I hate to admit this, but my pantry is so full that canned goods fall out every time I open the door. I have too many items stored in there that aren’t well organized. So I started looking for ways that I could redesign my food storage, and I found these life-changing ideas for organizing food storage!
Good food storage organization will help keep your food storage items easy to access, safe, and the freshest possible. You can organize your food by grouping like items together in bins, boxes, or baskets. Break down bulk items into smaller, more usable packages, and be sure to label everything. Keep a spreadsheet of what you have, with best buy dates and the location where it is stored, so you always know what’s available to you.
This article will talk about a number of ideas for organizing your food storage. We’ll talk about how to choose storage space, find creative storage space, and organize your food storage. But first, we’ll talk about what to store and how to protect your food storage.
Only Store What You Eat
The first rule of food storage is only store what you and your family will eat. There is no sense in spending money on food – and using up precious storage space – if your family simply won’t eat it. If you are unsure of what to store and how much, I recommend you read our food storage calculator post.
So take a look at what your family eats over the course of a month and see what items would make long-term food storage and what items would be good to stock up on when there are good sales. Then, focus on storing those items rather than unusual foods that might have a long shelf life but your family won’t eat.
Choose Your Storage Space Wisely
A crucial part of organizing your food storage is storing it in the right space. There are a few things that will ruin the food you are trying to store:
- Heat (or in some cases, cold)
Keep in mind that mice and rats can chew through plastic and wood, so make sure you check for signs of rodents regularly. Keep the rodent population under control before it threatens your food storage.
So the first step is to find a space in your home that is temperature stable, not too humid, away from direct light, and where bugs and rodents can’t get it. You also need to make sure items are well-sealed, so air and humidity can’t get in.
For some people, a basement works well, a pantry closet, or even a dedicated room. However, if you don’t have these things, you might need to get creative.
Find Unique Spots to Store Your Goods
If you don’t have a large pantry or storage room, you’re going to have to get creative. But there are oodles of ways to add storage when you are short on closet space. Just remember to keep short-term storage items easily accessible while you can make long-term storage items (like freeze-dried foods) less accessible. Here are a few ideas where you might be able to squeeze in a little extra storage:
- Add a shelf over a doorway
- Under-bed storage
- Create faux-furniture. Stacked bins covered by a piece of plywood and a tablecloth can double as a decorative table.
- Bookshelves. Bookshelves can be placed in any room that has some free wall space. Use bins on the upper shelves for food storage that you don’t use often, and the other shelves can store anything you want. You can also cover bookshelves with a decorative curtain to hide what’s inside.
- Antique furniture. If you love antiques, why not use some for food storage?
- Behind the sofa. Put a sofa table behind your couch and hide your 5-gallon buckets underneath the table.
- Find smaller spaces underneath sofas, in the bottom of a closet, or anywhere you can add a shelf or cabinet.
- Avoid bathrooms and areas that have high humidity or fluctuating temperatures.
Now that you have some ideas about where you can store your food, you need a system to organize it.
Make a Spreadsheet Listing All Your Food Storage Items
Keeping track of everything you have can get overwhelming, especially if you store a month’s or a year’s worth of food. So one of the best ways to keep your food storage organized and under control is to use a spreadsheet. This way, you’ll always know what you have and what you need.
On your spreadsheet, you’ll want to include things like when you bought the item, when its best by date is, how many you have, how many total you need, how many more you need to get, and where you are storing it. This way, you don’t forget an item that gets pushed to the back of your pantry or forgotten in the closet.
Your spreadsheet should look something like this:
|Item||Purchase Date||Best By Date||Number on Hand||Number Needed||Needed to Buy||Location|
|5 lbs Rice||3/1/2022||3/1/2023||2||4||2||Basement|
|Canned Peaches||3/1/2022||3/1/2024||4||6||2||Under Bed Storage|
Keep a copy of your spreadsheet on your computer, but you may also want to keep a hard copy on hand that you can update frequently.
Use the First In, First Out Rule of Food Storage
According to the USDA, canned goods that are stored correctly could be good indefinitely. However, once past the best by date, the flavor and nutritional content could start to decline. So no matter how long an item might last, you still want to practice good rotation. Here are some examples of suggested shelf-life times for common foods:
|Apples||Up to 6 Months|
|Winter Squash||Up to 3 Months|
|Freeze-Dried Foods||10 to 30 years|
|Canned Goods||Could last indefinitely|
Always use the oldest food first so that you have the freshest possible food on hand at all times, no matter how much or how long you store it for. So if you store five containers of peanut butter, use up the oldest first and replace it with a new one. This can be hard if you don’t have good organization.
One of the best ways to rotate can goods is to use a shelving system. Always slide the oldest ones to the front and put the new ones in the back. If you are handy, you can make your own rotation system, such as this one: DIY Canned Food Rotation System.
Use Food Storage Bins and Group Like Items Together
If you are storing large amounts of the same thing, consider using totes and grouping like items together. Then you can label the outside with the contents, so you know exactly what is in there. The nice thing about storage totes is that you can stack them several high without shelving so that they won’t take up too much floor space.
For example, if you are storing condiments, you might put all of the condiments in one tote. Then you can label the outside of the tote with how many of each you have kept inside. Of course, this works for non-food items, too, such as sewing supplies, first aid kits, and a blackout box.
If you don’t have large totes, you might use sturdy cardboard boxes, baskets on shelves, or even buckets. The key is to keep all of the like items together, so nothing gets forgotten.
Color Code Your Food Storage
Color coding your storage items will help you find things quickly. For example, if you use bins for storage, you might want to put all food items in green bins, emergency supplies in red bins, and clothing items in blue bins. This way, you can find the right items quickly and easily.
You can also color-code your spreadsheet to match your storage bins for easy reference.
Label Everything You Have in Food Storage
This may sound elementary, but it will be a huge help to your food storage systems. Label everything! This will help you stay organized and keep track of all of the food you have on hand.
On the tops of canned goods, you may want to write the date purchased and the best by date. This will help you rotate your stock so that you always use the oldest food first. Find out what we believe are the best canned food to stock up on in an emergency.
Label any home-canned goods and mylar bags with what is inside and the date packaged. This way, you won’t have to guess at the contents and end up opening (and potentially wasting) the wrong container. For example, sugar and salt look very similar in jars, and you don’t want to rely on your memory to figure out which one it is.
Label bins, boxes, and buckets, so you know what is inside and the date ranges.
Break Up Bulk Food Packaging into Usable Amounts
You can buy sealed buckets of 50 pounds of rice, but will you use all 50 pounds at a time? You might be better off breaking up that bulk packaging and resealing it into smaller portions. Take the 50-pound bucket of rice, and separate it into portions the size that your family will use. Then seal it in a mylar bag with an oxygen absorber and put it back into the bucket. Make sure you label all of the mylar bags and the bucket, so you know exactly what you have. (Don’t forget to add that to your spreadsheet, as well).
The key to food storage organization is finding a system that works best for you. Keeping a spreadsheet with all of the locations, amounts, and use by dates of your food storage items will go a long way towards keeping you organized. Also, keep like items together and label everything! Finally, don’t forget to rotate your food stock, so you always have the freshest food possible on hand at all times.
Can I store food in my attic and basement?
That depends. If your attic and basement are somewhat temperature-controlled and not too humid, you can probably store food there safely. However, attics tend to get too hot, and basements tend to get too wet, so you need to be very careful when using them as food storage.
How Much Food Should I Store?
This is a hard question to answer, and it depends on the size of your family and how comfortable you feel. The Red Cross recommends having at least three days worth of food and water for each person and animal in your household, although many preppers work to store a year or more worth of food.