Don't think of it as food storage. Think of it as a grocery store in your pantry.
There are three steps to successfully building up your food storage. And by “successfully” I mean building up an adequate and shelf-stable supply of foods that your family will actually eat. Have you ever seen those “lists” floating around the internet? You know, the ones that say, “buy 10 lbs of wheat this week” and “10 cans of tomato soup this week” and then by the time you’re done you’re supposed to have like 100 lbs of wheat and 20 cans of tuna and 50 lbs of sugar. Have you ever looked at that list and thought, “Yeah, then what am I supposed to do with it?” I don’t know about you, but if I had been stuck in the house with two kids for a week through and ice storm with no electricity I’d be staring at my pantry, stocked full of all those cans of tuna and bags of wheat, and say, “There’s nothing to eat!”
So, instead of stockpiling lists, let’s take a different approach to food storage, shall we?
First off, what do you typically do before you head to the grocery store? Decide what you’re going to buy, right? You don’t pull up to the store and let them load the back of your car with whatever list they came up with and then take it home and attempt to make meals out of it, do you? No, of course not! You come up with a menu of the stuff you know your family will eat, make a list of the ingredients, and head to the local market. It’s the same way with food storage! You come up with a menu. You make a list of the ingredients. Then you go shopping. Only, with food storage instead of filling up your fridge with a week’s worth of milk and cheese, you’re filling your pantry with a few months’ worth of freeze dried beef and tomato powder.
Some use traditional pantry items, like flour, dried spices, and canned vegetables that you’d find typically in a grocery store. These have a much shorter shelf life of about a year or so, but are much cheaper (initially) and easier to find (and, by the way, taste better). By “initially” I mean that, they may be more expensive per serving than the #10 cans of dried foods, but not everyone has $30 to drop on a can of tomato powder, no matter how much it makes. Then there are recipes that are “mostly” shelf-stable, meaning that they call for a few ingredients that require refrigeration but are not essential, like adding shredded cheese on top or whatnot.
Then there is always the option to just try converting your own recipes to shelf-stable ones by substituting ingredients, such as switching out fresh eggs for powdered eggs. Sometimes this can be a little tricky, as you will have to make sure that you have the conversions right, adding in the correct amounts of water for rehydration. Many people I know simply rehydrate everything separately before adding all the ingredients together, such as rehydrating the eggs before adding them to the mix. I prefer just to mix everything together, then add all the water in at once. A good rule of thumb is that most powdered, dried, and freeze dried ingredients are mixed at a 1:1 ratio with water. (Watch out on the powdered butter, though. It’s a little different). I like this method because not only does it save on clean-up, but you can make your own mixes and store them in your pantry, just like store bought pancake and brownie mix. Here is a recipe for Southwest Beef Stew that I designed myself based on a family favorite recipe.
Now that you’ve compiled your list of recipes you know the fam will eat (you can do 7, 10, 14, 15 or 30 recipes repeated to get through several months), let’s move on to:
(However, if you have not yet branched into the field of digitally automating your household management through the use of spreadsheets, budgeting programs, online document storage and household calendars, or even smart phone apps then I do suggest you give it a try. It really is quite invigorating.)
Step III: Shop
This is the part that can be--now lets be honest here--the least fun. Honestly, who enjoys spending hours in their local grocery store or wholesale club? This is where that lovely bit of technology comes in again! I purchased most of my items from Walmart.com, which has a full line of Auguson Farms freeze-dried and emergency foods. Auguson Farms is, based on my research, the most inexpensive line of emergency foods and Walmart and Sams Club have prices even lower than buying them directly from the producer, thanks to Walmart's ability to negotiate lower prices with their vendors. Items that can't be found through Walmart, such as Powdered Sour Cream or these awesome Quick Cook Black Beans (which cook in as little as 20 minutes), I purchased direct from Honeyville Farms. Most of the everyday products, such as elbow macaroni or white flour, I found cheapest at my local grocery stores. For us here in the Northwest Arkansas area that means Walmart and Aldis, but shop around and keep a spread sheet of what is cheapest for you. If you live in the western part of the United States, you may consider subscribing to a service such as Deals to Meals, which tracks the best prices to help you stock your pantry. To cut time, look into delivery and pick-up services at your local stores. In our area, Sams Club offers Click n' Pull, and Walmart has begun to set up Grocery Pick-up locations. The important thing here is trending. Keep those receipts and pay attention to prices. You can even try Walmart's Savings Catcher program to keep track and get money back when a competitor has a lower price.
It's that simple! Just build your storage a few cans at a time, a few meals at a time, and after a while you'll be surprised at just how quickly your food storage has built up!