Learn how to set up food storage without expired food and wasted money! Free tracking spreadsheet and printables to help build an emergency food storage.
Have you been wanting to set up your food storage, but you aren’t sure where to begin?
Hey y’all, Tiffany here. Phillip and I were in that same place last year.
We know the prophet says it’s important to have a year’s supply of food as part of your emergency preparedness. It’s a great idea, but so hard to put into practice!
Ezra Taft Benson, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, once said, “There is wisdom in having on hand a year’s supply of food, clothing, and fuel, if possible, and in being prepared to defend our families and our possessions and to take care of ourselves.” (Ezra Taft Benson – Prepare Ye – Ensign, Jan. 1974, 69)
He also said, “The revelation to store food may be as essential to our temporal salvation today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah.” (God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties (1975), 402.)
Along with this post, make sure you check out our post on how to put together 72 hour kits with children.
If you’re worried about how expensive food is and are struggling to find the money for food storage, you might find this post on How to Have a Frugal $42 Weekly Grocery Budget helpful.
Food Storage Ideas that Didn’t Work
Over the years, we’ve tried doing food storage in a lot of different ways, but none of them seemed to work very well for our family.
Just stock up
So many people would tell us that food storage was easy – just stock up on things you already eat, and try to replace any perishables with canned items.
The problem with that method is that so many of the non-perishable items would go bad faster than we would actually use them. Canned fruit and vegetables, for example, are not part of our regular diet.
Our second plan was to just purchase long-term food storage items in #10 cans.
We quickly realized, however, that those items would be extremely impractical for our family. We don’t really grind our own wheat, and we honestly don’t bake very often, either.
The items in the #10 cans would only last our family for so long, and our kids would NEVER eat it! They are also pretty expensive as well, and there’s not much variety.
Create 7 Meals
At a Relief Society activity, someone recommended that you come up with seven pantry meals your family would eat, then multiply the items you needed by 52.
I thought this was a simple but brilliant idea, so we did it.
Again, the problem we ran into was that we did not use the items on a regular basis enough to go through them before they went bad. Once again, it was wasted money.
Our Food Storage Plan That Works
After literally throwing away hundreds of dollars in expired foot items that went bad (who knew Saltines could get rancid?), we knew we had to change our idea on how we approached food storage.
Our current food storage plan is a lot more work, but it is one that is sustainable! It may seem a bit complicated to figure out, but I will do my best to explain it to you.
As we go through, I will give examples based on what my family chose, but you will need to do this for your own family – don’t use my list if your family won’t eat those items!
Calculate short-term storage
Our food storage is a hybrid of short-term items (canned fruits and vegetables) and long-term items (#10 cans of dried food like flour, beans, and powdered milk).
I’m going to walk you through how to calculate how much of everything you need. It’s a lengthy process, but don’t worry – I’ve got some free printables and examples for you!
1. Choose two weeks of pantry meals
I know it sounds like we’ve done this before, but keep reading!
I want you to make a list of two weeks’ worth of food that your family would eat if you were forced to live off your food storage. You will want most of the items to be non-perishable, but it IS okay to have some items that may spoil (like milk or cheese).
Remember – these need to be foods your family will eat, but also be simple. If you truly had to live for a year off the food in your pantry, you would probably not be in a situation that you were cooking elaborate meals every single day.
Here are my 14 meals, although as you can see, some of them are variations of others.
2. Make a list of ingredients
Once you have your 14 meals chosen, make a list of every single thing you would need to purchase for those two weeks of meals. Remember, these are items that you would eat from your pantry (or can be easily replaced, like regular milk for dry milk).
Here is my list of what I would need to feed my family for two weeks:
- 1 box mashed potatoes
- 8 cans tuna
- 2 jars pasta sauce
- 1 lb spaghetti noodles
- 2 lb pasta noodles
- 5 lbs rice
- 2 cans black beans
- 2 cans pinto beans
- 8 cans shredded chicken
- 28 cans fruit
- 28 cans vegetables
- 4 boxes cereal
- 2 lbs rolled oats
- 8 loaves bread
- 8 cans cream of chicken soup
- 6 cans chili/chil beans
- 1 package tortillas
- 2 jars peanut butter
- 1 jar mayo
3. Set up a monthly meal plan
One of the most important things to do for food storage is to set up a monthly meal plan. This will help you know how much you need to purchase on a regular basis.
This monthly meal plan needs to incorporate every single item on your list of ingredients. You do not have to make the same meal! That’s just fine! But you need to use each item at least once (even if it’s not all of that item).
Here is my monthly meal plan for dinners that will use the items above in the list. With lunches, I alternate between bagels and peanut butter sandwiches. Breakfasts we alternate oatmeal and cereal.
Now, I don’t use this same meal plan every month! But I do keep the items that have to be used each month on magnets (or on a list) so that I know I’m using everything I need.
All of those empty spots are dinners where you can make whatever you want! I also make sure that we use a few cans of fruit and vegetables instead of fresh at some point throughout the month. Again, I don’t have to use it all the time – just as long as the items in your short-term are used at least once a month, you are fine!
There is a spot in the free spreadsheet below for this! (It is the second tab.)
4. Make Calculations
Now comes the tricky part, and it’s going to require a little bit of math. It helps to put all of this information in a spreadsheet.
First, take your list of ingredients and multiply it by 26. That’s how many of that item you will need in order for it to last an entire year.
(Example: 26 boxes of mashed potatoes, 208 cans of tuna.)
Second, take a look at expiration dates for each of those items. On average, how long do they last before the expire? Do they have a shelf-life of 2 years since the day you buy them? 6 months? 2 weeks?
(Example: mashed potatoes expire in 1 year, tuna expires in two years.)
Third, go to your monthly calendar. How often will you use that item per month? Perhaps you only have spaghetti noodles twice per month.
(Example: 1 box mashed potatoes, 4 cans of tuna.)
Fourth, now you make some calculations. You need to decide how many of each item you can to buy that will be used before it expires.
(Example: 12 boxes mashed potatoes, 96 cans of tuna)
Fifth, now that you know how many of each item you can have before it goes bad and how often you’ll use it, you need to figure out how long it would actually last if you were living off the food storage 24/7.
(Example: still need 14 boxes of mashed potatoes, 122 cans of tuna.)
Here’s my example in a spreadsheet:
Great! Now you know how much of each short-term item you can buy and use before it goes bad!
Odds are, you probably will not eat enough of each item to keep a year’s supply at all times in your pantry before it expires. Some things have some wiggle-room on their expiration (like a can of fruit can be used a few months afterwards).
This is where purchasing #10 cans comes in! I personally like to make my purchases from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They have, by far, the most affordable long-term food storage items.
They do not have a lot of variety, however. So for things like dried fruit and vegetables, I also use Augason Farms (the next most affordable) and Thrive Life (when they go on sale).
You can often find Augason Farms selling their cans on Amazon for cheaper than on their website, so I try to get them when I can.
Now, I know you are all asking: how do I know how many #10 cans I need?
Well, it depends on how many months left you have for each item on your list.
Some items, like powdered milk, you should purchase the entire year’s worth. Milk doesn’t last very long, even in the fridge. You could always purchase and freeze your milk, but what if the power goes out?
Flour is another item that is important to have. I don’t do a lot of baking, so we don’t keep more than a bag of flour or two on hand in our pantry. However, if we were forced to live off our food storage, then we would need to bake bread, make tortillas, etc.
The reamining items, like fruit and vegetables, you will need to purchase enough to last for the remaining months to use when your short-term pantry items run out.
Here is from my example:
You may find that you have to make some adjustments. Freeze dried meat, for example, is extremely expensive. So maybe on your monthly meal plan, you will need to have a tuna salad sandwich once or twice a week so that you can keep enough canned tuna for a year in the pantry without it going bad.
Another thing is to find good substitutes, like beans are great for protein. Can your meal be made without any meat, like rice and beans? Or even just sprinkle a bit of freeze-dried meat on top instead of making it meat-heavy.
Buying Food Storage
Once you know how much long-term food storage you need to purchase, you’ll want to do some research.
The best prices for #10 cans is from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, there is not a wide variety for fruits and vegetables – only dried apples, carrots, and onions.
Once I buy everything possible from them, my other favorite places are Augason Farms (which can also be found on here on Amazon and Walmart, sometimes cheaper!), Thrive Life (and you can get 10% off your first order with this link here), and Costco.
Use your spreadsheet to keep track of of how much items cost regularly and what website you want to buy them from.
You can download the free food storage spreadsheet here:
How to Organize Your Food Storage
The next thing is to organize your food storage. I absolutely love Thrive Life’s can shelves for pantry size cans. They are set up in a first-in-first-out (FIFO) system so the oldest foods are always in the front.
We redesigned our laundry room with custom bookshelves, a FIFO shelving unit, and other shelves for our short-term items.
This is how it used to look:
This is how it looks now:
Our long-term #10 cans, which we don’t anticipate needing anytime soon, have been stored under the bed in our guest bedoorm, as well as the closet under the stairs.
Hopefully this post on how to set up your food storage was helpful for you! If it was, please share on Pinterest and on social media.