Thursday, January 5, 2012

Food Storage in a Small Space

When I announced a couple days ago that I was planning on gathering a year's supply of food for my family, the number one question I was asked (right ahead of "aren't you worried about being branded a potential terrorist?", which I plan on covering in another post) was where the heck are you going to put all of that food?

My short answer is:  anywhere I can!

That isn't a flippant answer either.  I don't have a basement, spare room, or even a pantry where I can stack mountains of #10 cans and large food-grade buckets.  With 6 of us (even when he isn't here, my 12 year old has enough stuff here that he still counts!) in a single wide trailer, space is definitely at a premium!

To make the best possible use of my house to free up space for food storage, the first thing I'm doing is a massive decluttering effort.  Anything that we don't need or want will be gone!  I've never been one to hang on to things longer than needed, but we'll be taking it to the next level: getting the family involved.  Over the next week or two, I want to go through all of our stuff and figure out what actually belongs in our home.  If it is something we will want later, we might stick it out in the garage, but the house will be reserved for active duty stuff.

Of the things we don't want, some will be sold, some will be given away, and some will be traded.  Trading is my favorite way to get rid of stuff, since I can then replace it with things we actually need (or maybe want).  Some of my favorite websites are for trading books (not just paperbacks), for swapping DVDs (or BluRays, but I don't have any of those), and my husband just found this great site called Listia, which is a free, bid-based (using points instead of money) site for trading anything you want!  We'll probably be making a lot of use of that one as we declutter over the next few weeks!  Some of the stuff we give away will be going to St. Vincent de Paul's, since they give clothes for free to people that can't afford their thrift store prices and the one closest to us just had a fire last month so needs to be restocked (we actually found about the fire when we were going to go there to see about getting some clothes that our family needed!  So much for that idea!).  Other stuff will be given away on Freecycle, since that is where I usually come up with anything we need.

Once we get rid of the stuff we don't need, I should have lots of places to stash things around the house.  Some places that someone in a tight living space like ours might stick food storage are:
under beds (in boxes to slide out easily)
in bedroom closets
in areas above cabinets
behind books on bookshelves
in unused dresser drawers
in covered crates that serve as end tables, a coffee table, or night stands
on shelving installed in any free wall space
boxes or crates stacked in out of the way places
in pest-proof totes or other containers in the garage (for foods that temperature changes won't hurt)
I don't really know if there is enough room here for a whole year's worth of food, but I'm still going to try.  The beautiful thing about a project like this is that it doesn't have to be all done a the time.  I can get the supplies I can and make room as I go.  If I run out of space, maybe I'll come up with another plan, like stashing some at someone else's house or something, or maybe we'll move by then and be in a place with more storage.  I'm not going to let the uncertainties stop me from starting.  As long as I get what I can, and we use it in some sort of rotation, it doesn't really matter how or where we store it!  I'll burn that bridge when we get to it, I guess.


  1. What about UNDER the trailer, is it raised of the ground? I would do that here but we have earthquakes and I need to be able to access it.

  2. I think that is against the rules in the rental agreement.

  3. I strongly recommend a master list of the foods you stash, the date acquired and where it is located. A spreadsheet would make updating and sorting easier.

    A good resource for helpful tips would be LDS blogs. They stash food as a religious practice so they have more experience with starting and maintaining serious stashes than any other group I know.

  4. I'm in the same boat, I dont have a pantry or many kitchen cabinets and need to do some serious decluttering. Under the trailer was my first thought for you, we had to do that when we lived in a trailer, but the park we were in actually encouraged it (they were OCD about yards being clean and junk free).

    Thankfully we have cabinets and shelves in our garage that will help out tremendously once we get the garage cleaned out. Our current emergency stash is in the kids bathroom closet and under the kitchen sink.

    I agree with Cheryl that keeping a list is a great idea and checking the LDS blogs too, I didn't think of that! I can't wait to hear how this goes!!

  5. I am so excited to read about your progress this year. I am sure you will find room for everything as you seem to be very creative. hey, how about using your car for added storage (trunk??). Also, investing in some heavy shelves for your garage should be good for canned items. If you are decluttering, why not join my Declutter Challenge?

  6. Have you considered putt shelves up high on the walls? Or above doors? You could always cover them with some sort of pretty material to hide the goods lol.

  7. @Cheryl & Shauna, I definitely am planning on keeping lists of what I have! Otherwise, how would I know what I still need?

    @The Single Saver: I don't know about using the car for storage, since the extra weight would decrease fuel efficiency. I'm also concerned about storing too much in the garage, since it faces pretty extreme year round temperatures out there, anywhere from negative digits to over 100F! It kind of limits what I can safely store out there when it comes to food. As for the Declutter Challenge, I'm in! I'll put together an official post joining in the next couple of days for ya!

    @Renee: There really ISN'T high up on the walls or above the doors. The ceiling is only about 7 feet up by the outer walls and the inner walls are already covered by furniture, including shelving, bunk beds, or drawers. I've built up on storage as much as possible in this place already!

  8. work on that one.

    We've got a four bedroom house,and more than enough stuff to fill it.However....

    At lunch today with hubby's uncle,we offered him a room if needed..and thinking he might actually have a need for it,we've got to get cleaning...LOL....

  9. I live in a single wide trailer and before that a small apartment. At one time my "bedside tables" were all boxes of canned goods covered with a sheet. Also the "window seats" I made so my dogs could see outside were the same thing. Worked for me! You can get a lot of canned goods under a bed as I bet you know. You work on your years' supply and I know you will figure out a place to store it. I used to have a huge crock that I used for an end table in the living room and inside was my years supply of laundry detergent. I would not rec. the car for mileage, heat problems plus it would be my luck the car and my groceries would be stolen! Not under the house either...heat, insects, rodents.

  10. A year's supply of laundry detergent is EASY! A couple boxes of Borax, a couple boxes of washing soda, a couple gallons of Dr. Bronner's soap, BOOM, I'm there! I usually have at least several months supply of soap and laundry detergent on hand just as SOP.

    1. What's even cheaper to make your laundry soap is what we do...instead of the Dr. Bronner's soap, we use a regular size bar of soap (that we usually get for only a few cents or free, because of coupons and sales) or the equivalent amount of hotel soap (which people usually give us after their trips). Here's our recipe, for anyone who wants it: 1 bar soap(any kind), 1-2 cups Washing soda (Arm & Hammer), 1 cup Borax, 5 gallon bucket, large spoon/stirrer, measuring cups (dry and liquid), medium pot/pan--- 1. Put 4 cups water into pan; small boil. 2. Shave soap into water; whittle/grate/shave using entire bar. 3. Stir; very soapy water; wait until mostly dissolved. 4. Put 3-3 1/2 gallons HOT water in bucket. 5. pour on soapy water; stir. 6. Add 1-2 cups washing soda; stir. 7. Add 1 cup borax; stir. 8. Let cool overnight, without lid. 9. Stir; put on lid; ready.----- Use 1-2 cups detergent per load. Can increase detergent for heavily soiled clothes.
      I hope this saves a little more money for some people. :)

  11. Hi there, good luck with the de-cluttering and getting rid of items you no longer need. It seems to me that the more space you have the more you need, I know, because I am quickly filling up my apartment again, after having disposed of many items a couple of months ago. I hope you find the answer - shelving is a good one, or large plastic containers that can be stacked. I use those for my jewelry and craft supplies. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris

  12. I love the idea of hiding food behind the Stephen King collection.

  13. You can put a used, empty, upside-down food can underneath the leg of each bed. That will raise the bed up a bit so you can fit an additional layer of canned food under it equal to the area of the bed. An additional single layer of cans under a twin-size bed would be about 288 additional cans!

  14. Use narrow boxes one can high and stand on end behind couch, and possibly behind the chairs. You can build a bench/couch with storage under it from old shipping pallets or wood for the living room or for kitchen seating. Stand up some boxes behind the beds as headboards. Build a platform bed from used upper kitchen cabinets laid on the side, with a sheet of 3/4" plywood on top of them. Use large cans (instead of bricks) with boards across them as bookcases. If you have a narrow bookcase or pantry cabinet you can set diagonally across a small corner area, you can stack large cans behind it. Anything you can get out of your kitchen cabinets, the more room you will have for storage. Hang things in the backsplash area, on the sides of cabinets, narrow things underneath cabinets, and stick spices and things on the side of the fridge, they make all sorts of magnetic baskets, shelves, bars, etc. I have a small pantry cabinet diagonally across a small corner with things behind it, and on one side I have a stack of large decorative tins on the floor I use for storage. I have a dead corner at one end of my counter that's inconvenient to get into, I have decorative tins stacked up in it I use for storage. I prefer tins over baskets, they have a more retro feel and keep out ants. Don't forget the backs of doors, get an over-the-door pantry metal shelving unit, or use a plastic shoe organizer. You can stick hooks or baskets on the inside of cabinet doors, too. Go through an plastic food storage containers and get rid of extra margarine tubs, and ones without lids. Get an over the toilet cabinet and keep things in it, in plastic waterproof containers. Build a narrow shelf above a window, and make a cardboard door with fabric on it, to look like a pelmet that matches your drapes. Tape some large metal cans together with carpet tape for table legs and put a layer of plywood on top, then spacers, then a top of particle board or plywood. Store some lighter things between the two tabletop layers. If you have a kid's room without a bunkbed, put one in there, have them sleep on the top, like a loft bed, then fill up underneath with stored items. Get rid of a chair or two and use a storage ottoman for extra seating. Put a layer or more of cans in the bottom of a closet, then build a false bottom out of particle board to lay on top of it, and use that as the new bottom. Hang decorative baskets on narrow sections of wall, and keep lighter things in them.