Short Term Food Storage: A Beginner's Guide | Build a Stash

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Short-term food storage is an art form that can be mastered. The purpose is to have a rotation of foods available for everyday usage and short-term emergencies.

Building your short-term food storage is as easy as filling your pantry with shelf-stable foods your family already eats. You can start by purchasing a few extra items when you visit the grocery store. The key is to make a plan and stay consistent when building your short-term supply.

Your short-term food supply consists of foods you eat and rotate every day. It’s essential to stock up on at least 90 days’ worth of food that can sustain your family through emergencies. When these foods are stored properly, they will stay fresh for as long as possible. This guide contains what you need to know when starting your short-term food storage.

Food storage is a science. It comes down to what foods can last for a specific time under ideal conditions. When we analyze this data, the results are apparent, especially for short-term storage concerns. Our team has years of experience learning and testing new food storage strategies to provide the most accurate information available.

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How to Start a Short-Term Food Storage

Getting started requires a firm plan, discipline, and consistency. We have put together a few crucial tips to help you build your short-term food storage much faster and easier.

Tip 1: Begin with a 72-Hour Food Kit

A 72-hour is the easiest step in your short-term food storage journey. Check this off your list by stocking up on some survival bars. Your 72-hour kit should contain food that will help you are easy to consume and nutritional as a meal replacement.

The key is to include foods like this that don’t require water or cooking to prepare. They are rich in energy and ready to eat once opened.

Foods in your 72-hour kit should be able to store for more than five years and at different temperatures, cold or hot. Make sure you include delicious foods that you and your family love to eat.

When you are emotionally stressed out, your body won’t need a big meal to digest. At this time, you need food that will give you energy and help you survive.

Survival Bars will give you just what you need. They weigh less than 2 pounds and are easy to store thanks to their small size. They are rich in vitamins, protein, and energy, and you can eat them on the go.

We also suggest these for budget-friendly families. A three-day supply costs around $10 and can give you 1200 calories daily.

Tip 2: Store emergency food at home

The short-term food you buy is meant to sustain over time if you face a disaster that removes your ability to shop freely. We recommend getting started by stocking up on foods your family enjoys eating with a sustainable shelf life.

Emergency foods are meant for people who are sheltering at home because of a disaster. An example of this is families that were sick from Covid and forced to remain isolated. By storing emergency food, you can be more comfortable in your house.

The foods should be easy to cook, eat, and rotate regularly. Emergency foods are shelf-stable and only require you to heat and eat them once opened.

Such foods require minimal brain power or energy to prepare. You may need to add a little water while heating. You can even eat emergency foods cold or out of the can or box. They may include white rice, elbow macaroni, spaghetti, potato dices, potato flakes, sweet yellow corn, freeze-dried corn, oats, etc.

Emergency food allows you to conserve fuel and water for other important things.  They refuel your body and energize you to carry on despite the situation you are facing. It’s easier to deal with life when you eat at least one filling meal daily with your friends or family.

Tip 3: A Rainy Day Food Supply

A rainy day or a short-term food supply is a supply of food that can last for 90 days. Like the term "rainy day fund," rainy day food supply is the food you eat when things are tough. It's a precautionary measure to ensure that you and your family members have food during tough times.

Ninety days’ worth of food stands at the end of the short-term food storage timeline. Your rainy day food supply may include stored shelf-stable foods in your pantry or fresh foods harvested from your garden. You can also add foods stored in your freezer or refrigerator.

Short-term food storage contains everyday meals that enable your family to survive through emergencies.

These steps will help you build your 90-day food supply:

Step 1: Start purchasing a few extras:

Keep in mind that your short-term food storage should contain nutritional foods that do not require extensive preparations. Include foods that are part of your daily diet.

When you go shopping for traditional items, buy a few extra food items every week to produce a 1-week food supply while stretching out your budget,

Then keep increasing your supply of food to make it sufficient for 90 days. Make sure you rotate these items regularly so they don't spoil. When you continuously add more every week, the supply will compound over time, and you will have a thorough storage supply quickly.

Step 2: Use menu planning to master your food:

Planning is necessary when you want to make great meals. Start by making a list of foods that you and other members of your household enjoy. After you have a list, consider the types of meals that can be prepared using this list.

Eliminate anything that requires extensive preparation. The objective is to combined convenience and enjoyable foods.

Step 3: Have a reliable backup plan:

You shouldn't allow uncomfortable situations to bring you down. Life happens, and your plans may not work out accordingly.

The type of emergency that occurs can range from power outages to pandemic lockdowns and anything in between. We always recommend storing foods that can be prepared if you have lost power as a backup plan.

Foundational Principles for Building your Food Storage

Remember to consider the number of family members you have, food allergies, and average daily food consumption by each family member. What works for one person may not work for another. The tips below will help you use the best approach when storing.

Avoid foods your family dislikes

If your family dislikes a particular food, try to avoid those foods in your short-term supply unless it consists of foundational items like rice or oats. The objective is to eliminate waste, but when options are limited, sacrifices may need to occur.

As long as you buy multiple options to accommodate each household member, there should never be an occurrence when a family member is forced to eat a food they dislike or are allergic to.  

Start small and build up gradually

There's no need to go into debt or to the extremes to build a Pinterest-worthy food pantry. It’s best to start small and build up. When starting from scratch, consider starting with a 1-day supply. With time, you will know just how much food you need for a day.

Then you can now build up and start planning and purchasing a 1-week food supply. Continue like this until you finally build the food storage you want.

Build living food storage, not a stockpile of hidden food

When you think about food storage, think about living storage and not a stash of food locked in a basement and untouched. You need to implement a plan that allows you to store and eat the foods in your pantry.

All foods should be stored correctly in convenient locations. It should remain in a place that is easy to access for all members of the household.

Also, every item you purchase should be done so with intent. The objective is to maximize food storage while eliminating waste. We would hate to see you throw away foods that have gone bad.

How to Prepare a 3-Day Emergency Food Supply

A well-planned 3-day supply of food should be enough to see you through most situations. Ensure you store other essential items like blankets, flashlights, and personal hygiene products alongside your food supply.

Think about all the emergency supplies you may need while stocking up your pantry. Go for non-perishable foods that require minimal to no cooking or preparation.

These foods should also require minimal to no water and no refrigeration. Make sure you choose foods that are lightweight and compact for easy storage.

Your 3-day emergency food supply may include the following food items:

  • Canned or dried soups
  • Canned fruits and vegetables that are ready to eat
  • Canned meats that are ready to eat
  • Dried fruit
  • Dried or smoked meats (e.g., beef jerky)
  • Powdered or canned juices
  • Cocoa
  • Canned or powdered milk or shelf-stable brick pack
  • Candy, cookies, and other snacks
  • Crackers, instant hot cereals, cereals that are ready to eat
  • Staples: pepper, sugar, salt, coffee, instant potatoes and rice, tea,
  • Foods for elderly persons, infants, or people with special diet needs
  • High energy foods: jelly, peanut butter, nuts, granola bars, trail mix

Gathering and Storing your Emergency Food Supply

The amount of food you will gather and store will depend on how many family members you have and their individual needs. If you own a pet or baby, you would also want to store appropriate foods for them too. Stay away from foods that contain high levels of salt as they increase thirst.

You will need to pack the food in a way that prevents leftovers. Single servings are great when there is no refrigeration available. Canned foods can store for a very long time (almost indefinitely) provided that the can remains intact. It is best to label all items with the date you put them into storage to keep track of everything.

Cook with the older canned food items and replace them with new ones. Ensure that all your emergency foods are stored in a place with no rodents, pests, and insects. You want your stored foods to remain safe and sound for when you want to use them.

Other Items you should store that are essentials to have in emergencies:

  • First aid kit
  • Water
  • Covered two-quart saucepan
  • Disposable plates, tableware, cups, plastic bags
  • Personal hygiene supplies
  • Can opener, other utensils, packaged hand wipes, paper towels
  • Personal items like clothes,
  • Canned heat burner and extra fuel
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Charcoal for outdoor cooking
  • Candles, flashlight, and extra batteries,
  • Chlorine bleach, a gallon of sodium hypochlorite
  • Radio with batteries

How to Prepare a 2-Week Emergency Food Supply

Building a 2-week emergency food supply is similar to building a 3-day supply. But in this case, you will have to focus more on nutrition needs. Unlike in three days survival conditions, your body requires more nutrition in two weeks and beyond.

Make sure your food supplies are arranged in a way that you eat at least one balanced meal daily. Ideally, you want more than one, but it cannot be perfect in all scenarios. At least one per day will keep you and your family healthy.

You can build a 2-week emergency food supply by increasing the number of essential foods usually stored in your pantry. Rotate the non-perishable staple items in your storage to ensure the supply stays fresh.

Here are a few tips to get you started on building a two-week emergency food supply:

  • The number of people you are storing for determines the number of food items you will accumulate. List all your family members and make sure to indicate special dietary needs.
  • Ensure that all staple foods are listed in the freezer and cupboards.
  • Create a daily meal chart that indicates the location of food items.
  • Write notes on each day's list to show what utensils will be used for preparation and the amount of water needed.
  • Ensure you track cooking directions for food items like dry potatoes, dry milk, instant cereals, and rice.

Dry Food Storage

You can store many dry foods like wheat, rice, cornmeal, flour, etc., for a long time. Make sure to consider all these items when you are planning your food supply for emergency purposes.

All dry foods such as grains are better stored in a cool, dry place with less exposure to sunlight. While packaging your nutrition, make sure they are tightly sealed too.

You can use plastic containers with tight-fitting lids, food storage bags, and metal canisters for packaging. Keep dry fruits in a cool place, out of sunlight's reach.

If you have a pantry or basement in your kitchen, it's an excellent place to store dry food items. But ensure that there are no insects or rodents in the area where you are keeping the food.

If you store dry goods properly, they can last for more than six months. However, when the goods stay for up to a year, their quality may start to reduce.

Wet Food Storage

You may need to refrigerate most packaged and canned foods once you open them. Always keep this in mind while planning your food storage. Canned food items like jams and jellies, condiments, and salad dressings require refrigeration once opened.

Once an opened can stays for more than one day, you should transfer it to a plastic or glass storage container. This will help prevent a metallic taste in your food.

What are the Benefits of a Home Food Pantry

Building your food storage comes with many enjoyable benefits. They include:

Save Money

Building food storage at home is an excellent way to save costs. You won't have to visit the grocery store as often. The larger your pantry, the better!

Another way to save money with short-term food storage is by buying foods in bulk. Stores provide better value pricing when large quantities are purchased.

When you don't visit the grocery store frequently, the temptation to buy things you don't need will reduce. No more unplanned purchases, and you can take advantage of weekly sales. When you shop less, you get to save a significant amount of time.

Emergency Preparedness

Home food storage prepares you for any emergencies that could occur, whether short- or long-term. A disaster could happen, forcing you to stay locked in your home and eliminating your ability to go to the store and buy necessary items.

However, if you have planned your food storage, everything you need is already under your roof. You should also know that sometimes food may be scarce. It doesn't matter if you are experiencing an emergency or not. Food shortages can occur at any time.

Grocery stores only stock up enough food to meet the needs of people in their community for only three days or even less. This means that when something goes wrong and the food supply chain is disrupted, food will quickly finish in your local market. That's why emergency food storage is essential.