How Much Food Storage Do I Need?

Written by Brandon Garrett

You know that food storage is important. But where do you begin? You might be asking yourself, “How do I start? And how much do I need?”

Like most worthwhile endeavors there is a learning curve when it comes to food storage, but don’t let that keep you from starting! Too often the perceived confusion and uncertainty of starting keeps individuals and families from being prepared. This post will take some of the pressure off of starting your food storage and help you understand how much you need.

Food Storage Baby Steps
Right off the bat, one important factor to realize is that you don’t need it all right away. You can start small by purchasing a few extra food items you buy during your regular shopping trips to build a few days and weeks worth of storage. Take your time as you expand your food storage to first include the more basic and fundamental staples that will expand your storage to last several months to the ultimate goal of a year’s worth of food. This helps spread out the cost and work over a longer period of time, offsetting any buyer’s remorse that could come from impulsive, massive purchases.

As your food storage begins to grow, it becomes more important to finalize an end goal. The amount of food storage you need depends entirely on how many people you are storing food for. The numbers below represent the basic needs of a single person for a year supply. These items are going to be the first step of your food storage goal.

Grains
Wheat
150 lbs
Flour
25 lbs
Corn Meal
25 lbs
Oats
25 lbs
Rice
50 lbs
Pasta
25 lbs
Total
300 lbs

Grains are your foundation for a wide variety of foods you can make and are high in nutritional value. Rice and noodles act as the base for countless dishes, and there are numerous breads, cakes, tortillas and deserts that require wheat and flour. Be sure the recipes you are gathering include grains and acclimate your family to eating these dishes.

Fats & Oils
Shortening
4 lbs
Vegetable Oil
2 gal
Mayonnaise
2 qts
Salad Dressing
1 qt
Peanut Butter
4 lbs
Total
13 lbs

Fats and Oils – Don’t let the word fat scare you away, because fat is an essential part of a healthy diet and a fantastic source of calories (which are in great demand in emergency situations). It is important to note fats and oils don’t store as long and need to be rotated out with greater frequency.

Legumes
Beans, Dry
30 lbs
Lima Beans
5 lbs
Soy Beans
10 lbs
Split Peas
5 lbs
Lentils
5 lbs
Dry Soup Mixes
5 lbs
Total
60 lbs

Legumes – If meat is scarce (as it often is in emergency situations), legumes are a great stand-in offering high doses of protein, fiber and iron. Not all legumes share the same nutrient profile, but a healthy combination of these recommended legumes in your diet will do the trick.

Sugars
Honey
3 lbs
Sugar
40 lbs
Brown Sugar
3 lbs
Fruit Drink Powder
6 lbs
Other
8 lbs
Total
60 lbs

Whether in dry or liquid form, sugars are simple carbohydrates that add a recognizably sweet taste to anything they are added to. Luckily, commercially-available sugars have an indefinite shelf life thanks to their strong resistance to microbial growth. Even when sugars harden or grow lumpy, they are still safe to use.

Milk
Dry Milk
60 lbs
Other
13 lbs
Total
75 lbs

Many people are surprised to find out powered milk is made from pasteurized, fresh milk (usually skim). When milk is concentrated and heated, the water and dry milk particles separate, leaving a substance perfect for long term storage. Be sure the milk you are purchasing for your storage is real milk and not a milk alternative.

Cooking Basics
Baking Powder
1 lb
Baking Soda
1 lb
Yeast
1/2 lb
Salt
5 lbs
Vinegar
1/2 lbs
Total
75 lbs

These are the key ingredients that turn your wheat into bread or flour into dough. Your stored grains will be nearly useless if you don’t have these necessary essentials – that’s why they call them essentials!

The Next Steps
You may have noticed a few important food groups absent from the list — fruits, vegetables and meats. These foods can all be easily purchased and stored as freeze dried items. Not only do these items add flavor and much-needed variety to your meals, they provide certain nutrients that simply aren’t found in the simple grains and cooking essentials.

As you can see there is a lot to keep track of and once you start expanding your food storage to include these bulk items, be sure to keep an up-to-date inventory of everything you have. Careful record keeping is crucial in gathering the necessary amount of food storage for your family.

Additionally, it is vitally important to know how to use the food you are storing. Cooking and experimenting with your food storage long before you need it ensures the food’s usability in emergency situations.

One last tip: if you know there is something your family doesn’t like, replace it with something else or make up for it by storing extra foods you know your family will enjoy. Knowing how much you have and how to use your food storage transforms it from just storage to actual food.

Updated September 14, 2013

14 Comments

  1. Name Edwina wrote:

    What frightens me is the idea that after taking time and money to make sure my family is prepared, is it true the military can legally come and wipe out all I have stored? Does anyone know if this has ever happened in a disaster in recent times? Also I take into account that I may not have a way of cooling food in an emergency(saving for a generator)so I purchase small(expensive)containers of items like mayo. We would have to open and use the whole jar at once.Any way around this?

    November 20th, 2013 at 12:30 am
  2. Name ew wrote:

    We began our food storage about a year ago thinking enough for a few months til we found the ready store then starting order on a regular basis and started using some food storage to try to see what we really liked and now have replaced going to the store less and using food storage at least half of the month maybe more and we are on Social Security so not a lot of money but cont. to purchase each month and enjoy saving gas and get great products not at the mercy of gro store prices so we have expanded food storage and live in a double wide mobile home and you can always find space maybe all over the house but either covered up or in closets and in large tubs in extra shower that never used or never been used. I hope this helps someone.

    November 22nd, 2013 at 7:58 am
  3. karl wrote:

    These are great tips. I have tried many items I never want to try alone again. Sometimes try mixing them or adding them into regular dishes to get used to them. water storage is terribly important and I like small containers but also like the bathtub storage tank. Military will not come into your house unless martial law and you are breaking it. martial law will not happen in this country, (I have my fingurs crossed). Remember food stores should be portable. sometimes your house will not be where you want to be at.

    November 29th, 2013 at 1:51 pm
  4. debbie e wrote:

    I am working my food storage into my everyday meals, and being pretty open about the convenience of using freeze dried and dehydrated products, having stuff on the shelf etc. This provides a level of “cover” as I live in a very small town and even mail order will be noticed. So I plan on having a decoy pantry with the real stash creatively hidden. Thus neighbors turned enemies or government raiders would hopefully not get it all as I would reasonably have eaten it as I went along

    March 19th, 2014 at 4:56 pm
  5. Mary wrote:

    Was told quite awhile ago, that white is right. White Flour & rice, Brown Goes bad quickly. Now I cannot find anything about it on the net

    April 27th, 2014 at 11:09 pm
  6. kirk wrote:

    mary- white rice does last longer as Brown rice has oils in it that will turn rancid.

    as for the government taking what you have stored. look in to this executive otder from 2012 singed by obama.
    National Defense Resources Preparedness executive order I don’t have the url for it but it should be easy to look up.

    April 28th, 2014 at 2:00 pm
  7. NameJulie wrote:

    I would like to start to compile the food but have limited storage places. How can I do this and limited financial resources how do I do this.

    October 16th, 2014 at 5:56 am
  8. Diana M wrote:

    If you are concerned about mayonnaise or similar not keeping after opening without refrigeration, consider purchasing single-serve packets from a place like minimus.biz or foodservicedirect.com or another restaurant supply place. (You may find some available on Amazon as well, and Pack-it Gourmet or other camping supply places are another possible source.) Then vacuum seal the packets into glass jars to prevent deterioration/rancidity from oxygen and water vapor diffusion through the plastic packet walls.

    I live alone and like to purchase salad dressings in single-serve packets so I can always have whatever variety I feel like on my salad without dealing with a dozen open bottles slowly deteriorating in the refrigerator. Those pack up nicely for shelf storage in recycled 4-C Homestyle grated cheese jars vacuum sealed, and they last well over a year that way. :)

    Make a point of purchasing everything possible in glass jars or tins. Plastic is semipermeable to oxygen and humidity, and therefore items packaged in plastic jars have a very limited shelf life compared to those packaged in glass or tin. I have one mustard I really like that, alas, no longer comes in glass. The jars are small enough, though, to fit in recycled glass pint jars and vacuum seal for almost as good a storage life as if it was bottled in glass in the 1st place.

    For storage places, you need to think creatively. I have 40 cases of #10 cans down one side of the 13-foot hallway to my bedroom, stacked 5 x 8 behind 2 pretty hanging quilts. I find 28 inches is plenty wide for that hallway, I don’t really need 36. Look around your house, and I’m sure you can find somewhere where you can put storage. You may need to add some shelves or attractive screens, but I’m sure there’s somewhere if you just think outside the box a little. As for the budget, start by buying a little extra whenever something you use is on sale and/or putting just a couple of dollars aside each week until you have enough to buy a case of something at wholesale price. The more you have in stock, the less you will need to buy every week, and the more dollars you can put aside to buy wholesale or on sale. In the long run, you will end up saving money because once you have enough of everything for a year, you will NEVER have to buy anything that isn’t wholesale or on sale again.

    When it comes to whole grains versus refined, yes, white flour and white rice have a very, very long storage life, but who wants them? I have had no problem at all with keeping brown rice, whole-wheat flour, etc. in nitrogen-flushed cans for a couple of years. I just buy all such items packaged for storage so I never have to worry about them going rancid in my pantry, and I always have a year’s worth in good condition. I actually have over a year’s supply of each, so only buy when there is a really good sale on them.

    I do not try to stuff food away for 30 years, which would only make sense if I had the space to keep enough for 30 years. Everything I have in storage gets used in my everyday meals all the time, and gets cycled over 1-1/2 to 5 years. I have storage for 1 year-plus for everything I need, absolutely everything. It took me about a decade to get there, but it’s great having that security. I use freeze-dried, dehydrated, canned, and retort-packaged whole foods without additives as my convenience foods that let me put tasty, healthful, and creative dinners on the table in 15 minutes most nights. It costs less for better health and better taste than buying the usual commercial nukable processed, chemical-laden convenience foods at the supermarket.

    When it comes to quantities and what to store, I find I disagree with almost every published guide out there. I want a year of food that complies with current US government recommendations for a balanced diet, more–or-less Mediterranean style.

    Just to take an example, I personally want 2 glasses of milk and one serving of other dairy per day. A glass of skim milk equals 22.4 grams, and a glass of whole equals 30 grams. I usually drink 2 parts skim to a part whole, a little over 1% milk. How much milk should *I* store for a year, 366 days? The answer is 22.5 g x 244 of nonfat and 30 g x 122 of whole milk. That’s 5490 g/12.1 pounds of nonfat milk powder and 3660 g/8.1 pounds of whole milk. In practice, I store at least 15 pounds of skim and 10 of whole plus enough buttermilk powder, yogurt powder, and freeze-dried and canned cheeses to make up another 366 servings of dairy. Compare that to the 60 pounds per person recommendation above, which assumes all your dairy will come from milk, and you want 3-1/3 servings per day of nonfat milk.

    For a second example, I adhere to no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugars per day for an adult woman. How much sugar or other sweetener do I need to store? Six teaspoons equals 1 ounce by volume and 25 g by weight. So for 366 days, I would need 9150 g or 20 pounds of sugar or equivalence in honey or other sweetener, nothing like the 60 pounds recommended above. Even for an adult male with a 9 teaspoon allowance, 30 pounds would do it. Now if you eat way more sugar than you should, obviously you’d want to store more, but do your own calculations based on what you actually eat, not the food storage lists provided by someone else. (And remember that if, like me, you have canned cakes, puddings, cookies, halvah, nougat, chocolate, dulce de leche, and other sweets on the shelf, those contain a big chunk of you added daily sugars for a year, so you need even less bulk sugars in storage.)

    For a third example, I usually keep my grain servings at 5 per day, at least 2 of which are provided for by canned rye/pumpernickel/whole-grain breads from Germany and whole-grain flat breads, whole-wheat rusks, and oatcakes vacuum packed into cans (I’m Scots, I like oatcakes). How much actual grain do I need to store for myself for a year then? Only enough for 3 additional 1 oz servings per day, or 68 pounds of grains. I also eat much more rice, more corn, and less wheat than the standard tables suggesting 300 lbs of grain per person call for. (That 300 pounds amount would equal over 13 servings of grain per day–an amount even many vegetarians aren’t going to consume.) As for the canned bread, I find it worth importing a few cases of 1 kilogram cans courtesy of a personal shopping service in Germany. I can and do bake bread, but come on, the lights are out and I’m having to do all the laundry, dish washing, and other housekeeping by hand, and I want to also be grinding all my grain for bread and finding the extra fuel to bake it with? I don’t think so, not when I can buy some canned European-style breads that will store 5 years on the shelf. How about I just pop a can and make the darn breakfast toast or sandwiches? Sounds a lot better to me. (Your mileage may vary, of course.)

    Fourth example: I should eat 1-1/2 to 2 cups of fruit a day and 2-1/2 to 3 cups of vegetables. I have and 18-month supply of 1 case of fruit (including oranges and grapefruit to convert into juice) per month in storage and 1-1/2 cases per month of freeze-dried vegetables. If I had a serving of juice per day stored in cans/jars separately, I’d only need 1/2 case of additional freeze-dried fruit per month. So look at your total storage in all forms when calculating storage amounts. My veggies are calculated to provide the recommended amounts of dark green and red/orange servings per year and are otherwise based on the amounts and types of vegetables I like and ordinarily consume. (And boy was it fun trying to come up with storage eggplant, leeks, fennel, winter squash, okra, brussels sprouts, etc. While storage food companies do offer fruits and veggies, it’s usually a pretty limited and lame selection of either.) Again, do your own calculations–and realize the fruits and vegetables essential for health don’t even appear on many recommended storage lists.

    For a final example fish, meat, eggs, and nuts don’t appear anywhere on most storage lists. I don’t know about you, but I eat a fair amount of all of those in a year, and I want enough canned or freeze-dried in storage to last a year, not just the beans that are all that appear on most storage lists. I like beans, love them actually, but I don’t want to eat nothing but beans and powdered milk for my protein for a year. My food storage is calculated to provide 5 ounces of varied meats, including things like lamb and liver, for 2 days per week, a wide variety of fish/seafood for 2 days, a variety of cheesea/eggs for 1 day, and nut and legume equivalents for the other 2 days, including canned ready-to-eat Chinese-style bean curd and Japanese-style tofu in tetrapaks. Your selections for protein should match the way you like to and ordinarily eat.

    My food storage has been assembled based on finding or making a shelf-stable, storable version of everything I would like and want to eat for a year in the quantities I would buy them when shopping in the usual way. It’s proved a challenge sometimes when so much food storage offered seems to be based on lists like those above rather than what someone who likes to eat real, organic, whole-grain, multi-ethnic foods would want, but it can be done in this age of the internet if you are willing to compile your own storage lists, research sources, and maybe fire up your own canning kettle. (I lust for the new home freeze-dryer that just came on the market, but it just doesn’t fit the budget. Maybe some day.)

    October 16th, 2014 at 8:02 am
  9. Oren Player wrote:

    If you are concerned about having your food confiscated under martial law, think caches. Just as many people are concealing guns and ammunition, you probably ought to think the same about food.

    October 16th, 2014 at 1:01 pm
  10. Peggy wrote:

    You can get juice plus capsules to make sure you get plenty of nutrition when u have no access to fresh veggies and fruit. Great product -freeze dried organic non gmo in capsules. Easy to store or take in bug out bag. And easy to conceal around the house. Keeps immune system supported. Backed by clinical research . Email me for more info or visit website

    October 16th, 2014 at 3:14 pm
  11. Northwoods Cheryl wrote:

    I have been prepping for at least 26 years now. To find out what/how much to store, write down EVERY SINGLE THING you eat/drink/use in a week’s time. Every teaspoon of sugar/salt/seasoning, etc. EVERY glass/ounce of water, tea, coffee, milk.. EVERYTHING. Multiply by 4 to get a month’s worth added up. You have an idea.. then take that week’s foods/drinks/etc and multiply by 52. That’s a years worth. Substitute things like swap corn for green beans, etc, to make a variety. (You won’t want to have the same menu week after week) Also, remember that your calorie intake will need to be MUCH higher than usual if things get so bad that prepping is the only way to survive. You will be doing MUCH more manual labor and need the calories. Even washing your clothes by hand can be an arduous task, and burn a lot of calories.

    October 17th, 2014 at 7:46 am
  12. Kathyo wrote:

    kirk what the presidential order states , yes I’ve read it. It states that the Secretary of Commerce must formulate and implement a plan to “feed” the population of the USA. It does NOT say they can take our food stores but having said that What better plan would it be for the SOA to

    October 18th, 2014 at 7:38 am
  13. Kathy o wrote:

    Sorry, using dh’s laptop.It’s either the Secretary of Commerce or Agriculture that has to formulate a plan. What I was getting at is that with so many of us trying to prepare what an “easy” source of food the SOC/SOA would have to “formulate” and “implement” a plan.We’ve done the work for them. Sorry I sound so cynical but for years we’ve been told that the USG is “preparing” to help it’s citizens in times of emergencies but as we’ve seen over the last 10-15 yrs, they are not.In part we as a nation are to blame IMO my generation was not taught what our grandparents and parents were taught, use up,wear out, repurpose. Our parents wanted to give us a “better”life (as we do for our children) with the abundance we experienced back 30 yrs ago not ALL of us were taught to save, use up or wear out and unfortunately it’s been passed down to the succeeding generations along with those that believe they are “owed” something for what ever reason and the Gov’t has become complacent “We are the Great US of A” however lack of caring and the insidious atmosphere of ME first, get mine before others has created the mess we’re in. Again this is just MY opinion, you may not agree with it but until proven otherwise I still have Freedom of Speech to voice my views.
    Thank you

    October 18th, 2014 at 8:05 am
  14. atasteofcreole wrote:

    On the Mayo, I grew up in New Orleans. We NEVER refrigerated the mayo after we opened it. I was kept in a dark cupboard for up to 2 weeks. Once it’s been refrigerated though THEN it needs to be kept there, but not before it’s opened.

    October 20th, 2014 at 8:12 am

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