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16 Food Storage Tips for the Space Challenged Prepper

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
16 Food Storage Tips for the Space Challenged Prepper

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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

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.


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.

storage under stairs

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.

storage bedroom closet

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?

storage useless in a cupboad

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.

storage above the refer

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.

storage baskets

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.

storage under furniture

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.

storage garage loft


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.  Your 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 Situation.  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 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.


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!

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Bargain Bin:  Challenged for space to store your stuff?  Here are a few ideas to get you started.

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 affordable, 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 for very cheap.

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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44 Responses to “16 Food Storage Tips for the Space Challenged Prepper”

  1. I use the space between the floor joist in the basement. My house has metal crossties between the joist and I store all kinds of things up high that way.

  2. We are lucky enough to have an entire room dedicated to storage. I’m very thankful for it. Loved the suggestion of shelves behind clothes in a closet. I bet there are so many nooks and crannies. I’ll be hunting for more. As usual, great post!

  3. Wow! Wonderful tips. I’d like to invite you all to be in my MAG ( mutual aid group)???? Except John R. I’m sorry,John, but surviving TEOTWAWKI trumps finding a mate. I’m KIDDING! John, I loved your comment. Humor is a rare survival skill. As is desiring a fulfilled life and the future propagation of our species! LOL.

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