With food shortages, disruptions in the supply chain, and orders to shelter in place, it’s no wonder that food storage is a hot topic. After seeing our family’s food storage challenge during the coronavirus quarantine, I’ve been getting lots of questions about food storage.
Maybe you’ve known that having food storage is important, but you just haven’t made it a priority in the past. Or maybe until recently you had never even considered the idea of food storage.
Either way, now is a fine time to get started and that’s what I want to help you do!
I know if you’re here to explore frugal living and personal finance, you might be wondering how this fits in. I can assure you we’ll have more of those regular topics as well, but you might be surprised to see how much money a food storage plan is going to save you on a regular basis! I’m also excited to show you how food storage works as a release valve to relieve financial stress when it’s most important for you.
Today we’ll talk about why you should have food stored, what to do if you don’t have space, where you can find the funds to stock up, and a great method for getting started. Then we’ll see how having food storage will lead you to a consistently lower grocery budget!
Why you should have food stocked
The stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic are a sober example of how food storage can be helpful, but there are a lot of other reasons too. Whether it’s a job loss during an economic downturn, or a sudden need to care for a seriously ill family member, or a natural or political disaster, having enough food on hand meets one of your most basic needs.
It not only keeps your family fed, it also alleviates stress during an already difficult time. Imagine the comfort and security your family will feel knowing that, no matter what else might be happening, you have plenty of food and drink on hand.
Now imagine the opposite–the stress and uncertainty of not being sure how your family will eat, on top of the other challenges you’re facing.
And having food stored doesn’t just help out when disaster strikes–it’s a day-to-day blessing. Being able to “shop” your pantry instead of running to the store saves so much time and money. When you have to run out to the store “just for one thing” you have to pay top dollar because you need it now, plus you’re tempted to impulse buy.
On the other hand, when you have food stored, you can wait for a sale before you stock up again. You never have to pay full price again!
What if I don’t have anywhere to keep my food storage?
In a later post we’ll go over detailed ideas for where to store your food, what containers are best, and how to rotate it, but for just a minute, let’s talk about where to store food. A lot of people just tune out any talk of storing more food because they don’t think they have anywhere to put it.
There may not currently be room to add a 3-month supply of food to your house at this very minute, but I do believe that where there’s a will, there’s a way. If having food storage is important to you, you can make it happen! You may have to make a choice. You may need to do some decluttering and downsizing other areas in your life, but you can make it work.
You can fit a one year supply of food for one person under a twin size bed. True story!
Sure, there may be something else stored under there right now, but does it bring the kind of security you get knowing that your kids won’t starve? Could you store what’s under your bed in the garage instead and keep food under the bed?
Do you have a coat closet that you could take over with food storage? It might not be the most glamorous solution, but if food storage is a priority, you can make it happen.
When we lived in my in-laws’ basement while we were paying off debt, we kept our food storage in buckets and boxes stacked from floor to ceiling against a wall in the kids’ bedroom. Was it a beautiful, Pinterest-worthy set-up? Heavens no! I don’t even think I have a picture of it, as it was far from glamorous (and who knew I would be writing/talking about it years later!?). But being self-reliant was more of a priority than drool-worthy decor.
Where do I get the money for building food storage?
Before you decide that getting food storage will be too expensive, let’s put things into perspective. This is food that could potentially save your family’s life. This food means that sometime down the road you won’t have decide between paying the mortgage and feeding your family.
If your current grocery budget doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room to get an extra month’s worth of food, you’ll need to find another way to fund your food storage.
What expenses in your budget are less of a priority to you?
Do you have some clutter around the house that you’ve been meaning to sell that would give you a chunk of money to get started with?
Of course you want to be prudent in your quest to build up food storage. Don’t go into debt to stock your food storage in a hurry! It’s something to do gradually, but intentionally, over time.
To be successful, your food storage needs to be a priority and you need a plan for getting there. That’s what we’re going to put together today!
There are lots of methods to building food storage
There are lots of ways to build up a food storage and lots of methods and systems of what to store and how to rotate it.
You could just buy extra every time you shop–one for now, two for later. This will increase what you have in your pantry, which is a great start, and you already know it’s what your family is used to eating.
You could go off of the “recommended” per person annual amounts. For example, it’s a common recommendation to store 300-400 pounds of grain, 60 pounds of beans, 60 pounds of sugar, 16 pounds of powdered milk, 8 pounds of salt, and 2.5 gallons of oil to ensure that a person gets enough calories and nutritional variety for one year.
I’ll cover details of this long-term food storage in a future post because there are some strong reasons to have it, but you’ll probably want much more variety, especially if you’re relying on your food storage for a long time.
But today, we’re going to focus on a menu-based method. It’s a simple method that I know can work for you. You’ll be storing what you eat and eating what you store.
This isn’t the type of food storage you just tuck away for a rainy day. This is food storage that you’re actively eating and replenishing during normal grocery shopping.
How long should my food storage last?
Our family is aiming at a year’s worth of food stored. If you’re new to the idea of food storage then having a year supply will probably sound absolutely outrageous!
Food for a year surely sounds daunting at first, so let’s just start with a month, then work up to 3 months. If you want to continue from there, I’ll have some tips and tools to help you get there. But even having food to feed your family for a month is a huge accomplishment and will bring so much peace when disaster happens.
Let’s make your “Menu + Math” custom food storage plan
We’ll start with a plan for a month. Once you’ve accomplished that, it’s easy to scale your plan to 3 months or longer.
Or if you want to start smaller, start with a week or two!
I created a set of printable Food Storage Planning Worksheets that will help you design your own food storage plan. Click on the picture below to check them out. You can print them in color or they work well in black and white, too!
We’ll start with breakfast. We want to focus on meals your family loves, not random recipes from a food storage cookbook that uses ingredients you’ve never tried.
Obviously if you have fresh foods on hand when disaster strikes, you’ll want to eat those first. If you have a garden, then you can supplement your food storage plan with produce you grow, but for your food storage plan, think of meals that don’t require fresh foods. Get creative with how you can substitute other options like frozen, commercially canned, home-canned, dehydrated, frozen, or freeze-dried fruits and vegetables.
I bet when I said “frozen” some of you thought “yeah, but what if you don’t have power?!” It’s true that some of the situations where you might be eating from your food storage may also be situations where you don’t have electricity, but that won’t necessarily be the case. I think it is fine to include frozen food in your food storage plan, especially when you’re just getting started.
As far as cooking and preparing food, you might eventually want to figure out how to adapt your food storage meals to be able to be prepared without electricity and it’s good if you plan for at least some of your meals to not require electricity, but for now, just getting something stored is the most important part.
So with that all out of the way, start by writing down 7 different breakfasts that will be part of your food storage plan. If you can only think of 5, then just decide which ones you will eat twice in a week’s time.
Some basic ideas from our family’s regular breakfast menu are:
- Oatmeal with raisins
- Cream of wheat with honey and fruit
- Scrambled eggs with salsa and fruit
- Granola with milk and fruit
- Pancakes with syrup and applesauce
- Cold cereal with milk
- Sourdough waffles with fruit
Now for each breakfast, write down all of the ingredients (including spices and pantry staples) and amounts to feed your family for each of your chosen meals.
If you are preparing a one-month food storage plan, multiply the ingredient amounts for those 7 meals by 4 to get 4 weeks. There you are! You have a rotating seven-meal menu, and with a little simple math, you’ve turned it into a list of everything you need for 28 breakfasts!
If you’re doing a three-month food storage, multiply the ingredients for those 7 meals by 13 to have what you need for 91 breakfasts (13 weeks).
If you’re doing a one-year food storage, multiply the ingredients for those 7 meals by 52 to have what you need for a year of breakfasts.
You get the picture.
Now we’ll do the same thing for dinner. Write down 7 dinners that your family loves that can be made without fresh ingredients.
Here are some ideas:
- Beef stew
- Taco soup
- Spaghetti with canned or frozen vegetables
- Shepherd’s Pie casserole
- Hawaiian Haystacks
- Broccoli Chiken Rice Bake
- Stroganoff with canned or frozen vegetables
Now for each dinner, write down all of the ingredients (including spices and pantry staples) and amounts to feed your family for one meal.
Multiply the ingredients for those 7 meals by 4 or 5 to have your ingredients for one month of food storage dinners.
Multiply the ingredients for those 7 meals by 13 to have what you need for dinners for a three-month food storage plan.
Multiply the ingredients for those 7 meals by 52 to have what you need for dinners for a one-year food storage plan. If you don’t want to plan on the same 7 meals all year, list the ingredients for 14 meals and multiply by 26.
Sounds simple enough, right?
What about lunch?
You can do the same thing for lunch if you want. But, if you know us, we’re big fans of the all-American Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich. We make sure we have the ingredients to make bread in our food storage, as well as peanut butter, jam, and honey. We also have other sandwich options like tuna or egg salad.
We’ll talk more about bread ingredients to store when we get to the post on long term food storage.
Dessert? You bet!
If you are eating from your food storage, chances are good that your life is in a bit of upheaval of sorts, whether it’s a personal emergency, natural disaster, financial struggle, political unrest, or pandemic. There is nothing wrong with having some comfort food on hand. In fact, I think it’s very wise.
I learned during our food storage trial run (aka Quarantine Food Storage Challenge) that I did not have enough chocolate chips on hand.
You decide how often you want a treat or dessert (every day, twice a week, you decide) and make a plan to store it! Be sure you are storing all of the ingredients necessary for each.
Here are some ideas:
- Brownie mix (that is first on the list for a reason)
- Pudding mix
- Chocolate No-Bake Cookies
- Cobbler with dehydrated fruit
- Pineapple upside down cake
- Oatmeal raisin cookies
- Peanut butter bars
Time to make a list
Now that you have a list of all the ingredients you’ll need for your food storage plan, it’s time to make a master list of ingredients that will be in your food storage.
You want a list where you can keep track of how much you WANT to store of each item (based on your goal time frame), how much you HAVE already stored, and how much you still NEED to reach your goal.
Perks of the Menu+ Math Food Storage Method
You will be intentionally planning for meals (not just food), so you’ll have all the ingredients. You will be completely stocked with your meals your family will enjoy eating. No running to the store to to grab anything!
When you have a buffer of food storage, you can restock on your terms (i.e. wait until the item is on sale) rather than just buying what you need right now (paying whatever prices the store charges).
With the Menu+ Math method, there is no questioning how long your food storage will last with your normal eating habits and portions (versus the great unknown of how long random buckets of long term food storage items will last).
And don’t worry once you have your food storage, you don’t have to eat just your food storage. You aren’t limited to these 7 meals indefinitely. Maybe once or twice a week you can eat one of your food storage meals, but make other “fresh” meals like you normally do the other days. Not only does that allow you to rotate through your food storage (rather then having it sit on your pnatry shelf indefinitely), but it gives you a quick, easy meal for those crazy nights when you’re in a rush.
Don’t run too fast
Okay, I know we just talked about A LOT!
I don’t want you to get burned out or discouraged. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t have to get all of this food tomorrow. Pick some up on each shopping trip. Get in the habit of adding these items to your regular grocery trips.
More to come!
This is the beginning of a series to help you get started with food storage. There’s more to come!
In future posts, we’ll talk about where and how to store your food. We’ll talk about expiration dates and how to rotate your food storage so nothing goes to waste. We’ll cover long-term food storage and the best, least expensive places to get it. We’ll hit on other details like what if you are used to eating fresh food and what if you don’t have power.
Let me know your specific questions so I can be sure to cover them in the series.