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There are many common sense reasons to store extra food. Sudden unemployment can certainly throw a financial hardship onto any family. Other unplanned financial issues can come up, such as automobile repairs, medical bills, inflation, increasing fuel prices and home repair.
During a financial crisis, it would be extremely valuable if you could find a way to reduce the costs required to feed your family..
Getting started in food storage does not have to be an overwhelming task. By taking just a few simple steps you can increase your food stores dramatically as well as increase your level of preparedness.
Food Storage Philosophy
For those just beginning to look to have extra food on hand, consider the following saying “Store what you eat and eat what you store.” This basic philosophy involves putting back quantities of common foods that already sit in your pantry and are found at your local grocery store.
The idea is to stock up and keep on hand much greater quantities of many of the very same foods that you already consume on a daily and weekly basis. These foods within the new storage system are rotated on a first-in, first-out basis, to make sure that nothing goes to waste.
What Is The Shelf Life of Food Storage?
Foods have varying degrees of storability. Shelf life varies tremendously between different categories of food and sometimes even between brands. Throughout the following “virtual tour”, of a typical grocery store, shelf life ranges are provided.
Please keep in mind that the typical shelf life range, provided is based on observations seen on the packaging. The reality is that most products true expiration date is substantially greater than that which is found on the package.
Now For The Food Storage Grocery Store Tour
OK, we have entered the grocery store, grabbed our shopping cart along with a sale paper and headed to the right side of the store. We are here to supplement our regular grocery shopping with foods that will be good additions to a food storage program.
Let’s go aisle by aisle, and cover some of the most basic, “staple” food storage items that we find:
1. Soup & Stew
Overview: Turning down into aisle #1 brings us to shelves of soup and stews. Canned soup has been a common food found in most homes for decades. Flavorful and nutritious, canned soup is inexpensive and has an excellent shelf life.
There are over 100 varieties of soups to choose from in some grocery stores. Maintaining variety of diet in a survival situation will assist in boosting morale and maintaining mental awareness. Soups are an excellent addition that adds variety to a food storage system.
Many soups can be purchased for as low as .40 cents a can when on sale. Using coupons can also reduce prices.
Shelf Life: Canned soups and stews generally have expiration dates that are two+ years from the date of purchase. In reality the true shelf life has been shown to be many years beyond that which is listed on the can. It is important that you do not dent the can as the protective liner inside can become damaged.
Shopping Cart Notes: This is a great place to start your food storage shopping. Select 3-4 varieties and buy 10 cans each. Beef stew is an excellent addition, mainly due to the higher protein content.
2. Canned Vegetables
Overview: Aisle #2 brings us to an important part of any food storage program – vegetables.
Vegetables provide valuable nutrients needed to maintain health and are an integral part of any diet.
Here we find a huge variety of vegetables to choose from. Although all these vegetables can be eaten by themselves, they can also be mixed and added to other foods to provide more variety to the diet.
Shelf Life: Canned vegetables generally have expiration dates that are 2+ years from date of purchase. In reality the true shelf life has been shown to be many years beyond that which is listed on the can. It is important that you do not dent the can as the protective liner inside can become damaged.
Shopping Cart Notes: Canned vegetables should be a major part of your food storage shopping. Select 2-3 varieties, and buy 10 cans each. Recommended examples are canned potatoes, corn, and green beans.
3. Pasta and Pasta Sauce
Overview: Some of the most inexpensive and easiest to prepare meals are made from the pasta found down on aisle #3.
Pasta can be used to make more than just spaghetti. Available in all different shapes and sizes, pasta can be combined with many other foods to create very flavorful and calorie dense meals. Pasta is high in carbohydrates which provide energy for the human body.
Pasta sauce comes in glass and plastic jars as well as cans.
Shelf Life: Dry pasta generally comes in boxes and has a listed expiration date of approximately 1 year from date of purchase. In reality the true shelf life has been shown to be many years beyond that which is listed on the can. It is important that you do not dent the can as the protective liner inside can become damaged. If the pasta is stored in a cool dry location away from insects, it can be stored for several years.
Pasta sauce in all containers often has expiration dates 2-3 years from date of purchase. Like all canned foods, true shelf life is longer.
Shopping Cart Notes: Pasta is very inexpensive and easy to prepare. Grab 10-20 boxes of what you like and half the quantity of sauce.
4. Canned Fruit
Overview: Aisle #4 brings another food storage basic component – fruit.
Canned fruit is nutritious and full of valuable vitamins. It is also very sweet. During a survival situation your diet will have a direct impact on your physical and mental wellbeing. Having some “sweetness” will be very welcome.
Shelf Life: Canned fruit generally has expiration dates that are 2+ years from date of purchase. High acid varieties tend to have a lower shelf life. In reality the true shelf life has been shown to be many years beyond that which is listed on the can. It is important that you do not dent the can as the protective liner inside can become damaged.
Shopping Cart Notes: Canned fruit tastes great and can be easily rotated using FIFO (first in, first out) as a part of your family’s regular diet. Look to purchase items on sale, select 2-3 varieties, and buy 10 cans each. Recommended examples are: canned peaches, pears and pineapple.
On The Grocery Store End Cap We Find…. boxes of saltine crackers on sale. These crackers go great with the soup found in Aisle #1. They are inexpensive and have a shelf life of at least 1 year. Grab three boxes. They are great with peanut butter, as well.
4. 1 Sugar
Overview: Sugar is a staple in any food storage program and widely used in many recipes.
Shelf Life: Sugar can be stored indefinitely if kept in a cool, dry, place away from insects and rodents. It is recommended that sugar be placed in a secondary airtight container for added protection.
Shopping Cart Notes: Sugar prices have increased over the past few years, so you should try to take advantage of sales when you see them. I recommend having at least six bags in your storage.
5. Baking Goods – Flour, Oils
Overview: Continuing down Aisle #5, you will find a variety of baking and cooking supplies, including a variety of flours and oils.
Flour is needed for making bread. Cooking oils are a common ingredient in recipes and also used for used for coating pans. You should review your typical recipes to determine which kind should be stored in extra supply.
Shelf Life: Flour comes in many different types. Consult the packaging for realistic expiration dates. Flour such as All Purpose and Bread varieties that are stored in air tight containers along with special oxygen absorbers can be stored for five years of more.
Shopping Cart Notes: Throw an extra 5 bags of All-Purpose and/or Bread Flour in the cart along with 3 bottles of vegetable or canola oil.
6. Powered Milk
Overview: Powdered milk can be found down aisle #6.
This is another excellent addition to any food storage program. It can be consumed itself after proper mixing and also can be used in the completion of many recipes. Due to its versatility powered milk can be looked at as a “boost” to any food storage program.
Shelf Life: Powered milk generally does not store well past one or two years. The packaging is often just a cardboard box with some type of liner. If repackaged into an airtight container, the shelf life can be lengthened.
6.1 Pancake Mix & Syrup
Overview: Pancake mix is located a little further down Aisle #6. There are several varieties of pancake mix which require only water to make. This is super simple and easy.
Shelf Life: Similar to powered milk, the shelf life is one to two years. If repackaged into an airtight container, the shelf life can be lengthened.
Shopping Cart Notes: Throw several bags or boxes in the shopping cart. Practice FIFO.
Grab a couple bottles of pancake syrup while you’re at it.
7. Ramen Noodles
Overview: Aisle #7 brings a food item that many people who put themselves through college lived on – ramen noodles.
They are super inexpensive and store well. Easy to prepare, they require only water. They are also very high in sodium so they should be part of a food storage program, but not consumed too often.
Shelf Life: Stored in a cool, dry, location the shelf life can be in excess of two years.
Shopping Cart Notes: Throw a few cases of beef and chicken varieties in the cart.
8. Peanut Butter
Overview: Aisle #8 contains one of the best survival foods – peanut butter. Peanut butter is dense in calories and high in protein. It can be eaten straight out of the container, as well as spread on bread and crackers. Peanut butter can be easily included in a food storage program, as at it is often part of most people’s regular diets already.
Shelf Life: Expiration dates vary greatly from brand to brand so check around. Peanut butter generally carries a shelf life in excess of 2 years. Remember FIFO.
Shopping Cart Notes: Find a variety with a longer shelf life that is on sale and add six jars to your cart.
9. Instant Potatoes
Overview: Aisle #9 has an invaluable food storage item – instant potatoes. These are simple to prepare (you will need that powered milk from Aisle #6) .
Shelf Life: Expiration dates on packages generally run about a year from date of purchase. If stored in an airtight container, it is possible to keep them much, much longer.
Shopping Cart Notes: Grab a couple boxes for home and an extra six boxes to put back as part of your food stores. Use and replace as needed using FIFO.
9.1 Canned Ham, Chicken & Tuna
Overview: Aisle #9 offers canned ham, chicken, and tuna. Meat is one of the more difficult items to find in a storable form. Canned ham can be delicious, and is an excellent source of protein. Canned chicken is great to combine with other food items to make complete meals. Tuna is another source of protein. Also found in this aisle is SPAM. SPAM is considered a “meat”, and is high in protein as well as salt.
Shelf Life: Expiration dates on packages generally run two or more years from date of purchase. True shelf life is known to be much longer.
Shopping Cart Notes: Throw five to six canned hams in the cart along with the same of chicken ad tuna. Also, go ahead and pick up a few cans of SPAM. Use and replace as needed using FIFO.
Overview: You cannot live for more than three days without water. Aisle 11 provides a basic solution to your water needs.
Shelf Life: Bottled water will last for years although the taste may change due to the plastic container. It is best to store it where light cannot reach, as ultraviolet light can break down the polymer container over time.
Shopping Cart Notes: Grab a second shopping cart and add 20 gallons of spring water along with 6 cases of 24 bottles of purified drinking water. It’s a start and that shopping cart is heavy!
11. Canned Beans
Overview: Canned beans come in a variety of flavors and companies. Beans contain high level of nutrients, like fiber and protein. Dump some in a pot, heat and serve. Prices have risen over the past few years, however canned beans are still a good value.
Shelf Life: Expiration dates on packages generally run two or more years from date of purchase. As with other canned products, the true shelf life is much longer.
Shopping Cart Notes: Look for what is on sale and stock up now. Buy 10-20 cans depending on what you can afford.
12. Rice and Dry Beans
Overview: Rice and dry beans can be found down the last aisle. Typically found and purchased in bags, rice and beans are VERY inexpensive. When combined with each other and other food, it is very easy to put together nutritious and complete meals.
Shelf Life: If stored in a dry, cool place, the shelf life is just about forever. Many people will store large quantities of these components in special Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers.
Shopping Cart Notes: Throw 20 pounds of rice in the cart along, with 25 pounds of various beans. Read up on how to prepare.
That completes our tour.
Summary Of The Best Food Storage Staples At A Grocery Store
The carts are checked out, order paid for, and the food transported home to be organized. What has been put together is a good beginning food storage program.
Let’s review what has been “put back” so far (some of this stuff is just as cheap, and way more convenient to grab on Amazon–links provided here):
- canned soup and stew (30-40 cans)
- canned vegetables (20-30 cans)
- pasta and sauce (10-20 boxes / 5-10 jars of sauce)
- canned fruit (20-30 cans)
- boxes of saltine crackers (3)
- sugar (6 bags)
- All-Purpose and/or Bread Flour (5)
- Cooking oil (3)
- powered milk (2 boxes)
- pancake mix (3 bags/boxes)
- Ramen noodles (6 cases)
- peanut butter (6 jars)
- instant potatoes (6 boxes)
- canned ham (5-6 cans)
- canned chicken (5-6 cans)
- canned tuna (5-6 cans)
- SPAM (3)
- water, spring (20+ gallons)
- water, cases of 24 bottles (6+)
- canned beans (10-20)
- bags of rice (20 pounds)
- bags of beans (25 pounds)
This is a decent start, but a far cry from what is ideal. Again – the philosophy is to store what you eat and eat what you store. You should make lists for future shopping trips and purchase more items to add to your stores..
Here are examples of additional items to consider:
- oatmeal & grits
- cocoa mix
- stuffing, boxes
- tea and other flavored mixes or water
- pasta, canned
- scalloped potatoes
- candy and other treats for kids
- pizza making kits
- apple sauce
- macaroni and cheese
- fruit juice
- nutrition bars
Starting a food storage program is not a sign of being paranoid. It is just being a responsible person. Take care all and prepare now, while you still can. Here’s a few final thoughts to consider:
- Develop a routine to make sure you are using a “first in, first out” usage system. This will reduce waste and costs involve in replacing expired food.
- Keep in mind that whatever food is stored may have to be prepared without power. Do you have an alternate means of cooking (like this simple DIY solar oven) to last the duration of the situation?
- “Comfort foods” will be great morale boosters, especially for kids should a survival situation occur. Having some candy, hot cocoa, or fruity drink on hand will help provide some sense of normalcy depending on what is going on.
- A water purification system is an excellent addition to any food storage system, as stored water supplies will only last so long. The Berkey line of filtration systems carried by are excellent.
- When shopping in grocery stores, pay attention to expiration dates. The closest expiration dated products are supposed to be at the front of the shelf. It is worth it to take a few moments and reach to the back and compare to the front to get the freshest product possible.