Food Storage for Self Reliance

One of the most important aspects of self reliance is having some measure of control over your food supply. Most people accomplish this by several different means. They usually  raise small backyard farm animals, plant a  garden, home food preservation,  as well as hunting and fishing. While these skills are the very foundation of self reliance, there are folks that are in no position to have a garden or raise animals. However, it is still possible to reach a great degree of self reliance by other methods. For example, it is possible to gain control over your food supply by simply stocking up on common grocery store items. Additionally, you must adhere to some basic principles of food storage.

These days there are numerous businesses that command a huge corner of the long-term food storage market. They also provide a lot of wonderful information regarding the value and advantages of their products. As a result, I have in fact purchased a number of things from theses companies, which amounts to about 25% of my stored goods. Consequently, I do not down play the importance of having these types of supplies on hand. However, your entire food storage needs do not have to consist of these types of items.

You can save a considerable amount of money by using common grocery store items as the bulk of your food storage. However you have to be mindful of some basic principles. Albeit simple principles, these are vital in order to safe guard your investment of time and money.  With proper planning, your food storage can easily become a huge part of your plan for self reliance.

Think of your food storage as an insurance plan. If you are unable to work for a period of time as the result of injury, illness, or unemployment, at least you will be well fed.

Continue reading to learn about the basic principles of food storage for self reliance.


Best Practices for Your Food Storage Area


-Keep all cupboards, pantries, refrigerators, and cellars spotlessly clean.

-Defrost and clean your refrigerator regularly. Clean up spills immediately.

-Rotate your food regularly. Remember, “Last in, last out.”

-Keep all household chemicals, cleaning products, and flammable liquids out of your food storage area.

Highly perishable foods should be kept in the refrigerator.

-Check your storage area regularly for signs of pests such as roaches, mice, and ants. Deal with them immediately.

-Food storage areas should be placed so that they back up against interior walls only. This is the best way to make sure this area stays cool.

-Plumbing should not be run through the storage area. Leaks in plumbing could easily destroy your food supply.  Make sure the area stays dry.

-Dirty or unwashed root-type vegetables should be stored in bins on the floor.

-In general, animal foods should be stored separately from human food.


Proper Food Storage Conditions


When storing food for any length of time, it is imperative to maintain proper conditions to ensure appropriate shelf life. Here are six things to consider:


There are many items that have a 20 to 30 year shelf life. However, unless they are properly packaged and stored, that shelf life can be considerably less. Over time food looses nutritional value. The appearance and taste will also change. Consequently, if you are determined to store food for 20 to 30 years, then consider some of the commercially prepared foods that are processed and packaged specifically for that purpose. However,  with proper storage and rotation, this is usually not necessary.


Temperatures between 40 degrees and 70 degrees Fahrenheit are best for long term storage. If ambient storage temperatures are outside this range, it will accelerate the loss of nutrition, texture, taste, and color. Higher temperatures cause activation of enzymes in foods which can start the “digestion” process. This of course will result in more rapid degradation. Although colder temperatures slow down food enzyme activity, as well as microbial growth, severe cold can actually denature the food and cause a loss of nutritional value. Ideally food needs to be stored in an area with a near constant temperature.


Bacteria and microorganisms thrive in the presence of oxygen. As a result, food that is exposed to oxygen has increased exposure to microbes, fungus, and parasites. Also in the presence of oxygen, nutrients tend to oxidize. This causes rancidity. Therefore, to prevent this from happening, simply place oxygen absorbers in your food storage containers prior to sealing them. In the absence of oxygen, the only things left the storage container are the food and nitrogen, which is not harmful.


Moisture on food promotes the growth of mold and bacteria. This moisture can be in the form of condensation or humidity. Ideally, food should be stored at a humidity level of 15% or less. This can be accomplished by using vacuum seal bags, canning jars, Mylar bags, and food grade buckets.

-Sun light

Direct exposure to sunlight degrades food in several ways. It increases the temperature of the food and accelerates the loss of nutrition, taste, and appearance. This is especially true when it comes to certain vitamins, including B complex and C. It is best to store food in a cool, dark place, away from direct light.


Pests include insects, larvae, rodents, and any other critter that can invade, consume, or otherwise contaminate your food supply. The type of pest varies according to your geographical area. Do some research and find out the most common ones according to where you live and the safest way to deal with them.


Food Storage Containers


Resealable, washable, reusable, air tight containers are best. Canning jars can be used over and over again. Any jar from the supermarket that has a rubber seal on the lid works great as an air tight container. For example, I save jars from spaghetti sauce because of the rubber seal on the lid. These work great for dried food storage in the cellar. If using clear jars, be sure to put them in a cool, dry, dark environment for best results.

Food grade 5 gallon buckets are also easily available. These can be purchased from a local discount market. Also, most local supermarket bakeries have an over abundance of food grade buckets they will happily part with.  I’ve had the staff even thank me for taking them away.


Storage in Food Grade Buckets


Food grade buckets have many practical uses. They make great temporary storage containers for various items such as pet food, livestock supplies, grain, and other types of food supplies. I have several of these in my chicken and turkey barn. They are cheap, practical, and versatile.

These are also practical for both short and long-term storage of human food. For longer term storage, line the bucket with a metalized mylar bag. Mylar is a wonderful barrier between the food and the environment. Simply place an oxygen absorber in the top of the bag, squeeze out as much oxygen as is practical, and seal the top with an ordinary clothes iron. You are now in business.

Plastics to AVOID

  1. Household storage containers
  2. Garbage bags
  3. Any container, whether food grade or not, that has been used to store chemicals, paint, detergent, or any other non-food material. 
  4. Laundry detergent buckets
  5. Cat litter buckets
  6. Mop buckets
  7. Garbage cans
  8. Utility buckets from home improvement centers.


How Much to Store


These amounts are recommendations based on the LDS Church’s Home Production and Storage manual. The amounts below are for one person for one year and only representative of basic supplies. Therefore, you need to account for any special dietary needs or specific health problems. Also, be sure to plan for a large variety of foods.  


Wheat 150 lbs
Flour 25 lbs
Cornmeal 25 lbs
Oats 25 lbs
Rice 50 lbs
Pasta 25 lbs

          Total= 300 lbs



Dried beans 30 lbs
Lima beans 5 lbs
Soy beans 10 lbs
Split Peas 5 lbs
Lentils 5 lbs
Dry Soup Mix 5 lbs

          Total = 60 lbs


Fats and Oils:

Shortening 4 lbs
Vegetable Oil 2 gals
Mayonaise 2 quarts
Salad dressing 1 quart
Peanut butter 4 lbs


Milk and Dairy products:

Non fat Dry mils 60 lbs
Evaporated milk 12 cans
Other Dairy 13 lbs

          Total 85 lbs



Honey 3 lbs
Granulated sugar 40 lbs
Brown sugar 3 lbs
Molasses 3 lbs
Corn syrup 3 lbs
Jams 3 lbs
Powdered fruit drink 6 lbs
Flavored geletin 1 lbs

          Total 62 lbs


Cook Essentials:

Baking powder 1 lbs
Baking soda 1 lb
Yeast 1/2 lb
Salt 5 lbs
Vinegar 1/2 gallon



Apples 40 lbs
Applesauce 40 lbs
Banana chips 30 lbs
Fruit mixture 30 lbs
Fruit juices 40 lbs

          Total 180 lbs



Corn 30 lbs
Dried Beans 30 lbs
Green beans 30 lbs
Carrots 30 lbs
Potatoes 40 lbs
Onions 5 lbs
Tomatoes 20 lbs

          Total 185 lbs



Bleach 1 gallon


Don’t Forget Cooking Water


When storing extra water, a general guideline is one gallon/person/day for basic needs and 2-3 gallons/person/day to include personal hygiene, washing dishes, etc. You should include at least 1-2 gallons/day for cooking needs and rehydrating foods.

This is a lot of food

If you do the math, this is almost 900 pounds of food PER PERSON, not including water. It is possible to reduce this by purchasing freeze dried foods which are processed for long-term storage. It can greatly reduce the weight and storage space needed for such a large amount of food. But, if you are not intent on storing a year’s worth of food, this is less of a concern. 

Keep in mind this does not include personal hygiene items, vitamins, medications, first aid supplies, and other items related to special dietary needs.

Use your best judgement. Decide up front what you are trying to accomplish and set some goals. For example,  start with three months of supplies and go from there. It is more important to start somewhere than to worry about how much to store. With proper forethought and planning, you will be on your way to self reliance in no time at all.

To read another good article on self reliance, go here:

Self Reliance is Your Best Security Blanket

The Ten Essentials Needed for Survival

Go off grid and live well,


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