will find that you can be flexible with this depending on where you live.
If you live in a location with stable conditions and are not prone to any environmental catastrophes, you could get away with a food storage system that is designed for just a week or two so long as you prioritize the goods that are most important first.
However, if you live in a location that is under constant threat of natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornados, or wildfires, you may want to be prepared for the worst by having a well-established food storage system. This would involve having a stockpile that can last you at least a month or two.
With that being said, emergency situations can happen when we least expect them and in places that they previously had not, which is why we always advise being well-prepared by having a well-stocked food storage system and pantry.
When it comes to planning your food storage system, the one thing that most people do not tell you to do is to consider your pets. While you should always prioritize the needs of yourself and your family first, it is hard not to keep your beloved pets in mind when emergencies occur.
If you have already created a well-stocked food storage system and still have some extra room, adding some pet food is always encouraged. Having a sack of dog or cat food can be a great reassurance that you can take care of your pets during a disaster situation.
A great way to approach your pet food for your food storage is to cycle it into your pet’s daily food. While you most likely keep your pet food in your pantry, you can always swap out your immediate pet food (when finished) with your food storage pet food. Then simply replace your food storage pet food with a new load the next that you go shopping.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker