Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Practical Preparedness - Storage

All preppers that I know have a common problem.  Storage space.  It doesn't seem to matter how big your house is or how many outbuildings you have, when it comes to preparedness nuts, there is no such thing as enough storage space.  We have lived in everything from a 2200 square foot house with a shop and a barn to our current 1200 square foot "shouse" with no outbuildings (save our 40 foot shipping container) and precious little storage space. Regardless of our living situation, we never seem to have enough storage for our preparedness supplies.

Fold-top bins for clothing and boots
Over the years, we have refined what we store and how we store it.  In the beginning of our preparedness/survivalist journey, we stored anything and everything we could think of.  While, to us, this seemed like great wisdom, we eventually learned that if we don't use something now, chances are, will will not use it at the end of the world.  Storing 2000 pounds of buckwheat when you hate buckwheat not only is a huge waste of money, it is also a waste of storage space.  Guaranteed, the buckwheat will be the last thing you eat out of your stored foods, and no, you won't be "happy just to have it".  Storage is a commodity.  Store what you like or what it truly useful.  Don't waste time, energy and money accumulating substandard equipment, tools and commodities for "just in case".  If there ever was a time to have the best that you can afford, TEOTWAWKI is it.

Sir Knight and I have done a great deal of wrestling with the storage issue.  A couple of conclusions that we have come to are......

1.  Store what you like, for all of the reasons mentioned above.

2.  Organize, organize, organize.  If you are anything like us, you don't have a huge empty basement to fill with preparedness essentials.  Most of the preppers that we know have a nook here and a cranny there.  You have to organize and mark your containers so that you can put your hands on any given item when you need it.

3.  Inventory.  If you don't know what you have and where it is, you might as well not have it. It is important to know how much you have of any given item and where it is. An inventory is essential to properly plan your preparedness stores. Make sure you include location, amount and the date the item went into storage in your inventory. If you don't know what you have, you don't know what you need. I can't tell you how many times I have needed something and said "I know I have that here somewhere.....", only to end up buying whatever it is all over again.  It is a terrible waste of money and time and a frustration of immense proportions.

4.  Rotate, rotate, rotate.  If you have unlimited storage space, you might have the ability to stock so much quantity that if some of it goes bad, it really doesn't matter.  For most of us, that just isn't the case.  By rotating your food and supplies, you can be assured that your stores are fresh and usable.  And, if you rotate your food, it can be assumed that you are using it, which is the surest way to transition to a grid-down situation with the least amount of trauma.

5.  Use appropriate storage containers.  We have found that 4 and 5 gallon buckets are perfect for most of our long-term storage needs, however, certain items are more easily stored in larger or smaller containers.  When it comes to things like bouillon, #10 tins are perfect for our family.  The bouillon stays fresh and it is easily stacked.  We also employ #10 tins for corn starch, pectin and certain dehydrated fruits and vegetables.  When it comes to kitchen staples like flour, wheat and powdered milk, we don't mess around.  Our chosen storage option for these commodities is a 55 gallon barrel. We label the barrels and make sure that we have at least two for each item (so that we can rotate the barrels and refill them in turn).  We have also found that 55 gallon barrels are perfect for non-food, bulky items like bedding and toilet paper.  The beauty of storing these things in large, waterproof and rodent-proof barrels is that you can, conceivably, store them outside on racking or neatly stacked against a building.  Because of the non-perishable nature of towels, out-of-season clothing and boots, they are perfect candidates for 55 gallon barrels, stored in an out of the way location.

55 gallon barrels
6.  Find every possible storage location.  Sir Knight and I live in a shouse with no closets, cupboards or anything you could remotely consider storage space.  We have had to get creative and find storage space where none exists.  We snuck a 1 foot deep by 4 foot long rack in our bedroom and hid it behind curtains.  Here, we store canned foods and other items that can't take the heat or cold of our storage container.  Our coffee table is actually an old military medicine cabinet on wheels (in which we store bulk medical supplies).  A garage sale hutch was retro-fitted as a communications station, housing radios, batteries, battery chargers, 12 volt adapters and everything else having to do with long range and short range communications.   Every free space, whether it is under a bed or behind the bathtub is used for one preparedness item or another.

Our "coffee table"/bulk medical storage

Communications hutch
7.  Store items in appropriate locations.  Our storage container, as wonderful as it is, is not conducive to all of our long term storage needs.  It is blisteringly hot in the summer and bitterly cold in the winter.  Because many of our stored items require a certain amount of climate control, we are not able to store them in the container.  Canned goods, liquids and certain chemicals must be stored inside.  Paper goods, clothing and bulk dried goods store perfectly in our container.  Know what you have and where it needs to be stored so that when you need it, it will be in usable condition.

In-shouse storage of canned goods
Over the years, we have lost our fair share of stored foods and equipment due to poor storage techniques.  As challenging as storing preparedness items can be, it is well worth your time and effort to categorize, inventory and rotate your stores.  When the grid goes down your efforts will be rewarded with a plentiful, fresh, easily located stash of preparedness items.


  1. If you pull my L shaped couch from the wall you will find tp & can goods stacked.

    And as you wrote inventory/master list is huge otherwise it's an all day affair finding caned pineapple or water chestnuts.

  2. Great advice, Enola.

    Bottled water is stored in the guest bathroom bathtub - if the bottles leak, the water goes down the drain and not all over the floor. If I am really worried about water, I can plug the drain and save any water that may leak. So far, no leaks!

    The guest bedroom closet has 3 years of TP stored in it. I also have old cotton clothing stored in that same closet to use as TP (or whatever) when/if I run out of the real stuff.

    Under the bed in the guest bedroom are plastic boxes which contain several #10 cans of food from the LDS. (Their Starter Kits can be purchased online and contain the very basic longterm storage foods.)

    Due to the price of gasoline, I don't get many overnight guests anymore, so the spare bedroom became a great storage location.

    I've thought that having all my eggs in one basket could be a real problem, especially if an earthquake strikes and destroys part of the house, so I am now contemplating moving some of my stored foods to various places around the house. May have to take some cans of rice, for example, out from under the guest bedroom bed and put them into the garage. Still working on that prospect. For OpSec purposes, though, I'll have to disguise or cover those cans in the garage because sometimes I leave the door open and passersby can see in.

    Keep prepping, it's actually becoming "fashionable" do to so now. :)

    NoCal Gal

  3. I'm having a problem of storing and then not using and having to throw some can goods out. Any suggestions?

  4. Enola,
    You are truly an inspiration with your organizational talent! Everything is at it's appointed location where you can get to it when you actually need to get to it.
    I too have little storage space available, unless I box up clothes that are my infrequently used between sizes, and use my hang up clothing closet space for prep storage. Same thing in the kitchen cabinets, they are so shallow and the shelving is fixed and not high enough to support more than a cereal box in height. I sometimes wish for a sledge hammer moment to overtake my logical calm, and just take to the outer wall, so I could add on a dedicated pantry for all the frequently used bulky cooking and baking ingredient buckets.
    With the gloom of the US economy validated from this morning's news showing that we're in stagflation and will be for several years, and that the current housing industry defaults are now worse than the Depression of the 1920-30's, and with consumer prices going up for cotton, I am very hesitant to purge any usable clothing items that someone in my extended family will be needing if they head to my home, impromptu in a Teotwawki situation.

    BTW, what have you and Sir Knight opted to try for earphone/mics since the others were not adequate for field use with your radios? I'm looking for reliable and rugged mic/headgear for us and have been waiting to see if you were going to product review another brand.


  5. in the closets, under the beds,in the outbuildings/sheds, under the table, cleverly disquised as furniture, in spare drawers,.....................you are totally right about storing the stuff that you use and like. no sense taking up precious space with something you dislike and will not have any use for.

  6. We haven't purchased a canner yet but, I've made homemade mre's and put them in 7 mil mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. You can order the one gallon mylar bags from the LDS website. Most of the meals will feed a family of eight and they fit into a half gallon size bag so, we got 250 bags in an order and actually were able to make 500 out of it. Once we seal the bags, we store them in metal trash cans. I have a large, double closet in my formal dining room that has shelves all around the top of it. We completely cleaned it out and stacked the trash cans in there. The shelves are lined with #10 cans we've ordered, vitamins, medicine, etc. If you have an LDS cannery around you, they let non-members shop on certain days of the week and you can buy the bags and oxygen absorbers there and save the shipping.

  7. Because of the large quantities of food stored, wouldn't you have to practically start now to use them in order to completely consume barrels of food before they would go bad? Not sure how a few people could eat all that on a rotation basis without alot of it expiring. How could a family of 5 eat a barrel of rice before it went bad or you got sick of it? And then the next barrel is waiting and so on.

  8. Anonymous 12:48: Buy what you like and rotate. Every time I go shopping, I bring things home and put the newest in the back and the oldest in the front. We only buy what we like, so our stores are constantly rotating. We rarely have to throw anything away.

    Notutopia: I'm feeling sheepish! No, we have not found a good mike as of yet. We do have a couple of leads (one is in current use by the military) but so far, we can't get anyone to answer our emails. I will keep you posted!

    Anonymous 6:44: We have never had food in our barrels go bad. The key for us is making everything from scratch. Because we make all of our bread, biscuits, pasta and everything else, we go through barrels of flour, wheat, powdered milk and sugar lightening fast. We have been storing and rotating food for 15 years and VERY rarely have lost food to spoilage.


  9. Item #6

    Grouping by use an excellent strategy. You might also try the same thing with your tools. I used to have the massive workbench with a huge rack of tools in front of me. And, I could never quickly find what I needed as well as having to go to multiple spots in my shop to find the right tools for the job. Further, if I needed to repair something away from bench I needed to create a one-off set of tools for the job, then put them all back. Now, I group them by application in their own toolbox. Soldering related is in one, bike repair in another, general maintenance, that one over there. When I finish the task, I put them away. It is so much faster and efficient this way I wish I done it years ago.

    Great blog BTW!

  10. People were doing this in 1999 and it wasn't necessary, as hindsight shows us. Now that Obammy is in office, the end of the world is surely at hand, being that he couldn't run a lemonade stand, so maybe it's time for this sort of thing after all. Unless the tornadoes and tsunamis get you first.

  11. Well, as far as canned goods go - they last essentially for a lifetime and longer. Cans of food have been dredged up from river bottoms where ships have sunk in the 1800's and the food inside is still edible. As long as the can has not been pierced and is not bulging, the food is likely good to eat.

    1. Most canned goods are good for a long time - however, watch out for acidic items, like sauerkraut & tomatoes that over time can rust out cans (I've seen it happen) and also check brands - I have had some items from a certain ultra discount grocery store chain go bad soon after their expiration date.