Home Storage: Build on the Basics
June 1989

“Home Storage: Build on the Basics,” Ensign, June 1989, 39

Home Storage:

Build on the Basics

From Brigham Young’s time to the present day, latter-day prophets have counseled Church members to store food for times of need. Recently, the First Presidency spoke again on this subject:

“We continue to encourage members to store sufficient food, clothing, and where possible fuel for at least one year. We have not laid down an exact formula for what should be stored. However, we suggest that members concentrate on essential foods that sustain life, such as grains, legumes, cooking oil, powdered milk, salt, sugar or honey, and water. Most families can achieve and maintain this basic level of preparedness. The decision to do more than this rests with the individual.

“We encourage you to follow this counsel with the assurance that a people prepared through obedience to the commandments of God need not fear.” (Letter to priesthood leaders, 24 June 1988.)

If families would think in terms of storing only foods basic to survival, or if they would supplement the food storage they already have with the basics to build it up to a year’s supply, the task would be simpler than they might think. They would then be prepared for food emergencies.

A year’s supply of food storage is beneficial in several ways:

  1. It provides peace of mind as we obey the counsel to store.

  2. It helps ensure survival in case of personal or natural disaster.

  3. It strengthens skills in preparing and using basic foods.

Once you have stored the basic food items, you need to regularly include them in your daily meals.

This article and other suggestions that will be printed in the following months in the Random Sampler department of the Ensign will provide information on how to store, prepare, and serve meals based on foodstuffs recommended in the First Presidency letter. Other sources of information include ward and stake priesthood leaders and Relief Society presidencies, Church welfare centers or canneries, local extension agents or agricultural services departments, and public and educational libraries.

The following guidelines will help in purchasing and storing basic food items.


Grains include wheat, rice, rolled oats, dried corn, pearled barley, and other cereal grains. Flour, cornmeal, and pasta products such as macaroni and spaghetti are also included. Each family should store various grain items that suit their individual circumstances. For example, rather than storing three to four hundred pounds of wheat per person, a family might choose to store two hundred pounds of wheat, one hundred pounds of flour, twenty-five pounds of rice, twenty-five pounds of rolled oats, twenty-five pounds of dried corn, and twenty-five pounds of macaroni per person. There are numerous combinations. This gives variety to the menu and encourages using and rotating the supply. It also provides choices for those who do not like or cannot eat a particular grain.

Most grains can be dry-pack canned in small containers (see below). This makes them more convenient to use and reduces the possibility of spoilage. Grains may also be stored in tightly sealed metal or heavy plastic containers.


Legumes—an inexpensive, nutritious protein food—include beans (soy, pinto, white, kidney, lima, winged, red, navy, pink, and blackeyed), split peas, lentils, and peanuts. They can be stored in clean, dry metal or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids. They may also be dry-pack canned.

Fats and Oils

Fat is essential to every diet. Shortening, cooking oil, margarine, and mayonnaise are suggested for storage. Store fats in sealed containers in cool, dry, dark places and rotate them frequently.

Powdered Milk

Nonfat powdered milk, instant or regular, is an excellent storage item. It contains all the nutrients, except fat, found in fresh milk.

In the past, storing large amounts of powdered milk has been recommended. However, this has often led to spoilage and waste. More recent studies show that smaller quantities of milk are adequate if people store and eat larger quantities of grains.

Powdered milk can be stored in the original sealed packages, or if purchased in bulk, it can be stored in tightly covered metal or plastic containers. It can also be dry-pack canned.

You may also use canned milk as part of the milk storage program, but you must rotate it regularly.


Nutritionists recommend iodized rather than plain salt, when it is available. Store salt in its original container in a cool, dry place.

Sugar and Honey

Whether to store sugar or honey is a matter of personal choice. Sugar may harden; honey may crystallize and/or darken. Neither affects the safety of the product.

Store honey in small containers. Then, if it crystallizes, you can immerse the containers in hot (not boiling) water to reliquefy it.

Store granulated sugar in a tightly covered metal or plastic container or place it on a shelf away from moisture in its unopened cloth or paper bag. Occasionally knead the bag to help prevent the sugar from hardening.


Water is more essential than food in sustaining life. Store a minimum of seven gallons of water per person for drinking and food preparation. Store an additional seven gallons per person of the same quality water for bathing, brushing teeth, and dishwashing. Use heavy plastic containers with tight-fitting lids. Metal containers, which may corrode, tend to give water an unpleasant taste.

If you have any doubt as to the bacterial safety of stored water, you may purify it by boiling vigorously for one to two minutes or by adding chlorine bleach (5 percent sodium hypochlorite solution). Generally, half a teaspoon of bleach will purify five gallons of clear water, and one teaspoon will purify five gallons of cloudy water. If you store it away from sunlight in clean containers, and if it is safe bacterially at the time of storage, water will remain pure indefinitely.

Storage Guidelines

  1. Use storage areas that are well ventilated, clean, dark, dry, and cool. If your conditions are less satisfactory, rotate contents more frequently than recommended. Even though space may be limited, there are usually “hidden areas” for storage. Use your imagination!

  2. Do not place food storage containers on or against cement or dirt floors and walls. Place pieces of wood between the storage containers and the floor or wall to provide ventilation and protect against moisture.

  3. Keep stored food away from products that may affect the flavor of the food.

  4. Rotate and use food storage items regularly. Date food items as you purchase or can them, then store new supplies of food at the back of the shelves, moving earlier purchases forward to be used first.

  5. Do not go into debt. Acquire food items gradually. At the very least, save a few dollars a week for storage items. Using the basic foods in day-to-day menus can cut food costs and allow you to purchase more supplies. Or, as a family, give up some of the nonessentials for a short time until you can accumulate additional foods. Through prayer and concerted effort, you can work out a food storage plan that will provide you with security and peace of mind.

No single food storage plan will work for everyone. Each family’s needs differ, as does their financial ability to accumulate the storage items. But by working under the direction of the First Presidency “to concentrate on essential foods,” it can be done. President Ezra Taft Benson has said on at least three different occasions, “The revelation to produce and store food may be as essential to our temporal welfare today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah.” (Ensign, Nov. 1980, p. 33.)

Dry-Pack Canning

With the exception of foods containing fats, most of the storage items discussed here can be sealed by a dry-pack method of canning. Dry-pack canning is easy and inexpensive and uses containers that are small enough that they can be easily rotated and handled. In addition to dry-pack canning equipment available for use at some Church canneries, dry-pack canners may be checked out from the canneries for local use. For more information, contact your region welfare agent (your stake president can tell you who he is), welfare cannery, or bishops’ storehouse.

Photography by Steve Bunderson