Creating and Using from a Long-Term and Short-Term Food Storage (Eat Well, Spend Less)

This month's Eat Well, Spend Less topic is centered around emergency preparedness. I've been interested in this topic for a long time, and today I get to write about food storage!

Growing up on a farm with parents who grew (and preserved) much of their own food, buying ahead and having short-term food storage in our home seemed natural to me. Then, we took our first steps toward long-term food storage several years ago. Now, we have a mixture of short- and long-term food on hand. I'm still expanding our variety with new foods, like lentils this year.

Here are my tips on getting started:

Research What Stores Well and How To Store It

I knew I wanted to store some food long-term, and I wasn't planning to buy the little bags or boxes from the grocery store with a "use by" date. Was it really true that properly-stored wheat could stay good and nutritious for decades? What about the shelf life of dry beans?

Here is one of my favorite pages about long-term food storage, and here is another site that is a wealth of information on the topic. Google has lots of results for search terms like "long term food storage", and a YouTube search for similar terms brings up videos on the topic (if you like to watch instead of just reading!).

Decide Which Foods You Can Both Use and Store

For example, if you've never cooked with dry beans, buy a small quantity and use them before deciding to invest in a hundred pounds of beans for your food storage, even though they are cheaper in bulk! ;)

Why store and use?

  • You'll save money by buying in bulk quantities.
  • It's easier to maintain a short-term food supply (items with a shorter shelf life).
  • You'll be using ingredients while they're still fresh (and not tossing anything, having paid only to store it and not to use it).

I also have a grain mill, which means I can easily use wheat (which stores very easily) and make my own flour as needed. If you don't have a grain mill or the means to purchase one (or simply don't use a lot of flour), you can purchase flour in bulk -- such as 25 or 50 pounds at a time.

Get Ready to Purchase

For short-term food storage (items with a shorter shelf life), watch for sales at your local grocery stores. Research bulk purchase options such as bulk food stores, health food stores, or co-ops. Azure Standard is a co-op that services where we currently live. When we lived in Ohio, we were able to order from Something Better Natural Foods.

One of the best ways to find out about stores or deals in your area is to ask friends or acquaintances. "Where do you buy ___ ?" is a common question I have when I'm at someone's house or if they've brought food to our house. I've written more about buying in bulk here. We try to buy in bulk as much as possible! :)

After you've scoped out the options available in your area, you're ready to buy ahead! :)

Italian Pasta Salad recipe
Italian Pasta Salad -- using mostly pantry ingredients

Carefully Store Your Food

Label and date everything!! I love buckets for bulk grains or flours.

We have stored some grains in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. Those buckets are not in rotation and have not been used yet, for two reasons. Reason #1 is that Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers cost money. However, that cost is worth knowing that those grains are safely stored and can be kept for 20+ years before using. Thus reason #2 is that those buckets can be stored for a very long time before using. I have other buckets (not sealed with Mylar bags) that are in regular rotation and are used from. :)

Food should be stored in a cool, dry, dark location, preferably without any drastic temperature changes. (E.g., storage at 70 degrees year-round is better than a fluctuating 50-80 degrees.)

Don't be Afraid to Try New Recipes!

Search online, in cook books, or in books from the library for ways to use the ingredients you've stored. Storing simple, whole ingredients like dried beans and legumes, sugar, salt, pasta, and hot cereals allows for plenty of experimentation in the kitchen -- and incorporating fresh ingredients when you have them! :)

The Prudent Homemaker has a lot of great articles and tips about living off of food storage. Really, anything I could write on the topic is inferior to Brandy's knowledge and experience! Be sure to read her story about living from their food storage, and check out her list of what she buys at Sam's Club! :) (By the way, Brandy's recipes all look mouth-watering! See the sidebar for her recipe categories and then browse the photos!)

Don't miss the other great posts this week from the Eat Well, Spend Less team:

Making the most of your pantry, fridge, and freezer (Jessica at Life As Mom)

5 ways with beans (Katie at goodLife{eats})

5 ways with lentils (Aimee at Simple Bites)

5 ways with pasta (Mandi at Life... Your Way)

5 basic steps to emergency preparedness (Katie at Kitchen Stewardship)

Whole Grain 101 (Shaina at Food for My Family)

An emergency fund in your pantry (Alyssa at Keeping the Kingdom First)


Great post Tammy. Food storage is a must......God tells us to be prepared. :-)

PS - I love all your food photos. They make me want to chow down. Ha, ha!

~Stacy from Stacy Makes Cents

Thanks, Stacy! :)

...glad I'm making someone hungry besides myself! ;)

Hi Tammy,

I'm from Seattle, though living in Phoenix now. If you are interested in pursuing more food storage, I recommend getting to know your mormon neighbors. The mormon church has a cannery in Kent WA. Non mormons can go there and can items for long term storage. Their website is look under the family canning link. Items are generally canned in #10 metal cans for dry pack. They also do wet pack canning of spaghetti sauce, jam, chili and some other stuff. I'm mormon and have taken my non mormon neighbors and sister in law with me to the cannery lots of times. It's a fun evening canning your own stuff with a group and you add to yoru food storage in a very budget friendly way. You might also want to check out the website - due to the failing economy Brandy and her family have been living on their food storage for about 3 1/2 years. Her site is fantastic.


Hi, Danna! :)

I've been to the Provident Living website in the past, but haven't done any canning in the 10# cans... thanks for the tips! :)

In my post above (near the bottom), I linked to a bit of Brandy's site (The Prudent Homemaker). I agree, her info is some of the very best!! :)

Is your grain mill electric or hand-cranked? I'm thinking you'd need a hand-powered one if there was truly an emergency.

Thank you for sharing. I can also add that one can save a few dollars when buying in bulk and storing it over time, especially when the market hits those price fluctuations that seem to happen often. ~ Shannon

Ah, you're so sweet!

I had less than $10 for food this month for our family of 8, so yes, we're pretty well-aquainted with STILL living on our food storage and garden.

A garden is SUCH an important part of being prepared. Right now, we're harvesting cucumbers, tomatoes, swiss chard, asian pears, all manner of herbs, and apples. It's so nice to have fresh things, too, and it's also nice to be able to build our food storage while we're living on it; I was making applesauce yesterday, and I've canned and frozen things from our garden here in the desert.


Thank you for another great post! I have a quesion about "pests" creeping into my grains and cereals. I keep my grains in 5 gallon buckets with screw on lids and I sometimes find bugs in the grain after awhile. Any advice?

P.S. I am going to make your Freezer Friendly Burritios tomorrow! Yum!

Living in small quarters has prevented us from doing much more than freezing some berries and such for the winter. But someday I hope to have a big garden and store up yummy fresh food for the winter.

By the way...those rolls look delicious and I'm going to try them tomorrow!

I wanted to pass along a lentil recipe that our family loves. And we don't normally love lentils :).

I don't use as much garlic as it calls for (hubby is opposed), and I do add quite a bit of shredded carrots and any leftover brown rice I have. I also make it with chicken stock when I have it. Topping with fresh tomatoes and chopped cucumbers is delicious!



Since I changed my website host, your above links to my site are no longer valid.

You can find my site at

The other info is there, but the urls are slightly changed.


Hi Tammy, I enjoyed your recipes and I like that vegetable beans soup. Actually it is very tasty and my husband is appreciated about your recipes.

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