Sunday, August 28, 2016

Food storage for small spaces

How do you fit more nutrition into a small home? I've written about 'nutritional density' before, but I believe it is a concept still overlooked by too many people. Our home is small and has only one closet. We've added storage furniture and re-done kitchen and bathroom to include more storage. We also manage more than 6 months'-worth of canned food storage without it being visible or obvious to the casual visitor.

How can we do that? Nutritional density is the key. For a given volume of storage, like a #10 can, how much basic nourishment can you store? Not looking at vitamins and trace minerals, just calories and some balance of protein, fat, fiber and carbs. You may think it's all the same, but you'd be surprised! For example, a #10 can of white rice has more than twice the calories, three times the carbs and twice the protein of a #10 can of potato flakes. Black beans have about the same total calories as a can of white rice, but the beans have three times the protein and 6 times the fiber.   You'd get even more nutrition serving those beans with hard white wheat prepared like rice than with actual rice. Fiber is important to keep your plumbing humming, so don't neglect it as a basic component of nutrition.

You can calculate the nutritional density of a #10 can using the nutrition information on the label. For your initial dense storage, try to have 6,000 to 9,000 calories per can with at least 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per serving. Stay away from foods with more than 20% of the carbs listed as  sugars, except dry milk. The sugars in dry milk are milk sugars, so hard to have dry milk without those.

The 'beans and rice' or wheat options still leave you with a problem, despite being nutritionally dense.  They contain virtually no fats. You will starve over several months without some added fats and carbohydrates. Remember the stories of 'rabbit starvation?'  Some foods like peanut powder and fatty canned meats (cooked burger crumbles or pork sausage crumbles) need to be in your long-term storage if you aren't otherwise self-sufficient for fats. Raising rabbits isn't the answer for fats, but tree nuts, chickens, pigs and cows will help. These will have shorter shelf-life and must be rotated more often due to oils going rancid. Keeping extra butter (including canned) and olive oil on hand, and rotating it regularly will also contribute to keeping this balance.

Another important high-density storage item is a stash of sprouting seeds. These don't take up a lot of space, and a little goes a long way. If you have long winters or are far from produce, sprouts can add both vitamins and variety to your basic fats-carbs-protein diet.

Once you have your basics stored, if there is space left over, add some fun foods. These monotony-breakers will be important if your local emergency lasts more than a few weeks. You can choose from fruits, puddings or bakery mixes. Another choice is to add some 'fast food' that needs only water to prepare a full meal. Foods like Mountain House beef stew or scrambled eggs could break the monotony or be useful if cooking fuel is in short supply.


  1. Exactly the approach needed in an rv..can't raise livestock on the road...

    1. Great point, Erik! Smaller cans and vacuum sealing can help fill the cracks and crevices in a motor home, provided the mouse-proofing is good. To increase storage in his RV, my brother added another marine battery and a solar charging system, then yanked the generator. It gave him several cubic feet more storage for his necessaries. He also is able to better use his propane for cooking and heating.