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Three Prong Approach to Food Storage: How to Make Sure You Are Covered For All Situations

 


When you first start preparing, food storage is usually your starting point. Depending on what you are preparing for, you gear your food storage towards that direction.

What if I told you that you could have your food storage covered in just about any situation? I believe in the three-prong approach to food storage:

  1. Quick, easy foods that do not need to be cooked or minimally cooked
  2. Long term food storage like freeze-dried foods, rice, and beans
  3. Cook from scratch foods that will get you through a month of no money

In my experience, you should have all three kinds of food storage. You might just be preparing for natural disasters and think #1 is all you need. However, you never know what life will throw at you. I truly believe in having well-rounded food storage that will serve you in many different situations. 

As with any suggested foods in these lists, they are only suggestions. You will need to tailor your food storage to fit your needs. If you have little kids, keep the food they love and eat in the food storage, especially in #1. If you have someone with a food allergy or intolerance, you should be storing foods they can eat and digest. You should not be storing food you or someone else will not eat because it will be wasted. 

#1 - Quick, easy foods that do not need to be cooked or need to be minimally cooked

This is probably the easiest place to start with food storage because most of the foods in this area are easy to buy and easy to store. As mentioned, these are foods you do not want to worry about cooking or just might have to heat up over a camping stove or a small steno stove. Ideally, you can eat them cold or at room temperature. 

This category is mostly convenience foods that can store easily. The biggest downfall to this category is that you need to pay attention to expiration dates for the quality and taste of these foods. They are not meant to be put away in a tote for 3-5 years. You will want to make sure you rotate these foods every year if you are not actively using them. 

Some ideas for this area include:

  • Crackers
  • Tuna Packets or Cans
  • Granola Bars
  • Protein Bars
  • Fruit Snacks
  • Fruit Leather
  • Peanut Butter
  • Pretzels
  • Canned Fruit
  • Canned Vegetables
  • Canned Beans
  • Canned Soup
  • Canned Pasta and Sauce Meals
  • Dried Fruit
  • Cereal and Granola
  • Nuts
  • Shelf-stable milk
  • Juice or juice boxes
  • Bottled water
  • Electrolyte and flavored water packets
  • Candy and chocolate

This is a small sample of what you can store, but make sure you have a can opener and a pair of scissors with this food. The last thing you want to do is struggle to open any packages or cans. Also, this food will store easily in totes which you might want to do. If you have to leave (bugging out or evacuating), you can quickly grab these totes and load them into a vehicle or trailer. 

I would also recommend having at least a week's worth of this food on hand, but two weeks would be better. You would be able to ride out any storm and stay put until the local stores are restocked. 

#2 - Long-term food storage like freeze-dried foods, rice, and beans

When you are stocking your food storage, you need to think about food in terms of short-term and long-term. You should start out stocking the short-term foods because they are easy to build up your stockpile. However, you need to think about long-term foods. 

Long-term food storage should contain shelf-stable foods that can last for at least five years with very little quality or taste issues. These foods would be considered your dried foods and staples. This category includes freeze-dried foods that can last at least 5-10 years with manufacturers promising up to 25 years. I don't know if it is prudent to sit on those foods for 25 years, but the promise is there. 

Foods you can store for long-term include:

  • White Rice
  • Dried Beans
  • Salt
  • Dried Potatoes
  • Honey
  • Rolled Oats
  • Sugar
  • Pasta
  • Bouillon Cubes
  • Powdered Milk
  • Whole Grains
  • Dried Corn
  • Some Dehydrated Foods
  • Freeze-dried foods

Now, can you just put these on your shelves and forget about them? No. You still need to regularly rotate through your stock. You also need to store these properly. The biggest problem with food storage is the storage of the foods. You will never regret the money you spend on mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, and/or a vacuum sealer. Having good sealing buckets, jars, and totes will also keep your food from spoiling faster and keep pests out. You should also invest in a good dehumidifier for the area your food is stored in. You have invested a fair amount of money into your food storage and you should be making sure it lasts for as long as possible.

#3 - Cook from scratch foods that will get you through a month of no money

We have talked through short-term and long-term food storage. However, this is my favorite category for food storage because this is the one I have had to experience a few times. I have not really had a month of no money, per se, but I have had a few times where there was very little to no money for groceries that month. For most people, this is the category that affects them the most. 

You have to approach this category a little differently than #1 and #2. You have to think about how much food it would take to get you through a month of no grocery shopping. You can prepare for this is in several ways:

  • You can just shop for groceries once a month and see how you fare. You will be surprised by the results one way or another.
  • You can do a pantry challenge and just not do any grocery shopping for a month and see how long you last before you have to go shopping.
  • You can make a meal plan for a month (2-3 meals a day) and try to live off that for a month. 

Either way, I really encourage you to try one of these and see if you can make it through the months. You should make a lot of notes and know what you need to keep on hand for the next time. You will probably be surprised by the amount of food you consume during the month, especially if you have a family. 

It's not just meals you have to think about during this month. You will have to think about snacks. You will probably end up baking or making something from scratch like bars, cookies, bread, etc., to keep everyone fed. 

The nice thing about this area of food storage is that you could and should use foods from #1 and #2 to keep yourself fed throughout the month. However, I am not going to provide a list of foods to stockpile for this prong of food storage. I highly encourage you to make a meal plan plus all the snacks you would need in a month of no money. You need to break down those meals into individual ingredients to understand what you need to have on hand. From there, make a detailed list so you can shop for those things in quantity. 

In this prong of food storage, I don't think about what is just shelf-stable. I include the freezer, the refrigerator, and the pantry. You are not worrying about a natural disaster (hopefully!) and you are not experiencing a long-term grid-down situation (again, hopefully!). You are just trying to make it through a month of no money for groceries. 

How much should you have on hand for any of these prongs? That answer depends on you and what you are preparing for. You should have a plan and decide how long you want to have food on hand. Some of that will depend on how much room you have to store food and how creative you want to be in storing food. I personally recommend starting with a month of food and building up from there. I believe in having 6-12 months of food on hand to weather most situations. For some people, that is not enough and, for some people, that is not feasible. 

These three prongs of food storage are not exclusive of each other. They do each have their own place and should have their own focus. However, they can be used together to get you through any crisis or situation. 

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Comments

  1. Your information here is wonderfully time appropriate and accurate. I do have this 3-prong approach in my pantry. Our short term, "use it up when the power goes out" consists of canned meat, canned fruit, canned meals (like Chili, Stew, etc.), and other canned food products that we can eat from the can or heat in the can over the backpack stove. We also have P-38 (commonly called a John Wayne) can openers on all of our keyrings and one each in the trailer, the kitchen, the totes, not to mention that I have never had an electric can opener so manual ones in the house, trailer, and totes, as well. For long term I contacted several survival food manufacturers and requested samples of their products. They sent me these samples which I used to determine if I thought we could even eat their foods. Several were so salty (spicy) that they were inedible. The one I finally decided on came in tubs that stack well in the pantry. For your monthly, being 67 years old I was trained to always have at least 6 months of food on hand and usually a year. Scratch cooking is our staple strategy and just plain fun. We purchase staples at the grocery on senior day and produce & dairy weekly, and Sale Meats during the month when they are advertised. I have never worried about a Price Book because prices are always going up and it just is a headache, but I do keep track of what is in my pantry and rotate it so I know what I have to work with. I did a menu on Google calendar that rotates every 6 weeks and all I have to do it print it on the last day of the month for the next month. I never feel that I have to follow it exactly but knowing what I have on hand, what I need, and that I can move any meal makes it easier to plan my shopping.

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