If you search “how much food should I store for a year” you will find number from 300 to 400lbs of grains, 60lbs of legumes, 4-16lbs milk equivalents and 60lbs of sugars. If you are just getting started this can be daunting, and intimidating.
Where to Start
As mentioned in other articles you need to have a plan. Food storage is generally considered in three areas, short term (days), intermediate (1-3 months) and long term.
First assess where you are, both in terms of available space and what you have on hand. Look at what your family regularly eats and make sure you have enough for 3-days, that’s 72-hours, which is what most emergency management agencies recommend as a minimum (5-days is becoming the new recommendation). If you are organized then a meal plan for a week will help you buy what you need. Add an extra can/box if you can.
If milk is a staple in your house make sure you have some powdered and/or evaporated milk added to your grocery list. Before you buy lots of powered or freeze dried products TEST them. Get a package and try it to see if you like it. Personally I’ve tried the milk powders from the LDS Home Storage Centers (they are open to the public) and Augason Farms – both are good. A tip: both are best when placed in a contained in the fridge and served cold.
Canned goods store much longer than most other packages. If your kids like ravioli or SpaghettiOs then get some extra cans. Canned goods are usually safe way after their expiration date. The usual guide is if the can is intact and not bloated then its probably safe.
Meats and other items in the freezer will keep for at least 3-months. If the power goes out use items from the fridge first. If it appears to be an extended outage then make sure any space in the freezer is filled with bottles of water or blankets – they will help to keep items frozen longer. If it is likely to be days before power is restored, such as after a hurricane or tornado, then you will need to cook off items in the freezer as it begins to thaw out. Cooked meats etc. will keep a little longer. A better way to preserve items for longer term, like 10+ years, is canning. There will be a separate article on this.
Once you get to having 3+ days food on hand start to build to 3-months. Again mostly common foods that your family eats plus things like flour and other ingredients to extend meals. If you don’t know how to cook some basic meals unless they come out of a can start learning. There are plenty of web sites that give simple and easy recipes to follow. Test them out on your family and if they like them keep a copy of the recipe and make sure to keep the necessary ingredients on hand.
Water can be more difficult to store. Most sites will tell you that you need 1-gallon per person per day. That is a survival level when you consider other thins such as cleaning, flushing toilets and other needs.
You can get food-grade containers to store water but you must rotate them regularly. 5-gallon containers or mylar bags inside boxes are convenient to place in the bottom of cupboards. But storing more than a few days gets to be difficult.
A bath-bob is a large plastic bag that fits in your bath tub and can be filled up with water and will hold up to 100-gallons. It has a siphon to pump water out. At the first sign of a water issue you would fill it.
You should also have a hand pump or gravity fed water filter, normally made for hiking and camping. This 2020 article in GearLab rates those for solo hiking but these may not be the best for a family (but great for bug-out or get-home bags). This 2020 review of camping filters includes some of the pump type and would be more suitable for families. Personally I have Sawyer Mini in my bags (because I can filter into a bag and carry, rather than a Survival Straw) and I have several Katadyn pump filters for larger water needs.
“Next level” water filtration for the home are the Berkey water filters. These come in a number of sizes and are probably the best for filtering large quantities of water.
When we talk about long-term storage or foods we are talking about items that can be stored for a long term, or packaging items for long-term. Canning, bulk buying of things like rice, grains, etc. and repacking into mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, freeze dried and dehydrated foods are all options for long-term food.
There are many companies on the market that offer freeze dried foods, some as complete meals that you just add water too, such as Mountain House, and others are components to make a meal, such as carrots, meat, potatoes, etc.
The fastest, and probably the quickest, is a trip to your local LDS Home Storage Center. They have a variety of staples, although not an extensive list. You should go with a list of what you want but be aware that they do not always have everything in stock. Most of the items come in #10 cans, you can buy by the can or a case of 6 cans. If you download their pdf order form it gives you the storage life of each product.
Other supplies include Augason Farms, Mountain House, Emergency Essentials and others. As mentioned above buy some samples before you invest in large quantities. Look at portion sizes and the nutrients, especially on any “72-hour kits”. While some might say “serves 2” you might find that it is really only one portion. Also be aware that many of the “72-hour emergency food kits” that are sold have a single packet of a course for the 72-hours i.e., one packet of freeze dried meatball spaghetti. If you buy a tub open it (the packets inside are sealed individually) and add some zip-lock bags and measuring spoons so you can seal the pack up between meals.
Things like salt, sugar, rice, etc. you can buy in 25lb and 50lb bags at most warehouse stores like Sams and Costco. If you don’t have a membership looks at buying one between a couple of families.
A 50lb bag of rice is going to cost you around $30. You will then need to repackage that for long term storage. This will save you considerable money on buying it already packaged. You then buy some mylar bags, 5mil being the minimum thickness you should consider, and repack, add an oxygen absorber and seal. We will discuss this more in another article specifically on long-term storage.
Canning food, especially from your own garden, has been around for a very long time. Over the years the process have become much safer and easier to do. We will discuss canning more in another article.
This has been an overview and a quick “how-to” to get you started on building up to 3-months of food storage and a quick look into what long-term food storage might involve.
Begin now, start small, have at least 3-days food on hand, then add a few more days. Plan your meals so you can plan what to buy. Plan where you can store food.
In addition to food there are other items that you will want to have quantities of, such as spices, baking supplies, cleaning supplies etc. We will provide a list of these in future articles. For now check out this article on the use of Castle Soap, a single soap with many uses.
I hope this gets you started. Even having a few weeks of food and supplies on hand will put you ahead of many of your neighbors.