Prepping & Food Storage

Food storage is a big thing when it comes to prepping. We all have to eat daily in order to survive. I know humans can go without eating daily for a couple of weeks as long as there is water, but who really wants to be miserable? I prefer to keep a well stocked pantry in order to be ready for things. Because the supply line to our grocery stores is very unstable, and it really doesn’t take much to completely disrupt it. There are three levels of food storage to think about and start stocking up on.

Personally, I have noticed that when I keep a well stocked and layered pantry, as I will be talking about here, I make less grocery store trips. Less trips to the store means I am more prepared if something happened. It also means that I am spending less time and money going to the store each week or each month. If you look at it in the sense of time is money, and there is the gas plus usage of a vehicle, I am saving quite a bit.

Level 1: These are the items that have a short seft life and will only last a few weeks. This is honestly the easiest layer in out of the three. Because it is basically everything we already have in the refrigerator/freezer or pantry/cabinets. We already eat them along with fresh fruits and vegetables and they can be substituted for fresh items. These items include frozen meat and veggies, eggs, dairy products, cereal, many snacks, and more. For example, if you go to the store and buy bacon for a meal and pick up a second or even third package for the freezer, this would be part of the first layer of food storage.

Level 2: This is probably my least favorite level, at least in terms of the boxed and canned foods, but I still keep it and I use it as well. I find in the summer, I use boxed items to balance out a meal. For example, I grilled a tri-tip roast recently outside because it was hot and I wasn’t turning on the oven. I used the outdoor grill for the meat and the vegetable, which was carrots in this case. Using foil grill bags, I laid them side by side on the grill and just let the magic happen. I still needed some sort of starch/carbohydrate to balance it out.

This would be where I can throw together a boxed pasta side, rice, or even instant mashed potatoes and have it done in 5-15 minutes. Then I’m not heating up the house, and more of my efforts are concentrated on the grilled foods which require more attention. Or, if my husband is cooking, a box of Hamburger Helper is the way to go.

Nathan can follow the directions on the box and he is good to go. If I have everything to put together a meal, a boxed side or a canned vegetable will round it out and keep me from making a trip to the grocery store just for a single item. This saves me time and money. It is also a good thing to use these periodically, so that it isn’t a total shock when you are forced to use them. This level would be the pantry items such as canned soups or veggies, boxed side dishes, evaporated milk, canned meats like tuna fish or chicken.

I also like to put spices in this category, because they are important in all levels of food storage, and will especially come in handy when/if you have to use the third level of your food storage. My preference is large (what I call Costco size containers) containers for my spices. I can’t stand a bunch of tiny ones, as it feels unorganized to me as well as not being a large enough supply. If you’ve ever opened a cabinet and tried to pull down one tiny jar of a spice and had 4 others fall out, you know exactly what I’m talking about when I say it feels unorganized.

With spices, something I do is buy the larger container once and when it gets about halfway empty, I’ll buy a smaller container and refill it. This is a great way to rotate my supply. Another great thing about this is, I can buy whatever spice at any time because I’m not out and need it immediately. Once it gets about halfway empty, I start to watch store sales and coupons. Another great way to save money! Because I don’t need it immediately, I can wait for coupons or store sales.

Another thing would be dry ingredients that we can make things from scratch with. Think flour and sugar for baking, making bread, dry milk for consuming or using in recipes. I would also put things like dry pasta and crackers in this category. We don’t go through a ton of flour or sugar in my house, but I always keep at least one spare bag in the pantry.

This is why I started by buying two of everything in this case. I’ll use flour as an example. I bought two, opened one. When the first one was used up, I would buy another one and rotate them in my pantry. That way I always have a backup or spare. We do the same with sugar. This is also the place where a list comes in handy. We always have a list in the kitchen and when I empty a bag of flour, I’ll grab the next one if needed and open it. Then flour is added to the list for when we go to the grocery store. I’ve said it before, but it is important enough to keep repeating. A big part of prepping is organization. Knowing your supplies and what you have or do not have is a huge skill.

Level 3: In my household, this is the layer that is geared toward the end of the world scenarios. The stuff we keep, but we don’t touch unless it is truly an emergency and we’ve exhausted all other layers of our supplies and it is time to get into these. I keep freeze dried food for this, canned water, supplies with an extremely long shelf life, and require little preparation. This stuff can be expensive, and at times seems silly or unnecessary, because we aren’t in a crisis currently. It is also very important. But it is the layer we stock up on slowly, because of the cost related to it. I like to think of it in terms of upgrading.

Example, We started with bottled water bought from the store. Well, it has roughly a one year shelf life before the bottles start breaking down. There is nothing wrong with buying bottled water, as we all need to start somewhere in prepping, right? When I started prepping, I was looking at getting through the winter. The previous year was ridiculous in terms of weather. I live in a pretty moderate climate, so when it snows, people become stupid. Not even going to lie, because they don’t know how to handle the bad weather since it is a fairly rare occurrence. Car wrecks are a huge issue, stores are short on foods because deliveries are delayed.

When they do arrive, the products don’t stay on the store shelves for long. So that was my thought process. If I can make it to where I don’t have to go to the store for a couple weeks, a month, however long, I’ll be better prepared if it happens again in the upcoming year. This was my short-term goal, which I accomplished.

Then I started looking at more long-term solutions, such as canned water. Canned water has a 50 year shelf life. It is also significantly more expensive than bottled water. Which is why many people find it ridiculous. It can be hard to justify buying something you aren’t going to use immediately, or even in the near future. But, I started upgrading. I am having to do it slowly, as my bank account will not allow me to buy it all at once. The same can be said for freeze-dried foods.

Many people think bottled water or canned food is safe, so why bother with upgrading to items that are far better suited for long term storage? Well, the answer is that they are suited better for long term storage. Freeze dried foods and canned water have a long-term shelf life. It really is just that simple. Canned foods can go bad fairly easy, or a can may bloat up and explode causing a mess, or dropping it can damage the can and compromise the safety of the contents. Another good thing about freeze dried foods is they come in large containers and typically weigh very little. Some also come in buckets, which can be filled up even more as well. I love buying the buckets, then supplementing it with more freeze dried foods which are packaged individually or simply didn’t come in a bucket. It is an excellent storage method.


For level 2 and 3 foods, please try these items. Use them and see if you or your family will eat them. Find what works for you. If you buy something such as a box of rice and it tastes like 3 day old moldy diarrhea, you certainly aren’t going to want to eat it in the event of an emergency. Don’t buy it again. Many people say when you’re hungry, you’ll eat whatever is available. That may be true, but buying stuff you will eat when you’re not starving will be comforting in the event of a true emergency.

It helps morale, especially if you have kids. When everyone is already on edge, you really don’t want to waste the time trying to convince a 5 year old to eat something they hate, same goes for yourself. It makes for cranky people, so I always say not to make it any worse by having nasty tasting food to eat. In terms of freeze dried foods, there are plenty of options you can buy in the grocery stores, or even outdoor/sporting good stores that are single servings, where you just add hot water and reconstitute the contents. Give it a try. If you like it when you’re not starving, you’ll love it when you are.

If you have picky eaters or dietary restrictions, please take these things into consideration when stocking up on your pantry.  Whatever these things are now, they will still present roadblocks for you in the event of an emergency. Do not waste your money on something someone or everyone you’re trying to feed refuses to eat now. It is seriously a waste, especially if you have dietary restrictions.

When you are considering what to do for level 3 of your pantry essentials, please take into consideration cooking time. Many people think beans and brown rice are exceptional prepper food items, for example. Think about how long it takes to cook them. How much water you will need, or how much heat to boil water and keep simmering something. In the event of a real emergency when water and even power may be scarce or you’re having to use alternative methods to heat water and cook food. You will want to keep these things in mind when purchasing items with a long term shelf life that you will use in a very real/true emergency.

These items you buy will not last forever. Between using and expiration, you need to also have a resupply plan in place. This is something to think about and work on while the grocery stores are still available and no problems exist. Experiment with growing veggies, maybe raising livestock if you have the space and resources. Or investing in a freezer and learning to preserve your own meat and home canning. Having a rainwater catchment system to filter into drinking water. Not all of these methods will work for everyone. If you live in an urban or densely populated area, you can’t exactly keep a cow in the backyard. So what other options do you have? Some people can’t garden to save their lives. Try growing something in a pot on the porch to start with. Research it, and give it a try. You might surprise yourself!

Prepping is individual to each and every one of our different living situations. Some things will work wonderfully for one person, while it wouldn’t even be feasible to try for the next person. These are simply guidelines to give you a general idea of where to start. Figure out what will work best for you and your family in being better prepared for an emergency.


    • Lindsay Brown

      I am obsessed with having a fully stocked pantry. It drives me crazy if I don’t have a cupboard full of canned goods because I hate being in the middle of cooking something and then realize I don’t have any tomato sauce, canned veg, etc.

      I liked how you put the importance of food storage into layers/levels. This made me really think about it and the levels totally make sense!

      Another great and fully informative post my friend!

  • Emily

    I really like these tips. I go to the store way too often and want to change that. I want to start planning out my meals more and prepping, so thank you for these ideas!

  • Johnny Quid

    Great post! My wife and have a small stock of emergency canned goods and non-perishables for times like that, and I believe she also has an emergency sickness kit, for if one of us gets the flu. Good to have supplies and food for bugging out as well.

  • Scott J DeNicola

    I think I have level one and some of level two. I’ve never even considered going as far down as level 3 as you describe here. Whenever I come to your site I realize how ill-prepared I am for any emergency or end of the world scenario. My only saving grace is that I’m still fast so I’m hoping to outrun at least the person next to me. Great prepping tips as always. I will be implementing some of these immediately.

  • Debra Roberts

    I do a good bit of dehydrating because we are backpackers. I need to do more of it for stocking up in case of emergencies. I get confused between freeze-dried vs. dehydration. Any thoughts on which method is better?

    • The Prepping Wife

      Dehydration removes 90-95% of the moisture content in food. Freeze drying removes 98-99%. Both processes can be done at home, but do require equipment to do so and can be expensive. The two big differences are shelf life and nutritional value.

      Dehydrated food typically has a shelf life of 15-20 years. Vitamins like iron and fiber are not lost here. However vitamins A, C, and several others are. Dehydrated foods also tend to be hard and crunchy, weighing quite a bit in comparison to freeze dried. We’re all familiar with banana chips. It’s like an extra crunchy potato chip. Freeze dried bananas retain more of the original texture and are soft when eaten. Freeze drying maintains the structure of a food and more of the nutritional value.

      Cost and weight are factors. Dehydrated foods are cheaper than freeze dried, but they weigh a lot more. Freeze dried foods are almost weightless. However freeze dried food is more expensive, and so is the equipment to make it at home. If you are wanting to do it at home, you would almost need to be freeze drying commercial level amounts to make the cost worthwhile.

      My recommendation is freeze dried. But part of that is I have issues with the texture of dehydrated food. I have TMJ issues (my jaw has been dislocated a time or two, and it is a continued problem if I’m not careful) and dehydrated foods pose a problem because of that. It’s like eating raw carrots with a dislocated jaw for me. Given that freeze dried foods are pretty close to the texture of regular food appeals to me. I also like the taste.

      The next time you’re at the store (Walmart or Cabela’s are both great, and about the same in price) to check out the camping section. Pick up a package of Mountain House freeze dried ice cream sandwich and also biscuits and gravy. If you can eat those, you’ll do just fine with freeze dried foods. Or another option to compare is the bananas. Buy a can of freeze dried bananas and compare them with dehydrated. Large cans (number 10 size) can be found at Walmart, and some at Cabela’s, but they aren’t in the same section as the individual packages. I buy a lot of Augason Farms brand in these, some Wise, and a few from Mountain House. I always tell people to try their food before stocking up on it. If you hate it now, you’ll still hate it in the event of an emergency. That will make things even more miserable when that time comes, and nobody wants that.

  • Carol Kuter

    Great post! My husband bought some Spam and put back. Not sure anyone in the family will eat it! But he’s trying. I’ve got my black out box stocked & now ready for the next step.

    • The Prepping Wife

      I saw your husband shared that post to his page recently! I appreciate it so much. I’m glad you created your own blackout box, Carol! Have you ever tried grilling Spam? I normally won’t eat it, but about once a year I crave the magical canned ham. Lol. Slicing it and grilling it in a frying pan gives it a great sear and added flavor/texture. I find it to be really good that way. Or, maybe I’m just an alien with a strange palate. I’m the same way with bologna. Not a fan, but every once in a while, it is delicious.

  • clio

    Great tips thank you! I actually had never thought about preparing for an emergency or something so dramatic I must say.. so I don’t have anything that fits into the lever 3 category. And also, since I live very close to markets and supermarkets, I usually go to the store often and prefer fresh products. But I find your perspective and way of organizing very interesting indeed, I may introduce some new things around my pantry thanks!

    • The Prepping Wife

      I’m right there with you in preferring fresh food. I love my veggies and fresh herbs, for sure. But ask yourself a question. What will you do if the grocery store is suddenly no longer available? Or what happens when the store is emptied and you’re too late? Maybe something stops you from being able to make it to the store. Do you have the ability to handle that? That is where for me, the level 2 and 3 stocking comes in. We had a freak snow storm last week where it was supposed to snow about 2 inches. Not a big deal, right? Anybody should be able to handle that. It dumped 14 inches one day, and 5 more the next day. There was no going to the store for almost a week. Because I’m prepared, I had everything I needed and didn’t have to worry. I have come to appreciate knowing I can handle things like that.

  • Andrea (2oddravens)

    I am always trying to thing of ways that we can better prepare in case of some type of emergency or disaster. There are so many valuable suggestions in this post, and you’ve made me want to go out and buy canned water ASAP. It is pricey, but I bet it’ll be even more expensive (and difficult to find) later should an emergency actually happen.

  • Thuy

    I love how you broke down the three different levels/categories which was really helpful. It always pays to be prepared and I definitely want to save more time on groceries by always having a steady supply of food.

  • Megan Kerry

    I can’t tell you what a satisfying feeling it gives me to have a well stocked pantry (and freezer for that matter). Especially when you have a big family to feed. There are some things that are just a must for me-and this is it!

    • The Prepping Wife

      Best. Feeling. Ever!!! I’m right there with you, Megan! When I was snowed in for a week, I had to make due with what I had. It was wonderful being able to do it without worry. There is something so satisfying in knowing you can handle the basics.

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