Recommendation: Keep a "deep pantry" to provide meals for 14 days.
Supplies: Double your typical pantry purchases and after a few trips to the store, you will have a stocked pantry to extend your food supply. Maintain your supply and rotate your pantry items from back to front to keep all items fresh.
Option 1: Extend your pantry supplies to fill your pantry or spare closet shelves.
Total Cost: ~$100
Extra bags of grain that you normally use (rice, quinoa, etc.)
Additional: Pantry shelving. Buy some shelving that allows you to easy rotate foods and to be able to see what is all in the pantry.
Total Cost: ~$25
Canned food shelf organizer - $25 Amazon
The benefit to a deep pantry is that it does not require any specialty equipment. Just store a little more than you normally do in your pantry and it is easy to spread out over a few trips to the grocery store. Canned food is best for this because they do not require any cooking. Cooking food will be more of a challenge after a disaster. We'll cover that HERE, if you are interested.
It is also important to know how long refrigerated food or frozen food will last without electricity. Please refer to this USDA report on keeping food safe during an emergency: LINK
It is important to rotate your food supply, eating the older food first and rotating the newer stock to the back. It is okay to prepare your family’s everyday meals from the stock of your emergency food pantry. What’s the point in having a pantry full of food if you don’t eat it, right? Just be sure to replace what you used with newer (expiring later) food. For instance, you are preparing a can of beans for dinner. Instinct tells us to eat the “fresher” things first, but fight this impulse and grab the can that is expiring within the current year. The next time you are at the market, grab a couple of cans to replace what you used. Most canned foods have a shelf life from three to four years, but shelf life can be extended by the condition of your pantry.
Be sure to check the expiration dates on all items that you purchase for your pantry. There isn’t anything worse than spending your hard-earned cash on a bunch of expired food. Be care when shopping at deep discount outlets because they tend to sell a lot of expired items to the public. This is not illegal, unfortunately, so just spend a little extra time and check the dates.
What is your current inventory? It might be less than you think!
If you want to do a quick inventory and calculate your current food supply, here is an easy way to do that. Your typical can of food will have anywhere between 200 and 600 calories, so let's average them at 400. Let's estimate that half of your 2000 calories are going to come from canned food, so 2.5 cans per person per day. We'll assume the other half will come from non-canned food items. To reach 14 days, you would need 35 cans of food for one person. For a family of 4, that is 140 cans of food to reach 14 days. Now we know you are not going to have room for 140 cans in your typical pantry, but this is just to give a reality check that what you have in your current pantry might not go as far as you think. Take an hour, go through your pantry and make an estimation of how long it would last. You can count calories, or just make estimation of a typical meal.
Recommendation: Add long long term food storage for 30 days in addition to your "deep pantry".
Supplies: Long term (30 yrs) food storage buckets, purchased or made, to provide 2000 calories per person for 30 days.
Option 1: Food buckets with 30 year shelf life.
Total Cost: $100-$500 per person
Costco Emergency Food - Mountain House is a very reputable brand to trust, but you could probably save on different brands. Make sure to check manufactured and expiration dates. Sometimes some websites mark down prices because they only have half of their shelf life left.
LDS Home Storage Center - 10420 SE 82nd Ave, Happy Valley, OR 97086
Option 2: Make your own long term food storage buckets
Total Cost: $50-$100 per person
Food - rice, bean, pasta, potato flakes, powdered milk, etc.. Bob's Red Mill, Cash and Carry or Costco are good local sources for bulk food like this.
Food grade buckets with lids - try Craigslist or a local supply: 503-793-3368 or 503-793-3370
Mylar bags and oxygen absobers
Long term food storage buckets are a good way to extend your food supply beyond your "deep pantry." They are available from many retail companies, but you can also build your own for much less cost. Both options have the same structure:
Bucket - The buckets primary use is really only for stacking and to keep the rodents out of your food. It does not help with the seal around the food.
Mylar bag - The mylar bag keeps air and light out from the food. It also allows you to create an air tight seal.
Oxygen absorbers - Oxygen is one factor in the shelf life of food. By removing the oxygen with these absorbers, the food will last much longer. They are safe to use inside your mylar bag to remove the oxygen.
Here are some good foods to store yourself: Beans, White Rice, Dehydrated Vegetables, Dehydrated Dairy Products, Pasta, Flours and Other Products Made From Cracked Seed, Honey, Salt and Sugar, and Oats.
Here is a video to demonstrate the process of using a mylar bag.