The food you have stored in your home is one of your most valuable assets. However, finding room to properly store that food can be quite challenging. Many apartments and homes are just not storage-friendly.
Where can I find space to store my emergency or survival food supply? You may need to get a little bit creative and take a serious look at both the horizontal and vertical space where you can possibly store your precious food storage. Think outside the box and consider the less obvious answers. We have some fantastic ideas to get you started.
Ideal Storage Conditions
The ideal storage conditions are in a cool, dry basement storage room on sturdy shelves designed to facilitate effective rotation. Quite frankly, many of us do not have an ideal place to store our food. You may have to use a little creativity to get the job done.
My goal in writing this post is to explore a variety of creative storage solutions and thereby eliminate the excuse that you can’t build your food storage because you have no place to put it. Let’s get those creative juices flowing with ideas from our friends.
The photo to the right is the newly started food storage room that belongs to an elementary school teacher that just relocated from across the country. She is starting over from scratch and is making great progress. We have been building our food storage for many years and it is still a work in progress. Start from where ever you are and make steady progress.
Do not let perfectionism keep you from storing food. Do the best you can with the space you have and stay within your budget. In a worst-case scenario, you can always just stack cases of #10 cans from floor to ceiling against a wall in a room. Perhaps disguise it with a curtain or sheet, perhaps just leave it as is to remind you that you are ready when disaster strikes.
Use Heavy Duty Shelving
Food is heavy and requires special heavy-duty shelving in order to handle the weight. A friend of mine allowed me to see her new food storage room. I was very proud of her, but I was worried that flimsy shelves may not hold up under the weight of the food she had neatly stacked on top of them.
A short time later she was upstairs and heard a loud crash. She ran downstairs to find her precious food in a pile of cans, broken glass, and liquids. Poor girl, it was a mess. Lesson learned and the next set of shelves was designed to hold the heavyweight of the food storage.
Each of the photos below shows shelves that are designed to handle the weight of food storage.
Do not place more weight on a shelf than it can handle. My engineer husband has driven this home to me on several occasions and has designed our shelves to be strong enough to handle any load that I can put on them. He fears that sometimes I don’t feel that the laws of physics apply to me.
Creative Ideas for Places to Store Your Food Supply
We have several ideas with some fun photos for you. A special thanks to all of our friends for providing such fantastic pictures of food storage by real people. You will notice that many of the storage rooms are not perfectly organized and dust-free. We are all real people with busy lives. We are trying to balance the demands of daily life while carving out a little piece of time and resources to prepare for the future.
If your goals and expectations are too high you will fall short. Be realistic, do the best you can, and get that food stored. These aren’t designer photos staged for a magazine photoshoot … just from the homes of real people working to be prepared and take good care of their families.
Some of the locations may not be the ideal place to store food. However, you may want to move less sensitive items into those storage places to free up the premium storage space inside of your home. For instance, toilet paper can easily be stored in a garage.
Basement Storage Room
The ideal location for food storage is in a cool, dry, dark basement where the temperature is stable. The earth acts as an incredible insulator. The usable life of the food is extended in this environment. Here are some basement storage rooms from several different families to give you an idea of what is possible.
These photos belong to a school teacher and pharmacy technician who set up their food storage in the corner of an unfinished basement. They have placed the boxes of #10 cans on pallets or boards to keep them from sitting directly on the concrete, providing airflow and protecting the boxes from moisture. This storage contains a combination of long-term and short-term storage items. Great job!
This clever basement storage belongs to a United States Postal worker who re-purposed shelving from a store that was going out of business. The shelves are very sturdy and it was a fantastic, inexpensive solution for some great shelving. They work perfectly in this storage room. Notice that she also has buckets of long-term storage along the bottom and in a closet at the end of the shelves.
Another version of a basement storage room belongs to a safety administrator and a school district employee who have done a great job creating a food supply in an unfinished basement storeroom. Notice some of the shelves are commercial metal shelves, but they have also created shelving units using boards that are placed directly on buckets. That is a great way to create inexpensive shelving units.
The nice basement food storage room pictured below belongs to the family of a S.W.A.T team member and well-loved school lunch lady. They stock up on canned goods as well as storing delicious fruits and vegetables that they have bottled themselves. They utilize a combination of homemade wooden shelves as well as rotating can racks. Great job!
Another great example of basement food storage belongs to a fireman and massage therapist. I love the sturdy shelves and the homemade rolling can racks. They have implemented a really cool idea as part of their shorter-term food storage. She has placed all of the ingredients for a few of their favorite meals in labeled boxes (not shown). The kids have all the ingredients they need, including a printed recipe, to make their favorite meals when the parents have to work late. It works quite well for their family.
Our family has created this basement food storage room after many years of trial and error. We have moved several times and with each move, we have improved our basement food storage. We use a combination of heavy-duty commercial shelving and rotating can racks to store our long and short-term foods.
The buckets are placed on top of homemade wooden pallets to keep them off the concrete and prevent water damage in the event that the basement gets flooded. The rolling #10 can racks were an expensive addition, but are quite a nice way to keep the longer-term food storage easily accessible.
The step stool lives in the storage room so that I can easily access the foods stored on the top shelves. We stack the food all the way to the ceiling in order to utilize all of the available space.
Check out our post 8 enemies to your Food Storage and How to Slay Them to learn more about creating the perfect environment for your food storage.
We would love to share our years of expertise and research to help you understand how to build your food storage and have written two posts to get you started. Check out 3 Month Supply of Food: Amazing Piece of Mind and Long Term Food Storage: Creative Solutions to Build a Critical Asset for some great ideas.
Food Storage Closet
Closet space can be altered to accommodate additional storage. Every little bit of storage space counts.
These photos show how a long narrow closet was turned into a great food storage room by installing sturdy floor-to-ceiling shelves on each side of the wall. The aisle is intentionally quite narrow to maximize shelf space. Perhaps adding narrow shelves on the back wall could increase the storage capacity just a little bit.
The closet on the right has cases of long-term food storage strategically placed on a high shelf designed to accommodate the boxes without wasting any space. It may be a bit challenging to access them, but they can just stay there for 20-30 years and be just fine.
Perhaps you can line the floor of the closet with boxes of #10 cans. Is there any wasted space at the very top of the closet? Is it possible to add an additional shelf to increase storage capacity and reduce wasted space? I have seen narrow 6-inch shelves installed right above the inside of the closet door to store supplies. A row of canned goods just may fit behind the clothing on the shelves. Be creative and take advantage of every bit of space you can.
Over-the-Door Shelf Storage
The photo below is my master bathroom toilet closet. Jonathan installed a 12-inch shelf over the inside of the door. It holds a 1 year supply of toilet paper for 4 people along with feminine products for 2. That is a lot of toilet paper where it is not taking up valuable storage space. The shelf is not visible from outside the toilet closet. This same principle can be used in a laundry room or where ever it makes sense in your home.
We live in earthquake country so we only store light items on this shelf. It is a perfect way to take advantage of unused space.
The space underneath a bed is highly underutilized. It is possible to store an entire year of longer term food storage under the bed you sleep in. Check this out.
#10 Can Storage Under the Bed
Cases of #10 cans are a really nice fit for under the bed. I appreciate that they fit snugly together and do not allow room for too many dust bunnies or spiders. Cases of number 10 cans are 8 inches tall. Some bed frames easily allow for their addition, others you may need to use risers to accommodate them. Perhaps lose the frame and just put the box spring and/or mattress directly on top of the boxes of food storage.
The weight for the storage amounts below is calculated at 5 pounds per can. The actual weight of the dry goods varies; wheat 5.5 lbs., black beans 5.5 lbs., pinto beans 5.2 lbs., regular oats 2.8 lbs., and macaroni 3.0 lbs. Each case contains 6 #10 cans. Your total weight will vary depending on your choice of dry goods.
- Twin – 12 cases = 72 #10 cans = 360 lbs.
- Full – 16 cases = 96 #10 cans = 480 lbs.
- Queen – 18 cases = 108 #10 cans = 540 lbs.
- King – 24 cases = 144 #10 cans = 750 lbs.
If you were to stack 2 cases high and only use a mattress, you could store twice the amount. Think about it … over a year supply of food and you never have to clean under the bed.
Bucket Storage Under the Bed
Food storage is commonly stored in 5-gallon buckets. A platform of buckets under the bed would raise it approximately 15 inches. You could have a really tall bed, or just use only the mattress to maintain a similar height. You may want to place a board over the buckets for even support.
To calculate the number of pounds you could potentially store under the bed, we used the following weights. A 5-gallon bucket of wheat weighs roughly 37 lbs., beans 35 lbs., white sugar 35 lbs., rolled oats 20 lbs., white rice 36 lbs., and spaghetti 30 lbs. We will use 35 lbs. for each bucket to calculate the weight.
Theoretically, if the bed frame doesn’t get in the way, you could store a lot of buckets under the bed. By eliminating, the bed frame would allow you to store the following amounts under your bed:
- Twin – 18 buckets = 630 lbs.
- Full – 24 buckets = 840 lbs.
- Queen – 30 buckets = 1050 lbs.
- King – 42 buckets = 1470 lbs.
Do you see how taking advantage of the space underneath a bed can almost eliminate the stress of not being able to find a place for your long-term storage?
Jonathan, who loves numbers, would like me to officially note that if you store 6-gallon buckets instead of 5-gallon buckets you can increase the storage capacity by 20 percent. I personally think that 6 gallon buckets are too heavy for me to lug around and will make the bed just too tall. That is what you get when you mix an engineer and a domestic goddess!
Short Term Shelf-Stable Storage Under the Bed
A short-term supply of shelf-stable foods can be stored under a bed in rolling totes designed for storage. The totes are very handy and will allow for all kinds of odd-shaped items to be stored and still be easily accessible. This could be a great option for an apartment or college student.
The risers that are shown in the photo above with the #10 can storage are a great way to increase the storage space under a bed. You can purchase risers that are designed especially for this purpose or use wooden blocks to raise the frame. Some rolling totes are designed to be stacked on top of each other, allowing you to significantly increase your potential storage with easy access. You may want to keep the canned goods in the bottom tote and lighter items in the tote on top if you choose to stack them.
Our daughter wanted to create theater seating for her family. She enlisted our help to add a skirt to a newly purchased couch that she wanted to raise high enough to clearly see over the couch in front. It didn’t take us long to figure out that cases of food storage would make the couch the perfect height.
We removed the legs from the new couch and stapled a piece of black suede fabric around the base of the couch. The results were fantastic. She had the theater seating she dreamed of along with storage space for 9 cases of #10 cans.
Handy end tables, nightstands or coffee tables can be created using cases of #10 cans as a base. They can be cleverly disguised by using a table cloth or a piece of fabric. Free furniture and space for your food storage. Life doesn’t get much better than this!
Make furniture purchases with storage in mind. A coffee table takes up the same amount of space whether or not it has storage. Storage ottomans are available and can provide room for your treasures without taking additional space.
Do you have an empty wall that could be lined with free-standing storage cabinets to increase storage space? For safety, it is a good idea to secure these cabinets to the wall. Some beds come with built-in rolling storage underneath. Get creative with your furniture choices.
Laundry Room Storage
Take advantage of the space above your washing machine and dryer. Make sure you utilize the space all of the way to the ceiling. Be sure that the laundry room has adequate ventilation to prevent moisture buildup that can damage your stored items.
These photos are of our laundry closet. I store our first aid supplies and medications in a cupboard above the dryer. Plastic totes on the very top shelf make sure that every bit of space in this little closet is used efficiently.
Under the Stairs
These photos show shots of a fantastic little storage room that was created to take advantage of space underneath the stairs. The black shelves were originally designed to hold DVDs, but have been perfectly adapted to hold cans and packaged foods without taking up much space.
Medications are stored on a shelf that was added at the top of the doorway. They are easily accessible for adults, yet out of reach to young children.
Water Heater/Furnace Room
You may be able to find a little bit of space by your furnace or water heater. Be careful not to store anything flammable near a gas appliance.
Our furnace and water heaters are located in a small unfinished room in the basement without windows so it is very dark. We decided to take advantage of this little space for a special storage purpose. Jonathan built sturdy shelves to store our home bottled and dehydrated foods along the walls in this room. The darkness extends the life of the food in the glass jars. The shelves can easily handle the weight of the bottles and are designed to minimize damage in an earthquake.
I love these shelves because storing the bottles up on shelves, instead of in boxes, encourages rotation and easy visualization of inventory. I’m pretty proud of those beautiful bottles of deliciousness.
Tiny Room with Rotating Can Racks
This is the small food storage room of a widow. She utilizes a rotating can rack for canned goods, floor space for buckets, and sturdy shelves to hold heavy food items. Although this room is small, it is big enough to meet all of her needs.
Campers and Boats
Stored campers, trailers, boats might provide storage space. We store our extra propane tanks inside of a tent trailer away from the house.
One disadvantage is temperature fluctuation. Stocking a camper with food and supplies in the event of an emergency evacuation is a good idea. Just keep that food rotated frequently.
Garage and Shed Storage
A garage has a lot of storage potential. You can build sturdy shelves or perhaps store items in rafters. Store only items that are not sensitive to a fluctuation in temperature in these areas. Food will not store well in a hot garage.
We store a lot of our non-food items in the garage; totes of blankets, alternative heating devices, water filters; and a variety of other items that take up a lot of space. Think about what items you may be able to store in the garage on sturdy shelving or in a ceiling mounted storage rack.
You can build a small shed in a sheltered area outside your home. Temperature fluctuation is a bit of a problem so it is best to store non-food items in there. We have a friend who stores her 3 month supply in banker boxes to use one week at a time. The only place that she has to store them is in an outside shed. Frequent rotation prevents the food from spoiling. That is a good example of doing the best with the resources you have to ensure you have the ability to feed your family.
Root Cellars and Crawl Spaces
Root cellars and crawl spaces can be a lifesaver, however; high moisture levels can damage some items. One of my friends reported that storing items in sturdy plastic totes did a great job of protecting the contents from moisture and rodents in her root cellar.
These photos show the food storage we kept in the crawl space in our previous home. The floor was concrete, but the ceiling was quite low and we were able to take advantage of a lot of storage space.
Buried Chest Freezer or Barrel or Window Well
If advanced creativity is required, you may consider burying an old chest freezer or water-tight barrel to store your precious supplies. Basement window wells can also be utilized for storage by securing a board over the top. These storage spaces are best used for fruit and vegetable storage but have potential in other scenarios.
Moisture and rodents are your biggest enemy so be sure to compensate for that. We buried a freezer we use as a root cellar to store our potatoes through the winter. It does a fantastic job.
Our friends have placed shelving units in an unused bathroom to store winter squash in. They leave a small window in the bathroom slightly open and have had fantastic results storing winter squash for well over a year.
The photos below show our ventilated buried freezer, crates in a covered window well, a metal barrel with drainage holes (beet storage), a plastic barrel with drainage holes (potato storage), and a converted basement bathroom for storing winter squash. Each of these is a unique type of root cellar designed to extend the life of crops through the winter.
Are you storing your suitcases empty? Take advantage of the available space you may have inside of those bags.
Create Additional Space
Organize your home. Are you taking up valuable storage space by saving high school wrestling tights, eight track tapes, or 20-year-old tax returns? Go through everything you have stored in your garage, pantry or bedrooms and clean out your life.
There will likely be items with sentimental value, but many things are unnecessary and may just be taking up valuable space.
Get Over the Prepper Hoarder Mentality
Preppers are an interesting breed of gatherers and savers. We have a tendency to store old, needs-to-be-fixed stuff for emergency use. If you don’t have the time, part, or the ability to fix it today, will you have those in an emergency?
The mentality of “someday I might be glad to have that” may need to be replaced with;
- Is this “thing” vital to my survival, comfort or emotional security?
- Will this “thing” be a future asset in its current condition?
- Would I eat this “thing” today or would I have to be starving?
- Can I learn to live without this “thing” and still be comfortable?
Stuff can own us! As you learn to part with unnecessary things, you will find a renewed sense of freedom. Do not store old, “needs-to-be-fixed” stuff, to be used during an “emergency”. Organize everything so you know what you have and where it is when you need it.
Seriously evaluate your possessions. What purpose do they serve? Would a garage sale help finance a supply of basic survival foods? The peace that a full pantry brings is worth the effort.
Get Started Today
We have explored quite a few ideas to find room for your critical food supply. You have so many options available to you that you have run out of excuses. Click here to see our personal recommendations for quality long term food storage suppliers.
Don’t wait until you have the perfect storage room. Do the best you can with what you have available to you today. It is a work in progress. Over time you can tweak it and make improvements.
A HUGE thank you to all of our fabulous friends who shared photos of their food storage rooms! I am so totally proud of each of you!