Not as much as you think! And making a quick plan (or adjustments) now will save you time and money down the road. It really won’t take long with our FREE DOWNLOADABLE worksheet. Click here to get your free copy, now!
Because we live in a smaller-than-average home, we are well versed in space saving solutions. Over the years, my wonderful husband has modified our home to avail the most space possible … Thank God. Though the house is just 800 square feet, we have over 1 year’s worth of food stored, comfortably, in the footprint of a 5x7 area rug. Crazy, right? I know. Are you also short on space but still want to prep? Alright. Let's get right down to it!
Please understand that you don’t have to start with a year’s worth of food for your family. Truthfully, I don’t recommend starting with a year if you are brand new to prepping. You could start with planning a 2 week supply of food and water for everyone in your household (pets and livestock, too). If that seems like a lot of math, start with 3 days; breakfast, lunch, dinner and water for each household member (QUICK RULE: 1 gallon per person, per day. No less. Aldi has gallons for .89 right now in NJ.) You’ll need a menu and a storage plan. I know you know it but I’m going to say it anyway …
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
Move your family forward, make those plans, learn new skills and teach your family the value of preparedness.
There are just 2 major points to consider when starting.
Which foods are on your family’s menu and where will you store it all? We’ll address both topics, though admittedly through my own narrow scope of what-works-well-for-me.
If you want to know what foods you should store, read on.
If you need an outline to organize your menu thoughts, read on.
If you’re concerned about the space needed, read on.
If you need a crunchy community of preppers, we welcome you to join our
Listen, friend, you must only store the foods you and your family actually LIKE and will eat! If your prepping consists of foods or ingredients that you do not normally cook or consume, you will likely not enjoy eating those foods when you need the nourishment and a boost. Food morale is a real thing! Food allergies and any unique dietary needs should be considered, too.
Choose the foods you use.
Don’t waste your money, your time, or your tummy troubles storing foods according to a checklist someone found on the internet. If your family doesn’t regularly enjoy those foods … MAKE YOUR OWN CHECKLIST but also consider food diversity and the unique nutritional needs of your family. You might want to read about microgreens and how they can be a living nutritional supplement to your canned, dehydrated, and dry-stored food menu.
SPECIAL DIETARY NEEDS
Consider also, your family’s food allergies, if any. Prepare those foods (maybe GF or DF or nut-free foods) for your family now, while these foods are available and at current costs. Unfortunately, food prices aren’t exactly trending downward. Investing in this security for your family now could potentially save you the ever-increasing cost of healthy and allergy-specific foods. The Crunchy Prepper, herself, says, “Because bread lines won’t be gluten free,” and she’s perfectly right. But you can build your own menu now and avoid lines entirely. And we’re going to guide you.
NOW, you have the opportunity to build your family’s food storage.
NOW, you can ensure the food is tailored exactly to what you like and need.
If you wait, you may not be able to access the same quality of food you’re accustomed at present. You may find yourself settling for foods with ingredients that inflame your system. Can you function optimally with constant inflammation? Many of us know friends and family with serious food allergies, maybe someone in your own home. If you have to dietary restrictions and unique nutritional needs, you want to plan and prep for it all. You have the opportunity now. Really, don’t put it off. And you’ll probably find it a little exhilarating to know you can do it and you can do it with a community cheering you on and sharing their tips, tricks, deals, hacks, recipes, builds and more on Crunchy Preppers. You lose nothing by preparing a few days or weeks of food for your family. But you and your family will gain new skills and an intentional mindset.
Normally, I source our shopping list as whole as possible. We intentionally continued this into our storage for a few reasons:
To have uninterrupted continuation of food quality in an emergency or when store shelves are bare. Having consistency in food will bring comfort and avoid digestion issues (diarrhea leads to dehydration and dehydration can be fatal - this is worth considering for survival scenarios). Having meals ready to go will also lessen your mental load in those moments.
To maintain health with varied quality sources of nutrition. We want our bodies to be functioning optimally, particularly in the instances where you might need extra stamina. With proper nutrition, you’re also far less likely to find yourself in need medical services.
To barter. Quality food and food prep skills will always hold value.
So we aim for healthy ‘crunchy’ foods for our pantry. I’m also all about that 80/20 somedays, too! So make sure you store some (healthy) treats!
For us, the foods we use regularly are legumes, grains, meats, eggs, fruits, nuts/seeds, veggies, oils and raw dairy. Some of those foods are easily stored and others require more effort. That being said … this costs of food are bonkers so I’m always looking for deals and I just stock up when we're able to, financially. Its a really good idea for your household can agree on a monthly budget for prepping. If this is a pain point for your family, I highly suggest looking at Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps. You don’t need to buy anything although they have books and videos. We learned everything from the free podcast. Following the baby steps, we paid off $54,000 of student loan and auto debt in 14 months and have been debt free since fall of 2017. You can do it. Being debt-free is part of preparedness. “The rich rule the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7. You aren’t meant to be a slave to debt. You are meant to be free. But to be ungovernable, we begin removing our families from the conveniences of the world. The biggest in my opinion is debt. The biggest factor holding families back is debt. That’s my Ted Talk on debt. Reach out if you have questions. We're freeeee!
And now, here’s a quick breakdown of what we have and how it is stored:
Legumes = dry-stored and canned (mason jars and tin cans)
Grains = dry-stored
Fruits = dehydrated, frozen or freeze dried
Nuts = mason jars or frozen
Eggs = water glassed
Veggies = dehydrated, frozen
Dairy = dehydrated (milk)
Meats = dehydrated (jerky), canned, frozen
Sauces and Broths = canned (mason jars, store bought jars and tin cans)
We also grow fresh microgreens in our house (from Moxie-Greens’ all-in-one DIY Kit) to ensure we’re getting living enzymes and fresh nutrition. With this grocery list, I will have ample resources to make nutritious, sustaining meals for our family and others.
You store what you eat. Most foods can be either stored dry, dehydrated or canned. You'll choose what works best for your family's storage needs.
But where does one come across 25-50 lb bags of organic foods, you ask? I love the quality of Azure Standard and the bulk sizes. The owner came out recently and promised never to carry foods with the new aPeel coating. Sometimes their clearance foods are absolute steals. Can you tell I like deals?
Use the worksheet to plan out 3 days of meals your family likes and which ingredients you’ll need to store. Start with just 3 days of food and water for your household. If you’re already stocked for the typical 3 day emergency, aim for 2 weeks or a whole month.
A BRIEF ‘HOW TO’
To preserve our foods we use dry storage, dehydration and canning. The tools I find most useful in our home are a 3.5 cu ft deep freezer, Xcalibur dehydrator, All-American 921 pressure canner and a water bath canner.
We do not have a freeze dryer but the Harvest Right freeze dryers are an excellent option to consider. Although they are pricey, they make foods (almost any food) shelf stable for 25 years.
And there is the matter of where you’re going to store all this food.
Regardless of which foods you have just written on your list and in which form they’ll be preserved, you must remember this when creating a storage space:
Cool Dark and Dry
Also consider accessibility; how easily can you reach these foods? And be sure to adhere to the “FIFO policy”. FIFO means “first in, first out” also known as rotating the stock so your oldest products (in terms of expiration) are in the front and the newest are in the back. Consume your products from the front of the shelves, just like a store … your own store!. Remember, you’re storing the foods you already use, so you’ll want to eat them!
Do you already have a location in mind? A dry basement? A root cellar? A clean-ish crawl space? A back closet? Under the bed? You can make almost anything work - people certainly have in the past!. Maybe not an attic or hot shed, though!
When choosing a pantry space, keep the climate and any major fluctuations in mind.
We faced the challenge of temperature and moisture control, since the pantry had to be in the home. Needing to limit the fluctuations that come with southern NJ weather, we’ve been keeping the blinds and door closed nearly all the time with a towel shoved in the gap between the door and floor. It has been working just fine to keep a stable climate. I check it fairly regularly with a similar room thermometer.
Additionally, when you store your food, you want to keep food and even containers off the floor. Various floor materials retain and radiate heat and moisture differently. Reduce temperature fluctuations by keeping your stores six inches off the floor.
Planning Tip: If assembling storage racks like these, keep a 6” clearance from the floor. In this, you’re adhering to USDA hygiene regulations (if you had a food establishment) but really, it's just good sense to keep food off the floor! You could use that space between the floor and the first shelf to store empty jars, cleaning supplies or other inert non-food preps that won’t be affected by the temperature or moisture fluctuations when directly on the floor.
If you’re also in a small home, you’re going to want to read this. If you’re in a big home, this will help you, too. SPACE: truly the final frontier. Well, at least for us … in this house. When it came to planning where to put a pantry, we realized we had no space. Actually, I realized that daily for about 7 years but that’s not what we’re talking about to day ….. We are living in an adorable rancher with a shudder-worthy crawl space that houses the water heater and pump. There isn’t a basement, garage or storage shed suitable for food.
At first glance, there is no logical place to put a pantry for food storage. Although Josh and I dug a 6 cu ft root cellar with a shovel in April 2020, we have since filled it in. (True story, I have the pics.) Anyway, we determined the pantry HAD to be in the house. Not the bathroom, kitchen, living room or bedroom so the only other option was “the back room.” We don’t have a name for the room because it has had so many purposes over the years, no name ever stuck around for long.
When we first met, the back room was Josh’s workroom and his preps. He had a nice work table in the center and 2x4s for shelving along the perimeter - there was an unsurprising amount of tin foil, many new shoe laces, toiletries and an impressive stock of Costco canned chicken. We lived off that canned chicken for a quite a while as newly weds when doing the Dave Ramsey Baby Steps! The room has since been (in no particular order) a workroom, storage, an office, Culper Dog’s room, a small business hub, and now … THE PANTRY.
We rearranged, purged and freed up a corner in the back room. So now, we have our food storage in the space of a 5x7 rug in ‘the back room’ and we keep it as dark and as cool as possible. This is for well over a year’s worth of food. So this setup isn’t necessary if you’re just beginning. However, consider a storage location where you could expand, if needed. We are maxed out at this location, unless we dig a root cellar..
It truly is the space of a 5x7 area rug. I hope that thinking of a rug helps you to visualize how little space is required. Where you have a will, you’ll find a way. For our needs, in that space, with how much I needed to store, I chose metal racks, knowing vertical storage is a small space family’s best friend. There are a total of three wire racks (5 shelves each) which we have set up in the shape of a U. The racks are 5 feet wide, 6 feet tall, and 14” deep. I originally found them on webstaurantstore.com but you might find a better price on other sites. The set up is similar to this photo, but we have 5 shelves on each. Honestly, 3 individual racks looks way sturdier than the on in this pic! .
Because of the vertical storage, we can access all the foods easily, so we can adhere to a FIFO (first in, first out) policy to keep our stock fresh. Daily, I take from our dried, canned and dehydrated food stores to make meals for our family. Call me a nerd, but going shopping at the end of my hallway just butters my biscuits!
METAL STORAGE RACKS
Having the racks gives us much more organize-able and accessible space. Each rack holds a considerable amount of weight, I believe the racks we have rate for 350 lbs per shelf. I’m not shy when loading them! This type of shelving is easily assembled and disassembled, holds considerable weight, looks nice and is easy to keep clean. On these shelves we fit a year’s worth of food (some sealed in mylar bags and buckets with gamma lids and some in mason jars).
Planning Tip: When storing your foods, consider your children and how they’ll be involved. Our 5 year old loves to get a pint of beans from the backroom pantry for me or help me scoop out some wheat berries for milling. When planning, take into consideration how you can arrange and label your food stores so your children can be helpful in storing and retrieving foods.
Sincerely though, not all our shelving is occupied with food. At least ⅓ of the total space is occupied by other necessities like oil lamps, medical prep, toiletries, seeds, water filtration, lids/bands/jars etc. Our racks are set up similar to this U shaped shelving unit and only take up the footprint of a 5x7 rug.
Use the worksheet to propose, discuss, and plan a location for your pantry. Where does it stay relatively cool - dry - dark? Where could you access it on a daily basis? How many days/weeks/months do you aim to store? Will you need shelving or do you have something that will do the trick? Using even a rough drawing will help you visualize a space-efficient layout.
I hope this article has made preparing more possible in your mind. You really can do it. We only started long-term storage just about one year ago. You can start small with just 3 days of food and build, over time, when you have the funds and energy. Most of us work in spurts anyway right? Start today with the first spurt … make your menu … get family input. Assess what you'll need and then sketch a storage plan. You can do this and you’re probably going to be addicted to it in a few weeks. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
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