Monday, September 19, 2011

Stocking a large pantry - food storage.

Maybe I just read too many books as a kid about Pioneers, WW2 and other world events that left people to their own devices for long periods of times but I REALLY like having a large pantry.  It seems I am not the only one -  there is a huge movement of people these days who call it Food Storage. 

It used to be common-practise to spend the summer and fall puttin-by food for the winter and spring from huge gardens and stocking up on staples from the general store. They also devised ways to store food and keep it from spoiling like salting, curing, smoking, root-cellaring, drying and later freezing and canning. No one would have been shocked to find a large store of foods in every home back then.  In fact it would have seemed very foolish to not do so.   

Today we have stores and food in abundance, food is available from multiple sources - grocery stores, convenience store, farmers markets - you can even purchase food online!  Having more than a few days of food in your kitchen cupboards would seem odd to many people - even criminal to some - how far we've come in only 50 years!  Progress right??  Right?? 


We are accustomed to the bounty in the grocery store where it is quite rare for them to be "out" of something.  We have what-looks-on-the-surface like a fool-proof system of food supply and delivery.  But do we?  Do you realise that the average grocery store has three days of food on hand and without re-supply the shelves would be bare in three days?  With the introduction of the Just-In-Time delivery systems they no longer have back rooms filled with extra supplies.  A big snow storm in the immediate area or a hurricane coming up the coast can empty store shelves as people stock up on necessary supplies at the last minute. There have been many documented instances when this system has let us down already.  It is only a matter of time before it happens again. 

The ever-increasing cost of groceries is also an issue that many of us face in our shopping adventures.  Prices have certainly gone up in the past few years and what used to be regular prices are now sale prices. 

So - what kind of food storage am I talking about?   I know people who say they shop every day - wow!   Just the temptation to impulse-buy would be huge for me.  A three day supply of food - which is the national average for most families - is not enough either in my opinion.

My personal goal is have at least 6 months of food storage.  That may seem like a lofty goal when you've never given it much thought before.  We've found that our food storage has allowed us to buy in quantity on sale and save us money.  It has also been there over the years when the month was longer than the money or we had unexpected guests.  It became a necessity when there were 7 of us living at home just to keep the food budget under control.  It is also peace-of-mind to know you don't have to run to the grocery store for something essential because you already have 2 or 3 of them stored away.

I began by looking at our most common meals - we really are creatures of habit so the foods we eat are similar in the seasons.  In the winter for example we frequently eat the following:

    SUPPERS for winter months
1. Beans and rice (or riced cauliflower) with Jerusalem artichokes, onions, kale

2. Chicken soup and biscuits, celery, onion, green pepper, rice pasta, kale

3. Tacos or burritos with lentil "meat", sour cream, cheese, salsa and salad

4. Sub sandwiches with sliced meat, cheese, lettuce, onions, dressing, mayo

5. Meatball stew with potatoes, frozen beans, onions, carrots, arrowroot powder

6. Pasta and sauce with mixed dehydrated veggies and salad

7. Shepherds Pie, potatoes, frozen veggies, lentils or hamburger (use JA's for potatoes and/or part cauliflower & lamb)

8. Tortilla Strata, tortillas, sour cream, cheese, eggs

9. Vegetable Soup with rice, cabbage, celery, kale

10. Beef or lamb  burgers, salad, homemade fries

11. Salad and beans, nuts & seeds mix, fruit, apple cider vinegar, olive oil

12. Lasagna vegetarian, spinach, cottage cheese, cheese, onions, garlic (organic yogurt)

13. Frittata, egg, onion, cheese, green pepper, garlic, frozen veggies

14. Chili, veggies, beans, tomatoes, sauce with biscuits

15. Homemade pizza, sliced meat, sauce, cheese, green peppers

16. Roasted potatoes, chicken, broccoli, vegetables

17. Pizza Rice Casserole, lamb burger, sauce, cheese

After making a list like this it was easy to see which specific foods we needed to store.  Using the information to make a price book (posted above) gave me the information I needed to know when an item is a great deal (relatively speaking:) )  Then when I shopped I started buying 2 or 3 of several items. By getting one or 2 extra of each item I soon had enough food stored to make a month worth of suppers.  I repeated the process for lunch and breakfast giving some consideration to the fact that oatmeal was a much cheaper breakfast food than boxed cereal and it was easier to store in bulk.

I store boxes and cans on shelves and dried grains, beans etc. in large glass jars or in vaccumed sealed mason jars.  This makes it easy to find and use.

Maybe I was born in the wrong century but it seems to make a lot of sense to me. We buy car insurance and house insurance and hope we'll never really need to use it.  This is food insurance.

How about you?  How long would your pantry last?  


  1. This is very eye opening. I know where to lead my team of huskies when my food runs out! lol.

  2. I think you are awesome...We Live in Northwest Montana...on our little piece of heaven ...Keep doing what your doing...I'm listening !

    Vickie Harrell

    1. Vickie - you're a sweetie pie! Welcome to the blog :)

  3. Anita,

    Do you have any solutions for not having cold storage? I had everything (cans and extra food) in my basement, however it was by the furnace during the winter and I found that the food is off tasting now. Like it was getting heated then cooling...

    Thanks, Tara

    1. Do you think it may have been because it was damp instead of just warm? Hmmm. The best book EVER is Root Cellaring - Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables by Mike & Nancy Bubel. You may be able to find it in the library. If not it's very worthwhile. It suggests many different ways to "make" cold cellars in unique places. I was amazed at the ingenuity :)

  4. Anita,
    Thanks for the book idea I will check it out. Been going to the library to see what books I need in the house for the long term, versus buying every book. We garden in our little 10X10 back yard so it would be good on how to store what we grow.

  5. So glad to have found this site. We live in the VERY rural southern appalachian mountains on a 50 acre homestead. We are blessed with 12 freshwater springs, a small creek, some ancient outbuildings, a barn and a large chicken house. Some of the older ones sadly may not last another rough winter. We also are blessed to have a cellar/springhouse built into the hillside under one of the outbuildings. Originally, it not only held canned goods and winter vegetables, but because of the spring it was also used to store milk and other perishables. Thankfully, it is in good repair, needing only some minor cleaning and shelving work.
    We were both raised by parent's that survived the depression in the coal fields and we were taught all our lives to always be prepared to take care of our own needs. Due to poor health and an injury to my husband last year, we haven't done much in the way of gardening and canning for the last 3-4 years. But hopefully that is changing. We'll be rebuilding some shelves in our root cellar and I'll finally be able to start restocking! *S* Because of the rural area in which we live, it is not uncommon for us to be without power, and sometimes even without passable roads for a week or more during bad winter storms, and sometimes even summer storms. Two winters ago, our daughter and her husband drove 5 hours to bring us groceries after an especially bad storm that crippled the area. While we are forever grateful to them for that, I NEVER want to be in that position again. So, this winter's stockpile will mostly be storebought canned goods, at least we'll be prepared. We also have large numbers of kerosene lamps, extra wicks, we heat with a wood stove, and we stockpile batteries for flashlights and make certain to have plenty of propane for the grill. We also finally broke down and purchased a small generator for those longer periods of no power. We are NOT survivalists or preppers, at least not in the way they are portrayed in the press today. We are near retirement age and have enough first hand experience to know it never hurts to be ready for the unexpected. County living is the best!!

    1. So glad you found me :) Your homestead sounds so beautiful! I love the mountains - someday we hope to camp in your area - I'm not sure when we will ever have time for a long vacation again tho :) The sense that winter is coming always puts everything food related into overdrive. I've been spending my time trying to get many outdoor projects taken care of before the cold and canning canning canning! hugs!


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