Whether you are looking to save a few bucks by purchasing food in bulk, or you are stocking up in case of disaster, creating a storage system for food in your home can be a rewarding endeavor.

I’m not suggesting that everyone start hoarding food and supplies, nor am I saying that you need to break the bank to finance your storehouse. I am merely suggesting that a well-stocked pantry can lend peace of mind, save you some money and be a very valuable resource in case of emergency or financial troubles.
What Should You Buy**

Focus on foods that are easy to prepare and that you know your family will eat. Look for items high in calories and with long shelf lives. Select dry foods like rice, dried beans, pasta and other easy-cook staples that can last a long time.

Also grab some peanut butter, canned meats and fish, jelly, honey, salt, sugar, high-calorie canned soups and stews, cooking oil, flour, baking mixes, oatmeal, molasses and lots of crackers. You can smear just about anything on a cracker and make a meal out of it. Store surplus food for your pets as well.

How You Should Store It

You should always strive to store food that doesn’t require refrigeration or freezing in case of power outage. Stick with canned, jarred and dry foods, and store them in a way to keep them from going bad. The main factors for food loss and spoilage are heat, moisture, time, light, insects, rodents and the freezing and subsequent exploding of canned and jarred foods. Eliminate these factors, and you’ve got a recipe for food storage success.

First, you should find a cool place to prevent food loss from heat. Overhaul a closet or the corner of your basement by building some shelving from sturdy lumber. Don’t use particleboard or cheap metal shelving. Use 2-inch-thick materials, like 2x6s and wider lumber to build shelves and racks. Your jars of canned tomatoes won’t help anybody when they have smashed into a million pieces after a flimsy shelf or a cheap bookcase collapsed.

Metal cans containing a few food-safe desiccant packs are a great way to save food from moisture, light, insects and rodents. At last, you have a good use for those hideously ugly popcorn tins you get every Christmas. Food-grade buckets are pretty handy for storing your food and supplies, too.

Beat the ravages of Father Time by checking the expiration dates of food, and using a permanent marker to write the date purchased on each can and container. Then check your dates monthly to use up stuff before it gets old. Stock your shelves like the store does- when you buy new cans, put them in the back of the rack and always use your older cans first.

Be aware that oils and oily foods usually have the shortest shelf life. Cooking oil, peanut butter, lard and even powdered milk can go rancid in just a few months, so it might be worth the trouble to buy them from emergency suppliers who sell them in a form with a long lifespan. Depending on the food item and food type, the food could be nitrogen-packed, freeze-dried or in a vacuum-sealed package. Otherwise, go cheap and rotate your stock often.

Avoid freezing and exploding containers by keeping your stuff in your house in the winter, if the temps get below freezing where you live. This is also more theft-resistant than keeping the food in a shed or some out-of-the-way spot.

Saving Money With Your Food Stores?

Sure, you can save a little or save a whole lot if you buy your extra food smartly. Purchase stuff when it’s on sale, and always check the prices of bulk items. Some stores show you the price per pound or unit right on the store shelf, so you can see that the big bag of rice is 20 cents a pound, while the smaller bags are 35 cents a pound.

If you can’t afford to buy a month’s worth of food right now, then just buy an extra day or two of food on each shopping trip. Two-for-one deals are also a great way to stock up. And always take advantage of coupons.

Many males cringe at the idea of going to the grocery store, and no doubt we have lost a lot of Man Points for just thinking about shopping trips, coupons, price checking and so forth. To compensate for this, make sure you tell everyone that you are going out for “supplies”–never use the word “groceries.” Place a bottle of whiskey, some fireworks and a manly magazine like Outdoor Life on top of each bag of “supplies,” and you’ll be able to walk around town with your head held high.

Practice these tips and sooner or later you’ll have a good buffer of food built up for any lean times that you and your family may face.

Tell us your food storage strategies and what items you stock in the comments.