Food Storage Made Easy

The events in Japan - stripping grocery shelves and leaving thousands of families without food, water, electricity, or sanitation - provide us with grim motivation to assess our own levels of personal resilience. How prepared are you if a similar disaster (natural or man-made) were to suddently strike where you live?

I, for one, still have more gaps than I would like. Like many folks, I've been genuinely intending to get around to filling them soon, but noble plans have little value the moment after the unexpected occurs. As Chris often says, it's immeasurably better to be a year early with your preps than a day late.

As a tool for prioritizing my next steps, I've been reviewing this site's What Should I Do? guide, which Chris, I and the staff put together last summer. I think it's one of the best resources on the Web for guiding folks through the beginner and intermediate levels of personal preparation (our forums being where more advanced planning is addressed).

Reviewing the guide reminded me that I have less food stored than I should. My wife and I had already followed the entry-level advice of deepening our pantry by buying more of our usual staples on each trip to the store, and I had bought some bulk supplies at Costco - but, all in all, we probably had less than two months' worth of food for our family of four, versus the year's supply I wanted.

If you're like me, you've been inspired by the local food storage days organized by several groups here at I had fully intended to organize one in my area. I'd be like Dogs or Sager, using the day to build community in my area and my role as a "go-to" guy within it - strengthening relationships along with my neighborhood's resiliency in one fell swoop.

The problem was in the logistics: recruiting enough people, finding a day that worked for everyone, and determining and ordering all the components provided enough of a hurdle that the planning for the event kept getting pushed back to "next week." But once Japan reminded me of the costly downside to procrastinating on such an important need, I switched strategies, focusing on finding a faster way to meet my family's goal.

I ended up making a trip to a food cannery operated by the Mormon Church. The facilities are available to anyone (my wife and I are not Mormons) and, I must say, they offer the easiest and most affordable way to procure high-quality stored food.

So I'm documenting the experience here for anyone who may have interest in doing the same.

First, a little background - and let's make it clear, this post is not a commentary (positive or negative) on Mormonism as a religion; it's strictly a desciption of my research and experience with the food storage services they offer. The Mormon Chruch advises its members to develop self-reliance against a number of hardships, including food/water, financial, health, and emotional challenges. The rationale is that it's more difficult to attend to spirtual needs if the basic human needs have yet to be met. To help in this, the LDS ("Latter-Day Saints," as the Mormons refer to themselves) offer resources and services both online and in local communities.

The Church advises its members to have three months' worth of food storage on hand, and, if possible over time, to increase that to a year's worth. So, they've built a network of LDS food storage facilities across the US and Canada (and a few other countries) where people can come in and purchase bulk supplies at a discount. Being a charitable organization in mission, they make this opportunity available to anyone, regardless of faith or lack thereof.

Most of these are "dry pack" canneries, which deal with staples that can last for long periods if water and/or oils aren't present. These include rice, beans, wheat (red & white), oats, flour (white), sugar, pastas, and dehydrated milk and vegetables. There are also "wet pack" facilities that help store foods that require moisture (fruits, vegetables, soups, sauces, etc), though they are fewer in number. "Wet" provisions will eventually go rancid and don't store as long as "dry" foods. I went to a dry-pack facility, so the observations here are limited to that experience.

Purchased food is stored in one of three ways: in #10 cans, in pouches, and in bulk size. #10 cans are by far the most easy to deal with. They hold between 2 to 5 lbs. of food, depending on what's inside them, can be easily handled, are extremely durable, and lock out air, allowing for storage lifetimes of up to 30 years. Pouches hold up to about 20% more than the cans and may be easier to draw from and reseal, but I was discouraged from using them as they are much more vulnerable to rodents. Bulk sacks contain 25 lbs. and are not "sealed" for long-term storage.

At the center, you can purchase food already packaged for long-term storage (usually six #10 cans to a box), or you can can it yourself. Prices are very inexpensive (as Nacci says, they're practically giving it away). As an example, a #10 can of white rice from industry leader Mountain House costs $17.79. The cannery charged me $3.30. By the way, did I mention that is out of stock on all its #10 cans with no re-stocking date in sight? 

Canning the food yourself is cheaper. Though to be honest, the additional cost to buy the prepackaged cans is so small (typically around 5 cents extra for a few tenths of a pound less) that if you prize convenience, you can just drive up, buy the prepacked boxes, and be done with everything in a matter of minutes.

For those thinking of taking this route, here's how to get started:

  1. Find the nearest cannery in your area - has an interactive map that will help you find the nearest LDS canneries in your area, along with contact information.
  2. Calculate how much food you want to purchase - Note: it's going to be more than you think. There are calculators to help you given the size of your family. You'll then need to download and submit an order form noting the quantities of each type of food you want.
  3. Determine if you want to can your own food - more on the pros/cons below.
  4. Book your date

I decided to can as much as they'd let me (60 cans per visit), more to get an understanding of how the process works and to have a better sense of what I'd be getting when I opened the cans later on. It's also a social experience - I found it a good way to get tips and recipes from the more experienced folks joining me at the center that day.

When you arrive at the center, the process is explained (it's a typical assembly line) and everyone is assigned a task. It's efficient and remarkably quick: A can makes it through the sytem and into a box in less than a minute.

First, the bulk sacks and stacks of cans are brought in on pallets. The "lifter" (my terminology) then picks them up one at a time, opens them and brings them to the pouring station. The "pourer" then takes the bag and fills up 5-6 cans at a time. Then the "tamper" bangs the cans to settle their contents down, and hands them back to the pourer until they are fully topped off. When they are, the tamper places an oxygen-absorber packet in the center of the open can (on top of its contents) and hands it off to the "canner".


The canner places a lid atop the open can and places it on the canning machine. A lever is pulled, the machine chugs to life, and 5 seconds later the can is sealed. It's then given to the "labeler", who places an identifying sticker on the can. Finally, the "stocker" places the can in a box according to the specific orders of the customers at the center that day.


That's it. At the end of the session (usually two hours in length), folks collect their boxes, pay and fill up their cars. A warning: Your food will likely take up a LOT of space. I canned the maximum of 60 cans, plus bought a similar amount of prepacked food. This filled just about all of the available space in my Toyota Highlander (including the passenger seat). Some folks rent a U-Haul trailer for this and I can totally understand why. Here's a picture of (a little more than half of) what I ended up with:

Note that if you're building food storage for more than one person, it will likely take multiple trips to the cannery. A year's supply of food is a LOT of food. For my family of four, I made a significant dent in my storage gap; but I'll need to go back - probably a few times - before I have a full year's worth. I'm looking forward to visiting a wet pack center, too, to add some variety.

A question several folks have asked me: Did the "religion factor" play a role in the experience at all? (i.e., was there any sell job on Mormonism in the process?) There wasn't. The staff at the center couldn't have been nicer, and no one brought up religion (of any kind) while I was there. I left feeling grateful for their conscientious service and for keeping things strictly on a business level.

In my opinion, nothing beats participating in a food storage program with the members of your local community. The relationships and goodwill built are worth the extra cost and complexity. But if that's not in the cards for you anytime soon, the LDS canneries are a great alternative. Even more options are discussed in our WSID Guide to Storing Food. The important thing is to use the time we have now wisely. Work on those gaps in your plan. And consider sending some extra to those in Japan without that luxury.



This What Should I Do? blog series is intended to surface knowledge and perspective useful to preparing for a future defined by Peak Oil.  The content is written by readers and is based in their own experiences in putting into practice many of the ideas exchanged on this site.  If there are topics you'd like to see featured here, or if you have interest in contributing a post in a relevant area of your expertise, please indicate so in our What Should I Do? series feedback forum.

If you have not yet seen the other articles in this series, you can find them here:

This series is a companion to this site's free What Should I Do? Guide, which provides guidance from Chris and the staff on specific strategies, products, and services that individuals should consider in their preparations.  

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Every time I read one of these fantastic What Should I Do articles, I want to post a comment expressing appreciation. But I never quite do it cuz I know how frustrating it is for those w slow connections to wait for a post to open and only find a ‘great article, thanks’ post.
I can no longer stifle myself… thanks Adam, great article, and thanks to all who have authored articles for this series, generously sharing your knowledge, wisdom, and experiences.

Good story. My wife and I have used the LDS cannery many times. Quality product, great prices and friendly folks. The actual name of the Mormon Church is “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints”. We bought bulk wheat and stored it in 5 gallon buckets, unprocessed wheat will last many years with no special treatment. Call ahead for availability of items, sometimes they are out, seems to be a big demand for certain things. I wonder why.

Great article Adam,

I have been canning(in glass jars) my own food for a couple of years now and this year have increased my usual amount of food stores to one year worth. Canning your own food is not as scary and complicated as it first seems.

Buy a high quality pressure cooker to start with.Spend the extra paper on a higher capacity one (18quarts or more)Trust me,canning is a very time consuming venture and you will be glad you can fit those extra jars in it.It will come with directions(read them!).

Follow them to the letter.Also,there are many good receipe books out there on canning.Second,figure out what size jars you want(jars are reusable,cans are not).I prefer pints for meat because you can feed more people and I don’t mind leftovers(not to mention the cheaper cost when you figure the volume of food they contain).Quarts are good for fruits and veggies.Half pints are good for those with smaller nutritional needs,but thats up to you.

The next thing to consider is what kinds of foods to aquire.I process fish mostly,but also wild game,beef,chicken,vegetables,and fruit.I personally don’t do soups or sauces because you are canning mostly water.Buying the food that you preserve can get expensive,but look for deals on meats,and buy your fruits and veggies from farmers in season.If you go to a farmers market or butcher shop and ask what kind of deal they will give you for a large order you may be suprised at their willingness to bargain.(ideally,harvest yourself or barter)

Lastly,the best way i’ve found to can your food, is to have a canning party with a group of like minded individuals.Instead of sitting in front of the tv on a day off bring your friends and a favorite beverage into the garage to get an assembly line going.I would recommend a small operation the first time to learn what materials,tools,and organization you will need for a larger batch.

A propane camp stove seems to be the most economical and portable way for me to do this.The initial cost to round up materials can be high,but once you build up your supplies,the replacement lids and fuel to cook is very low cost.I consider this an investment because I save by not buying any preserved food from the grocery store.

All in all,there is something very comforting opening a jar of food and knowing exactly where it came from.


Thanks, how timely.  Last Friday we had an initial meeting with a small group of “preppers” who, aside from my wife and myself, are all LDS.  One of the subjects that came up is an LDS cannery in Canandaigua, NY.  We will at some point be planning a trip there.  It is a 2-3 hour drive for us, so it would seem that making it a fairly large group project would be most efficient.  Do you have a sense how much the economy of scale would benefit a large group as opposed to going just for family?


Thanks Adam for the great post.
I never looked into this option for food storage, because I took a slightly different approach to food storage. I try not to keep any food for the long term, instead whenever we run out of something in our kitchen pantry we replenish it from our bulk pantry. In this way, we learn how to cook with the foods that we store and we also learn what we tend to use and what we don’t use. We started with more than a years supply in the bulk pantry, but because of rising food prices we haven’t been restocking the bulk pantry in the last 6 months. I’m going to await the next market-induced deflationary episode to reload the pantry. In the meantime, I’m going to visit a local cannery and check it out.

Of all the things I have learned on this site, I probably value my food storage the most. It totally changes the way you face the world.

Thanks again, Jeff


What an excellent article, Adam!  Thank-you for the great information!!

Glad to see this summary is proving to be of some use.
Doug: the canneries don’t offer volume discounts (beyond their already rock-bottom prices) that I know of. But your group could all pitch in to rent one large U-Haul truck and reduce the per-family cost of transporting all the food back home.

Also, as they say, many hands make light work - so the more people you bring, the faster the canning should go (hopefully they have more than one canning machine, so it doesn’t become the bottleneck). I’d recommend you all go to each others houses on the return trip to collectively unload and store what you buy. I sure wish I had had extra hands with that…

JAG: I’ve long admired <a href=/comment/50749#comment-50749" rel=“nofollow”>your system. The good news is I think the cannery solution can plug well into it. A number of the folks I met at the center were there buying the food for near-term use (within the year). They simply find it the most economical way to buy the food, plus they like how they get it in bulk form that can easily be put in pantry bins/buckets like the ones you use.

My approach is to finish securing my 1-year stores, which I will place in “set-it-and-forget-it” storage for the next 30 years or until events  force me to break into it. I then plan to head back to the cannery to buy stores for the near term - after setting up an efficient bulk pantry like yours :slight_smile: This website has a wealth of I formation available to all on all the aspects of preparation as encouraged by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (No wonder they go by the nicknames “LDS” and “Mormon” Church.)

Great post and extremely timely! I agree that the #10 cans are the best way for long term storage for a “get it and forget it” attitude. I purchased a year’s supply for 2 in 2004. It is still stacked on pallets in my basement to be used in case of emergency. Rodents have nibbled on the boxes, but the cans aren’t affected by the pests. I honestly hope I never have to use this physical insurance plan. I’ve augmented with wet pack canned vegetables that I store in my pantry. As items get used, I purchase more and move the new supplies to the back of the queue. I haven’t noticed degradation in quality even after 3 years in the queue. Don’t forget spices. You can dress up lots of boring dishes with a little pinch. You can get big containers at Costco or other warehouse stores much cheaper than the cutesy little spice containers.

The biggest problem I’ve seen is with oils. Without oils, you’re left with boiling. Oils tend to turn rancid more rapidly. I have a few bulk (2 gallon sized) plastic jugs that I keep on hand. Just before the “best if used by” date comes, I donate these to the local food bank and replenish the stock. I’ve also purchased canned tuna in oil rather than spring water. The current dates on these are in the 2015-2016 range. They’re cheap, store easily, and will probably last much longer than the pull date. I don’t donate these.

With garage sales starting to pop up everywhere, there is an opportunity to get some good equipment from people who want to empty the garage so they can fill it again with other stuff they’ve seen on TV. These are hit and miss, but generally are a good source to find used canning equipment - pressure cookers, glass jars, and sundry equipment. You can also get hand operated utensils and camping supplies at some of these. Pick up a dehydrator if you see one, especially if you can control the temperature. By the way, a small pressure cooker is an excellent way to partially or completely cook beans and rice with less energy! Don’t pass these up just because you’re looking for a monster 18 quart cooker. You can have both if you’ve got storage. You’ll still need to get a supply of new canning lids. Don’t reuse the old ones for canning! I’ve used them for storing dehydrated goods though. Get a supply of regular and wide mouth unless you only have one kind of jar. You can reuse the bands, even the rusty ones. Once the seal is set, you can remove the band if you need to.

I haven’t tried this yet, but a friend was telling me about a cheap way to store beans and rice. He buys food grade (make sure they are food grade or use a food grade plastic liner!!!) 5 gallon buckets with lids, then thoroughly cleans and dries these, and then puts a small piece of dry ice in the bottom before pouring the dried goods in. He then places the lid on and seals about three quarters of it so there is a small gap for air to escape, and waits for the dry ice to completely sublimate. Carbon dioxide is released and displaces the air in container. He then seals the container, writes contents and date on it with a Sharpie, and then stores it. Has anyone tried this method? I think it would work better on a hot, dry, calm day; otherwise, moisture will condense on the dry ice and subsequently affect longevity of the product. I’ve seen freezers in the bigger supermarkets where you can buy dry ice. You’ll need to bring a cooler and some good gloves. This stuff is COLD and will instantly freeze your bare skin.


This is a very timely and reassuring article.  I also felt the need to get back to the basics with everything going crazy.  Many thanks.  This is a terrific series.

Regarding cooking oil storage:  I have been looking at shelf life of oil today on the web.  Crisco shortening seems to have a longer shelf life than most (two years per the manufacturer). In an emergency it will do but it is not the healthiest option. I freeze my olive oil until I use it which seems to extend the shelf life a bit as well.  However a gallon of oil takes up a lot of space in the freezer.  FWIW.

Take care





Is it ok for cans or buckets of wheat and/or oats to freeze ?  That is, stored in non climate controlled area with cold winters ?  thanks

My wife and I completed a round of long term food storage recently. I skimmed a lot of information and decided to use the instructions prepared by site member Dogs in a Pile
We didn’t know about the dry canning option for long term storage at the time, but having a periodically damp cellar I think the containers we chose were best for our situation.
We did a dozen 5 gallon buckets including red / gold wheat, lentils, black / pinto beans, rice, oats and popcorn. Used the food grade buckets with a gamma seal lid and the light duty food grade mylar bags found on the Sorbent Systems website. We placed dessicant in the bottom of the mylar bag and deoxygenators on top of the food before sealing. The dry ice method may work to some degree, but I think it’s cosidered inferior to other methods by many. I actually used a vacuum to suck most of the air out of the mylar bag and instead of paying for a clamshell sealer, we just used the “cleaned” iron I wax my skis with. Really happy with the results. Also picked up a made in Montana Grainmaker hand crank mill. It’s a very nice product and the hand milled prarie gold wheat makes the best chocolate chip cookies ever, it can also grind that popcorn into cornmeal.
As far as oil is concerned, its my understanding that extra virgin olive oil in a tin stored at a constant low temperature can last a long time, although quality may slowly degrade after a couple years. The other easy solution is Red Feather canned butter, I put cans of it in 5 gallon buckets sealed with dessicant inside. This item has no date on it and ive seen people say 10-15 years shelf life no problem. These guys also can cheese, although I haven’t picked any of that up yet. Coconut oil is said to be the best oil for storage, my wife grew up LDS and knew this. We only have a few cans because we haven’t used it much, but if you’ve ever had theatre popcorn you know what coconut oil tastes like.
Our long term storage is accompanied with a rotating deep pantry and as of this year canning in glass jars from our new garden. We are also lucky up here in North Idaho, having regular bumper crops of huckleberries that we can into tasty syrups and jams.
It feels good to have some food in long term storage, do it once and do it right.                       

Grover,I have used this method for a while now, but I would be remiss if I did not point out what may be an error in your friends bucket storage.
I have always used NON-iodized salt in the bottom, approximately two inches of salt, then wrap an ounce +/- of dry ice in a piece of newspaper and drop it in, then fill the bucket with your product.
If there is no salt then the product will produce moisture during temperature changes, which will lead to mold and other ill affects.
Also, the LDS website and written storage material reccomends using the salt bottom, then product and then the dry ice on a piece of wax paper laid on top of your product. The CO2 drops into the bucket, displacing the oxygen, and then you gently remove the wax paper and seal the lid.
I have used beans and rice stored for over 30 years in this manner, and aside from a little discoloration at the area where the dry ice was, there have been no problems.
I am not an LDS member, but my teams make use of their facilties twice a month. We have secured a years supply of food for over 100 families now. I would reccomend to all of you doing this to consider others as you get to your goal of a years worth of food storage. Maybe buy a little more with the intent to barter, or enough to feed your sister in law and her kids as well for a year, or your parents, or any cobination or all of the above.
My extended family thinks I am a nut job for having a years supply of food for THEM! I hope I won’t have to make them cut firewood in return for the emergency supplies…
Please rmember…you need hygiene more than anything after you have food, water and shelter. Plan for it. Disease has killed more than any political system or individual war, so plan on winning the long haul by having soap and soap making abilities. Have back up plans for boiling water and disenfecting your clothing, dishes and home. Have a plan to deal with human waste if the sewer goes…hehe…down the toilet.
Think about what you are doing as you go through your day and ask yourself “If the lights went out right now, how would I do this? Would I do it this way or would it become an uncessary trapping of post modern life?”
Congrats on your storage Adam!

Excellent write up Adam.  I have been considering various options for long term food and I find this one very appealing.  It is easy, quick, and very inexpensive.  It is a proven system so I would have no doubts that the food would be good when needed.  If I did it myself using other methods I would always wonder it I got a detail wrong and spoiled the food.  As mentioned above, having your food in cans is the only way to assure no rodents can get into it.  Plastic buckets are like butter to them.  Thanks for the timely information.

Thanks for the advice. I just went through the “9 families, 4 tons, 5 hours” posts and found lots of useful information and links there. I haven’t had too much time to search many of the postings throughout this site yet, but wanted to add my 2 cents for the community. I’ll tell my friend about the salt trick and suggest that he repack his beans and rice.

By the way, I’m extremely impressed with the attitude and willingness to share information at I’m glad I joined.



Hi all,
I now have around 5 months food stored - mostly rice, lentils and beans - all uncooked.

I live in London and so I reply on the gas mains for my cooker. Does everyone include gas as part of their food storage in case something happens to the gas mains?

I’m getting a 19kg gas cyclinder this week which will last around 70 hours but obviously this is not enough for my 5 months food supply. I’ve spent the last 2 weeks increasing my resilience and so as you can imagine have been spending quite a bit. I don’t know if I can purchase 4 more gas cyclinders at this time. Is it a must?

Take care


[quote=ameet1983]Hi all,
I now have around 5 months food stored - mostly rice, lentils and beans - all uncooked.
I live in London and so I reply on the gas mains for my cooker. Does everyone include gas as part of their food storage in case something happens to the gas mains?
I’m getting a 19kg gas cyclinder this week which will last around 70 hours but obviously this is not enough for my 5 months food supply. I’ve spent the last 2 weeks increasing my resilience and so as you can imagine have been spending quite a bit. I don’t know if I can purchase 4 more gas cyclinders at this time. Is it a must?
Take care
Ameet -
Consider picking up a two burner camp stove to supplement your cooking preps.  Any outdoors outfitter or sporting goods store should have them.  They are relatively inexpensive, can be set up and used just about anywhere and the gas bottles are very inexpensive - for now.  I use less than half a bottle on a weekend camping trip with 5 cooked meals.
You will also need a good water filter system.  There are any number of backpacking models available that are very effective.  You can also find larger capacity filters but they will cost more.

Ameet,Are you intending to connect your mains gas cooker to a bottle? You must not do this. This is against the law in the UK and dangerous, as they are different types of gas. (Mains gas is methane, and bottle gas is propane/ butane.) As Dogs in a Pile suggested, you should get yourself a suitable camping stove if you are concerned about gas cuts.
Alternatively if you have the room, buy a full size bottle gas stove from a Calor stockist.

ameet…you might consider a pressure cooker to reduce your cooking times and related fuel consumption.