Food Storage Requirements

Storage of food and affiliated supplies could be a real hassle. It could also be expensive. However, if your plan satisfies some basic requirements it will be both serviceable to your family and economical. Possibly it will enhance your daily health…at least if you eat like me.

My requirements for a food storage plan are listed below. The fresh, steaming bread in the picture below was made in a charcoal-heated Dutch oven on my back patio.


Requirement 1: Everything in this menu plan shall be eatable and enjoyable without refrigeration.

Requirement 2: Total cycle time shall be one year or less (that is, many foods should be rotated out every year).

Requirement 3: All of the foods stored shall be eaten before spoiling once cycled from storage.

Desirement 1: Food should be fun to cook, so that using your storage is practiced.

The total cycle time is derived from the nominal shelf life of typical products. Imagine that you want to store one year of flour for emergency use. You assume 3 pounds of flour per day (I’m making up the numbers) and end up with about one thousand pounds of flour in the storage facility. Day to day your family eats about 5 pounds of flour per week, since you are a recreational baker. If you stopped storing, and just started using, it would take you about 4 years to eat it all. Of course, you’d throw out a bunch, since the shelf life is only 1 year…

For these kinds of foods to work there must be a “dilution factor” built into the plan. There are two ways this dilution can be realized: store for a shorter emergency, or store longer-lived products.

My plan, at least at present, is for shorter emergencies. For one thing, I’m almost guaranteed to use what I store, since it is part of daily life and won’t require extremely long storage lives. Secondly, a short emergency is more likely to occur than a long emergency.

There is a hybrid approach too, where you find select items that aren’t part of your regular diet but could be substituted in a pinch, that have long shelf lives, and that are cheap, for example, whole-grain wheat (and a grinder). These foods have a long shelf life, and are fairly inexpensive. If an emergency never materializes you throw most of it away just before the kids come to drag you to the nursing home. If an emergency does occur, you may be willing to break out the grinder and render that stuff into flour to eat.

In fact, I think of stored foods in three tiers:

  1. Foods you eat every day, where storage just means there is more in the queue. Vegetable oil, flour, salt, and the like.
  2. Food substitutes for food you eat every day, but which are fairly expensive. Tomato powder to make spaghetti and dried eggs come to mind.
  3. Food you never eat but that you would in a pinch, such as whole wheat when you normally buy white flour at the store.

Guiding Assumptions

During an emergency it is easier to cook a relatively complex and big lunch than it is to cook breakfast and dinner. Midday offers the most light, so solar ovens work best, and you may benefit most from a fire in the morning.

Most leftovers are impractical, because there is no refrigeration. Breads could be leftover, but soups and stews probably could not. Cooking enough bread, for example, to have some left is quite difficult while also meeting caloric needs for a day (as I intend to discuss in a future post). What this means is that every day, multiple times a day, you’re cooking everything from scratch—toil. The only mitigation I can imagine is to eat a huge breakfast and a huge late lunch. Maybe food can be safely left out for a few hours, so that if lunch is big enough it can also be dinner. In which case “boring” has consumed “toil”. Presumably an emergency has enough other excitement anyway.

3 thoughts on “Food Storage Requirements”

  1. I apologize in advance for what I know will be a long and rambling comment:
    1. That bread looks REALLY yummy. I may have to set up a fire pit of my own in the backyard.

    2. I may not know much about coffee grinding, but food storage….that’s a whole other story. And I’ve actually been thinking a lot about it lately (living in DC makes me more cautious about such things). Mormon church leaders have been advising a year supply for as long as I remember. In fact, it may have been a 2 yr supply in the past. My grandmother was zealously obedient, if not prudent, in her storage. I recall during one visit during college she insisted I go “shopping” in her storage area. I found home canned green beans older than I was. yuck. When she died, we found 2 tons of wheat on her farm. Since new studies have shown the properly stored wheat has essentially an infinite shelf life, each grandchild was awarded an equal share of the bounty to kick-start their own storage. Mine still sits in a barn in Colorado. (Perhaps my best emergency supply would be enough gas and cash to cross the country to my parent’s house!)

    Anyway, apparently many Mormons either stored things like my grandmother or were too intimidated by zealots like her to start storing anything so leaders recently changed their advice to encourage more people to be prepared: – the new guidelines follow closely what you outline here, but you may find some other interesting information there.

    My own recent foray into food storage essentially consists of doubling up on common Costco purchases. Pancake mix, oatmeal, etc. It seems to be working so far. I also have been stocking up on toiletries, cleaning agents, etc., which is a little less intimidating because of the less critical need to rotate.

    3. The flour scenario presented about assumes the flour is acquired all at once. If you use a rolling acquisition, and by extension have a rolling expiry, you should be able to store enough with out much going bad.

    4. You didn’t mention this, but I assume since you are ruminating on food storage you already have 72-hour kits (or Go-kits). I also have lots of info on that if you are interested.

  2. The bread is really great. It is easier and less fuss to make it in the oven at home, and is just good eats.

    I had found in my initial research. One of the Utah state school’s extension offices has an excellent publication on shelf life of many foods. And I’d like to get a year’s supply stored, but I’m not willing to sacrifice the space here in our rental home. Perhaps when we purchase (again) we’ll find the space. Since I’m not exposed much to zealots I feel no qualms about doing a 1 month starter, moving to 3 when I get my act together, and eventually longer. Sure wish we had a Bishop’s cannery (or whatever those are called) here in Albuquerque though.

    You have wheat–let’s see, about 200 lbs?–but how will you grind and use it? I’ve struggled with that, since it is quite difficult to find good recipes that use 100% whole wheat. I have a posting in draft on Dutch oven bread with 100% whole wheat flour (store bought). I need to improve my recipe, in-the-oven version, before I try to perfect the in-the-yard version.

    You offer sage advice on the rolling acquisition to get rolling expiration. I’ve also noticed that at VoldeMart the Great Value flour expires within 1 year, but that the Gold Medal (unbleached–which I prefer) lasts nearly 2 years. Substantial cost difference though.

    I am certainly interested in 72-hour kits. Since I hadn’t heard of them, I’ll have to do a little leg work first. Much obliged to you for the tips.

  3. Actually, there IS a Bishop’s storehouse/cannery in Albuquerque: 4400 Presidential Pl NE
    Albuquerque, NM 87109 (505) 343-1904. They probably have limited hours, but the prices of canning your own stuff there can’t be beat.

    Yep, about 200 lbs. Good guess. But it is in Colorado, and I need to buy a wheat grinder. You can get fancy electric ones, or buy a hand grinder…I think that a coffee grinder will work to some extent as well.

    Check out the Wheat Council website for some recipes from bread to pasta. I always loved hot cracked wheat cereal when I was little. I have my sisters passing along their food storage info to me (they are more schooled in this than I). I’ll email them to you privately. The only problem is, most recipes we have are mostly for rotation purposes, i.e. they contain supplementary fresh ingredients. There must be a resource for recipes using strictly long-term storage items…I will do some looking…

Comments are closed.