Food and Sundries Storage – Pt. 3, by Pete Thorsen

(Note: This is the third and concluding part of this article.)

Garden seeds should be included in your preparations. So in theory, unless you live in an apartment you can then grow at least some of your own food, in desperate times. Garden seeds are very inexpensive and take up very little storage space. And if you select non-hybrid (“heirloom”) seeds then you can harvest the seeds from so you have some to plant the next year again. At a dollar store, you can often buy four packages of seeds for a dollar.

Growing a large garden takes a lot of work, a lot of water, and some amount of knowledge and skill. Once you try growing your own food, you will no longer call anyone ‘dumb farmers’ ever again. Obviously, some things will be easier to grow than others and some things you will not eat. If the only thing out of a garden that you would consider eating is some watermelon, then don’t bother buying any turnip seeds.

Some things like potatoes you grow from the potato itself. You cut them up, and you can get three or four or more new plants from just one potato. A single potato plant may produce a dozen or more large tasty potatoes.

A garden can be any size from one square foot to a hundred acres. You can even have a hanging garden to save space. You can grow many things in pots. Many people now often grow some herbs in their homes in simple flower pots to have a fresh supply. Growing things inside your house or apartment in pots keeps it safe from animals and from raiding by pesky humans.

In most cases, your garden will have to be watered, so you have to plan for that when you plan your water supply. If you have to get your water out of a lake that is a half mile away, then your garden is just not going to work out very well for you.

In town, you will have to keep other people from picking the stuff in your garden. In the country, you will have to keep every four-legged and winged critter out of your garden. You will likely learn to pray for rain and to pray for no hail. The neighbor’s cow or pig could get out and totally destroy your whole garden before you get a single thing out of it. A garden is a great prep item but remember that it is not a sure thing because many things can cause a garden to fail.

A Guerilla Garden

Some now recommend planting a guerrilla garden. This is planting seeds at different spots in the general area and leaving them on their own, and you only check them when it’s picking time. This has many benefits, like no maintenance, and dispersion in several spots, so some are likely to survive. (All your eggs are not in one basket).  Another advantage is that your guerrilla plantings are concealed from other humans, and do not disrupt having a regular garden at your home. Downsides are that because of no maintenance it likely means very poor results. Other humans might find it and reap the benefits, wild animals might eat everything. And you did remember all the spots where you planted them, right?

Here again, if you have never done any gardening and are planning on it for your very survival at least get a book or two to read first. And remember you can try many different things in pots inside or outside your house first. Plant a potato in that big patio flower pot to try your hand at gardening. There are often some instructions printed on the backs of seed packets to at least get you started correctly.

So let’s look at options for your survival food: First and most reliable is your stored food. Second is food out of your garden, a good choice but not a for sure source of food. The third is being a hunter/gatherer and living off the land. This is certainly not a sure source of food and could be dangerous. But it might work at least short-term or as a supplement.  Fourth is to scavenge/steal/beg/barter food from others. This might be viable but dangerous and not for sure and maybe not very ethical or practical.

Don’t Forget Your Pets

If you have pets or livestock are you going to store food for them also? Or is your plan to use your pets as food? Either would be an acceptable answer. In a long-term situation, pets and livestock will be a valuable source of protein. Many say they will share their people food with their pets and this may be perfectly fine in short-term situations.

In long-term scenarios, you should have stored pet food, and when that runs out, your pet can become a food source for your real family. Does your pet really mean more to you than your son or daughter? If your choice is not to eat your pet, then you should humanely dispatch the creature when your stored pet food is gone.

Under no circumstances should you ever just put your pet out to fend for itself. That pet is totally your responsibility, not anyone else’s.   Pets that are ‘turned loose’ often die a horrible slow death by starvation or the lucky ones are killed and eaten by other animals (or humans).


Even if living in the suburbs you can raise  some small livestock right now. You could raise chickens for meat and/or eggs. You don’t need a rooster to get eggs, and the rooster is the only loud one. You can also raise rabbits. They are obviously quiet and do not require very much room. Remember that for any pet or livestock you also have to plan on their water supply.

I have had to carry water to livestock on occasion and I can tell for a fact that water is heavy. If the power ever goes out and your water source is even fifty yards from your livestock, add a cart or other means to your preps to assist in moving the water rather than just carrying it.

Consider calories. If you are carrying water for much distance, then you will be burning through many calories. If you are walking many miles out hunting, you will be burning calories. Plan your food supply to your expected needs. If you will be inside your house hunkered down all day, every day then you will not need to consume as many calories per day. You could barely survive on perhaps a thousand calories. But if you will be getting plenty of exercise then you might need three times as many calories and possibly even more than that each day.

No matter how much food I would have stored if I thought a long-term situation was at hand, I would buy as much more food as I could just before the event if I had advance notice. After water, food is the next most vital thing that you need in a long-term situation, and you will need far more food than you think.

It is difficult to stress the importance of having stored food. And don’t forget things like spices, bullion, BBQ sauce, ketchup, salad dressing, salsa, salt (and add more salt because it has many uses), peanut butter, jelly, sugar, brown sugar, and many more add-on items. (Like a spare can opener). These are easy to forget, and while we can likely get by without most of them, they will certainly enhance our dining experiences while using up little extra space or much more money spent.

Often long term storage food (or wild food) can be a little bland, but with a few of these things added, a good cook can make any of us want to eat it. As a forager, I can tell you from experience that while many wild plants are certainly edible in most cases, the application of your favorite salad dressing makes them much more edible.

Local Grain Bins

If you live in farming country, then you have very likely seen grain bins. Huge grain bins store an unbelievable amount of very edible grain. These bins are found near highways for ease of trucking or near railroad tracks for the same reason of shipping. Grain elevators store large amounts also, and those are common in towns and cities. Corn, oats, soybeans, and wheat are the common grains found in those bins. In most cases to use the grain best, you would need a grain mill. Or you could rub the grain between two rocks to make meal or flour. Or sprout the grain and eat the sprouts.

When food is gone farmers will still very likely have grain still stored in those bins on their farms and that grain could be purchased or bartered for from those farmers. In truly desperate times grain bins in remote locations could be opened and grain removed for personal use. This would obviously be stealing, but that would be a choice every person would have to make if they and their family were starving.

Opening a door or chute near the bottom of a full grain bin can be very dangerous and cause a very considerable amount of waste. The grain will flow out just like opening a hole in a dam that is holding back water. It can quickly flow over you and cause suffocation. Be very careful if you ever need to access this source of food. Accessing from the top is always the safest.

Sundry Items

There are non-food items we often don’t think much about. Things that we buy only occasionally and often are quite inexpensive. Things like toothbrushes and toothpaste, hand soap, dish soap, shampoo, laundry soap, toilet paper, feminine items, aspirin, contact lens supplies, Band-Aids, and more little things that we use and need and should stock up on along with the food. Some people prep a large supply of these items with the plan of using them for barter during bad times. These items may be quite cheap now but would have real value in a long-term situation.

The list of these sundry items is almost endless. We all use and depend on so many little things that we think almost nothing about now, but we would sorely miss them if we had to do without. Most of these items we automatically toss in our shopping carts without a second thought. Would life be harder for you if you had no more of those reading glasses? Add some to your preps. Make a list of all the little things and add to that list as you think of more. When writing this list, you can add pencils and paper to the list, so you have them to write the next list.

Long-term items to stock might also include a pressure canner along with canning jars and canning lids. If your long-term plan includes using food from a garden, you will need many canning jars and a whole lot of lids. If you have plans for being off grid and yet have a freezer available to use then remember to stock some freezer paper to wrap your meat along with the tape for it.

Salt is a valuable storage item that is very inexpensive to purchase. Meat can be salted and dried for non-refrigerated storage. Making jerky also requires salt, for the brine solution. Salt adds flavor to almost all foods.

Your Dehydrator

A food dehydrator can either be an electric one that you buy or a passive solar one that you build or buy. A dehydrator can allow you to store many foods without refrigeration. Dehydrated foods are also much lighter to carry if you do any on-foot traveling. Remember little things like zip lock bags in different sizes. As we all know they have hundreds of uses and can be easily forgotten when prepping.

If you have never baked bread (and this means most people), then it is something to practice now. After going without bread for a time, a loaf of home baked bread is a real treat. And yes home baked is often way better than the stuff you buy. Eating a piece of bread fresh and warm from the oven is an experience everyone should enjoy, both now and after a disaster.

If you own your own home, you should plant fruit and/or nut trees now. They often take several years before they produce but can be a real asset to your food storage plan, and require very little maintenance.

And Fuel…

Also, have plans to cook your stored or acquired food. You will need pans and a way to heat the food. If you plan on a camp stove of some kind make sure you have extra fuel for it. Same if you plan on using your grill, either gas or charcoal. Store wood of you plan on using a wood fire for cooking. And certainly  have several ways to light the fire: Cigarette lighters, matches, fire pistons, magnesium & ferro rods, a magnifying glass, or other choices to start a fire. Or better yet, all of those choices.

You cannot get around it. Storing extra food costs money. But unlike some prep items, single food items are quite low priced, and so even on a very small budget, you can slowly but steadily add to your food stores. Even budgeting five dollars a week toward extra food will soon show results. The key to doing it with less money is to use coupons and only buy prep foods when they are on sale. And remember: Only buy what you will eat!


  1. Grain bins – good source BUT BE CAREFUL when getting grain sometimes the grain makes a dome when grain is removed that you can’t see. Grain may have been removed prior to you finding it. If you climb in the bin from top make sure you have another person there. Attach a rope to you so if you start to fall in the grain the rope will hold you or other person can pull you out. You wont suffocate then as it only take a few seconds to have several hundred pounds of grain on top of you. A bushel of corn weights about 56 # and wheat # 60 think about 10 bu on top of you thats makes for hard breathing. After helping to recover a body in grain bin one needs to think SMART so plan ahead maybe. Most bins have ladders on inside so stay near or use the small opening to let the grain out. I realize it’s slow but safe. I farm some and have several small bins that hold 10,000 bushels each and also a paramedic on local squad. Also wear a mask for dust if you have one since their might be MOLD on top of the grain too.

  2. Most grain stored in privately owned bins came directly from the farmer’s field. Seed grain has usually been processed – cleaned, fungicide applied and then bagged. You definitely don’t want to eat that! But it is a little unusual to find fungicide treated grain in bins on farms. Be more careful of the big silos along highways and train tracks.

    1. Although I can a lot and freeze some dehydrating is an effective way of storing many foods and I have frequently used it. I do have an Excalibur dehydrator which is wonderful but in the summer I frequently used well washed wondow screens that i place in an unused vehicle.. It works well and uses no energy. I like to place my dried foods in canning jars and then use a vacuum packer to seal the jars for long term storage. This step isn’t necessary but does insure that the food doesn’t get contaminated. The Indians and many other cultures have used this method of food preservation for centuries.

      1. Now, you are resourceful woman, Sis. Dehydration is so much simpler and lower cost than other preservation techniques. Storage is efficient since the bulk of the food is a fraction of what it was before drying.

        Carry on

    2. Actually, it is quite common for farmer’s to add powdered fungicide to their grain as it is being unloaded straight from harvest and going into a bin. This is commonly done so that the stored grain doesn’t become infested with bugs. We farm and have done this many times (depends on the year and conditions) and so does everyone we know. I would use extreme caution eating random grain from a bin.

  3. Okay, so let’s keep this as simple as possible. Once the SHTF and those who weren’t adequately prepared run out of resources to provide for themselves, even the most basic idiot is going to start looking for resources in other places. Whether it is an urban environment, or a desert, or a forest, or something else, everyone needs to eat, drink, and protect themselves from the elements and others. You only need to look at the history of the world to reach a conclusion that everyone who runs out of resources will seek more to live off of from wherever they can find it, using whatever methods they can contrive or develop that will produce results. Those who don’t will perish, there are no exceptions.

    So to ask for specific sources citing when this sort of thing will or may occur seems a bit disconnected. It is basic human nature for as far back as your belief structure will allow. Unless you expect manna to fall from the sky when you are want for sustenance, once civilization and the logistics of provisioning the masses fall down, people will always start looking (foraging, hunting, trapping, fishing) for more resources to live off of, wherever they may think that might be. In Baghdad, there was no forest with animals, so they roamed the streets, robbed each other, hit up the refuse piles, fished from the rivers, or otherwise caught and ate whatever they could find. It is not a stretch of any imagination to consider that people in more temperate environments won’t resort to similar means when they find themselves unprepared for a survival situation. Either that, or they give up and die. Them’s the choices, I don’t know how anyone could reach a different conclusion. Anecdotal or not, that is basic human nature 101. Either we agree on some basic concepts here about how things go, and have always gone, or the rest of the discussion is rather pointless.

    1. Benjammin,

      My apologies if my question of asking for sources and my replies to you have offended you in some way. With that, I am getting the sense that your entire world view is based on black or white, simplistic binaries that is either right or wrong. There is a whole world of gray available should you chose to look for it. But, as you make clear here, looking at the gray, you find pointless. Ok. That works for me. There is no prize for arguing on the internet.

      1. No need to apologize. Just good banter from different perspective. Each of us is trying to make a convincing argument. My side is based on my life experience and education, where I’ve built a long career of stepping into capital projects that floundered/failed in the gray and bring them back into black and white success.

        We may be able to cite varying techniques used as a consequence of available technology, different habitats, or graduated degrees of sub-preparedness that any person might be able to employ. The fact remains that once immediate resources are depleted, a person must either adapt to a primitive method of acquiring more resources, or perish. If that person is in an environment where hunting and trapping will produce perceivable chances of success, then those will be the methods developed and deployed, either exclusively or in conjunction with other methods that an person will perceive as viable for the environment. In areas like Baghdad, there simply wasn’t much to hunt, so people opted for other, more perceivably viable methods of survival acquisition. Still hunting was utilized in that region where game (rats, birds, snakes, lizards) were observed. I do not see any gray area in how people respond to their environment in a crisis situation, only varying degrees of ability. If that is the gray you are talking about, then maybe we have found a common point.

        1. benjammin, I appreciate the tone of your reply here, and I think we are making progress. As it has been mentioned in the comments, there are little to no sources for citing many of the examples we are talking about. There is also common references in both content and comments in most survival discussions, as well as the main stream media, that a particular type of technology, or government system is what allows us to be civil.

          However, there are current narratives that also says that people who do not have air conditioning in today’s world have a much higher probability to be violent. This is a narrative that says, if you do not have this modern technology, you are potentially a threat. How many people here did not have air conditioning at one point in their life? I do not recall the world being set on fire through violence in my history lessons because of lack of air conditioning.

          This is one of many examples that may be useful in questioning how certain technologies are framed in a way that says, if you do not have this, you could potentially be a threat. For your example in Baghdad, I know a Kurd who lived in Northern Iraq during 2005 and his account of the war was that is awesome and profitable. When comparing his account along with yours, could we say that accessibility to supplies, and the politics that went in to that plays a larger role in how people respond, rather than just simplifying and saying all people are violent when absent of modern consumerism?

  4. Remember too that your local feed store has whole and cracked grains in 50 lb sacks that have not been treated with fungicide and is able to be safely eaten. It can also be used for seed to grow more. We are talking about corn, soybeans, barley, oats, wheat, and possibly other grains.

  5. Re: Yesterday’s comments on this article. Very informative and each one has been bookmarked. Planning is great, but knowledge is king. That’s why skills and practice will leave you far ahead of the sheeple. Just an observation…one thing on the hunting side that wasn’t mentioned. Here in southeastern Pennsylvania there are a significant number of Canadian Geese that are no longer protected and open for hunting. Think small turkey size. Also, thanks to Mr. Cascio and his review of Cold Steel Cheap Shot 130. Been looking info crossbows for awhile and thanks to his review I’m pulling the trigger and getting one. Quiet and more than enough to harvest those Geese. Also be aware when you see a flock of them grazing, They always have some that are not grazing but are very alert with their heads held high. These are “guard” geese, so caution is advised when stalking and approaching. Last thought…for us preppers SB is THE BEST site bar none…Thanks, JWR

  6. I know that some people either cannot or will not store food. They likely have other plans. If things ever do get so bad that you cannot get food from the local grocery store it is very likely you would not be able to purchase gasoline either. So if your plan involves using your vehicle in any way after a major catastrophe, you better have a fuel plan.
    In the eastern states this is not quite so important because cities and towns are close together. In the western states the distances are much longer. So if you plan on moving have fuel or have good hiking shoes.
    Also if you plan on walking or riding bike after any emergency it won’t work out well unless you walk or ride bike now to be ready. Nothing wrong with a plan that involves walking or bike riding but you have to harden yourself ahead of time to do those things. Many, many people could not walk 10 miles on a flat highway even if their life depended on it. I do not mean this in any derogatory way, only pointing out that we are all not super heroes and we better practice our plans ahead of time.

  7. Very nice article with good advice. Even those of us out in the middle of nowhere will eventually be invaded and/or attacked by those who failed to prepare for disasters. Most of our supplies are well-hidden and cashed over many acres and we can defend our property, but I leave some raw wheat, oats and corn and chicken scratch stored in my feed shed. 98% of folks do not know how to processes or prepare raw grains and while they may take it when they find it, they will be in great pain for as long as they try to eat them. Just like some dumb city kids that shot their first deer and then contaminated the meat because they did not know how to field dress the animal.

  8. The author wrote, “No matter how much food I would have stored if I thought a long-term situation was at hand, I would buy as much more food as I could just before the event if I had advance notice.”

    I have read numerous comments from people who say that they store food now in order to avoid the rush that would take place after, or just before, a major catastrophe struck. The idea is that they would avoid the Walmart Black Friday scene. If you’re preparing for an earthquake or hurricane, I certainly get that. But what if the catastrophe involved what was likely to be a breakdown that lasted for years? An EMP attack or even a cyber attack would be an example of such an emergency.

    While the risks of “mixing it up” with desperate people seeking food and necessities is considerable, if you really had no idea how long it would be before you could get more of any particular thing, would you be willing to bet your family’s well-being on there being future deliveries?

    About dehydrating and canning food, in colonial times no one had Mason Jars. If not eaten fresh, dehydration of vegetables was a solution. In the History Channel program, “After Armageddon,” people used cars as dehydrators, and I seem to recall that window screens were used as trays on which food was placed for dehydration inside the vehicle. The vehicle’s windows would no doubt have been used to regulate the heat inside the vehicle on very hot days.

    About the reading glasses the author mentions, I’ve read that the average person needs reading glasses in their early 40s. Why not head to a dollar store and buy a handful? These $1.00 eyeglasses may not be made with the most fashionable frames, but having pairs of these could be a godsend after a certain period, and by having plenty of extras, you won’t be wasting time and mumbling, “Where did I leave my glasses?”

    And be sure to buy reading glasses of different strengths. I found this in a NY Times article: “People typically start using readers of plus 1 to plus 1.25 diopters when they turn 40 to 45, Dr. O’Brien said. ”With each decade, you go up about a half unit,” he added. ”So when you’re 55 or 60, you’ll be at about 2.5, and when you’re 65 or 70, 2.75 or 3. Eighty-year-olds are 3 and above.”

  9. I loved the animated discussions here.

    But I’m posting to say Thank You to the author.

    I’m in central Nebraska today, with 300 miles of Interstate 80 closed by blizzard, TV reporting 200 rivers at flood stage, roads closing all over the state, bridges becoming unsafe by flood erosion, towns evacuating here and there, state wildlife agents ordered to take their boats to assist evacuation, with forty mph wind gusts blowing snow outside, hundreds of semi trucks parked in small towns along the interstate. River levees starting to breach and one reported death in a river with body not yet recovered.

    My 85 YO mother has overflowing freezers and pantry with everything needed for comfort. We’re watching things fall apart with a hot cup of coffee while reclining on the sofa. She and her husband are prepared. They donate to food pantries and Salvation army every year. It’s a way of life.

    Last month in my home PNW. Over 1800 dairy cattle died by blizzard and extreme cold. Where will the lost milk come from? the next hit on major food sources?

    God Bless each of you for the steps you have taken to establish your resiliency. I adjure you to broaden your scope through community ties or you’ll be overwhelmed by trying to do it all yourself.

    Try to get active supporting 4H, FFA, local small food producers. Sure you can bitch and moan about those folks wanting 5 bucks for a dozen eggs and 3 bucks a pound for organic vegetables.

    But that’s what they need to stay in operation. Help them out every so often and buy some product. Your life will depend on them when SHTF in your area WROL. Get their names and phone numbers now, give them a hand within your means.

  10. Hurricane clean up requires chainsaws ( gas, oil, lots of extra chains), pole saws, long handled pruners (for those helping who are not chain saw proficient), heavy duty gloves, rubber boots, boot socks. These will sell out quickly, so stockpile. After Irma husband and I had to cut our way out of our drive way to the road and then appx 1/2 mile down road to reach a pathway to a secondary road. Still have fallen trees and debris to clean up 1 1/2 years later. Debris was fuel for wild fires the following fire season. Garden hoses a must to try and protect until forestry service gets there. We had 3 wildfires within one month last May during a drought due to fallen debris. One within 100 feet of our home.

    We are both seniors and nephew waded in hip deep water to check on us after the storm passed and then had to walk/wade back out due to fallen trees, road collapsed and 4 wheel drive F250 hung up. Two weeks without electricity. Generators saved us.

    God bless Gov. Scott who put armed trooper escorts out for fuel trucks. BIL delivered gas from 300 miles away when he finally got thru to check on us. No phone service.

    Linemen from other states were heroes. God bless them.

    No ice even if lights came back on due to polluted city water. Sewage backed up in the streets once water came back on due to pump station over loads.
    Gov., now Senator Scott, had the common sense and initiative to get things done and keep things from deteriorating into chaos. Will always be grateful. Leadership matters.

  11. Pete, You had my attention until you started talking about eating the family pet. This is the point where I decided you and I are very different folks. If eating a beloved family pet becomes a means for survival, I’m outa here. This life in this world is not the ultimate goal, it’s but a blink of the eye in the big picture. Survival in this disintegrating world with it’s collapsing cultural values is not worth eating my dog for. In fact, as I contemplate things I hear and read daily, I’m inclined to think that not much of this world is destined to last for long, the killing of babies, the rotting of morality, the turning away from and the rejection of God, how long will this go on? I don’t claim to know God’s intentions, but I gotta think He’s had just about enough. Seems to me the killing of the little ones would put us in extreme danger, but I guess God is patient. So if you wish to persevere and survive at all costs in this corrupted world, I wish you the best. But at some point, you gotta cut your losses and run. Good luck to you.

  12. Just another comment most of the grain that is stored on farm is GMO grain so if you plant it you get a nice plant without any seed so you learn to eat the plant (LOL) . When I replanted the corn I raised I got a beautiful ear but NO corn and that was back in the early 90″s and tech has improved since then so think ahead. Also my farm neighbors are several small seed companies that my farm borders and they complain about what I plant next to them. My crops might pollinate their seed crop and its has a patient on their seed rights a very big problem and the attorneys get to fight it out.. Guess who wins – the attorneys.

  13. Couple things. Hazards of accessing grain from the lower ports was pretty well covered. Some people might be tempted to access from the top. This can be extremely hazardous. First, the grain dust that will either be present or will be kicked up once you try to extract the grain can explode, so be very careful about sparks and don’t even think about lighters, matches, lamps, smokes, cheap flashlights, etc. Second, there is a huge danger of a man being sucked down and suffocated, so only operate with a buddy outside manning a safety line harnessed to you inside, at all times. As the grain is loaded and settles, voids form that are unstable. You can disappear like you went through a trapdoor if you’re walking on top of one. Finally, any kind of confined space can be deadly by lack of oxygen. This can happen naturally in a tight structure, but even in farm bins there may be use of methyl bromide or other fumigants to kill insect or animal pests which unfortunately include “grain rustlers”. You absolutely need to establish and maintain good air movement into the space you’ll be working. If you can’t, I don’t care how inefficient it is, just throw in a bucket on a rope and pull it out the best you can (or access from below, per the article).

    Second, is anyone aware of any work on how feasible it is to wash or soak out the fungicide from treated grain? In order to make bulgur, you have to soak the wheat anyway. Has anyone done any studies of whether you can reduce the toxin levels to acceptable levels by field expedient methods?

Comments are closed.