Okay--now you've got your food storage. You've spent a considerable amount of money to make sure you and your family will not go hungry during an emergency. But there's one problem. You live in a small house or an apartment, and you don't know where you're going to put it all. We have plenty of people with this problem, so we've decided to help.
When considering where to put your food storage there are a few very important facts you need to remember. In order to keep your food fresh and nutritious, your storage area needs to be as cold and dark a place as possible. Light and heat can destroy not only the taste and texture of your food, but also the nutritional content. Even if you manage to conquer those two food foes, you still have to worry about bugs and rodents.
The optimal temperature for food storage is between 50 and 60¬∞ F. While storing your food in optimal conditions may seem like a bit of a challenge, this is actually a good way to be creative. Generally, food storage comes in two different packages--#10 cans and plastic six-gallon buckets. The cans are easier to keep fresh and safe, since it's almost impossible for light, bugs, or rodents to get into a sealed metal can. As long as you can keep them cool, they will stay fresh for years. The six-gallon buckets are more of a risk, but precautions can be, and have been taken to ensure they keep your food storage fresh. Since they're made of plastic, bugs still aren't able to get in on their own, but it's possible for rodents to gnaw their way in. And they will, too, if they can smell your food. The food inside of well-packaged buckets is packaged in vacuum-sealed mylar bags. These are called " superpails." This process makes the bags airtight and allows no odor to escape. Even so, it's important to check your superpails and bags when they are delivered, and again every few months to make sure the packaging is intact.
Where can your food stay cool? Since heat rises, it is best to keep your food in a basement or cellar where it will stay much cooler than it would on a top floor or in an attic. You can also put it underneath beds, or on closet floors. If you don't feel you have enough closet space, you can have two children share one closet. Another suggestion some of us have used is to place boxes of #10 cans on their side behind a couch. Simply move the couch about a foot away from the wall, and you have several more cubic feet of storage space.
It's also possible to store your food storage cans outside, but you must take care to ensure they will not rust. Rust will destroy your food. Quality #10 cans are double enamel-coated, inside and out, so they won't rust unless they get nicked or dented. Being out in the elements generally makes your cans more likely to rust, but there are a few good spots to keep your food cool, if you're careful. A dry crawl space is one good spot. A garage is another, but a lot of times garages get pretty hot during the summer. If you feel your garage is too hot in the summer, don't hesitate to put your food storage somewhere cooler during those months. One word of caution about this: you also don't want your food to be in shifting climates. Going from hot to cold and back again generally isn't very good for your food. Another caution about the garage is you don't want to store your buckets next to gasoline, insecticides, or any other harmful chemicals. Plastic is porous, which could allow some of the toxic fumes these chemicals give off to enter your food.
We have heard of people who have thought about burying their food storage in the ground, because it would probably keep it cool and secure. We strongly recommend against doing this. This makes your food storage much more difficult to locate, you would have no way to rotate it, and it would be more likely to rust, or, in the case of buckets, leak. Just think of how much work it would be to get to your food storage in case of an emergency. You would have to dig down a few feet just to get it into the ground to keep it safe. That alone would easily take you several hours, and just imagine trying to dig your food up in the middle of winter. You also have no way to rotate it, increasing the chance that it will be no good when you need it.
Regarding plastic buckets, these are harder to store discreetly due mainly to their size. One suggestion I've heard involves hanging a full-length curtain, or putting an Oriental folding screen a foot or so away from an existing wall. You can stash loads of buckets back there, but the obvious drawback is a loss of space. It is not a lot of living space, but if you're already in a small living area, this may not be possible. Buckets are better suited for closet floors, since buckets are bulkier and closets offer more space. You also need to consider their weight. You don't want to store heavy six-gallon buckets on high closet shelves, because in the event of an earthquake, you definitely don't want it all to come crashing down to the floor.
If you're really low on ideas, you might even consider making furniture from your buckets. We have a customer who stacked two of our superpails together, secured a round piece of wood to the top superpail's lid, and threw a tablecloth over the whole thing. Just like that, you've got a sturdy nightstand, for next to nothing.
The important things to remember are temperature, light, and unwanted guests. With a little logic, creativity, and luck, you can keep your food tasty and fresh for as long as you need--so it will be there when you DO need it.