16 Food Storage Tips for the Space Challenged Prepper

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16 Food Storage Tips for the Space Challenged Prepper | Backdoor Survival

One of the more common prepper challenges is finding room for stored food and water.  Lucky you if you have a large home with a basement or cellar – you have plenty of space at just the right temperature.  But the rest of us?  Not so much.  Many people live in apartments, condos, mobile homes, RV’s or, in my case, a one bedroom cottage.  This means we are cramped for normal pantry and closet space let alone space for our emergency food and water.

Couple the lack of storage space with the need to be mindful of the six enemies of food storage (temperature, moisture, oxygen, light, pests and time) and the storage problem compounds exponentially.

16 Food Storage Tips for the Space Challenged Prepper | Backdoor Survival

This does not have to be an impossible situation.  With a bit of creativity, almost everyone can find a bit of extra space for their emergency food storage.  So with that in mind, today I would like to offer some ideas for storing food for the space challenged.  I am going to do this by using my own home as an example.  In the photos below you will see the results of my walk-around assessment of usable storage space in my own home.

As embarrassing as it might seem to expose my messes and disorganization for the world to see, I think it will help give you some ideas where you too can find some extra space in your own home.

16 FOOD STORAGE TIPS FOR THE SPACE CHALLENGED PREPPER

1. Build some shelves under the stairwell

If you are like me, that awkward space under the stairwell is a big mess.  I actually cleaned this area out before taking the photo – that is how bad it was.  If you don’t want to build shelves, consider putting some buckets along the back wall then placing a board on top.  On top of this make-shift shelf you can store #10 tins or canned and packaged foods.  This is going to be the number one makeover in my home.

16 Food Storage Tips for the Space Challenged Prepper | Backdoor Survival

2. Shelves above the washer and dryer

The area above the washer and dryer is not ideal since it is prone to heat and humidity.  Still, if you are diligent about rotating on an annual basis, this area is perfectly acceptable for storing some canned goods or Mylar bags filled with rice, beans or oatmeal.

In my case I have some dead space next to the cupboard – perfect for a shelf or two.

3. Build some shallow shelves behind the clothes in your closet

Most closets are far deeper than necessary for your hanging clothes.  Adding a shelf just wide enough to hold canned goods will take advantage of this extra space without compromising your clothing one bit.

4. Clear out the junk on the shelf above your clothes in the closet

Talk about a waste of space.  I have stored some decorative shams up on the closet shelf above my hanging clothes.  I used to keep the shams on the bed but to tell the truth, it made making the bed too much trouble so now I pull them out when company is coming.  Most certainly, these pillows can be stored in my garage where it gets really hot in the summer and really cold in the winter.

16 Food Storage Tips for the Space Challenged Prepper | Backdoor Survival

5. Shelves on the backs of doors

As an alternative to shelves, you can purchase some inexpensive over the door shoe organizers for storing canned goods or bottled water.

6. Stack canned goods or jugs of water behind the sofa

If your sofa is pushed up against a wall, consider moving it out a few inches and using this new found space for food and water storage.

7. Shelves under the sink

As long as the food you store under the sink is well sealed, it is perfectly okay to use this space for storage.  Consider a shelf just wide enough to hold soda or juice jugs filled with rice or beans – perfect.

8. Storage in the deep recesses of your cupboards

This is a storage area I had not thought of before.  The back on the very top shelves of my cupboards are areas that I consider to be no-mans land.  I climbed up on a step stool to peek inside and stored there are cups and saucers that I never use, odds and ends of glassware, and items I have dragged from home to home during my 38 years of marriage.  This stuff should be thrown out or given away.  Why do I keep this stuff?

16 Food Storage Tips for the Space Challenged Prepper | Backdoor Survival

Take a look inside your own cupboards.  Do you have casserole dishes you never use?  How about the “good china” that is only used once a year if that often?  These are candidates for the garage or the garage sale.  Box them up and make room for your food storage.

9. Storage above the refrigerator

Ditto the above.  Mine is too high to get to on a daily basis and too deep to be practical.  At the very least, the back of the area above the refrigerator can be used to emergency food storage.

16 Food Storage Tips for the Space Challenged Prepper | Backdoor Survival

10. Storage in decorative baskets

This is one of my favorites.  I love baskets and use them to store all sorts of things in plain sight.  I use one for my bread making supplies, another for pet food and treats, another as a potato bin.  These are right there in my living room but no one is the wiser.  Like I said, hidden in plain sight.

16 Food Storage Tips for the Space Challenged Prepper | Backdoor Survival

11. Storage behind the books on your bookshelf

If you happen to collect books, think about pulling the books out toward the edge of the shelf and storing food behind the books.

12. Storage under the bed

This one is easy so I am surprised more people don’t consider this option.  Not only that, you can use some well-placed bricks to raise your bed and to increase the height of your under-bed storage area.

13. Storage under the sofa or other pieces of furniture

Do not discount the shallow storage area under your sofa, chairs or other furniture.  This is where I store my extra large 15” cast iron skillet (my 12” skillet calls the oven home) as well as my baking sheets, pizza peel, board games and other items.  As you walk around your own home and inventory space, be on the lookout for things that can be moved around and stored in out of the way places such as under the furniture.

16 Food Storage Tips for the Space Challenged Prepper | Backdoor Survival

14. Fill up those empty suitcases

Unless you are a business traveler, chances are you only use your luggage once or twice a year.  Empty suitcases are ideal for storing food that has been packaged in Mylar or FoodSaver bags.  This works equally well for pastas, rice, cereals and other packaged items from the grocery store.

Consider storing the individual packages of food in a large garbage bag then stuffing the whole thing into a suitcase.  That way you can simply remove the single large bag when you are ready to travel, set it aside for the duration of your trip, then replace it when you get home.

As a bonus, if you need to evacuate, you can grab your suitcase full of food and take it with you.  Pretty neat, huh?

15. Store buckets in the bathtub

I know people that never take a bath or do so only occasionally.  This is not to say they are dirty – they simply prefer the shower.  Why not fill the bathtub with well sealed buckets of food?  You can put up a nice shower curtain and no one will be the wiser.  You could also store a bucket or two in the shower.  Removing it before turning on the water is not such a big deal, after all.

By the way, the reason you want to use a bucket in the shower is so that the humidity from the bathroom does not leach into your food.  That, plus the fact that is easy to just hoist the bucket and set it aside – so much easier than a bunch of separate packages or cans.

16. Build a loft for storage in the garage

We built a storage loft in our garage.  If you do not have a high peaked ceiling like we did, you can put a shelf around the upper perimeter of the garage instead.  This is a great place to store those little used kitchen appliances, off season clothes and other little used items – making room inside your home for more food.

16 Food Storage Tips for the Space Challenged Prepper | Backdoor Survival

MAKING IT ALL WORTHWHILE

There are some factors to keep in mind as you evaluate these hidden food storage locations in your home.  The first is simply this:  your stored food should be used, replaced and rotated.  This is especially true if your storage conditions are not optimal.

Let me give you an example.  You live in a warm, humid climate and do not have air-conditioning.  On a hot summer day, the temperature inside your home may be 80F and the humidity may be 80%.  Okay, it is what it is.  Rather than fret about the diminished shelf life of your stored food, plan on using it after a year or two.  As long as you replace what you use, you are fine.  You food will still be nutritious and edible so rotate it into your day-to-day food pantry and eat it.

The other thing is that your food storage is “not an inheritance for your grandchildren”.  I wish I can claim credit for that statement but it belongs to Barbary Salsbury, the author of Preparedness Principles: The Complete Personal Preparedness Resource Guide for Any Emergency Situation16 Food Storage Tips for the Space Challenged Prepper | Backdoor Survival.  I had the pleasure of meeting Barbara a couple of months ago and I was knocked to my senses by this statement.

It is okay to purchase what you need to get you through a one month or even a one year emergency. But use your food.  Cook with it and it eat it.  Learn to cook your food outdoors, perhaps in a fire pit or on a rocket stove.  Try eating it cold.  Learn what you like and what you will take a pass on the next time around.  But most of all, don’t think that you have to hoard your food.  Eat it, enjoy it and replace it.

THE FINAL WORD

Now that you are armed with some great (I hope) ideas, take a stroll around your own home.  Look for your own set of hidey holes and or areas where junk has accumulated and think about how, with a wee bit or organization and handyman skills, you can store some extra food.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
Gaye

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Bargain Bin:  Challenged for space to store your stuff?  Here are a few ideas plus a link to Barbara Salsbury’s fabulous book on preparedness principals.

Preparedness Principles: The Complete Personal Preparedness Resource Guide for Any Emergency Situation:  I was lucky enough to meet Barbara at the Food Insurance Summit.  What a lovely lady – very smart and likable but perhaps even more important, she thinks like me or is it the other way around?  I really recommend this book for every prepper’s library.  Common sense and lots of ideas – one of the better ones.

Over The Door Clear Shoe Organizer/Storage Rack:  Think about using your closet doors for storing canned goods or even empty soda/pop bottles filled with rice, beans or grains.  This one is less than $14 although I prefer this one made of cloth for slightly more Natural Linen Soft Storage Over-the-Door Shoe Organizer. (I just ordered this one.)

Winsome Capri Foldable Fabric Baskets:  Baskets and bins are perfect for storing things in plain sight.

Do It Yourself SuperPail Combo:  This combo includes 8 x 6-Gallon Buckets with Lids, 8 x Metallized Storage Bags and a 10-Pack of Large Oxygen Absorbers.

Command Medium Hooks (6 pack):  Sometimes the best solution is to hang things up.  If you have items cluttering your floor space, think about hanging them up.  These hooks are the best.  Not only that I found that Amazon has some of the best prices around for the 3M hooks.  They are super strong and easy to use.

Mylar bags & Oxygen Absorbers: What I love about Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers is they protect against every single one of the food storage enemies. Prices do vary but for the most part, they are inexpensive and easy to keep on hand. And while you can seal them up with a FoodSaver, some tubing and a common clothes iron, I find it infinitely easier with a cheap hair straightening iron that you can pick up $20 or less.

FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer: As long as the unit has an accessory port (and this one does), and inexpensive FoodSaver will work just as well as the fancier models. That is my two cents, at least.

FoodSaver Jar Sealer: Already have a FoodSaver? If so, check out this jar sealer which can be used to vacuum seal your Mason jars. This is a great option for short to mid term storage of items such as beans, rice, sugar and salt. Store your jars in a cool, dark place and you are set with the added advantage of removing a small amount for current use without having to disrupt your large Mylar bag.

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Comments

16 Food Storage Tips for the Space Challenged Prepper — 28 Comments

  1. I am tall, and still those top shelves are no mans land, great idea, all i have up there is like you, stuff that should be thrown away. As for the rafters in the garage, that worries me, here in SC its pretty hot and humid. I have to think that would seriously hurt the food pretty quickly?

    • LeAnn – I would suggest moving rarely used items from inside your home to the garage, thus making additional room for food storage indoors. (For example “wedding china”, rarely used kitchen appliances, off season clothing and such.) Sorry if I did not make that clear. Even here in Washington State, there is too much temperature fluctuation between summer and winter to keep food safely in the upper section of our garage.

    • Attics and garages are out if they get real hot or real cold. Extreme heat or cold will not work for food storage. Perhaps other things could be stored there that can handle the extreme temps.

    • Put your non-food items like Gaye has suggested. It’s also where I keep a spare tent with hard camping supplies. BTW: when wrapping a tent up, toss a couple of bay leaves and some peppercorns in as you roll it up. Bugs and other pests don’t like the smell. Come to think of it, never had mice or rats up there bothering either.
      I also have some dry paper products up there with their guardian laurel and pepper ;) Anything High up is for lightweight stuff so when it falls, it won’t hurt so much landing on my head. ;)

  2. I am a big fan of building shelves over the top of doors, and around the top edge of rooms. If you make them sturdy (I attach brackets to the ceiling too) you can make them pretty deep. If you don’t want your food storage in sight, use the space for stuff that you’d normally store in spaces that you want for food, or put a curtain in front of it. We all also store stuff that is NOT food as part of our preps, that can be in bad temperature/humidity areas. You mentioned using empty luggage, excellent, put it up on these shelves and get them off the floor in the closet. I use floor space for heavy things like water, and anything lighter or less often accessed goes upwards. (Invest in a good step stool, that’s been one of my best purchases!)

    In my eyes, most houses have 8 foot ceilings (this one has 9 foot 6 high, even better!) and we actually use only the lower 6 foot of it. That leaves 2 feet of space that can be used for storage. Look up, see what you can attach to make use of it. Don’t forget that there’s no rule that says your house MUST look like it came out of a magazine. Anything you can make work structurally, within your budget, and within the rules of the landlord, is doable. The most efficient design I have found is shallower shelves down low (where you walk by and need space, need easy to reach stuff) and deep shelves above them (that take a stool to reach) for bigger stuff that is less often needed. I have an odd width hallway here that I put shallow shelves on the wall, then a deeper shelf over head height, makes good use of bad space.

    If your kitchen has a soffit above the cabinets, that’s just wasted space normally covered with a piece of sheet rock. It removes easily, and the space can be used for high storage. You mentioned casserole dishes that are rarely used, if you want to keep them, build a high storage area for them, use the lower areas for heavy things that you want to be able to access easier. The back half of most base cabinets is good deep storage areas, how often do you actually dig something out of the back? Pack it solid with water or deep storage buckets.

    Most of finding storage space is changing how you look at what you have. Conventional decor is just that, conventional, not engraved in stone. Why do you need a couch with nothing above it? How often do you stand on it and need the head space? Put a shelf or three over it. How about a small loft over the bed? Look at your hallway, can you shelve it high up? Can you put a shelf in the bathroom above the door for that case of toilet paper? How about small shelves behind doors? Doors are major space wasters, their swing space is just dead space, do you even NEED a door there? Look at your walk pattern in the house, anyplace you normally cut across is potentially a triangular cabinet space. Got anyplace where stuff tends to accumulate because there’s a chunk of bare floor? Build a good floor to ceiling unit there.

    Looking at your house as if it were a ship or spaceship that has to be packed as effectively as possible instead of something that has to look like someplace Betty Crocker would approve of is an interesting brain shift to make.

    • Excellent suggestions – especially moving away from the Betty Crocker mindset. Using baskets or fabric bins on the shelves will still look tidy and keep your stored items out of sight. Like you, I feel the biggest waste of space is up high and down low plus in the deep recesses of cupboards.

      The most difficult part of creating storage space is,in my opinion, getting rid of the old stuff that you have been carting around for years but never use. That too is part of the mindset shift.

      • I use cardboard boxes that are the right size to fit on the shelves and hold what I want, cut a hand pull in the box (down low, so it doesn’t rip) so I can get them down easy. Those could be covered with fabric or wallpaper easily to make them pretty and still useful and cheap. Plastic bins are good too, but are expensive, hard to get down, and easy to fill too heavy to move.

    • WOW Concrete Fairy. I like the way you think. I have 3 possible questions for you
      1. Are you female? If yes, go to question #2
      2. Are you married? If no, go to question #3
      3. Would you like to be? If yes go to Gaye.
      Gaye, you have to find me a wife. Pass out my e-mail address to all who want it…John

    • Great ideas but use caution where you’re building shelves. In areas prone to foul weather or earthquakes, you’ll want your stores secure especially if building upwards.
      I couldn’t agree more, decorate to fit YOUR needs not the magazine types. :)

  3. A couple variations on your comments that I have used.
    In the spare bedroom (seldom used) I removed the bedframe and used 4 tall buckets to support the 4 corners of the box springs and mattress. shorter buckets would slide underneath, about 20 in total. Throw a comforter over it and the buckets are out of sight. A little taller than a standard bed, but not much.
    We buy canned goods by the “flat”. Our couch is just tall enough to slide a flat of canned goods underneath and the cloth trim on the couch extends almost to the floor to keep them out of sight.

  4. Good stuff and some new ideas, thanks for sharing. I lived my adolescence in a very small room, but with some good planning I managed to have all that I needed there. The key is to see the space in cubic meters/yards – not only for food storage, but for other stuff as weel. E.g. on top of bed there is typically few unused cubic meters. Exploiting that space requires the bed to be lifted up so that more space emerges *under* the bed.

    But the guys in Hong Kong are much more creative with their small spaces. Check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWD3OFItMX0

    regs,
    Tapio

  5. I have a continuous ad going on Craigslist for anyone getting rid of cabinetry … I have plenty of wall space up high in the basement and in the garage. With a little paint, new hardware, many of these cabinets make for great storage.

    • Mike, if I had a basement, I’d be putting my stores high up for sure. Never know when a leak can occur. ;) It also works if you see someone doing remodeling to ask what they are doing with old stuff. Many times they are willing to give it to you,just for hauling it away. :)

  6. Love all these ideas Gaye. I’m going to be sending my readers here as they are always loooking for such tips! And I completely agree that food storage conditions really aren’t as important as people make them out to be. The most important thing is to rotate and use what you store!

  7. A couple of ideas that take a bit of work.
    You can remove the base plate on the bottom of kitchen cabinets, at the floor, and using that dead space for canned goods. Re-attach with magnets or small hinge.
    The space between wall studs can be used by taking the drywall off. install mini shelves between the studs. cover with tapestry or some sort of cabinet door.
    I have put in high shelves around the kitchen. (I am more likely to use equipment if easy to get to) But, have resisted removing the ‘conventional’ look of the living room. Most of my ‘high up’ area on walls are used by pictures and other decor. I will have to think about how drastic I want to go.

  8. I walked around my old row home in Nov looking for more space. So far, my very helpful son took out the broken dishwasher and in it’s place is now a slide out metal rack of four deep mesh baskets hidden behind a curtain. This rack was a $15 flea market find. And there is still space next to it to stand platters and baking sheets. Next project is to change a small coat closet into a storage closet for all my canning and manual food prep equipment. The hunt continues…

  9. OK…this sounds all great and whatnot but if you have been reading up on Agenda 21 not only will the government take your guns but also your stocked up food and resources so in affect the only thing you are accomplishing is the fact that you are growing your own food for the government to seize and then drag you off to a FEMA Camp! Please understand that the government want to take your homes, food and your rights away! This is a far more reaching event than wondering whats for dinner tonight!

    • You are so right! While people are busy prepping their local governments are signing off on these things due to getting federal money for it many not realizing the implications..be aware in your city if this is or has already happened. Once they adopt (United Nations plan) Agenda 21 they basically have the right to take your home for instance if they decide an endangered plant, animal or insect lives on your property. They ultimate plan is to push all people to inner city and make the suburbs off limits for “nature”. Sounds crazy but a simple google search and a little time investigating and you will learn the truth. I would also add the first thing you should prep is your heart and soul make sure you have a true relationship with God :)

  10. Another possibility for ultra cheap storage for anything in boxes is to stack up the boxes to a convenient height and width, cover them with a nice table cloth, and use it as an end table or a library table. Adding a sheet of plywood cut to an appropriate size makes the top smoother and more stable, and if you make it a few inches bigger than the stack, the cloth will drape a lot more naturally.

    This won’t work well for short term canned foods, but for long term disaster supplies it is fine, if a little nuisance to move around.

    We bought leg extenders for our bed – actually they are squarish plastic platforms for each leg, which gives us enough room for our Long Term Storage foods. You can get the foods from the LDS (Mormon) store if one is nearby, canned for 25 year shelf life. We got dry pinto beans, rice, and quick oats by the case of #10 cans, and slipped the cases under the bed. It would be just as easy to use these as tables like the one described above.

    We also have a rollaway suitcase, airline carry-on size, with our disaster first aid kit under the bed. Our likeliest disaster is a hurricane, so we have lots of bandages and splints and such, most of which are fairly shelf stable. We check it once a year to see if anything should be replaced, rotated, or augmented.

  11. Gaye, thanks for letting me know about this post! Storage of any kind is tough in 530 sg ft!

    When we are in the market for new furniture, I will keep in mind the space beneath that could be used as storage. With our small house (and there only being three of us) I have our kitchen table pushed up against one wall on the narrow side and we have a bookshelf on top of that. Frees up floor space while we still have enough room to eat at the table (or to set up our homeschool station). For our bedroom, we have low dressers, so we added the cube storage systems on top for more vertical storage. And we have seriously toyed with the idea of building a loft bed for our daughter, and putting out bed underneath it so she has some floor space for playing. Maybe we should just do double loft beds and she can play under hers and we can use the space below ours for storage.

    Thanks for helping me to look at our space differently!

  12. Great ideas. One I’m toying with is storing sealed buckets underneath the house where it is cool and having them anchored on a long ladder that has wheels. When I need something, just roll out the ladder get the bucket then roll the ladder back in place.

    • I believe the functional limit is a stack of 3 buckets. The problem is weight. I have been told that the weight of the filled buckets will crack the lids if the filled buckets are stacked too tall. I use gamma lids and stack the buckets 3 high and have never had a problem.

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