The tricky eventuality of having food storage is that you actually have to find a place to store the food, as well as have some sort of functional system to keep it accessible and rotated. Living in Texas added some challenges for us with the heat and humidity, not to mention the bugs. The houses here aren’t built with basements and the garage, due to the heat (outside of housing a spare freezer) is entirely off limits for storage. Our food storage is stored inside the house, along with the seven people who live here and I try to keep it from being overly noticeable.
While my ideas here won’t work for some, they work for me. My choice to have food storage has a price (beyond the money I paid for it) requiring nearly a “whole house effort” to store it. I’ve decided it’s worth the trade of having a magazine perfect house in exchange for the security and independence of being able to feed my family on my own if needed.
That said, you can still have a cute house and have your food storage too!
And, *as a bonus*(thanks to the food storage) if you’re at my house you never have to check to see if kids are stuffing dirty clothes under their beds…
Using Food Storage as a Base for Mattresses
The majority of our food storage is stored under our kid’s mattresses. 24 boxes can be stored under a twin size, 36 under a full or queen size. In our case, that’s more than 500 #10 cans stored under the mattresses in place of a box spring. For the twin size, it’s two rows of six boxes with two layers. For a full/queen size it’s three rows (six boxes each) with two layers. In addition to using an inventory list that tells me where everything is, I stack the boxes of food to be used next on the top layer. Yes, it’s sometimes a pain to go and get what’s needed (I keep a couple of cans out at a time of the things we use frequently) but it’s really not that bad and it works.
Using a dust ruffle covers up the boxes and helps the bed look “normal” again. Besides under the mattresses, we have a bedroom closet that’s utilized for storage also. Due to the large number of canned items in my storage I can’t fit it all into my kitchen’s pantry. Instead, I keep boxes (the same size as the ones I have my #10 cans in) filled with (for example) canned chicken, the box would then be marked “canned chicken” and I’d re-stock the pantry as needed. This keeps the kitchen’s pantry manageable.
So here’s an example of the box spring being replaced with food storage…
In addition to boxes under the mattress, one of my other sons has 5 buckets (recently packed and a long way off from being used) being used as a base for a shelving unit.
Using Food Storage Buckets and Boxes to Create “Hide-Away” Storage Areas
It’s about time that these boxes and buckets start giving something back for all the space they demand. Using buckets, I’ve created “hidden storage wall units” by simply laying a board over top of the buckets and covering with fabric. This gives the buckets a home, makes a nice area to display pictures and keepsakes and creates an “out of sight/ out of mind” storage space.
I like the look of having different lengths and levels rather than having them all uniform. I used two different heights of buckets here in our master bedroom to get the different heights, 14 buckets in all.
Again, these are newly packed buckets that I know won’t need to be rotated for a while. Inside the hidden away areas are craft items, books and anything I don’t want my kids to get into. This space could also be used to store more food storage if I needed it to.
I’ve done the same thing in our kid’s playroom, hiding away the toys that drive me crazy (the ones with lots of pieces that I hate cleaning up 10 times a day). I used patterned oil cloth to cover the boxes here.
The “Home Store”: Our Pantry Closet
If what I’ve shown you could be considered the “warehouse” of our food storage, then the pantry closet is the “store shelves”. This is where I keep things (for the most part) that are ready for being used now.
This is our pantry closet, walking into it.
I think I told you all, a year or so ago I latched onto the idea of using boxes instead of brown bags for my pantry meals. They stack much nicer and I can fit more on the shelves with them packed into boxes. The size I use are 10 x 6 x 4. When a meal gets used, I break down the box to keep in a sack until I’m ready to assemble pantry meals again. If a box is marked for “Ground Beef Stroganoff” that’s what it will always be, I just reassemble the box and fill it. Also, just because I have “X” amount of meals in my food storage plan marked as “pantry meals” doesn’t mean that I always have them packed and available like that. It’s all depending on the space available (I can fit 26 meals on my shelves here) and I choose different meals every time I assemble them to try to keep it interesting.
Inside a pantry meal box for “Ground Beef Stroganoff“. While I have the recipe’s measurement of freeze dried ground beef packed inside the box (because I want these meals emergency ready to grab and go), generally I’d use pre-cooked ground beef I have in the freezer and recycle the freeze dried for the next time I pack it, using it maybe every 2-3 times rather than all the time.
I pack a lot of dry ingredients, as you’ve seen in the recipes, into pint size and half pint sized canning jars using my vacuum sealer. On the floor of my pantry I have a clear plastic bin (lidded) where I throw anything that needs to be “jarred” until it can get done. This is largely because of the humidity and the bugs. About the worst thing that can happen is to have your pantry infested with bugs (speaking from experience, not in our current house but another one) so I’m really careful about that and I’ve learned anything left sitting around in a plastic bag or box is a candidate. To comment, I’ve never had a problem with the pantry meal boxes getting bugs, probably because they’re constantly being used.
Here’s a list of things to consider packing into jars:
- nuts of any kind
- grains (esp. if I don’t think I’ll be using it for a while again and I’ve opened a can or bag with a large amount)
- chocolate chips
- brown sugar
- powdered sugar
- seeds of any kind
- shredded coconut
- base sauce mix (Shirley J’s that I use)
- corn meal
- popcorn (Ooh, the bugs looove popcorn! Get it sealed quick!)
- nutritional yeast
- quinoa flakes
- homemade granola to save for later (nice to have on hand for the granola bars recipe)
- popped amaranth (again, a time saver for the recipe I just mentioned)
- hot chocolate
- steel cut oats
Okay, moving on…
Looking into the pantry, one thing I’ve found helpful is to have a shelf for things of which I only have one can of or things that I’ll never buy again but that need to get used up. It helps me keep things in order if I have a shelf for these “odd items”. Everywhere else, specific items have their place (in addition, I have two cupboards in the kitchen I stock).
My “odd items” shelf…
My pantry takes a right turn (to become somewhat of a cave) and this is where I store….
My white flour!
Our white flour is stored this way because I can’t stand the taste of canned flour. It has a metallic taste to it and to me it doesn’t taste good. So instead, I store my flour (bagged from the store) in these wheeled airtight containers. I can fit eleven 5 lb. bags of flour into one of these containers (55 lbs.). Each is numbered and the numbers on the top help me rotate the flour, moving from container 1 to 2 to 3. For all the bread I make (plus the other baking I do) I have no problem keeping the flour rotated. Also, I keep extra flour in an upstairs bedroom closet (in a lidded plastic bin) to replace w/in the bins when they are emptied.
I’ve wheeled this one out to show you. I love the wheels!! I used to keep my flour in big air tight plastic bins but the rotation didn’t happen because they were so heavy I couldn’t move them and they weren’t convenient to get into. These work really well for me and allow me to use an area in my pantry that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to use.
Once I get a bag of flour out to use, it goes into one of these containers and into the freezer. (Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of it so I’m using a picture from an old post.) These containers stack great in the freezer and I love that they fit a whole #10 can of whatever it is, or 5lb bag of flour. These btw, are CD drawers made by “Iris” (the closest I could find for a link for you are these black ones on Amazon).
Besides all purpose flour, here are a few other “long term storage” items that I keep in my freezer:
- Whole egg powder (one #10 can lasts a long time! I keep it in a freezer bag.)
As far as my already opened #10 freeze dried cans go (and opened smaller sized “Thrive” pantry cans), those are stored between two doored bookcases in my living room, unnoticeable if you’re just walking into the room. I also have a utility shelf right outside my laundry room that keeps my opened cans of this and that. At the very top of the utility shelf I store my two Wonder ovens, stacked on top of each other. They’re easy to grab down whenever I need them, weighing next to nothing.
Okay! Back over to the kitchen…
Sugar (again, kept in a CD drawer) is kept on my counter top, it’s pretty safe from bugs (unless you get ants). Down below the sugar I have two drawers of utensils then below that I keep a drawer of onions and a drawer of potatoes. This bottom drawer holds just under 10 lbs of potatoes which get used in many of my three month meals. Carrots (for my three month meals) I keep in the fridge, a 10 lb. bag, and usually those will last a good month/month and a half. I also keep 2-3 bunches of celery, with the ones I’m not using wrapped in foil to keep them fresh.
I had a great question last week from someone asking how to store all the vegetables for a three month plan like mine — they would surely go bad if you stored that many vegetables at once. My answer is to do the best you can. I obviously don’t have three months worth of vegetables here either but this is the space I have available to store them in and my back up plan is my long term/ freeze dried items. In my opinion, a three month plan is meant for getting through a short term food crisis so we do the best we can and use the long term storage plan as a back up. With the long term plan, however, there isn’t necessarily going to be a back up so I want to store for my long term more carefully.
I use these $5 planters (from a garden shop) to keep my cooking utensils in. I have one for plastics and wooden, one for metal and one for “odd” items. It makes it really easy for my kids to put them away correctly after they’re washed and (because I’m short on drawer space) I like how easy they make it to grab what I need.
Well, I hope that was helpful in giving some ideas of where to keep your storage. I would LOVE for you to share if you have an idea for creative storage. As for myself, I’m all about what’s easiest to do yet functional so I haven’t ventured much into the areas of going to the effort of building things, though I know there are some great ideas out there!
Tell me what you’re thinking if you’ve got a good idea in mind!