A Beginner's Guide to Food Storage

By Danielle Graham


Whether you are building your very first basic food storage program or updating your current inventory, this simple beginner's guide to food storage can help make your planning and labor easier.

Remember, people have been storing food since before recorded times. Unfortunately, we no longer maintain public granaries. Instead, it is the responsibility of each of us to wisely store foods for such times that either interruptions in distribution, or crop failures leave us without the abundance of foodstuffs we have grown accustomed. Our current knowledge archives provide us with ample information and the tools necessary to make this task easy to understand and implement.

The process of storing foods is quite simple, requiring good planning, a moderate budget and a constant-cool location for storage. Following these simple guidelines below can help eliminate the frustration of what may seem, at first, to be a daunting task. The goal of providing ample food stores for yourself and your family is easily attainable, and ultimately, a deeply satisfying experience. Once you have your food storage preparations under way, you will know a level of inner confidence and security that no 'world event' can take from you.

The Wise, Basic Food Storage Plan

The wise food storage plan takes into consideration the possibility of dramatic changes from our current modern lifestyle, and insures that our nutritional requirements are met no matter how much our physical activity increases or decreases.

Currently, we live quite comfortably: We utilize cars, buses, trains and planes to carry us from location to location. Food is easily accessible at markets, grocery stores and restaurants in which to satisfy our hunger. A wise food storage plan is based on the premise that if we were suddenly required to walk or bicycle long distances, grow and prepare our own food, build and maintain our own homes, fields and crops, it would be inevitable that our gross nutritional requirements would increase exponentially.

There is a second “extreme circumstance” our wise food storage also needs to encompass, and that scenario includes needing to protect ourselves and our bodies for an extended period of time in a situation where our physical activities are curtailed. In this instance our gross caloric requirements would decrease, but our bodies' need for vital nutrients would not. Nutritional requirements would shift from calorie rich foods to nutritionally dense foods with significantly fewer calorie requirements.

Thus, even when planning the basic storage plan, it is important to account for this wide range of potential nutritional requirements when creating food lists. The guidelines provided below do take into consideration this wide range of potentials and the recommendations are offered accordingly.

What foods should be stored?

The best foods to begin with for your storage are “raw ingredients.” These foods store the longest, are the easiest to store, and provide the best and broadest range of nutrition: Whole grains, beans and whole seeds, dried fruits and nuts, salt, sweeteners, oils, and spices. These foods form the foundation of all long-term food storage plans. They require the least amount of monitoring and rotation, are the least expensive, and provide for both broad and dense nutritional needs.

There are many levels of important foods that can be added to your long-term food storage program, however for the purposes of establishing a solid foundation, this article will focus only on the basic foods suggested in this Beginner’s Guide.

How much basic food should be stored?

Ask yourself this question: How many people do you want to store food for and for how many years? I refer to this number as people/years. Let's say you are a family of five - 2 adults and 3 children. (Always consider children the same as adults for the purposes of this calculation.) And, you want to store enough basic food supplies for 2 years. Multiply 5 people by 2 years and you have 10 people/years.

Use this formula to multiply the recommended amounts below by the amount of people/years you have calculated from above to obtain the bulk amounts you should acquire.

Grains: 300 lbs per person, per year
Beans: 100 lbs per person, per year
Dried Fruits and Nuts (and/or seeds): At least 25# each per person, per year
Sweeteners: at least 50 lbs per person, per year
Oils: At least 30 lbs per person, per year
Salt: At least 10 lbs per person, per year
Spices: At least 2 lbs per person, per year

Based on the calculation for a family of 5 that want to store enough food for 2 years, multiply the amounts above by 10:
Grains: 300 x 10 = 3,000 lbs
Beans: 100 x 10 = 1,000 lbs
Dried Fruits: 25 x 10 = 250 lbs; Nuts and/or Seeds: 25 x 10 = 250 lbs
Sweeteners: 50 x 10 = 500 lbs
Oils: 30 x 10 = 300 lbs
Salt: 10 x 10 = 100 lbs
Spices: 2 x 10 = 20 lbs

Two-plus tons of dry food may seem like an overwhelmingly huge quantity, but I assure you this is a very manageable amount of food that can easily be packed, stacked and stored away.

Additionally, the recommended quantities may seem out of touch with your current dietary needs, but the high amounts of sweeteners and salt, for instance, take into consideration elevated nutritional requirements during demanding physical activities.

How are these basic foods stored?

These basic foods are packed into food-grade buckets, and in the case of the grains and beans, with nitrogen. Heavy food-grade food storage pails with a food-grade gasket lid come in 3 sizes for the purposes of storing and accessing bulk foods: 3.5 gallon, 5 gallon and 6 gallon.

Although utilizing 6 gallon buckets is a common size from commercial food storage companies, please consider the weight of these buckets before deciding on the bucket sizes. I rarely ever recommend 6 gallon buckets, preferring instead the 5 gallon and the 3.5 gallon sizes.

6 gallon buckets generally hold 43 to 48 lbs of food for a total weight of about 50 lbs. each

5 gallon buckets generally hold 30 to 33 lbs of food for a total weight of about 35 lbs. each

3.5 gallon buckets generally hold 25 lbs of food for a total weight of about 27 lbs. each

With the recommended 5 and 3.5 gallon buckets, each 100# of bulk grain or beans would fit into three 5 gallon bucket or four 3.5 gallon buckets. These weights are easier to manage, carry and utilize by putting less stress on the physical body over time.

Oxygen is forced out from around the grains and beans with nitrogen, protecting these foods from common, nesting insects. A slow flow regulator should be used with the nitrogen tank to slowly release the nitrogen from the bottom of the bucket upwards, displacing the oxygen as the nitrogen rises. Though many other packing options exist, like for instance oxygen absorbers, nitrogen packing is the most effective protection against insect infestation, and least expensive option for preserving food long term.

Why buy bulk food and pack the foods yourself?

There are 2 main reasons to pack your own storage foods: First and foremost, the foods you pack yourself carry the intent of providing for your family in times of need, and adds value to these foods by simply including your mind and consciousness.

Secondly, by packing your own food storage, you will have the opportunity to inspect the quality of the foods. How do these foods look and feel? This knowledge can add value when you utilize the foods later on.

Highest recommended foods for long term bulk storage:

Recommended grains: hard white wheat, soft pastry wheat, unhulled buckwheat, hulled barley, rye, quinoa, kamut, spelt, oat groats, millet, rice.

Recommended beans: adzuki, green lentils, black beans, garbanzo, soybeans, whole green pea, mung beans. These beans perform the best, are the most diverse, are easiest to sprout and have the highest usable protein. Be sure to also include those beans you are most familiar with: Pinto, kidney, lima, split peas, any white, red, yellow, or pink beans you enjoy!

Recommended sweeteners: honey, molasses, agave, maple syrup, white and/or brown sugar, depending on taste and budget.

Recommended salt: Redmond real salt is mineral rich. Salt is one of our most important and necessary minerals. There is no such thing as too much salt for food storage.

Recommended spices: allspice, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, peppers, cumin, garlic, nutmeg, chilies, cardamom, curry, ginger, paprika, peppercorns, turmeric, and vanilla bean.


Remember, these recommendations are for basic, long-term storage, utilizing foods that have demonstrated to be the hardiest and best foods for storage over time. However, your own food storage plan will certainly contain many more foods. Be sure to include foods you are familiar with, but be careful of their respective shelf life. Additionally, items like freeze-dried meal packets, although expensive, offer the benefit of a quickly prepared and hardy meals, and can be quite valuable during stressful situations.

Comfort foods have an important place in any food storage program. Be sure to include your favorites like chocolate, sauces, liquors, wine, coffee, tea, powered milk, meat, etc. And, don’t forget the Twinkies!

I hope this simple outline will be of value during your preparations.



0 #3 Robin 2011-10-12 02:27
Thank you so much for posting this. We can't see this enough times. It is always helpful and reassuring to have this guideline.
Love and more love, R.
0 #2 Ro 2011-10-09 11:25
Thank you
0 #1 Art Manville 2011-10-08 02:48
I am so glad Danielle has written this article. I see too many people just opting for pre packaged freeze dried foods which can't possible have the same nutritional value as whole foods. The thing she did not mention is that you get a lot of food for your money when you buy in bulk. Bulk foods should be the foundation of every food storage plan.

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