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When most people think of food storage, they picture rows of buckets, bins, and boxes of food sitting in a dark corner of the basement untouched and forgotten.

No one wants to invest their hard-earned money on something they think they’ll never use.

Food storage should work for you. When done right, it will save you money.

The key is to Store what you eat and eat what you store. If your family cannot or will not eat a food, don’t buy it and store it. Stock up on things they will eat, instead.

There are many philosophies of food storage. Here are a few. Do any sound familiar?

Food StorageDrawbacks
Purchase a ready-made “year’s supply” from a long-term food storage company and call it DONE.This is the most expensive method. Check out my post on calorie considerations if choosing this.
Purchase #10 cans of basic life sustaining foods and call it DONE.This is just the basics needed to sustain life. You’ll still be hungry. They are also hard to find right now.
Just buy extras of things when you go to the store and you have some extra money.This is a great way to stock up, but without a plan you’ll find yourself missing key ingredients.

So what’s the best way to build food storage?

I recommend a combination of a layered approach with a working pantry.

A layered approach has 3 main parts:

  1. 2-Week Heat & Eat Storage
  2. 3-Month Regular Meals
  3. 1-Year+ Long-term Survival Food

Lets take a quick look at each layer.

2-Week Heat & Eat Storage

This layer is to feed you during a short-term emergency if you couldn’t get to a grocery store or are experiencing an extended power outage. The meals should be quick and easy to prepare.

Remember to plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for each day. The foods should need a minimum amount of preparation and resources to make. Think about things that require just opening cans, boiling water, and minimal cooking.

These are also good for times when you’re sick and don’t have the energy to cook, or as budget-friendly alternatives to eating out. Just remember to restock when you use them.


  • Mac N Cheese
  • Canned Soups/Stew
  • Ramen Noodles
  • Peanut Butter Sandwiches
  • Spaghetti
  • Canned chili or other meats
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Instant potatoes

How to do it?

  1. Make a list of 7 easy meals that your family likes.
  2. List the ingredients needed for each (need to be shelf-stable)
  3. Buy enough to make each meal twice
  4. (optional) Bag all ingredients for one meal together and put on the shelf.

Note: This list of ingredients will give you a minimum quantity you need to have on hand in your short-term food storage.

3-Month Regular Meals

This part of your food storage is actually your working pantry.

These are regular meals. They may include foods that are frozen, refrigerated, canned, dehydrated, and purchased fresh.

For fresh items, consider frozen or shelf-stable alternatives for when fresh isn’t available.

How to do it?

  • Make a list of meals your family enjoys. A list of 14 different meals for dinners and 7 options for breakfasts and lunches will give sufficient variety.
    • These should include all components of your meal: entrée, sides, and drinks.

If you want to kick it up a notch, enlist your family’s help to find 30 different dinners they would enjoy. It’s easier than you think.

  • Calculate how many times you will make each meal in 3 months.
    • Some may be favorites and will be eaten more often than others.
  • Make a master list of how much you need of each ingredient.
    • Some ingredients will be used for multiple meals.
  • Acquire the items on the master list.
    • This can be done gradually, through specials, case-lot sales, or bulk purchases.

Having a working pantry helps with meal planning. You won’t have to worry about not having the ingredients on hand to make dinner.

Have a plan to rotate your food storage.

Gradually increase your Working Pantry to stock 6 months to a year of food.

This will ensure that you eat a normal diet during difficult times.

A working pantry saves you money by reducing shopping trips, helping with a grocery list, and eating out less.

Shop your pantry when making dinner and replenish your pantry during regular grocery trips. Just remember to rotate your food!

1-Year+ Long-term Survival Food

Many people think of long-term food storage as just survival basics. If you’ve stocked your working pantry with a year’s worth of food, these survival basics can supplement it to make it last even longer.

If there is a longer-term emergency or disaster, you may need to eat this food. Make sure it is good quality, stored properly, and you know how to use it.

Ideally, these foods should be worked into your diet and rotated and replenished as part of your working pantry.

Long-term food basics include items like:

  • Wheat
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Other Grains (rye, barley, oats)
  • Beans
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Freeze-dried & dehydrated foods
  • Spices
  • Seasonings
  • Dry Milk
  • Bouillon/soup base

Many of these basics can be used to make bread, soups, and stews. They can be supplemented by fresh produce grown in a garden and meat from livestock or hunting.

There are many different Food Storage Calculators out there. There is a great interactive one at providentliving.com. This will tell you how many pounds of the basic categories you should store based on the number of adults and children in your household.

This is overwhelming! Where do I start?

I had my grown children start by storing the ingredients needed to make a balanced, nutritious soup. All for less than $300 for a family of 4!

It doesn’t take much room to store. It can even be stored in an apartment. Remember, this is a beginning point, though, not the complete food storage.

This recipe can be supplemented with fresh vegetables, leftover meats, potatoes, TVP, dry vegetables, etc.

The varieties are endless. Seasonings are the key. Stock your family’s favorites!

What you need:


  • Rice – 100 pounds
  • Red Kidney Beans – 25 pounds
  • Pearl Barley – 25 pounds
  • Lentils – 25 pounds
  • Split Green Peas – 25 pounds
  • Garbanzo Beans – 25 pounds
  • Beef Bouillon – 4 pounds
  • Chicken Bouillon – 4 pounds

Storage Containers

  • Five-gallon Food Grade Buckets – 9
  • Gamma Lids for Buckets – 6
  • Regular Lids for Buckets – 3
  • 2-gallon ziptop bags or Mylar bags (your choice) – 2 per bucket
  • Moisture absorbers (optional)
  • Oxygen absorbers (optional)

The Rice will take 4 buckets to store. Each of the other dry goods will use a single bucket. One bucket of rice and each of the other buckets get a gamma lid for easy access. The other 3 buckets of rice can have a standard lid.

Using 2-gallon zip top bags is much less expensive than Mylar. It’s what we used. I live in a very dry climate, so I didn’t bother with moisture absorbers. We are also rotating our food into our diet.

Adding either oxygen or moisture absorbers or using Mylar bags will increase the cost.

What’s the recipe?

  • 8 oz. Rice
  • 2 oz. Kidney Beans
  • 2 oz. Pearl Barley
  • 2 oz. Lentils
  • 1 oz. Split Green Peas
  • 1 oz. Garbanzo Beans
  • 3 Tbs. Bouillon to taste
  • 1 Tbs. butter or olive oil (optional-to prevent boiling over)

Add dry ingredients to 6-7 quarts of water. Add any other meats, vegetables, potatoes, seasonings, etc. Do not add onions if you will store leftovers without good refrigeration as they will ferment too fast.

Bring to a boil and let simmer for 2 hours.

Yield: Enough to feed 4 people for 2 days or more if rationed properly – One LARGE bowl per person. This is filling. Serve with bread.


If reheating, add more water and bouillon (if necessary). It will be thick after being refrigerated.

Bring leftovers to a boil for 10 minutes prior to eating to kill any potential bacteria, especially if refrigeration is spotty.

If any mixture is left for day 3, make a new batch and add leftovers as long as the seasonings don’t clash.

This recipe came from the American Preppers Network. They worked up pricing 8 years ago and came up with $295.87. When we purchased the supplies in fall 2020, we could get them for $275.00 plus tax.

We purchased the supplies in bulk from restaurant suppliers and bulk food storage providers. Your costs may be higher if you buy smaller quantities or from grocery or superstores.

If you live in the Central Utah area and are interested in joining a bulk buy for these ingredients, leave a comment below or use the Contact link above to send us an email.

Getting your food storage doesn’t have to be scary. Just get started.

The pantry food storage containers we use are available on Amazon.

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