UNDERwhelmed in Food Storage Part 3 of 8

Yes, You Can Find Space

We’ve all thought it.  “Where in the world would I put a years supply of food storage?!”  Unfortunately, such a question leads many to not even attempt to be prepared for an emergency.

55 Gallon Water Barrels

55 Gallon Water Barrels

When it comes to having somewhere to put your emergency preparedness supplies, it usually boils down to priorities.  I know you don’t want to hear that, and I realize this isn’t ALWAYS the case.  But throughout my emergency preparedness consulting, I’ve always been able to find “more room” for emergency preparedness

—even in a small studio apartment.  The ultimate question you have to ask yourself is how important those emergency preparedness supplies are.  I understand a 55 gallon water barrel doesn’t usually match anyone’s décor.  But do you really think you’re going to care about that when your family needs food, water, or medical supplies?  Grant it, you could be artistically inclined and perhaps arrange the canned goods against your wall to resemble a Van Gogh, but I’m not talking about getting quite that creative.

I understand when you have a 500 square foot apartment, space is limited.  But the question is limited to “what”.  While not everyone has a basement, storage rooms, or large pantries, I’ve been in big beautiful homes decorated to the hilt and have been told by the owners that they don’t have food storage because “they don’t have room.”  Geesh.  Clearly, I’m not talking to those people here.  I’m speaking to those who actually want to do something to better prepare their family for an emergency.  My hope is that you rethink your priorities of the storage of other items in your home and perhaps help you uncover some problem solving skills.  Here are a few additional suggestions on storing your emergency preparedness supplies.

  1. “Under the Bed” Storage.  I have yet to look under someone’s bed and not see stuff underneath it.  But it’s usually “stuff” that isn’t life saving or providing any semblance of security.  You can store an entire years’ food supply for one person underneath a twin sized bed.  Now, presuming that everyone in your home has a bed to sleep on, this can easily take care of your storage requirements.  I don’t recommend storing just the food storage for one person underneath their bed.  Instead, I would put the powdered milk and wheat under one bed, for example, pasta and beans under another.  For the record, I’m not saying to substitute your bed frame with your food storage.  I’ve seen folks do that.  When push comes to shove, I’m all about a comfortable nights sleep, and I’m not sure wheat bags are intended for that.  :)
  2. Stuff the Cupboards. You’ve already got food in your cupboards, but are they really full to the max?  I see a lot of homes that don’t maximize the use of their existing cupboard space.  Instead of using the space under your kitchen sink for detergents, use it for more practical purposes like Tupperware stuffed with pasta, legumes, etc.  Store those big kitchen gadgets like the George Foreman grill you don’t use very often in the shed or garage.  I assure you it’s equipped to handle the heat, whereas your supplies necessary for chicken ala queen can use that valuable space inside.  Maximize the cabinet space you already do have with emergency preparedness items.  These should be a priority for you. When you see space in your pantry or cupboards, think about what you could be storing there in the form of food storage.  Behind our towels in the linen closet you’ll find dried peaches.  In the corner of the entry closet you’ll find salt, powdered milk, and some other items.  Finding space for items is a lot easier after you’ve obtained them.  And acquiring them will do more to help you and your family. :)
  3. Compact Loose Items. I store a great deal of items in used 4 gallon plastic square buckets.  They’re great for organization but also because I get the benefit of available height without spending a lot of money on shelves.  Besides, in the event of an earthquake, the square containers are waterproof and can take a bit of a beating, protecting what’s inside.  These square buckets can be obtained for free from bakeries and restaurants and they don’t waste any space like the 5 gallon circular ones.  I store ingredients for specific meals in them as well as specific categories like dental, pain relievers, bandages and pasta.  This way I don’t have loose pieces cluttering up space.  Minimizing loose pieces actually creates more space.  You’ll be surprised what you can store in a closet from floor to ceiling when you use these square buckets.  Just like you can utilize space under the beds, you can also utilize space at the back of deep cabinets, under the stairs, under the deck, the back of the shed, behind the couch, under the desk, in the crawl space, on the back porch, and in every closet in your home with these square buckets without intruding on the rest of your space.

    4-gallon-bucket-labeledFor those of you who don’t want to go around asking for free buckets and cleaning them out, go to www.fivestarpreparedness.com.  (They also have a great price on zip-lock Mylar bags and 1500 cc oxygen absorbers.)  Tell them that you heard of them through Preparedness Pro.

    Ultimately square buckets are about making the most of your existing space.  Other sturdy, square containers will accomplish this as well.  I don’t recommend using cardboard though—it’s not as sturdy or reliable against bugs, kids, and moisture.

  4. The "Waterbed" photo by Preparedness pro
    The "Waterbed" photo by Preparedness Pro

    Get Creative. There are a couple of “crazies” out there who bury their food storage out in the back yard, but I strongly advise against this.  Why?  Because in an emergency you need to conserve your physical energy.  Having to locate and dig up your food just to survive is a bad way to use your energy.  Plus you have to be really, really careful how you store it underground so it doesn’t leak or get underground “yuck” in it as well.  (Let’s not call them crazy. Let’s just call them zealous.)  As you can see in the picture, my husband got a bit zealous himself and put several 55 gallon drums of water under a mattress set we have in a spare bedroom.  We affectionately call this our “waterbed”.  I cleaned out a great deal of scrapbooking supplies to make more room for a lot of freeze-dried foods I purchased on sale.  On the other hand, for years I had a round piece of wood covered with beautiful circular tablecloth at both ends of my sofa in the living room.  These full water barrels were the most “kid proof” furniture I owned.  And they weren’t unsightly in the least.You can always “hide” food storage with a full length curtain from the floor to the ceiling or some sort of a room divider.  I also like to hang things from the ceiling.  In fact, for years my husband had shelves hanging from the rafters in the basement with chains.  Now he has bunk beds going the entire length of the room and we use that as shelving.  This way we not only have the maximum amount of storage space, but in unfortunate circumstances, we also have more room for others to sleep.

    You can also stack plywood boards and #10 cans or 4/5 gallon buckets on top of each other to make shelving, too.  In other words, your food and emergency supplies ARE your shelving.

    I also make use of the space behind a door and attach hanging door shelves on the backs of them.  Again, the key is to look at all of the unused space in your home and get creative with it.

  5. Use Your Outdoor Space. There are many items that can actually be stored outdoors, such as medical supplies, pasta, rice, water (so long as you leave room in the container for expansion), fuels, etc.  You can also store food storage sealed in #10 cans outside that are coated with double enamel.  They will only rust if they are dented.  My husband and I also obtain used 50 gallon barrels from a local cannery (for free) and store extra clothing, sleeping bags, pillows, etc inside after sealing them in bags that suck all of the air out of things.  (I know, eloquent, eh?)  That’s a whole lot of space that you can make available from within your home simply by transferring appropriate items outdoors.

Mind you, I can be a creative “pack rat.”  When my husband and I got married I was living in an 800 sq. foot apartment, but when we moved into our new home it still required a full-sized moving truck to transport everything.  Many close friends helped us load the truck that day.  Time and time again these same friends who frequented my home asked me where in the world I had all this stuff “hiding.”  I was still able to have an inviting home in spite of my food storage.

Bottom line, if you WANT to store precious goods to help you and your family in an emergency, you will find a way to do it.  Really.  I’m not saying you haven’t wanted to up to this point.  But I hope I’ve helped you ask yourself the right questions to make it a higher priority.

UNDERwhelmed in Food Storage Series

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I'd like to see photos of what a year's worth of food looks like. We have shelves of food, and I really do need to go through it and make a list of actual meals it represents, but I'd also like to have a mental picture of that amount. Would a year's worth fill a 10x10 room or something larger?


? # 1. We have a walk in pantry. The shelves are not very deep and are of "wood" that will not take much weight. see here for pic: http://houstonmom.wordpress.com/pantry-inventory-stocked-pantry/. I've already hung shelving in in the wasted space from the shelves up to the ceiling, but now am looking at redoing these cheap built-ins. I want to take these out and put in free standing shelves. Are there any brands of shelving you recommend? I've heard Sam's has them and maybe also Target.

? # 2. Are you worried about the barrels from your waterbed leaking or bursting and flooding your home?

? # 3. With food all over the house (dried food behind linens) how do you remember what you have and where it is located?

? # 4. Do you have problems with rats / mice getting into your food (like dried fruit in linen closet)?

Please forgive if you are addressing these questions in the future part of your series. I realize you are mid-way through the food storage blog. Thanks again!

You know, Kris. I'm not sure how I do remember it all, except that since I'm constantly rotating foods, it helps me stay in touch. There's NOTHING that I store that I don't rotate.
Nope I'm not worried about the barrells leaking or bursting. They are new and are built strong. Even when a person is on the bed, the weight is distributed among 9 barrels of water. So it's a minimal impact. That doesn't mean it won't happen, mind you. But I suspect that if it does there will be a lot worse things happening at that time for me to worry about. I have them at the far end of my home in the basement away from other supplies.

I do not sanction those "rotating shelves" the folks sell. I think they are a waste of valuable space...very valuable space. I do like the rolling metal shelves and the non-rolling metal/stell shelves that Costco sells. They are quite sturdy.

I don't have a problem with rodents inside my home--thank goodness. But have plenty of traps out just in case.

Good Morning Sunshine! I did my food inventory yesterday (finally) and am really pleased with how far I have come so far!!

Is the Bucket Guy still serving Nevada? I left a couple of orders then called in July, then he said something about September. So I left another order in September and no response. Is he a hit and miss or do you have an alternative outlet?

Time to get it all contained! I live in a 700 SQ Loft Guesthouse and ONE closet so I really am looking forward to the buckets :)

I will double check for you. I would hate giving you guys a referral of any kind and have it not be satisfactory. I just left them a message. And I'll gat back to you.

Thank you! You are such a busy girl!

Hidden in plain sight, a 14

Hidden in plain sight, a 14 ft wall of buckets & boxes in my dining room covered with a long scarf curtain over a wooden shelf. Wall above decorated beautifully. Wish you could see the pix.

Ooh! I'd love to see that. If

Preparedness Pro's picture

Ooh! I'd love to see that. If you'd like you can still send it to me and I'll just keep it to myself. *grin* I love seeing what others are doing.

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