Food Storage for Beginners with Little Money

Food Storage for Beginners with Little Money

By Pam, Editor-At-Large



There are multiple ways to build food storage. There is the long term, store it in a closet for years, for the “what if” scenario. There are emergency meals that store long term which are “just add water”, but expensive per calorie.

Then there is the “pantry building” way which is simply buying 2 or 3 of everything you get when you go to the supermarket. If you normally buy a package of spaghetti noodles and a jar of Ragu, buy several of each, keep them in the cupboard. By buying 5 of everything you normally buy (excluding perishables like lettuce) you have a month’s worth of food in a week. Every time you buy something you already have, put the new stuff in the back and use the older stuff first. Keep adding a little all the time – like a piggy bank.

Things like canned soup, vegetables and fruit, ketchup, mustard and barbeque sauce, pickles, olives and sauerkraut last a lot longer than the “best by date” and it’s easy to catch sales. Cream of chicken or mushroom soup makes a nice sauce for white beans and rice. BBQ sauce adds zest to red beans.  A jar of salsa adds zing to pinto beans and rice, together or separate. Get a couple dozen packets of dry gravy, sloppy joe, spaghetti, taco mixes. Tomato soup can be used with dry spaghetti, sloppy joe and taco mix as a substitute for tomato sauce.  Bacon bits, granulated garlic and dry minced onions make nice additions to a variety of dishes.

Peanut butter is a great source of protein and keeps quite a while. Canned stew and chili should have a place on the shelf. I, personally, find Spam disgusting, but it lasts decades because of the nitrates. There’s canned chicken and, of course, tuna and salmon.  Jerky lasts longer in the freezer than on the shelf, heads up, rehydrated it is nasty.

Some other cheap and easy items are oatmeal, cream of wheat, rice, dry beans, barley or split peas for soup in 1 or 2 pound bags, mac & cheese, ramen noodles, rice-a-roni, instant potatoes, pasta noodles, bisquick and stove top stuffing. Other than the stuffing, these things last well beyond the “best by” date. If space is an issue, keep them in a Rubbermaid tote.

A box of instant milk stores well for several years in a recyclable plastic bottle once opened.

Saltines last longer than bread, but not much past the “best by” date. Tortillas can substitute for bread and take little space in the freezer.

Save the freezer for things that can’t be kept for an extended period any other way. Grated cheese in a re-closable bag lasts months in the freezer. Buy meat in the family size or party pack and freeze it in smaller bags. ALWAYS keep the freezer full, any space should be filled with a bottle of water. It doesn’t have to work as hard when it’s full, so it costs less to run and if the power goes out it will stay cold longer.

Have you ever tried sprouting? That’s a great way to put fresh “greens” in your diet without going to the grocery store or having a garden.

Get some ‘feel good’ things, too, like jello and hard candy. Pudding doesn’t turn out very well with instant milk, but works ok with canned milk. If you want to get things like cake, muffin or brownie mixes, a can of dehydrated whole eggs is a wise move. You can store eggs for over a year in the freezer: beat a dozen eggs, pour them in an ice tray, when they are frozen put them in a ziplock freezer bag. Just take out what you need, let it thaw covered in the refrigerator, fry it for scrambled eggs or use it in a recipe.
Christmas time popcorn tins work really well for 25 pounds of sugar or flour and are rodent proof if that is an issue for you.

Coffee, tea, Tang, kool-aid, Country Time Lemonade: I always keep Country Time on hand because I never know when my sister-in-law is going to show up with a bottle of vodka. Gotta love that girl!

Baking soda for cooking, but can also be used for brushing teeth, an antacid, cleaning the bathroom and a hundred other things. Baking powder, yeast, brown sugar and shortening are also some things you might want to have on hand if you like to bake some things from scratch.

Salt, do yourself a favor and buy it in the big bag, it’ll last a decade without any fancy packaging as long as you keep it dry. With pre-made and fast food, we really don’t realize how much salt we eat and need. It’s cheap and the most basic seasoning in the world.

Add extra cooking oil while you’re at it. In a pinch, it can be used as a substitute for butter or margarine in mac & cheese, etc.  Whatever you do, don’t forget to have jugs of water stashed in case your services are down.

Variety is important, but if you find your “pantry” has some things you don’t normally eat, commit yourself to eating one of those less favorite items once a week until it’s gone. OR every couple of months you can have an “eat from the pantry” week where you avoid the grocery store completely and eat only what you have on hand.

NOT going to the store for a week or two will really let you see what you need to stock up on or what you will potentially be doing without–Make a list during this week. This method works well for soap, toothpaste and toilet paper, too. Once the pantry is stocked, you can replace what you use as it goes on sale, whenever you shop for fresh vegetables and meat.  Eating for a year from the pantry is easily doable. If you prefer to have food packaged for long term storage for use years down the road, we should discuss the pros and cons of those products.


Pam and her husband have fancied themselves homesteaders for over three decades. They own Mayflower Trading Company with the motto: A pilgrimage to resource efficiency. The mission being, to help others with products and/or advise in their own pilgrimage to self-sufficiency. You can visit them at


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