pantry foods displayed on table for food storage ideas

Back-Up Food Ideas

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Having a little extra food around is a good idea in case of an emergency. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Canned Goods:

Canned goods are inexpensive, have a decent shelf life, and are ready to eat without much cooking time (or possibly no cooking if need be). This makes them a great choice to have on hand. You can spend just a few dollars a week and acquire a fair amount of back-up in no time. It’s also a good idea to have something we call a P & R program which means “Purchase and Rotate.” Simply put, you want to use your older items first to maximize shelf life. 

Dry Goods:

Dry goods like rice, beans, and lentils are a great addition to any food storage plan. Beans and lentils are a good source of protein and fiber and rice is an inexpensive filler that you can add to any meal. Just pay attention to storage recommendations so your food doesn’t go bad.

Some people store food in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers which is then contained in a 5-gallon bucket. We haven’t tried this method yet but it’s definitely on our to-do list.


One of the best ways to have a higher nutritional content combined with a long shelf life is canning. We just purchased a canner at the end of last year so we plan to get into it this growing season. Although we’re new to the canning world, it’s nice to know we have this option.   

Freeze-Dried Food & Dehydrated Food:

These two food storage methods often get confused. Freeze-dried food retains more nutrients and has less water content, resulting in a longer shelf life. They are also the most expensive.

Dehydrated foods such as beef jerky and banana chips can be purchased at reasonable prices or even made yourself. If you live in a warm, dry climate you could dehydrate food outside with a solar dehydrator. If not, you can  purchase an electric dehydrator for indoor use.

As far as freeze-dried food is concerned, I’ve eaten all the top brands and can personally vouch for Mountain House. Not only is it the best tasting but many of their meals have actual meat unlike some of their competitors. 

mountain house freeze dried food pouches


This is the cheapest and easiest way to consume fresh produce. You don’t need any soil or direct sunlight; and they only take about 1 week to grow (details on how to grow sprouts and the equipment needed are in our DIY sprouting article.)

Not only is it easy and inexpensive but it’s also very healthy. Sprouts are known for their nutritional potency as they are concentrated versions of the mature plant. This could be important in times when you need as many nutrients as possible.  


Of everything on this list, this is by far the most time consuming and most challenging. It can also be the most expensive if you buy equipment such as a tiller and garden tools. Another thing about gardening is that it requires lots of physical labor, patience and diligence. However, the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Eating fresh produce that hasn’t been treated with nasty chemicals is appealing; and if you have enough crops at the end of the growing season, canning can preserve your food into the winter months. 

These are just a few thoughts. As always, it’s up to you to provide for you and your family in the event a food shortage occured. 

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