Why and How to Store Extra Food

I have a tall utility shelf set in my basement that is dedicated to storing extra food. I’m not a prepper or otherwise preoccupied with apocalyptic thoughts, but I do like to be ready for emergencies that might realistically happen. The area where I live experiences temporary power outages from time to time, along with snow or ice storms that may keep me home for a few days at a time, so I like to store enough nonperishable food to take care of my family for at least a few days. Also, my food storage area is a helpful place to put some of the stuff I can’t fit in my pantry, because who really has adequate kitchen storage anyway?

How and Why You Should Store Extra Food

Why You Should Store Extra Food:

Store extra nonperishable food in case of temporary power outages.

I live in an area where power outages happen around one to three times a year, usually because of storms or sometimes for no obvious reason, although at worst they last only for a couple of hours. During my first few months living in this area as a young newlywed, we lost power for three days after a severe thunderstorm, and later we lost power for about two days after an ice storm.

As a result, I’ve learned it’s a good idea to have a few easy, ready-to-eat foods on hand. Trail mix, crackers, canned fruit, granola bars, and canned tuna are good items to stock. If you have a gas stove, you can use it to prepare other foods such as canned soup or boxed macaroni and cheese, and if the weather is cold I like to use my tea kettle to make a hot drink.

If I have advance warning of a potential power outage, I like to make banana bread or do other baking projects to help stock up.

If power outages are a concern in your area, I also recommend buying a few quality coolers and keeping some frozen jugs of water (just clean out your used juice or milk jugs and fill them with tap water) in your freezer. If you lose power for more than a few hours, you can save some of your perishable food like eggs, meat, and cheese by transferring it to coolers with ice jugs.

Store extra food in case of events such as snow or ice storms that prevent you from leaving the house.

Often we still have our electricity, but the roads are simply too treacherous because of snow or ice to risk leaving the house to go to the store. People tend to make mad runs on stores to stock up just ahead of a forecast snowstorm, but it’s easier if you already have a good supply of food at home. You know that no one in your house will go hungry, even if you’re just serving simple cold cereal or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

I especially like to make bread during snowstorms. It’s one of the first things stores run out of when snowstorms are predicted, but this is my favorite time to pull out my bread machine. I keep some bread flour in my pantry and a jar of long-lasting yeast in my fridge especially for these times. We use our homemade bread in lunch meat or grilled cheese sandwiches or to make French toast, the classic snowstorm food.

Store extra food to prevent frequent trips to the store for just one or two things.

Of course, you can’t do this with perishable foods like milk. However, stocking up works well for items such as ketchup and mustard, peanut butter, mayonnaise, salad dressing, and cereal. My kids go through a lot of ketchup when they eat scrambled eggs, chicken nuggets, meatloaf, and all the other foods kids like to eat with ketchup. We’re always using up bottles of the stuff. My entire family also uses a lot of Ranch dressing for salads and as a dip. I always keep an extra bottle — or several — of these items on my storage shelf because I know we will use them well before their expiration dates, and then I don’t have to worry about running to the store at an inconvenient time just for one of these items. The more often you go to the store, the more impulse purchases you are likely to make, so this strategy helps your wallet, too.

I stock up on baking supplies, too, so I’m not unpleasantly surprised when I’m mixing up cookie dough or banana bread and discover I’m nearly out of flour, sugar, or baking powder.

I also like to keep one or two extras of non-food items such as liquid dish detergent, dishwasher detergent, Ziploc bags, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, hand soap, laundry detergent, trash bags, paper towels, toilet paper, and Kleenex so I’m not caught without anything. Hygiene items like hand soap and toilet paper are stored in my bathroom closet rather than on my food shelf in the basement.

What to Store:

Peanut butter

Jarred jam or jelly

Bottled salad dressing







Cooking spray

Boxed cereal

Canned soups (we like tomato soup and clam chowder)

Boxed macaroni and cheese

Canned tuna

Jarred applesauce/applesauce cups

Canned fruit

Canned vegetables

Rice/dry beans

Crackers/Pretzels/Potato Chips

Granola bars

Jarred salsa

Tortilla chips

Trail mix

Oatmeal (either individual instant packets and/or canisters of oats)

Non-refrigerated, unopened juice

Tea bags (or coffee, if you prefer)

Bottled water

Gallon jugs of water



Baking Powder

Baking Soda

Olive oil

Vegetable oil

Vanilla extract

Spices (my family uses a lot of garlic salt, garlic powder, and chili powder)

Dish soap

Dishwasher detergent

Laundry detergent

Hand soap

Paper towels

Aluminum foil

Plastic wrap

Sandwich-sized and gallon-sized Ziploc bags

Toilet Paper


Tips for Storing Extra Food:

Designate a space for your extra food and supplies.

If you’re going to store much, you’ll need a spot for it all. A basement is ideal if you have one. My food shelf in the basement is also near my deep freezer, so it’s a centralized location for all the stuff that doesn’t fit in the pantry, fridge, or freezer upstairs.

If you don’t have a basement, consider a hall closet, kitchen cabinet (if you’re lucky enough to have the space), spare bedroom, laundry room, mud room, garage (be careful what you store there in case of freezing temperatures), or even a bedroom closet or under a bed. Anywhere you have shelves or space to put shelves will work.

Buy a little at a time.

It can be costly to buy everything at once. Buy a few extra things each time you go shopping, and you’ll soon build up your supply.

Rotate through your supply, using a little at a time.

Don’t leave your food on the shelves and forget about it. Pay attention to expiration dates, and put the oldest food toward the front of the shelves and the newest food toward the back so you’ll be more likely to use the oldest things first. Restock as needed.

It’s Worth it

It takes a little effort and thought on the front end, but storing extra food and supplies is worthwhile in terms of convenience and saving money. The next time a storm or power outage hits, your family will thank you because they’ll still have food to eat.

Do you store extra food and supplies? Tell us about your system in the comments.

About Rachael

Rachael is the creator of Shop From Your Pantry. She is a freelance writer and editor, and you can learn more about her work at www.rachaelsjohnston.com.
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