By Gaye Levy
Contributing Writer for Wake Up World
One of the more common prepper challenges is finding room for stored food and water. Lucky you if you have a large home with a basement or cellar – you have plenty of space at just the right temperature. But the rest of us? Not so much. Many people live in apartments, condos, mobile homes, RV’s or, in my case, a one bedroom cottage. This means we are cramped for normal pantry and closet space let alone space for our emergency food and water.
Couple the lack of storage space with the six enemies of food storage (temperature, moisture, oxygen, light, pests and time) and the storage problem compounds exponentially.
This does not have to be an impossible situation. With a bit of creativity, almost everyone can find a bit of extra space for their emergency food storage.
So with that in mind, today I would like to offer some ideas for storing food for the space challenged. I am going to do this by using my own home as an example.
In the photos below you will see the results of my walk-around assessment of usable storage space in my own home. As embarrassing as it might seem to expose my messes and disorganization for the world to see, I think it will help give you some ideas where you too can find some extra space in your own home.
16 Food Storage Tips for the Space-Challenged Prepper
1. Build some shelves under the stairwell
If you are like me, that awkward space under the stairwell is a big mess. I actually cleaned this area out before taking the photo – that is how bad it was. If you don’t want to build shelves, consider putting some buckets along the back wall then placing a board on top. On top of this make-shift shelf you can store #10 tins or canned and packaged foods. This is going to be the number one makeover in my home.
2. Shelves above the washer and dryer
The area above the washer and dryer is not ideal since it is prone to heat and humidity. Still, if you are diligent about rotating on an annual basis, this area is perfectly acceptable for storing some canned goods or Mylar bags filled with rice, beans or oatmeal.
In my case I have some dead space next to the cupboard – perfect for a shelf or two.
3. Build some shallow shelves behind the clothes in your closet
Most closets are far deeper than necessary for your hanging clothes. Adding a shelf just wide enough to hold canned goods will take advantage of this extra space without compromising your clothing one bit.
4. Clear out the junk on the shelf above your clothes in the closet
Talk about a waste of space. I have stored some decorative shams up on the closet shelf above my hanging clothes. I used to keep the shams on the bed but to tell the truth, it made making the bed too much trouble so now I pull them out when company is coming. Most certainly, these pillows can be stored in my garage where it gets really hot in the summer and really cold in the winter.
5. Shelves on the backs of doors
As an alternative to shelves, you can purchase some inexpensive over the door shoe organizers for storing canned goods or bottled water.
6. Stack canned goods or jugs of water behind the sofa
If your sofa is pushed up against a wall, consider moving it out a few inches and using this new found space for food and water storage.
7. Shelves under the sink
As long as the food you store under the sink is well sealed, it is perfectly okay to use this space for storage. Consider a shelf just wide enough to hold soda or juice jugs filled with rice or beans – perfect.
8. Storage in the deep recesses of your cupboards
This is a storage area I had not thought of before. The back on the very top shelves of my cupboards are areas that I consider to be no-mans land. I climbed up on a step stool to peek inside and stored there are cups and saucers that I never use, odds and ends of glassware, and items I have dragged from home to home during my 38 years of marriage. This stuff should be thrown out or given away. Why do I keep this stuff?
Take a look inside your own cupboards. Do you have casserole dishes you never use? How about the “good china” that is only used once a year if that often? These are candidates for the garage or the garage sale. Box them up and make room for your food storage.
9. Storage above the refrigerator
Ditto the above. Mine is too high to get to on a daily basis and too deep to be practical. At the very least, the back of the area above the refrigerator can be used to emergency food storage.
10. Storage in decorative baskets
This is one of my favorites. I love baskets and use them to store all sorts of things in plain sight. I use one for my bread making supplies, another for pet food and treats, another as a potato bin. These are right there in my living room but no one is the wiser. Like I said, hidden in plain sight.
11. Storage behind the books on your bookshelf
If you happen to collect books, think about pulling the books out toward the edge of the shelf and storing food behind the books.
12. Storage under the bed
This one is easy so I am surprised more people don’t consider this option. Not only that, you can use some well-placed bricks to raise your bed and to increase the height of your under-bed storage area.
13. Storage under the sofa or other pieces of furniture
Do not discount the shallow storage area under your sofa, chairs or other furniture. This is where I store my extra large 15” cast iron skillet (my 12” skillet calls the oven home) as well as my baking sheets, pizza peel, board games and other items. As you walk around your own home and inventory space, be on the lookout for things that can be moved around and stored in out of the way places such as under the furniture.
14. Fill up those empty suitcases
Unless you are a business traveler, chances are you only use your luggage once or twice a year. Empty suitcases are ideal for storing food that has been packaged in Mylar or FoodSaver bags. This works equally well for pastas, rice, cereals and other packaged items from the grocery store.
Consider storing the individual packages of food in a large garbage bag then stuffing the whole thing into a suitcase. That way you can simply remove the single large bag when you are ready to travel, set it aside for the duration of your trip, then replace it when you get home.
As a bonus, if you need to evacuate, you can grab your suitcase full of food and take it with you. Pretty neat, huh?
15. Store buckets in the bathtub
I know people that never take a bath or do so only occasionally. This is not to say they are dirty – they simply prefer the shower. Why not fill the bathtub with well sealed buckets of food? You can put up a nice shower curtain and no one will be the wiser. You could also store a bucket or two in the shower. Removing it before turning on the water is not such a big deal, after all.
By the way, the reason you want to use a bucket in the shower is so that the humidity from the bathroom does not leach into your food. That, plus the fact that is easy to just hoist the bucket and set it aside – so much easier than a bunch of separate packages or cans.
16. Build a loft for storage in the garage
We built a storage loft in our garage. If you do not have a high peaked ceiling like we did, you can put a shelf around the upper perimeter of the garage instead. This is a great place to store those little used kitchen appliances, off season clothes and other little used items – making room inside your home for more food.
Making It All Worthwhile
There are some factors to keep in mind as you evaluate these hidden food storage locations in your home. The first is simply this: your stored food should be used, replaced and rotated. This is especially true if your storage conditions are not optimal.
Let me give you an example. You live in a warm, humid climate and do not have air-conditioning. On a hot summer day, the temperature inside your home may be 80F and the humidity may be 80%. Okay, it is what it is. Rather than fret about the diminished shelf life of your stored food, plan on using it after a year or two. As long as you replace what you use, you are fine. You food will still be nutritious and edible so rotate it into your day-to-day food pantry and eat it.
The other thing is that your food storage is “not an inheritance for your grandchildren”. I wish I can claim credit for that statement but it belongs to Barbary Salsbury, the author of Preparedness Principles: The Complete Personal Preparedness Resource Guide for Any Emergency Situation. I had the pleasure of meeting Barbara a couple of months ago and I was knocked to my senses by this statement.
It is okay to purchase what you need to get you through a one month or even a one year emergency. But use your food. Cook with it and it eat it. Learn to cook your food outdoors, perhaps in a fire pit or on a rocket stove. Try eating it cold. Learn what you like and what you will take a pass on the next time around. But most of all, don’t think that you have to hoard your food. Eat it, enjoy it and replace it.
The Final Word
Now that you are armed with some great (I hope) ideas, take a stroll around your own home. Look for your own set of hidey holes and or areas where junk has accumulated and think about how, with a wee bit or organization and handyman skills, you can store some extra food.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
Further articles by Gaye Levy
- The 10 Commandments of Survival
- Creating a Healing Garden – 9 Healing Herbs You Can Grow Yourself
- 10 Simple Steps Toward Self-Sufficiency
- Embracing Phytochemicals for Health and Survival
- 28 Ways to Use Coffee Filters for Survival
- Growing, Grinding and Cooking Wheat
- City Farming with Backyard Quail – An Alternative to Raising Chickens
About the author
Gaye Levy, also known as the Survival Woman, grew up and attended school in the Greater Seattle area. After spending many years as an executive in the software industry, she started a specialized accounting practice offering contract CFO work to emerging high tech and service industries. She has now abandoned city life and has moved to a serenely beautiful rural area on an island in NW Washington State. She lives and teaches the principles of a sustainable and self-reliant lifestyle through her website at BackdoorSurvival.com.
At Backdoor Survival, Gaye speaks her mind and delivers her message of prepping with optimism and grace, regardless of the uncertain times and mayhem swirling around us.