Storing a year of food at home

First you need to figure out what to store and how much to store per person. Try to store your food in a place as dark, dry, cold, and as little fluctuating temperature as possible.

1 year of food: 7 five-gallon FOOD GRADE buckets and lids per person. It’s very important you only store food in food grade containers.  I bought 7 Gamma seal lids for the buckets I open the most often, a nice luxury.  Other lids need to be hammered on with a rubber mallet and pried off with a bucket lid opener.  These are good to store emergency water in too.   If you do an internet search, you can probably find posts about where to find free buckets and lids.  Some bakeries, restaurants, etc., in your town are probably throwing them out and would be glad to give them to you.

To store food for up 8 to 30 years (the colder and drier the closer you’ll get to 30 years), you’ll need to use dry ice (best), oxygen absorbers (2nd best), freezing (2nd best), vacuum sealing, or Diatomaceous Earth (DE) for grain or beans you intend to sprout.  Assume 1.5 lbs DE per 300 lbs of grain (1.5 cups per 5 gallon bucket).  Do an internet search for details, I haven’t tried this out yet.

Long-term food: I highly recommend, if you can afford it, doing an internet search on emergency supplies and buying food in #10 containers or buckets.  Just be sure the shipping costs aren’t too high.

Here’s how I store the food I cook with, given the space in my kitchen.  There’s no point in storing food if you don’t rotate it.


Lower pantry: I have half a dozen cheap shelves held up by tiny plastic pieces poked in holes in a 3’ wide x 2’ deep x 4’ high area.  Since these plastic pieces can’t hold up shelves groaning under the weight of canned goods and grains, I bought large square containers (from a commercial kitchen supply store open to the public) and I re-use large empty plastic containers that used to have food in them.

These large and re-used containers are full of wheat, corn, and oats (whole grains, not flour or flakes).

Once a year, on a cold wet winter day, I buy 125 pounds of organic wheat, 25 pounds of organic oats, and 25 pounds of organic corn in bulk at a non-chain grocery store (Berkeley Bowl or Rainbow Grocery, pre-ordered the week before).  This knocks 10% off the full price of buying it in a bin.  I could also go to Whole Foods and a dozen other stores in this area that sell bulk grains.

I remove all the food on the shelves from my pantry and clean the shelves, removing any food beyond the expiration date, and make note of any supplies running low.

Then I remove all of the grain in the containers holding up the shelves, and transfer it to smaller containers in the upper pantry space.  What doesn’t fit above goes into vacuum sealed half-gallon mason jars and FoodSaver containers.  If I run out of large glass jars, then I use quart canning jars.

Other kinds of grains  

The upper pantry always has 1 sack of brown rice (short grain Lundberg in 13 lb bags from Costco). Brown rice only keeps 6 months, so that’s as much as I ever store.  I also buy 4 pound bags of quinoa at Costco.

All the other grains I buy in 4 to 5 pound amounts from the bulk storage bin, because many of them only keep for a year (though some would keep much longer if I bothered to vacuum seal or use oxygen absorbers).  Some of these grains are amaranth, barley, buckwheat, millet, red and black quinoa (tan from Costco), rye, and spelt.  These end up in my whole grain mix that I mill flour from (see my upcoming book “Whole Grain Crackers, Chips, Biscotti, Cereal, Flat Breads and More”).  When they’re used up, I buy more.  I don’t buy Kamut anymore, because several times it’s had insects hatch out.

Beans & Legumes

I wash and dry small red beans and lentils to add to my whole grain mix for more protein.  I also stock black, pinto, cannellini, split peas, etc and canned garbanzos.  I like to make beans in a pressure cooker or boil very large amounts (more than I can get into the pressure cooker) and freeze them.


Buy in bulk at Costco and store in your freezer, vacuum sealed, or on your shelf up to 6 months.

Dried Fruit & vegetables

Buy in bulk, and also consider dehydrating fruit and vegetables at home.  That way you won’t have the added sugar, sulfur, and chemicals found in commercial products.  To make dried goods last even longer, I vacuum seal them into canning jars with the FoodSaver wide mouth jar sealer.

The 7 buckets I mentioned to have above now hold water, not food.  I found I couldn’t lift heavy 40 pound buckets up the many stairs to the house, so I only have about 6 months of food on hand in my kitchen pantry, or 1 month in an emergency given my family and close friends nearby.

I’m always saddened every year when I hear, on the anniversary of the big 1906 earthquake, that half the people polled have less than 3 days of food stored. When a sudden food crisis arises from social unrest, oil and power outages, earthquake, fire, weather,  etc occur, the amount of suffering and pillaging will be a lot less if everyone stores as much food as they can.

About Alice

I've milled and baked with whole grains for many years, because whole grains are delicious, and white flour is missing the nutrition that protects you from cancer, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and many other diseases. Plus it's a good emergency food.
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