Budget Food and Sundries Storage – Pt. 1, by Pete Thorsen

(This is the first part of a three part series.)

Food storage is a very important part of any preparedness, and thoughts on food storage vary widely. Some people store buckets of wheat, corn, beans, and rice. For many people, they would only know what to do with maybe the rice. With the prepper/survivalist fad right now many companies are selling long term storage (LTS) food.

Some of these LTS foods are just as is, so to speak, like beans or wheat. Some are dehydrated, and some are freeze dried. And of course, some is your standard canned goods. Advice commonly given is ‘store what you eat and eat what you store.’ That is very sound advice. What they mean is buy stuff that you normally eat and then always eat the oldest item first, so you rotate through your stored food supply.

The great thing about storing food for survival is that it is easy to start, and not expensive. Cans of vegetables can often be purchased on sale for about fifty cents per can. Most people have an extra buck so they could buy two cans for storage. You don’t have to buy a whole year’s supply all at once. You buy a little extra each week. Like when you are planning on eating spaghetti soon, so you buy a box of the pasta, just buy an extra box. Pasta has a long storage life and it is very reasonable to purchase. Start slow and just buy extra of the regular foods you always buy.

So if you eat canned green beans and you buy twenty cans when it is on sale then store it with the oldest cans to the front, so that is what you use first. And the next time they are on sale again buy more but put the new cans in back behind the older cans. This way you rotate your stock of food. And you are only storing food that you will actually eat.

Many canned foods can often be eaten right out of the can without any further cooking. That is a big plus in an emergency situation. Canned goods often contain liquid that can extend your stored water supply, another bonus. But if you are not going to eat it don’t buy it.  So don’t buy canned oysters or something if you would never eat it or if you cannot eat it due to an allergy. Only buy what you will eat. Also, buy an extra non-electric can opener. Although the trend in canned goods has been to gradually change over to pop-top cans, that is not done with larger cans. And the big #10 size can is standard in the LTS food industry. You will need a hand-operated can opener!

Shelf Stable Milk

Many people don’t realize that many items can be stored a long time. Milk can be stored in the cupboard if it is retort-packaged ‘shelf stable milk’ and can be stored for a year or more that way. If nothing else it is handy to have on hand when you run out of your regular fresh milk. This can be mail-ordered and is also found in grocery stores next to evaporated milk and condensed milk. And of course those too are good storage items. It is just regular milk that is ‘super pasteurized’ so most people can not tell the difference from standard milk. (I can’t, and I often use it when I run out of regular milk or when I rotate my stock).  This shelf stable milk is usually found in one-quart retort cartons. A quick look at the expiration date will show you that it is made to store up to a year or more and with no refrigeration needed–and likely will store twice that long with no problems.

You can buy eggs dehydrated or freeze-dried and can last a long time. (The latter, about ten years). Dried or canned butter and cheese can also be stored a long time. Even if it is something that lasts only a year that is fine as long as it is something that you normally eat, just consistently rotate your stock as you use it.

Canned goods and most other packaged foods commonly last much, much longer than the marked “Best if used by…” expiration date. Companies are required to put on an expiration date, and then occasionally their product is tested by the FDA to see if it is still good at that point. The company picks the date, and it is to their advantage to shorten the date considerably. Let’s say you tested your product and it commonly lasts three years or more. But just to be on the safe side, you mark it as expires in one year (or even less). People commonly throw out food that is past the expiration date and then just buy more.

Home Canning

Canning your own food makes sense. This can include butter and meat. Many items can be canned at home and last a long time that way. (Think: years). Most pressure cookers come with a canning guide, or a canning book can often be found next to the canning supplies in stores and purchased there.  With a pressure canner, jars, and some lids you can store meat without freezing it. That is a big plus if there is no power. Home canned food can easily last for much more than a year. Some, up to ten years–although the nutrutive value declines considerably. Just keep in mind that most lids are a one-time use thing so store a lot of them. They’re inexpensive.  And truly re-usable hard plastic canning lids are made by a company called Tattler.

Ramen noodles are a very inexpensive food. Just ask most any poor college student. It doesn’t taste bad, stores pretty well, and it cooks fast and easy. However, it is often high in salt content. I don’t recommend that you plan on living on ramen. But because it is so cheap but it seems logical to include some of it in your preps. If nothing else it can be what you might hand out to beggars that come to your door. If they see all you have is ramen they will know you don’t have much to spare. But if you are starving, some ramen would be like a feast.

Use common sense in your food storage: Don’t buy a five-gallon bucket of lima beans if you don’t eat lima beans. Don’t buy a bucket of wheat if you don’t know what to do with it. (Do you have a grain mill?) One common long-term storage food is white rice. Yes, brown rice is maybe better for you but does not store as long. Rice is easy and fast to cook. It can be added to many other things to make a more filling meal. And it is readily available and pretty cheap to buy. Walmart has twenty pounds of rice for about ten bucks. Seal it up good, and it will store for many years (10 to 20 years or even more).

Rice is also something that many of us already commonly eat. The directions for cooking rice is – – combine rice with double the amount of water (example ½ cup rice and 1 cup water), boil for fifteen minutes, let stand without heat for five minutes, then eat. There is a product called Minute rice or Quick rice. This is precooked and then dehydrated rice. Just add an equal amount of boiling water to the rice, let stand for a minute and eat. Quicker and easier but this product does not store as long as regular rice but is still a viable option to keep on hand or in your bug out bag (BOB). Remember that rice can be eaten by itself (as incomplete nutrition) or countless things can be combined with it.

Many people buy ‘oxygen absorber packets’ to put in their sealed LTS food to make it last even longer. Some also include water absorbing desiccant packs. Either or both of these will likely lengthen storage times but whether they are worth the extra money spent on them is everyone’s choice. If you regularly rotate your food stocks, I feel they might not be needed, but then again they are not that expensive.

Don’t have a lot of room to store stuff because you live in a small apartment? Be ingenious and hide it in plain sight. Take the legs off your coffee table and set the table on top of five-gallon buckets full of food or water. Then cover with a tablecloth that hangs low enough to cover everything.   Store food under the bed or in the back of your closet. Stored food is a valuable asset that could save your life. Food is relatively cheap so almost anyone can at least store some for emergencies.

Supplementing Your Storage

Don’t plan on ‘living off the land’ but you could plan on supplementing your stored food when possible with whatever fresh food you might be able to gather. Many things are found even in towns and cities. Dandelion greens are good to eat and found almost everywhere. Those pigeons that are in the park are very good eating (cook them and add some rice for a very good meal). Squirrels are found in city parks almost everywhere and are quite tasty.

Snare that stray cat. Skin it before your wife sees what it is and then tell her it is a rabbit. Save the guts out of the dead cat and use that for bait for fishing or bait to trap other animals. If it moves, the chances are that you can eat it and protein is vital for survival. See those Robins in the front yard, use your slingshot that is quiet and nab a couple. Cook them and add some rice for a nice meal! (Note it is not legal to kill songbirds like that Robin. But if it is a survival situation then you do what you must to survive).

Buy a book on edible plants in your area with good pictures. Then buy another one, so you have more pictures and a second opinion. Many wild things are edible, but some are not. Know what you are about to eat before you sink your teeth into it. If you are not sure let your mother-in-law try it first or else just pass it by. Books on foraging, edible plants, and plant identification will store forever and supply an unending source of food for you and your family. The key to finding and eating wild plants is to do so well ahead of the time when your life might depend on those wild foods.

Buy the books now and then practice gathering plants on your walks to try out at home. Be certain of your identification, to avoid toxic plants. And even if you are certain of the plant variety, start slow and only eat small portions at first until you know if your body can tolerate certain plants. Gradually build up your knowledge of edible plants until you know what is not only edible but also tasty. Also, you can learn where to look for certain plants. This knowledge will not happen overnight but will be a gradual process so start now when finding these wild plants is not a matter of life and death. Also, different seasons of the year means totally different plants to look for and often which different parts of the plants to gather. Some plants have to be cooked, and some can be eaten raw. There is much to learn about foraging so start that learning process NOW!

Old vacant properties may have fruit trees or nut trees that you can harvest when in season. Most locations in the United States have some form of oak trees that you can harvest the acorns from in the fall. These can be crushed or ground into a meal and eaten different ways but know that you have to soak them first enough to remove the tannins or they will make you sick.

Soak the acorns in plain water for a couple of hours then change the water and soak again. You might have to change the water two or more times. Before soaking them, taste an acorn and it will be bitter. After soaking taste again and it will have a nice nutty taste or if still bitter just soak again in more fresh water and re-taste. The bitter taste is the excess tannins found in this otherwise tasty nut.

When you shoot that stray dog, be neighborly and share the meat with your neighbor. Besides, it will very likely spoil before you could eat it all anyway. Remember if it flies, walks, or crawls it is likely edible and full of protein.

(To be continued.)



    1. The Chinese, I have heard, have a saying. “If its back faces the sky, it is edible.”

      Dogs made a contract with humans thousands of years ago: “You feed me and I will provide companionship, security, and (to some extent) protection.” The majority of dog breeds cannot fend for themselves if humans do not provide daily sustenance. Dogs who have been bred with extreme features, e.g., “smushed” faces, overly large dogs, and overly small dogs, would likely be doomed without human help.

      In Fortschen’s novel, “One Second After,” town residents become desperate within weeks of an EMP attack. Pets become a luxury that few people can afford, given that people are themselves starving. They turn their dogs over to the town’s administration in order to avoid the need to slaughter them themselves, and in order to avoid eating their own pets. They are then provided with meat from other people’s pets.

      I have read that, without meat from the dogs obtained by trading with Indian tribes, those in the Lewis & Clark Expedition would have starved. Lewis refused to eat dog meat. Clark and the others were said to have preferred it to venison. Dog meat is a common entre in Korean and Chinese restaurants.

      I watched a fairly well-done Danish movie on Netflix in the past year. I do not remember much about it, but I seem to remember that some disease turned people into rabid creatures. One family is running out of food, but is shown enjoying “beef stew” one night. The son asks if anyone has seen the family dog. The others deny having seen it, and one of them suggests that he has run away. Knowing looks are exchanged.

      Cats would not likely be a burden after a societal collapse. A cat turned loose in the neighborhood would fend for itself by killing rodents and birds. In the History Channel series, “Life After People,” cats are shown doing just fine without human help. In large urban areas today, feral cats thrive. Of course, while they are wandering around neighborhoods, they would be subject to being killed as a useful protein source. 10 million coyotes can’t be wrong.

      I agree that having to eat cats or dogs would be “sad,” but, having starving family members would be sadder. In an extreme survival situation, regardless of how we might view matters now, I expect that most of us would ultimately do what we needed to do.

  1. Rice is a good storage for pets like cats & dogs too. It is a good extender with fish for cats, or dogs can do quite well on rice, meat, and cooked vegetables like green beans or carrots.
    Rice is very versatile for people. Can be an accompanying dish for meat or fish, a dessert such a rice pudding, or a main dish type casserole. Rice is fairly cheap to purchase in 10-20 pound bags that can be repackaged into LTS.

  2. Please note: The quick links in the article were added by the editor with no input from me. This is perfectly fine and I am glad he did so for examples of certain products. Just know that I am NOT promoting the examples he included (which are likely fine but I have never tried them).

  3. So many people do not know how to cook food anymore. They just heat up already prepared items and call it cooking. It is Not hard to cook your own food and it usually tastes much better than the store bought commercially made already prepared food. So go to the library or on line and learn basic cooking skills-now! It will make your life much easier later and you’ll enjoy healthier and better tasting food now as well as saving you money that can be shifted to other preparedness items.

  4. [Home] canning butter, though recommended by loads of preppers online, is not advised by food preservation specialists (https://nchfp.uga.edu/questions/FAQ_canning.html#33). Unaware of this advice, and just going by what was posted online, I canned dozens of pints about ten years ago. Some jars were good after a few months, or even a year, but many started to smell bad. It’s not worth the risk of botulism or other food poisoning.

    A very acceptable substitute to butter is coconut oil. It can be had for about the same price as butter and already comes packaged (better to buy in glass instead of plastic for long-term storage) so you don’t waste a canning jar. It works extremely well in baked goods like cakes, muffins, and chocolate chip cookies.


    1. I concur that for butter, the risk of home canning outweighs the rewards. If anyone wants to store butter, then commercially-canned butter is a good option. Red Feather brand (sold by several SurvivalBlog advertisers including Ready Made Resources) has a great reputation. Other options include canned coconutmilk and canned ghee.

  5. I have to admit, I’ve eaten dog. While in Korea, with the U.S. Army, there was a dish in the village called, Omarice (phonetic spelling). It was like an omelet. It had rice,eggs meat and vegetables in an omelet like covering. I had eaten this dish almost every time I went to the village. I kept forgetting to get the recipe. On one of my last visits to the village, before rotation, I had a half of a plate before me and remembered to ask for the recipe. Me with my ‘broke Korean’ and the waitress with her ‘broken English’ were having a little trouble communicating. I had understood most of the ingredients but she was saying something like “one pound of peppers”…I didn’t understand saying, “I don’t see any ‘peppers’ what type of ‘peppers’? She said, ” No,No (with her hands stretched about two feet apart) no dog, puppy”.
    I stopped dead in my tracks and thought, puppy? Then I said to myself, “This is ridiculous, the dish was so good a minute ago that I had to have the recipe, but now that I know what is in it, it’s no good anymore?” I finished the plate on principle, but I never ordered it again. You know we are all conditioned by our societies, it just depends where you are standing on the planet as to what you think about a lot of things. How about a hamburger in India or pork chops in Israel?

  6. All choices of food for long term storage and/or SHTF are compromises. The issues are cost, weight/space, cook/prep time, nutritive value, storage time, palatability, familiarity, and more. The advantages of wheat, beans and rice are very hard to disagree with. And it is fairly simple to learn how to use these (and a few other) prepping staples. If you really want to understand the value of dried beans, for example, calculate out the amount of dried beans to make a can of beans and put them side by side. Now imagine yourself loading up a months supply and humping it through the woods for a month.

  7. I just did a quick Google search and as far as I could find rancid butter won’t kill you. It might upset your stomach due to the off taste ans smell. I canned lots of butter and it was fine for 3 years. When we made a move I had to store my canned goods outside under a tarp in the hot son. Some of my butter then developed an off sort of rancid taste. I currently have a cool cellar where I can keep such things cold.

  8. I package rice and pinto beans in mylar bags with o2 absorbers.
    place about 30 ish pounds in a 5 gallon bag in a 5 gallon bucket. add o2 absorbers and immediately seal the mylar wait 24 hours if the bag looks vacuumed down put the lid on right the date in sharpie move it to storage. this is by far the cheapest way to have LONG term food storage that you can still move.
    you can do this with 55 gallon barrels but there almost impossible to move without some equipment or strong backs.

  9. I actually like the links and often just add to my wish list to look at later. I tried the chocolate version of the boxed milk and saw 18 was a better price and there is also a $5 coupon for the first order and, of course, free shipping with Prime!

  10. Thinking you will be able to shoot your food with a slingshot (5% chance) or firearm (5-25% chance) is dangerous fantasy. As is the idea you can catch enough fish to feed yourself and loved ones. Big difference between fishing and catching.

    You do well to learn how to trap critters or buy a large fishnet to anchor securely in a nearby stream where the fish might, I say “might” swim in and stay until you show up. Passive means of bringing home meat is likely to be a way more efficient use of your time and resources than hunting or fishing.

    Of course, you can buy lots of canned protein. I have cases of canned mackerel I bought for less than $2.00 for a 16 oz. can. Dollar store.

    Carry on

  11. Dollar Tree stores have boxed shelf stable milk in quarts for $1.

    One storage food that is difficult to store is cooking oil. Most has a fairly short shelf life rating (1 year). Olive oil is best at a 3 year rating. Anyone with pigs or neighbors with pigs have a perpetual source for lard.
    As a last resort most areas of country have bears and one shot in late fall would normally have a lot of fat that could be rendered. I am not a fan of bear meat and I wonder about bear fat. We do have bears around here but no hog farmers so bear would end up being my only fat source. (once my storage oil was depleted)

    1. We’ve had no problem storing virgin olive oil in plastic bottles (such as those sold at COSTCO) in our freezer for up to six years with no noticeable change in consistency or flavor, upon thawing. And we’ve never had a bottle leak, even though some of them have been frozen 2 or 3 times.

  12. I agree with Once a Marine about slingshots and your chance at catching small songbirds. Probably would be better off with a trap or net. Fishing for survival is also better with a net, a trap or with multiple sets that can fish without you being there to watch the line. Overall, if an entire city is suddenly turned topsy turvey and everyone has to eat pets, zoo animals, and local flora and fauna, they won’t be around long (as we have seen in Venezuela). You’d be better off investing in some rat traps or not being in the city in the first place.

    Regarding the milk, I don’t consider anything with a one-year best-buy date and a two-year total shelf life to be “long term” storage — that just isn’t long enough. I don’t even like wet-pack canned goods and MREs because they deteriorate too quickly, although I have some of each. However, I have #10 cans of freeze dried meats made for Uncle Sam that have 30-year storage dates.

    White rice is a great food for long term storage, but store some beans as well. I have done the math and figure the best ratio for your nutritional needs is to store 7-parts rice to 3-parts beans. So if you have 200 pounds of rice, you need about 85 pounds of beans. If you can’t remember this, just store twice as much rice as beans and you’ll be pretty close. And keep in mind that lentils and split peas count as beans, and products like barley, oatmeal and cornmeal count towards the grain portion, so have some variety in your storage foods.

  13. I got a second used chest freezer cheap, and it is my deep cryo freezer now, with a variety mixture of meats, coffee, olive oil, cheese, butter, herbs, yeast, and miscellaneous other stuff.

    It stays totally frozen and extra insulated top and sides with quilts. I keep the motor area open, and the little indicator light visible on the front side showing it’s

    In our other regular use freezer, for freezing fish and cooked shrimp, I do like the hunters did with mastodons…. simulate the ice age… freeze them in water in a baggie and they never dry out.

    One bag of shrimp (I harvested them) is on it’s 3rd year and still good. We just ate the second to the last bag…garlic butter and yum! Same thing with vacuum packed salmon….it’s still bright orange, coated with a layer of ice inside the vacuum sealed bag.

    Ice glazing at home works for shorter term: fish or chicken (possibly rabbit too?) strips laid on baking tray, brush water heavy on both sides of meat and freeze, repeat 3 times, then put in freezer bags. Use within a few months. Vacuum packing frozen glazed food not recommended.

  14. If birds are around and you have some corn, they are very easily trapped. Back in the ‘50s-‘60s, when I was a kid in rural south Georgia, I often trapped birds with a simple trap that had no moving parts at all. I built a four-sided pyramid of sticks, arranged with roughly half-inch spaces between rows. The maximum length, width, and height were about 18”, 18”, and 10”, respectively. I dug a small trench (roughly 18 inches long, three inches wide, and three inches deep). When the trap was fully assembled, one end of the trench would be inside the pyramid and the other would be outside. On and around the “inside” end of the trench, I scattered some grains of corn. Then I made a thin trail of corn grains from that end of the trench to the other, and I scattered a few more grains of corn around the “outside” end of the trench. I covered most of the length of the trench with a thin board, leaving a relatively small opening that would be inside the pyramid and a larger opening that would be outside the pyramid. Then I placed the pyramid over the “inside” end of the trench. Birds would find the corn near the outside end of the trench, eat their way along the trail of corn, thus erasing the trail, and enter the pyramid. Once there, they could not find their way out of the pyramid. They just would not go back down the hole that no longer contained corn. The method worked very well with quail, doves, blue jays, etc. I often caught 3-4 birds at once, even mixtures of the above species.

    1. Eat all the Starlings and English Sparrows you like , they are invasive to the Americas , and any other invasive species you can find . Most other songbirds eat tons of insects , making outdoor activity safer for humans, preventing disease and helping our gardens. I would suggest restraint in all hunting and smaller portions of meat after SHTF . A lot of meat will be wasted by inexperienced hunters and roadside butchers . We the experienced may have to exercise restraint to prevent our extinction and that of all wild species . As much as I like myself I do not feel I could justify wiping out an entire species to save our butts . We have already done just that with fur-bearers and doves and other delicious birds. I hunt and have and will again raise my own food . Most of us realize proper management is the only way to maintain a healthy herd , wild or domestic . Please support survivalblog by taking the 10 cent challenge . Thank you and keep up the good work.

  15. Everyone talks dogs and cats when desperate, but don’t forget guinea pigs and rabbits as an alternate meat source as well. They are smaller, don’t make a much noise and fairly easy to feed with garden scraps.

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