How To Start Emergency Food Storage | Build a Stash

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If this year has taught us anything, it's that disaster can strike at any time. So be prepared and start an emergency food storage system for your protection.

We'll go over everything you need to know about getting started with emergency food storage. We discuss the best foods, how to store them, and the benefits of having an emergency food storage supply. We cover each step from food purchase, preparation, and best practices too.

Emergency food storage is the storage of meals with a long shelf life like dried foods, canned foods, and freeze-dried meals. The primary emergency storage kit is something that every household should have. These kits are essential for ensuring the protection and survival of your family in the event of a crisis. Some storages are built for a few weeks while others can last years. The choice is yours.

After testing various methods of emergency food supply, we have compiled everything you need to know to get started. This how-to guide will make emergency food storage a simple process and show you the best ways to get started, along with some critical knowledge too.

Table of contents


Getting Started

It is best to create a budget before establishing your emergency food supply. This budget will help you decide if you want to construct your own DIY kit or buy one from a trustworthy retailer. Remember that this does not have to be a difficult task. Begin small! We can start with a 3-day supply and work our way up to a year's worth.

Do not get discouraged, as this is not a task that happens overnight but instead over some time. Discipline is an essential factor when building emergency food storage. Weekly purchases, labeling your foods and remaining consistent all make it possible.  

By filling your pantry over a period of time, you can create the emergency food supply kit you need to stay prepared for the future and save money doing it. Well, let’s get into it.

Steps to Success

 Below, we will go through step-by-step how to start a long-term food supply for emergencies. But it doesn’t stop here. Although you can make a supply for as long as you desire, these steps are here to start you in the right direction.

1. Determine your emergency food storage targets

What are your objectives? Spend some time considering and planning how much food you want to keep on hand.

Do you want a stock that lasts three days? A couple of months? Maybe you want a full year of supplies.

We recommend to all beginners looking to start a new emergency food storage to approach the situation with patience. It is best to start with a short-term supply and gradually add new products until you reach your target.

Here are some popular time ranges that homeowners like to build emergency food storages to accommodate.

Three Days

The federal government suggests having at least a three-day emergency food and water supply. In a typical home, you will most likely have this amount already, but it is best to create a designated area where this food will be stored.

Keep easy to make meals and water together for quick access. It is important to keep meals that do not require power to make too in the event you lose power.

Three Weeks

To start on a more extensive supply like three weeks, figure out how many meals or the amount of food your family consumes on a regular day and increase that number by 21. Don't be concerned about purchasing in bulk at this time.

The goal of this stage is to increase your stock. For example, when shopping for groceries, look for goods that don't need to be refrigerated. Instead, get some variation by spicing it up.

Pasta, canned vegetables, and oats are some easy foods that come to mind. Whatever it may be, grab enough food for your family for three weeks, and you are on your way. 

This could require more than one trip to the store. Always shop for sales to find the best prices too.

Three Months

We've made it to three months now. So naturally, bulking up on food is a big part of this stage.

Flour, sugar, pasta, rice, and canned foods are just a few examples. At this point, you might want to think about joining a bulk store like Costco or simply keeping an eye out for “jumbo” sized food items.

Another critical component of this period is learning how to cook from scratch. For example, a 3-month supply could mean baking from scratch or cooking from scratch on a camp stove.

It’s essential to start thinking about storage space when you reach this amount too. Homeowners overlook that foods need to be appropriately stored in an area that doesn’t get exposed to high heat, accelerating the time it takes for the food to spoil.

One Year

A one-year supply of emergency food is generally the ideal goal and sometimes beyond. It is not an easy task and could even take up to a year to complete. But do not worry. Stay calm and persistent, and you will get there one day.

This stage involves the bulking and rotation of meals and improves the variety of meals too. New recipes, new foods, and new ways of storing are aspects explored in this stage. If you have made it to this stage, then you are becoming a pro!

Just always remember to check the expiration dates of food items to ensure your supply is always fresh and up to date. It is a clever trick to label all foods you store with the actual date of purchase so you can track them in the long term.

2. Ensure that water is a top priority and is stored safely.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that each person keep 1 gallon of water in their refrigerator for up to two weeks.

The CDC also suggests that you:

  • Check the expiration dates on store-bought water
  • Have a container of unscented liquid bleach chlorine on hand for cleaning and disinfecting water

The human body can survive without food much longer than it can without water. So be sure to make this one of the first purchases you make and keep plenty of it in the house at all times.  

3. Buy your food in bulk

Consider buying in bulk to save money and get vast quantities while preparing an emergency food store for months or even years.

“Jumbo” proportions, which are great for developing long-term emergency food supplies, can be found at warehouse clubs or even local retailers. Stay tight with your budget as we go over the many types of foods you should buy.

4. Think of including seeds for sprouting

Grain seeds, nut seeds, vegetable seeds. The more, the merrier. These seeds can be beneficial and can be grown in a Mason Jar.

Eat healthily and avoid bacteria by sprouting all kinds of seeds in your emergency food supply. This is a fun trick to remember, and some even do this as a hobby around the house.

5. Stock up on fresh foods that have a longer shelf life

Consider getting citrus fruits, squashes, and potatoes if you want fresh food that lasts longer. Not only are these goods fresh, but they also have a longer shelf life than other fresh foods.

Unfortunately, the shelf life is not nearly as long as some of the canned goods available to you, but they make for an option on a shorter-term basis.

6. Make sure to rotate your food items

It is critical to ensure that your food is both safe and nutritious. Rotate food in and out of your food supply according to its shelf life to keep this under control at all times.

For example, if the food in your emergency food supply is ready to expire, you may put it to good use in your kitchen while you go out and buy new, fresh goods to add to your emergency food supply. This will ensure that your food stays fresh and that you waste as little as possible.

What Types of Food do I Buy?

The million-dollar question. Canned foods are the obvious choice that comes to mind when thinking of an emergency food supply, but there are truly so many other options out there.

We have compiled a list of foods that have an increased shelf life of one year or longer. In addition, with many canned and boxed foods, a great tip is to gather a bunch of ingredients as a backup to provide more options for creating new meals in the future.

Here is a list we have compiled on some essential foods for your emergency food storage collection:

  • White rice (it lasts longer than brown rice)
  • Pasteurized milk that is non-perishable
  • Juice in cans
  • Coffee, tea
  • Spices & condiments
  • Bottled water
  • Dried out fruits (raisins, apricots)
  • Protein and fruit bars
  • Canned meat and fish (chicken, tuna, salmon, turkey)
  • Dried out beans (white, kidney, pinto)
  • Steel-cut oats, cereals
  • Vegetables in cans
  • Pasta (spaghetti, macaroni)
  • Tomato sauce
  • Jams, peanut butter
  • Canned foods (chili, soup)
  • Baking ingredients (shortening, baking soda, white flour)
  • Dried meats (beef jerky)

All of these foods provide a long-term shelf life while remaining an easy option for preparation. The goal is to mix budget, longevity, and easy-of-use for all emergency food storage owners.

Where Should I Store the Food?

Your emergency food stockpile should have its place in your kitchen, pantry, basement, or wherever you want it to be. However, it should be kept separate from the everyday pantry items to avoid eating the wrong supply.

Ideally, your storage should be in a dark, chilly location like a basement to keep the food at a lower temperature.  There's no need to worry if you don't have a basement. If you're short on space, store your supplies in a closet or under your bed. There are plenty of ways to make it work.

Also, you should consider the following:

  • A dry, low-moisture environment.
  • Consider a space with good ventilation.
  • Avoid direct sunlight.

Where Should I Avoid Storing My Food?

When it comes to storing your emergency food store, there are a few places you should definitely avoid. 

  • Attics are not suitable because of their high heat levels in the summer.
  • Laundry rooms and bathrooms are not ideal because high humidity is very common.
  • Garages can be an issue if you live in a warm environment that is humid.

Heat is the biggest issue you are looking to avoid. When humidity gets to your food it can reduce the shelf life of your items and leave you stuck with stale emergency storage.

What are the Benefits of an Emergency Food Supply?

Having an emergency food supply is essential to every household. Below goes into more detail about the benefits of having an emergency food supply in your home.  

Preparation for an emergency

Natural disasters, technological disasters, and other related issues can imprison people in their homes for an extended period of time without power or water. Thus, having an emergency food storage supply is necessary to be prepared for any emergency that could strike at a given time.

It is always better to be safe than sorry. A perfect example is the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic that caused worldwide lockdowns. There were issues of mass hysteria to rush out and by items like toilet paper and other foods. It left shelves in traditional stores empty.

Those with well-stocked emergency food storage did not need to worry.


Buying foods in bulk and looking for sales is a great way to lower your costs. Not only should you use this strategy for your emergency food storage, but everyday usage too.

Using ingredients to cook from scratch and buying fresh produce and items in bulk can actually save your wallet in the long run. With the right storage techniques that we have discussed, you can get the most out of your food purchases too.

Health Benefits

Although emergency food storage goods may not appear to be the healthiest meal selections, they are actually considered healthier than fast-food take-out and other processed foods you are tempted to eat every day.

Whole grains, legumes, and oats are all nutritious foods that may be included to your emergency food store and provide numerous health advantages.

Building an emergency food storage allows you to include healthy foods to promote better eating for you and your family.

The Verdict

So, we've covered a lot of information regarding emergency food storage and how to get started. We hope this has been useful in starting your emergency food storage procedure, from varieties of food to the best storage places.

Remember how and valuable an emergency food storage stock is. All food storage should be in a cool area to avoid humidity. Also, look for bulk foods to save some money.

Don’t forget that being creative with your storage is recommended too. Rotating new foods to keep your diet well-rounded is always recommended.  

You now are ready to get started on a food supply that suits your needs, whether that may be a 3-day basic supply, or you are working toward a yearly supply.

Now get out there and start building the emergency food storage collection of your dreams!