11 Creative Food Storage Ideas for Modern Homesteaders
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I’ve been storing food for hard times since I was a little girl. When I was about 5 or 6 years old, I got locked in the bathroom at home. The handle was really sticky and I couldn’t turn it to open the door. My mom was upstairs and out of hearing range, so my
cries for help went unheard for somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes, which felt like hours to me.
Once I was finally freed from my porcelain-clad prison and breathed a big sigh of relief, I decided to prepare just in case I were to ever get locked in that bathroom again. “What if next time I wasn’t so lucky?” I thought. What if next time no one came to my rescue? I might starve to death in there!
And so, I loaded up a few snack-sized boxes of raisins and some sunflower seeds and I tucked them away in the cabinet underneath the bathroom sink. Better to be safe than sorry, I figured. At least this would keep me going if I had to wait for the fire department or devise a MacGyver-esqe plan to escape the downstairs bathroom.
Luckily, I never had to resort to living off of raisins and sunflower seeds. But I remember the look on my mom’s face when she found my food stash in the bathroom. I can’t remember if I told her the truth or tried to pretend like I had no idea how they got there, but I do remember her having a good laugh.
Not that my mother’s one to point the finger and laugh at anyone else’s, er, “creative” food storage. My mom is, after all, the queen of storing food in every spare nook and cranny. I think that’s where my food storage obsession really began…
Growing up in a townhouse in the suburbs, we didn’t have a ton of space for storing extra food. There was only one small built-in pantry, but my mom has always been a food hoarder, ehm, I mean, food storage queen. So we had extra cabinets, closets and baskets full of food when I was growing up, plus a deep freeze and a bar fridge for extra drinks, yogurts, cheeses and creams.
Fast forward a few decades later, and my mom has only continued to build her food storage, adding more shelves and cabinets to store her stash all the time. And here I find myself doing the same.
In our last house, we were lucky enough to have a huge pantry under the stairs that was built back in the early 1900’s, when refrigeration wasn’t yet “a thing” and it was imperative to have a large pantry at home to store food for year-round eating.
So when we moved to our new house- a 1970’s-era rancher- just last week, I actually found myself having a mild panic attack when I realized how much food I had to store in a comparatively small space. Plus all of my jars and canning supplies that I use to store even more food, which is still coming on in our gardens and at nearby farms. So I got creative.
We adjusted existing shelves to accommodate our food stuffs, added shelving units in and consolidated our dry goods into similar-sized glass jars (because nothing gives me anxiety more than food in different sized packaging that somehow has to fit on the same shelf together… apparently).
This got me thinking…
As our food production and storage grows, where will we put everything? What are some of the most creative places I’ve seen my own family members store food? And where can my fellow homesteaders and preppers living in houses with minimal built-in pantry space or in small spaces like suburban townhouses and urban apartments and condos store their food?
And so I decided to write out a list of all of the places I have seen utilized and that I could think of using in the future for storing food. Whether store-bought or preserved at home, this list is full of places that people living in various different types of spaces can store their shelf-stable food as they follow their homestead dream wherever they are. Because if you’re gonna homestead, you’re most likely gonna end up with more food than the average modern-day Joe. And that means you need more storage space. But no one, I repeat, NO ONE should have to put their homestead dreams on hold because of the space they live in.
You can and should homestead wherever you are! You might just need to get a little creative:)
So here’s my top 10 list of creative food storage solutions and tips. But I’d love to add to the list! So if you have any other ideas, please do share in the comments below! Now go on and stock that pantry… Or closet… Or wall unit… Or cabinet under your bathroom sink. Because you just never know when you’re gonna get locked in your own bathroom and come close to starvation. You just. Never. Know.
Creative Food Storage Solutions for Every Space
1. Maximize Pantry Space
This first one may seem obvious, but it’s amazing what a difference proper organization can make in the amount of food you’re able to store. Plus, if you can maximize your existing pantry space, you might just find that you don’t need to look any further for creative storage solutions.
I highly recommend investing in some standardized food storage containers so that you can put all of your dry goods into containers of a similar shape and size. This has helped save my sanity when it comes to dry food storage as it’s made it possible to fit everything together just right without wasting space. This really helps solve the problem of having to store different shapes, sizes and styles of packaging together (ie. a big box of cereal, a big bag of oats and a small bag of seeds, for example).
As a bonus, taking what you can out of packages and putting it into food storage containers also helps you to more easily see what you have and makes your pantry look a lot nicer and more organized! I use glass jars like these in varying sizes for my dry food storage. I’ve been able to find them at my local Dollar Store for a few bucks a piece, but you can also order them online here.
Another option is to use food-grade plastic containers or even Mason jars to store your food. The downside to Mason jars is I find they’re often not large enough to store the quantities of food we buy (we shop for many of our dry goods at places like Costco and Bulk Barn to get the best value for money). But if you can fit your food in Mason jars they make a great storage option.
Consolidate as much as possible into as few jars or packages as you can, and make it a priority to use up any food items that are almost gone (bags of cereal with less than a bowl’s worth should just get eaten up instead of taking up space).
And do your best to organize your pantry according to food type. So, for example, we have one shelf for flour, sugar and bags of “extras” that don’t fit into the jars (like extra chocolate chips, spare bags of brown sugar, etc.), one shelf for liquids like oils and vinegars, a shelf of grains like rice and pasta, a shelf for cereals, dried fruits and nuts and a shelf for herbs and spices. Then we have another another small pantry with all of our canned goods and sauces, both store-bought and homemade.
We also had to adjust the height of some of our shelves to accommodate our jars, so be sure to adjust your shelving to what fits your needs best. There’s no point in trying to fit things into a space that doesn’t suit your needs if you can rearrange it.
2. Add Shelving
If you’ve completed step one and you still find yourself with excess food, a great option is to add some extra shelving. We invested in a few of these metal shelves to help us store extra food, canning supplies, small appliances and much more that we just don’t have built-in space for.
Or take a look on Craigslist or online buy and sell sites or even garage sales for metal or wooden shelves. You might even find an old shelving unit for free and you can always paint it to give it a new lease on life and make it match your place!
3. Above Cabinets
I never considered this one until I asked a fellow homesteader who puts up hundreds of jars of home-canned food each year to share her most creative food storage space. She said she stores food in the “wasted space above my kitchen cabinets.” Brilliant!
The space between the top of your kitchen cabinets and the ceiling makes great storage space and it hides most of the food from view and protects it from falling because there’s usually some type of crown along the top edge. I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of this one myself, but now that it’s on my radar it will be my next go-to spot for storing food when my pantry space runs out! (Which it will eventually).
Closets that weren’t originally intended for food storage are a great option as well. Whether they be bedroom closets, linen closets or coat closets, these spaces can easily be converted into pantry space or you can simply store your excess jars of pickles, jellies or what have you on a spare shelf or in box on the floor of the closet.
Just don’t bury your food in the back where you might forget about it. One of the biggest rules when it comes to food storage is to store what you eat and eat what you store. So make sure it makes it into the regular rotation of food that you actually eat!
5. Chests, Wardrobes and Dressers
Much like closets, spare drawers in dressers (or a dedicated dresser or wardrobe) makes a good storage space for food too, as long as your food storage containers aren’t too tall for the drawers.
Likewise, chests like cedar chests, etc. make good storage space as well. Just remember, it’s not recommended to stack jars of home-canned food on top of one another as it can affect the seal of the jars. And make sure jars of home-canned food are stored upright (not laid on their sides) for the same reason.
6. Wall Units and Dining Room Hutches & Buffets
Wall units and dining room buffets also make excellent storage spaces for shelf-stable food. You can use closed cupboards or open shelves to either hide or display your food storage. If you have a nice dining room buffet with open shelves or glass doors, you could even turn your beautiful jars of home-canned food into a decor piece! Because food you put up yourself is absolutely something to be proud of, and deserve to be shown off!
7. Under Beds
This one is surprisingly common among homesteaders! I see and read all the time about modern homesteaders facing a food storage problem who resort to storing flats and boxes of home-canned food under beds. I personally haven’t tried this one as our mattresses are currently on the floor! But I know a handful of other homesteaders who swear by their under-the-bed space. It’s cool, dark and often unused so storing food under your bed can make what can be a useless space into something quite functional!
8. Basements & Cold Storage
This one may seem obvious again, but it deserves a mention. Of course, not everybody has access to a basement. I grew up in a suburb that is built up on a delta, meaning the sand and silt that forms the base of the land that the houses sit on cannot be dug into for basements as water would simply seep in. Likewise, if you live in an apartment or any other dwelling without basement space, you might be out of luck here. But if you do have a basement (with or without a cellar built in) you should absolutely consider using some of the space below ground to store some of your food.
The added benefit of storing food in the basement is that it stays cool throughout the hot summer months and is a great space to store things like root vegetables and ferments that require storage at a specific temperature to ensure their quality and prolong the length of time they’ll store for.
* Someone else mentioned storing food in a storm shelter, which is definitely a good idea, especially if you ever need to use said storm shelter for its intended purpose. Then you’ve got food on had while you weather the storm!
9. Detached Buildings, Sheds & Garages
If you have a garage or a shed on your property that stays cool enough throughout the hot months and warm enough throughout the freezing months, this is another great place for food storage. A garage attached to your house is your best bet as heat from your house will keep it warm enough during the winter months so that liquids don’t freeze and cool enough in the summer so that foods don’t spoil. But detached buildings work fine too as long as the temperatures don’t hit extremes. For more information on safe food storage for shelf-stable items, check out this document produced by the USDA. If you don’t have a shed, consider building one.
While I don’t recommend storing things like liquids or home-canned goods in the attic for fear of it getting too hot up there, dry goods in well-sealed containers should be fine in an insulated attic if you are really pressed for space. Again, just don’t forget about the food you’ve stored up there and if you’re ever unsure whether a product is safe to eat, don’t eat it. Live by the old adage, “when in doubt, throw it out.”
11. Storage Lockers
If you live in an apartment building with a storage locker room, this could make the perfect space for storing excess food. I wouldn’t recommend renting out a separate storage locker away from home simply for food storage. At that point you should probably just be giving food away!
But if you’ve got something on your premises, go for it! You might get some strange looks from neighbours who prefer to pack their lockers with sporting goods and seasonal decorations, but that’s the risk you take living this lifestyle. We’re a misunderstood breed, and while some may laugh at my storing food under the bathroom sink or other people storing food in their lockers, we’ll be the ones laughing when that zombie apocalypse hits! Or when we get locked in our own bathrooms. Or when winter comes. Because it is coming. Winter is always coming…
More Food Storage Ideas For The Overflowing Homestead
If you’ve exhausted all of the above options and you’re still lacking space for food storage, you could always ask a friend, neighbour or family member if you can store some at their place. As “payment,” you could perhaps reward them with a few jars of home-canned food:)
And then of course you can always spread the wealth and start giving it away. Whether to family and friends or local food banks, someone out there would be more than happy to take some extra food off your hands and some could really use a little extra. Which is just one more bonus to living this kind of crazy, somewhat misunderstood and definitely “alternative” lifestyle we’ve chosen: We have the ability to not only provide for ourselves, but for other as well. And at the end of the day, nothing is quite as rewarding as that.
I’d love to hear from you! Do you have any other creative food storage solutions you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Having trouble organizing your food storage and knowing exactly what you’ve got? Check out our free printable pantry, fridge and freezer organization charts, weekly meal plan chart and smart shopping list to help you stay organized, eat well and save money. You can find them all under the Meal Planning section in our Free Resource Library.
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I hope to see you in class:)
Wishing you health, wealth and homestead happiness…
and abundant space for all of your beautiful, nourishing food:)
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