10 Brilliant Food Storage Spots You Probably Haven’t Thought of Yet
A couple years ago we sent a survey to over 100,000 loyal Emergency Essentials customers to ask all about their food storage priorities and goals.
We discovered something we thought was pretty remarkable.
A surprising number of people reported their top goal was storing up a year supply of food but that they’d run out of room to store it.
They had the desire. They had the money. They just didn’t have the room.
And it got us thinking…is it possible to store an entire year’s worth of emergency food in a space that by most measures was not meant to fit it?
Below is our answer—10 incredible food storage spots (some of which we’re willing to bet you haven’t thought of yet). They’re making it possible for families all over the country to store up tons of food in living spaces as small as just a few hundred square feet.
Our Top 10 “Out of the Box” Methods of Fitting Emergency Food
Before we begin, let us say that on their own, few of these methods will be enough to store a year's supply. But combined—and on top of other storage spots you may already be using—they should be enough to push you over the top.
1. Empty Suitcases
Empty luggage you've already got in storage is a great place to stash emergency food.
If you’re not already using it for other storage, there are few better places to pack away long-term food than inside luggage.
A large suitcase measures about 30 inches high, 19 inches wide, and 11 inches deep (not to mention stretchable space in pockets).
That’s twice as high and wide as one of our 30-day buckets!
How much can it fit?
You should be able to fit about a month worth of pouches in a single large suitcase. Since we happen to be at headquarters, we thought we’d give it a try and see.
We started with a suitcase.
It measured 18" high, 13" wide, 8" deep.
And easily fit two week's worth of pouched emergency food.
And that isn't counting anything you could fit in side and front pockets. All told, a larger suitcase could easily fit a month's worth of food pouches.
If you’ve got a family and few empty suitcases stored away, you may be able to fit many months of food without taking up an extra inch of storage space elsewhere! Just make sure to keep them in a temperature-controlled area and away from water.
2. False-Bottom Drawers
A false bottom in a dresser drawer (or drawers) makes extra space for emergency food.
OK, hear us out—this isn’t quite as spooky as it sounds.
You may have drawers in your home you can eek a little extra space out of by building a false bottom.
It’s simple enough in theory, and some people swear by it. You simply cut a board to the size of your drawer bottom, insert a spacer in each corner, place the board on top of the spacers inside your drawer, and voila: you’ve got anywhere from one to two inches of extra storage per drawer.
This video from TheKingofRandom.com walks you through the entire process. It’s surprisingly simple and easier on your drawers than you might think. the video also shows a simple method for locking the false bottom if you’re concerned about food security. It’s a nice touch.
How much can it fit?
Drawers come in all shapes and sizes, but a large dresser drawer will often average around 30 inches wide and 18 inches deep. To discover how much a space that size would fit, we whipped up a little demonstration.
We taped out a drawer-sized space on a table to see how many food pouches it would fit.
We put down our pouches. Flattened, they're a little over an inch high at most, which means you may be able to stack them two-high per drawer.
We fit 10 pouches in our mocked-up drawer, so a large six-drawer dresser could fit at least 60 pouches—that’s over one month of food in a single dresser!
3. In a Wall Cavity
Here’s another option that isn’t quite as scary as it sounds.
If you're out of room for shelving, building some space inside your wall could be the perfect solution. Depending on the age of your house and the region you’re in, there should be empty space between your interior walls—these are called “wall cavities.” They’re probably full of insulation, wiring, and plumbing. Some of them may be empty.
For recessed shelves you’ll need at least 6 inches of depth for #10 cans but only 3 inches of depth for canned foods.
The first and most important element of a project like this is safety. We recommend making an inspection hole once you’ve picked your spot and then using a small mirror and flashlight to make sure you’re not cutting into electrical, HVAC, or plumbing.
For more information on how to build extra storage space into an existing wall, check out Better Homes and Gardens’ instructional on building a recessed shelf.
For a little extra cover and security, Lowes has a page on how to build a hidden storage cabinet into your wall behind a painting. It adds a little more of a "wow factor" to your recessed shelving. It also increases food security, which is never a bad thing.
How much can it fit?
The sky's the limit here, but if you’re careful and pick your spots right, you should be able to open up a space for quite a few canned foods and/or pouches. If you get creative, you may even be able to fit #10 cans (if the space is deeper than six inches, which it may not be).
4. A DIY Coffee Table
Coffee table hack! Emergency food buckets, a hard surface, and a tablecloth or other covering...
There are plenty of hacks online for fitting food storage into furniture…
But how about creating furniture from emergency food?
That’s exactly what one of our long-time customers been doing for years—with an ad hoc coffee table that uses food buckets as a base. They’ve got three months of emergency food in the middle of their living room, hidden in plain sight!
All you need are food buckets turned upside down on their lids—four to six is about the right number. They create a remarkable flat, even surface. You’ll want to remove the handles as well (but make sure to save them, they may come in handy).
Food buckets turned upside down on their lids make a remarkably flat, even surface.
Next you'll need a hard surface and some way to secure it to the buckets to it. Command strips, cyanoacrylate glue, or even thin wood screws could work.
For the purposes of this demonstration we’ve used cardboard—not recommended for your finished build. You can see how flat it rests, though!
You'll need a hard surface to place over the buckets. We used cardboard for this demonstration but wood or plastic should work nicely.
Then it’s a matter of dressing up your table. You could use more planks to build out a frame and then finish the wood. If you’re in a hurry, you can toss it all under a tablecloth like we did. Get creative!
5. Behind Books on Your Shelf
If you’re the kind that likes to keep books around the house, you may have a trove of empty space that’s just the right size for canned food and sealed pouches.
You’d be surprised at how much food a single shelf can fit.
Bookshelves come in a range of sizes, but for the sake of discussion let’s say yours is 30 inches long and 11 inches deep—just an average-sized bookshelf.
Most books range from 6 to 8 ½ inches wide, meaning you’ve probably got enough space to fit canned food behind your books. If you have nice, tall hardbacks you can easily stack a row two cans high behind them without anyone being the wiser.
Tin cans can easily be stacked two-high behind books on a shelf.
Pouches are an even better fit. The pouches in our year kits are creased on the bottom to stand up on their own.
The food pouches in our long-term kits stand freely on their own, making them the perfect fit for storing behind books on a shelf.
A flat, creased bottom allows these pouches to stand freely.
These pouches come in a range of sizes, but at about 1 to 2 inches wide they can also easily stack (or double stack) behind books.
How much will it fit?
With that 30-inch shelf we mentioned, you could fit at least 10 cans—20 if they’re double stacked—and four to 12 pouches. That means a bookcase with five shelves could fit at least 50 cans and 20 to 60 pouches
6. Combine Buckets
Combining the contents of food buckets can net you more extra space than you might think.
For logistical purposes, most of our long-term food buckets aren’t loaded completely to the top. This figure isn’t uniform, but you’re likely to find something like two to four inches of empty space at the top of most of them.
How much can it fit?
That little bit of wiggle room can buy you extra space if you’ve got enough buckets. For example, with Emergency Essentials year supply of 24 buckets, you could empty a couple and spread the pouches across the remaining buckets. Your 24-bucket supply just became a 22- bucket supply, saving you about 62” x 15” x 18' of space.
Not exactly an end-all-be-all solution…but combined with some of the other tactics on this list it could be the trick to push you over the top.
7. Inside Your Stairs
It takes some doing, but space for emergency food can be made inside or under stairs.
We considered leaving this off the list—if only because it take some significant money and effort to pull off…
But if you’re the super-crafty type (or willing to pay someone who is), you can hoard away quite a bit of food in “stair drawers.”
Others have done this concept more justice than we could. Check out this article/video on Instructible Workshop to see how to build your own stair drawers. You can also create storage space under the staircase like Bill from Family Handyman did.
Again, this is a PROJECT. But if you’re strapped for space and serious about food security, it’s one that could be worth undertaking.
8. Behind Your Couch
It may not work for everyone, but with a creative touch, couches can hide lots of long-term emergency food.
Depending on your sense of “feng shui,” this may not work for you, but most of us have at least a little space beneath and/or behind our couch. To prove the concept we placed six of the buckets in our one-year supply (that’s ¼ of year’s supply if you’re keeping track) behind our couch here at headquarters.
The easiest place to store food buckets might be behind the couch rather than under it. It will create about 10 inches of space between your couch and the wall.
Of course, aesthetics is the real drawback here. We covered the buckets with a tablecloth for our little demonstration.
A side view of our emergency food buckets, covered in a table cloth and stored behind a couch.
You might try using pillows or large, rolled blankets to cover the buckets. If you’ve got the time and inclination, we’ve seen customers and bloggers who’ve actually built out wood frames for coverage. They don’t look half bad and double as shelving—a nice spot for coasters and remotes!
The buckets are surprisingly well hidden when viewed from the front.
How much can it fit?
In our demonstration, we didn’t run the entire length of the couch so could easily have fit another six buckets or more—that’s half-a-year’s supply. If you got serious about this tactic and placed your buckets behind a nice, large sectional, you could fit nearly an entire year of food behind your couch alone!
9. Hanging Space-Saver Bags
Storage bags compress empty gaps and make it easier to keep a lot of food in smaller spaces.
If you haven’t discovered the magic of vacuum sealed space savers—my friend, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Basically a vacuum sealed bag you can hang in a closet (or slide under a bed), these save space by compressing your storage and eliminating all the little gaps that take up a lot of room. The concept works well for clothes, but there’s no reason it can’t work for food storage pouches as well.
Just fill a space-saver bag with as many pouches as you can fit, suck out the air with a standard vacuum cleaner attachment, and you’re good to go.
10. Buried in Your Yard
Food-grade buckets with pouches inside can be buried for the duration of their shelf lives.
If there’s a “one-shot” solution on our list, then this is it.
If you’ve got enough property and can dig a hole large enough, our food-grade buckets with 4-layer, sealed pouches, can be buried and stored for the duration of their shelf life.
As a warning, food kits in totes are permeable to moisture and elements and cannot be safely buried.
There are factors to keep in mind, of course.
- If you live in an area with thaw cycles, you’ll want to bury your supply a bit deeper.
- Educate yourself on the water table in your area and keep the buckets away from sprinkler lines—they can withstand moisture, but better to play it safe.
- Since they could be in the ground for decades, be cognizant of proximity to trees and roots.
- It would also be helpful to wrap your supply for a little extra protection as well—tarp will work.
And it goes without saying: if you’re digging, check with the city to make sure you don't run into any lines.