Now that you know the basics of how to properly preserve your food storage and what methods you can use to re-package your own food to increase shelf life, we are going to talk about where to put it all. To be a diligent prepper you need to at least have a 3-month supply of food and non food items stored for you and your family. From there you can easily build upon your food storage to accommodate a years supply. From there even more! In our last blog about food storage: "Long Term Food Storage" we talked about the importance of storing what you eat, and eating what you store as well as the FIFO (First in, First out) storage system. In this blog we are going to talk about all the different storage options you can utilize for even the smallest of apartments as well as how to build your Preppers Mart on a budget.
You may be thinking to you self: "I do not have the room for a 3-month supply of food let alone a one year supply of food and non food items." Have no fear. There are tons of options available for even the least amount of room. There is a lot of unused space in any home no matter the size.
The easiest and best option for your prepper mart is ventilated shelving. These can be purchased from most any hardware or office supply store. These relatively inexpensive shelves can be put back to back to make longer shelves or multiple long shelves. Always keep in mind the 5 enemies of food storage:
While putting the master plan together as to where you are going to store your food supply, keep these 5 things in mind.
For the rest of us that do not have unlimited space in our homes, let's take a look at your coat closet(s). Almost every home has one if not several throughout the dwelling. There is space under the coats that in most cases is unused space as well as on each side of the coats between the door jamb and the coat rack itself. Most coat closets already have a small shelf above the coats being utilized but what about this space on each side and below. Companies such as Thrive Life and FIFO Systems have can rotation racks to fit any space and any budget. For those that have large prepping budgets and ample storage space, you can purchase the full size shelf racks and Armoire can rotation systems for upwards of $450. These companies even make can rotation and storage systems for smaller vertical and horizontal spaces such as under the bed and in small closets. For the DO IT YOURSELFER'S there are tons of plans online for building your own can rotation racks. Here is a link to a pretty good plan for building your own can rotation system.
Another source of extra space can easily be found behind, under or in existing furniture. You have to use your imagination a little here. There are people who have built special shelving units and hid them behind there couch. A little friendlier would be the beds in your house. Any Walmart or Target carry the thin, wide plastic storage bins that you can fill with canned goods or ready-made meals and slide under the bed.
For the more extreme food storage preppers, if your garage has exposed joists you can always purchase and hang wire shelving units from the rafters for use of tons of unused space. A more extreme but cheap and effective method would be stud shelves. Pick a room in the back of your house where it will not be to noticeable and remove a section of drywall exposing the studs for the frame of your house. You can then screw adjustable shelving tracks in between each stud and cut sections of 1x4's to fit between each stud, then install each piece in the shelving tracks with the included clips. You can purchase this track for around $20 for large sections.
Even more extreme, you can extend a wall in your house and build and install your own can rotation system or shelving. This is for the extremely space limited folks out there that are committed to food storage for natural disaster or economic collapse (EOTWAWKI or SHTF).
The other subject I want to hit on briefly is extra Freezer space. If you have the room, I highly recommend getting a deep freeze. Most of us that hunt probably already have a deep freeze out in the garage to store our extra game for the year, but did you know that this is a very effective method for storing bread as well? You can buy months' worth of bread and store in the deep freeze for long periods of time.
Now that you have hopefully selected your storage method and location it's time to stock it. There are several different ways to buy food storage food. You want to try to keep the balance between dry foods and wet foods. Dry foods would be items such as pasta and flour, perhaps even freeze dried and powdered products. Dry foods require water to cook or reconstitute, therefore if you choose to keep a mostly dry food storage you will need to include with that an ample amount of stored water, or at least a viable source for water in a SHTF situation. Wet foods have the water included right in them, ready to eat out of the package or can. Wet foods would include just about all of your canned goods as well as pouches of tuna and so on.
Bulk buying is the approach most new preppers take when first getting into food storage. People buy large quantities of items without much thought into why or trying to balance their food storage. This is not the recommended approach but is better than nothing.
Bulk buying is relatively hands off and there is not much thought to it. Since you buy in large quantities you would quickly build your food storage and save decent amounts of money.
The main disadvantage here is because you are buying such large quantities of one item at a time your food storage may not be proportional at any given time. It's awesome that you have 200 bananas but you would be hard pressed to keep let alone eat just banaas for a month. Besides you would get sick of that quick.
This requires you purchasing extra or double the amount of normal food you consume as you consume it. This is a very effective technique, and can be used to maintain a good balance of the meals you usually eat. It works like this: You consume a can of corn. On your next grocery trip instead of buying one can of corn to replace the can you consumed, you buy two cans. Now the next time you consume a can of corn, instead of grabbing the second can from your food storage you simply buy two more cans of corn on your next grocery trip.
The great thing about this method is you are able to keep your food storage in proportion at all times and you are actually storing what you eat on a regular basis.
It takes a little more time to build your food supply or preppers mart. The other disadvantage that I can see here is if you forget to copy can a few times you may lose track of what you are storing.
No matter which method you choose, it is important to keep track of what you are storing. If not for the purpose of keeping everything in order for FIFO, to keep track of how much food you actually have stored up. Spreadsheet programs are great for this and can even help you track meals and what ingredients you need to make certain meals. I have heard of people making spreadsheets and planning 30 days or so worth of meals and listing the ingredients required to make those meals and then building their food storage that way but I just don't seem to have time for that. I think Copy Canning is the best method to building your food supply in a very balanced manner.
Maintenance of your food supply is the next important step in the process. To maintain, you must use and rotate the items in your food supply that do not have a long shelf life. Canned goods, prepackaged meals and pastas would be good examples of this category. If you have put your food storage together correctly, using it should be a breeze. Again, if done right, you should be able to easily put together a grocery list each week that will keep your food supply topped off.
Do not forget to do frequent expiration checks. By keeping to the FIFO storage system you should never have food close to expiration unless you eat out a lot or your family doesn't feel like eating a particular meal that month. As you get food close to expiration make sure to tag it or write it down somehow so you know to use that food soon or risk throwing it away.
Food storage can be expensive. I have seen people pay upwards of $5,000 for the fancy freeze dried one year supply of food for four people. That to me is ridiculous; I am by no definition a wealthy person, so I try to get everything as cheap as possible. Let me share a few tips I have learned along the way.
A lot of people discredit the clearance rack at the grocery store but let me tell you that it is the first place I go to look. You will be surprised at some of things I have found on the clearance rack. I'm talking a whole case of Nekot cookies for $5. Now be informed that does not happen all the time, but it's worth taking a look.
There is something to be said about off brand or store brand items. They are just as good or, in cases like Publix, better than the name brand stuff. Whenever you can buy the cheapest store brand stuff you can. You'll be surprise how much money you will save. Things like flour and sugar, even beans and other dried goods that you can repackage to extend the shelf life, I will buy from Sam's Club or any of the other wholesale big box stores in large quantities. You save a ton of money and it's a quick little boost to your food supply. Just be careful as mentioned above, you want to try and keep your food supply in proportion to what you actually eat for meals. As long as you are keeping track of your food storage you should have no problems buying bulk items from time to time.
Whenever possible, make your own. Every spring my family and I go to the local farm and pick our own strawberries. I am a sucker for strawberry preserve but it's so expensive to buy in the stores these days. We will pick upwards of 30lbs of strawberries and go right home and can fresh strawberry preserve all day. We always have enough to last us through the year and then some. It's a blast to do with friends and family and it's delicious. The best part about it is, we put nothing in it except filtered water and some sugar. We know exactly what's in it and when canned right, it has a long shelf life. If you can make it or do it yourself, do it. It's almost always cheaper.
The best way to supplement your food storage is to grow your own. It will always be cheaper than buying food and is very rewarding when you put the time in. Even if you do not live on farmland I still recommend you grow food. Many inner city dwellers have been very successful with small sub irrigated garden beds. Growing food can be done on any level.
Remember to stay alert out there!
Peace through Precision!