How To Plan Food Storage | Build a Stash

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The initial sound of food storage can be overwhelming or even scary for some. But there’s no need to worry. We have all of the tips you need right here.

Not sure where to start with planning food storage in your home? We will go over detailed steps on getting started, the benefits of planning food storage, and other best practices to help you along the way.

We understand that food storage can seem daunting. You might even be wondering what exactly food storage is?  There is long-term emergency food storage and living food storage. We will discuss the benefits of both and help you get started today.

We gathered the most critical information you need to know while planning food storage by conducting research and personal experiments. This how-to guide will give you the assurance you need to start with food storage planning with all the exact steps to make it happen.

Table of contents


Why Should I Plan Food Storage?

There are numerous advantages to planning your food stockpile. The most common questions we get are about how much food is needed, the best type of foods, and why food storage is important.

It is essential to realize that not all food storage needs to be 30 years’ worth of food stashed away in the basement to be effective. Instead, the best place to start is building living food storage that always keeps your house packed with fresh, ready-to-make meals.

It is a long process that gives you a sense of security in emergencies while improving your day-to-day life. Food storage is an excellent way to make your life easy and more efficient dramatically.

Living Food Storage vs. Long Term Emergency Food Storage

The two options are both important food storage solutions for any home. If you aren’t sure what they are, we will explain. Consider what you are looking to accomplish from a food storage plan and use this guide as your primary resource to get started.

Long-Term Storage (Emergency)

Long-term food storage is the process of accumulating dry foods with minimal moisture that can be packaged accordingly to last for up to 30 years.

Implementing long-term principles requires a more significant budget upfront and provides less daily food access in your home. Because once the seals break on these bags, the food must be consumed in a short amount of time.

This is more of a survival preparation rather than a process of bulking up your home pantry. It consists of building enormous amounts of critical essentials that can be sealed and stored appropriately.  

Short-Term Storage (Living)  

Short-term food storage is a little different. The foods you are buying can be consumed on a daily basis with a much shorter shelf-life between 1-5 years max. It is everything you can fit in your pantry.

For example, canned goods and dried fruits are excellent short-term options for your pantry.  

We will discuss all of the steps and tips you need to build your living food storage in this guide. This is the best place to start, and as you continue, stocking items for the long term becomes a much more manageable process. 

Steps to Planning a 30 Day Food Storage

This is your step-by-step guide to get started. We recommend starting with a 30-day food storage supply and then deciding where to go from there. This is an excellent foundation to begin.  

1. Find Your Storage Location

Every household has a different layout. As a result, there are hardly ever two food storage areas that look exactly the same. Fortunately, you can consider many creative solutions when deciding the best location for your food storage.

The most obvious choice is always the pantry. However, some kitchens do not have a pantry, or it might be too small to accommodate the large quantity of food that we are looking to build.

Other options include hallway closets, freezer, and cabinets. There are ways to add to your storage space,, too with new shelves and DIY kitchen hacks.

2. Determine your budget

Everyone’s food storage stock will look different. This is normal. An essential step in the planning process for food storage is to determine your budget. This will ensure you do not over-buy and while trying to make your life easier.

Calculate how much money you have each month to spend on your food storage supply. Be honest about your budget because the purpose of food storage is convenience and savings. Fewer trips to the store will be a considerable time and money saver for you in the future.  

3. Create Your Family’s Meal Plan

Buying food in bulk is an excellent way to plan your food storage. Start by making a list of all dietary needs for each member of your household. It is best to find common ground between everybody and stock up on the foods the entire house loves to eat.

Create a list for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks that the kids love. When building your meal plan, consider the basic math involved for a three-month supply. You need to plan out 90 of each meal.

Don’t forget some of the basic necessities either, like baking soda, cooking oil, and spices, to name a few. They will be essential when you are cooking meals.

4. Stock Your Shelves 

You just got home from the grocery store. You are tired. You want to shove the food in your pantry and call it a day. We get it. We’ve all been there.

But for your food storage to work out, these foods must stay fresh for the right amount of time. So be sure to watch the expiration dates on all of the foods in your pantry. We even recommend labeling foods on the date you store them as a reminder.

The short-term foods we will recommend all have a shelf-life between 6-18 months. This means you can safely stock your shelves without concern for short-term food spoilage.

Clean your new storage area and start packing the shelves with your food.

Why Build a 3 Month Storage

The initial three-month timeline worries the newcomers at first. It sounds like an expensive task and really difficult to accomplish. However, it doesn’t need to all happen in one day.

Start with a two-week plan. Collect meal suggestions from your family for two weeks and stock up that way. Each week you can add a few more items than you traditionally would.

Before you know it, those extra items will stack up on your shelves, and your three-month storage will be complete. Never overextend on your budget. It is best to build slowly if that suits you and your family best.

Reduces Family Costs and Time

The most notable benefit of three-month food storage is the time and money you will save during the long run. In addition, keeping a well-stocked pantry always gives your family food options while eliminating short trips to the store.

This remains true no matter how big or small your family is. In fact, we would argue that the bigger your family, the more efficient you can be with your food storage plan. By stashing away 90 days’ worth of food, you’ll never find yourself scrambling to the store wasting gas for a missing ingredient.

It also allows you to go bargain hunting. Of course, buying bulk foods will reduce your costs. But you can find sales too. Use shelf-life to your advantage and when an essential item you need is half price, buy a bunch of them and stash them away for later.

Increases Emergency Preparedness

Building a three-month supply can come in handy during a financial crisis too. We have spoken with families who experienced job loss and were forced to rely on their food supply for a bit. It helped them handle the difficult times much easier.

When you have your storage supply built, the future becomes more manageable. For example, if you fall behind on some bills, you know you can go two weeks without purchasing groceries and instead pay your bills down.

Provides You Safety and Security

Short-term living food storage still protects against emergencies too. For example, when you maintain a 90-day storage supply, you will always have supplies if you are forced to quarantine or remain at home due to a similar disaster.

Other issues like winter storms and power outages can cause significant problems for families. But they become much more manageable situations when you have a living food storage supply to fall back on.    

What Foods Should I Buy?

The list of foods you can buy is extensive. Accommodating every person in your household’s dietary needs should not be an issue. There are many foods that provide excellent shelf-life for your food storage.

Canned Foods

Canned goods are an excellent budget option that can be bought in bulk with ease to get you started. There are many different canned foods you can put on your shelves, and they are easy to cook too.

  • Canned fruits
  • Canned vegetables
  • Canned soups
  • Canned chili and beans
  • Canned meats
  • Canned tuna
  • Pasta sauce
  • Salsa
  • Condiments
  • Peanut butter
  • Jams and jellies
  • Cooking oil

Pre-packaged Food

These foods are typically snacks or quick options in the kitchen. They are essential items to store away, especially in a power outage situation that eliminates your ability to cook your food traditionally.

  • Cereal
  • Instant hot cereal/oatmeal
  • Chips, crackers, and cookies
  • Granola bars, trail mix, and fruit snacks
  • Dried fruits
  • Dried Nuts
  • Dried or smoked meats (ex. Beef jerky)
  • Baking mixes
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Pasta and rice
  • Salt and other spices
  • Boxed dinners (ex. Ramen noodles)

Frozen Foods

The freezer is another reliable storage solution that opens up your food selection options to even more variety. When you see items like meat on sale, it is easier to stock up on these items and save some money.

The primary concern about the freezer is emergencies that result in power outages. This could result in your food spoiling without power for long enough. If this concerns you, consider making these changes to your home.

  • Add a generator or backup power solution. Even something small that could power your freezer only would be beneficial.
  • Learn how to save the foods in your freezer. For example, frozen fruits can be blended and bottled. Meats can be prepared and pressure canned for more extended storage too.


Getting creative with your beverage options is another fun option for your storage. Of course, essentials like bottled water are important with an infinite shelf life, but there are other choices to consider too.

  • Hot drinks like hot chocolate, coffee, and tea
  • Milk and milk substitutes: powdered milk, shelf-stable milk, and canned milk
  • Sports drinks
  • Fruit juice
  • Bottled Soda
  • Powdered drink mix
  • Protein drink mix
  • Bottled water

Glass or Plastic Jar Foods

Utilizing glass or plastic jars in your food storage is a great option to optimize your space and include a variety of foods. Consider foods that you can buy in bulk at lower costs and store together in jars on your shelves.  

  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Trail mix

Pet Food

Don’t forget about your beloved pets when managing your food storage too. They have food with excellent shelf life, and all the essentials can be stored in your pantry too.

  • Dry pet food
  • Canned pet food
  • Pet treats

Baby Food

Baby food is another crucial thing to include if you have a little one in your household. Typically, they sell items that are packaged well and fit perfectly in your cabinets or pantry. Remember these important foods when doing your shopping.

  • Baby formula
  • Baby cereal
  • Baby food

Healthy Substitutes

With the growing list of healthy food options globally, families love the variety they can include in their food storage. Replacing older brands known for processed foods for newer, more nutritious options is an excellent idea for your family.

  • Nutrition drinks
  • Meal replacement drinks
  • Sugar-free items
  • Protein bars

Tips for Planning Food Storage 

Consider using a food storage tracking sheet 

It may appear to be excessive, but it is pretty efficient in keeping you organized throughout the planning process. For example, open Excel, and each time you open a new ingredient from your food storage supply, write it down on your Excel worksheet, then check it off when you're done.

This way, you will keep track of what you have used, what you have to buy more of, and what is still in your stock. You will notice that you save money and time with your shopping by doing this easy little tip.

Don’t try to cram everything into one trip!

We've already mentioned how difficult it may be to plan food storage. Good advice is to make sure you don't do your complete food storage haul in one trip and break it down into stages.

This will reduce stress and increase efficiency. It also helps to spread out your budget more instead of incurring the entire financial burden on day one.

Find a place that is dry and cool for storage

Finding the best food storage location can take a little bit of time and work if you lack the necessary space right away. Building new shelves or cabinets could be a part of the solution, but make sure wherever you choose is located in a dry and cool area.

The key is to avoid places that fluctuate too much in temperature, like a garage. Also, avoid keeping your food in an area that gets consistent sunlight too. It will cause your food to spoil much sooner than it should.

Create an ultimate goal

We recommend creating an ultimate goal of three months or more. This gives you time to build up your storage and reach a goal that ensures your family has plenty to fall back on in case of an emergency.

With at least 90 days of food in your house, nothing will force you to go hungry or run out of food. If you are bold enough, build a supply even bigger. The choice is yours. But set a specific goal and gradually build towards it while sticking to your budget.

The Verdict

We have covered the different foods you need, the best way to store them, and exactly how to master your food storage planning. Now it is time for you to start shopping and building for the future.

Food storage is a smart and responsible addition to make to your life. You can always count on your food storage collection to keep you safe from potential emergencies in the future. Be prepared for any uncertainty by following these steps and tips to plan out your ideal food storage plan.

Just remember, it is not a race to the finish line. Start by making lists of important foods you need, create the perfect storage location in your home, consider the benefits food storage can provide you, and determine the ideal amount of supply you need in your home.

Become a household that prioritizes time, budget, and preparedness.