How To Store Emergency Survival Food (Basement, Garage, Pantry, Cellar)

One of the big issues with getting started with emergency food storage is that food takes up space. Before you get into storing any significant amount of food, you really need to have a plan on where you will keep it.

The plan isn’t just about making space for your emergency food.  If you store your emergency foods in the inappropriate places, they could get damaged by humidity, heat, light, pests, or physical damage.

I can only imagine the horror of going to your emergency food stockpile after a major earthquake, EMP event, or other disaster type and seeing that all your food supplies have been ruined!

Here I will go over the main places where people keep their emergency food stores and the pros/cons of each place.  If you have any suggestions, feel free to add them in the comments.

Storing Emergency Food in the Basement

As far as space goes, your basement is probably a good choice for your emergency food.  Basements are also cool and dark, which is important for ensuring foods don’t go bad.  However, humidity can be a major problem in basements.  You’ll need to install a dehumidifier and check it regularly.

Never store your emergency foods on the basement floor as this will result in humidity problems and cause the internal temperature of the food to fluctuate.  Instead, put pallets on the floor and keep your foods on top of the pallets.

Another thing to think about is whether your basement might flood.  If you live in a hurricane zone or near a major body of water, look into options for preventing basement flooding.


  • Lots of extra space
  • May also be your safe room
  • Experiences the least shaking during earthquakes
  • Cool and dark environment


  • Humidity can lead to mold growth
  • Susceptible to pests
  • Basement may flood during some disaster types

Best For: When in the proper containers, you can store items in air-tight, vacuum packed or sealed packaging.  Never store store-bought foods in their original packaging in the basement.  Cardboard packaging can quickly get moldy.

Storing Emergency Food in the Garage

Garages are another popular place for keeping emergency foods because of all the extra space.  However, garages can be very problematic.

First off, it is very difficult to control the temperature and humidity of a garage.  The fluctuation between high and low temperatures can cause your emergency foods to go bad very quickly.

Another issue with garages is that they aren’t very resistant to disasters.  Even if your garage survives a disaster, it would be easy for looters to break into the garage and steal your supplies.   So, avoid keeping your emergency foods in your garage!

To safely store survival foods in the garage, you’ll need to get it to a humidity level of below 50%.  Temperature should be kept below 75 degrees F.


  • Lots of extra space


  • Humidity levels are hard to control
  • Temperatures quickly fluctuate to extremes
  • Susceptible to pests
  • Poorly secured and susceptible to looters
  • Construction is generally poor and the structure can be easily damaged

Best For: Ideally you wouldn’t keep any survival food items in your garage.  Instead, it is a better choice for hygiene products like toilet paper, hand soap, baby wipes, etc.  If you must store food in your garage, it should be canned or vacuum-sealed and placed in buckets.

Storing Emergency Food in Pantries and Closets

These are great places to keep your emergency food because it is fairly easy to control temperature and humidity.

Not all of us are blessed with enough closet space for our long term food stockpile.  However, with a good organizational system, you’ll find that you can really stockpile a lot of food in a standard pantry!

It is really important that you consider earthquake and high-wind safety when shelving your emergency foods. Cans are generally safe, but anything in glass or its original packaging could easily be damaged.

The main issue is making enough space in your closets for your stockpile.  This can be achieved by investing some time and money into building a good reinforced shelving system.  Organization really matters in small spaces because otherwise it will be nearly impossible to rotate your stockpile!


  • Easy to control temperature, humidity and light
  • Fairly safe from pests
  • Easily accessible


  • Space limitations

Best For: I keep my 30 day emergency food supply in the pantry where it is easily accessible.  So long as you rotate through your food stores, you can store any type of food in the pantry. Long term food stores aren’t kept here because of special constraints.

*Don’t Forget about the Space Under the Stairs!

If you have a two-floor home, then there is probably a lot of unused space under your staircase.  This is a great place to make a secret closet!  It gives you a hiding spot plus a large cache for some of your survival foods and supplies.

Root Cellar

If you don’t already have a root cellar, I wouldn’t worry about building one yet.  Focus on building your 30 day emergency food supply for starters, then move onto stockpiling other basic emergency supplies.

After you have mastered that, you can start thinking about a root cellar.  You may even want to build a survival shelter which can double as a root cellar.

Root cellars have the ideal temperature and humidity for food preservation, and can even be used for keeping fresh produce for longer periods of time. Your root cellar will also be protected from most elements, so it is really an ideal solution.

The only major issue to consider is how you will access your emergency foods during an emergency since the root cellar will likely be outdoors.  This is why it is recommended that you keep your emergency foods in more than one location.

Read this article if you want to learn more about root cellars.


  • Ideal conditions for food storage
  • Lots of space
  • May double as your survival shelter
  • Generally safe from earthquakes, tornados, and hurricanes


  • You have to build one and install shelfing
  • May be difficult to access food stores during an emergency

Best For: Root cellars are great for preserving fresh foods from your garden.  You can also keep many types of preserved, canned, and vacuum-packed foods for long term emergency stores.

Where do you store your emergency food?  Let us know of any tips you have in the comments.

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  1. I just started prepping and have read all the comments. My husband bought two larger heavy metal shelves for storing our pantry food in the basement. I have a dehumidifier and I run it all the time. From what I’ve read it sounds that this might work as long as I keep it dry and consistent. From what I read, I do need to repackage all my dry goods in mylar bags, and put them in buckets. Any other advise or feedback.

    • A combination of storage options in different places. Cold pack food in Linn closet. Freeze dried in black p plastic toast. With extra descent in container on skids in garage and basement. Don’t forget smoke t food and salted food in plastic drums . And last but not least fermented foods . Three is one and one is none. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket .have more than one storage place and methods

  2. I turned a small bedroom into a pantry. I have shelving units in there with canned goods stacked on one and what I have canned on another. I have black out curtains and blinds on the one window and keep those closed at all times. It stays dark in there and I keep heat for house at 68*. I also keep a ceiling fan plus another fan running in there at all times.
    Would this be good for keeping my food.

  3. Not sure how many hurricane zones have basements. We don’t have those here in the south. I guess in the Northeast. And as you might imagine here in the south with summer temperatures in the 90s-100 the garage is out of the question. That does make it more difficult.

    Thanks for all the other info tho!

  4. I live in Meridian, ID.

    I have a one-year supply of food storage (25 year life span) that shipped to us in big plastic bins where each of the rations are individually wrapped as well. This is currently stored I’m considering buying more.

    We have a crawl space. Is it safe to place these containers in the crawl space? We don’t have anything other than the longer-term – 25 year emergency food storage items.

    • Since the shelf life is 25 years, I’m assuming that the food is individually wrapped in Mylar with oxygen absorbers inside.

      It’s generally not advised to store food in the basement, garage or anywhere with extreme temperature fluctuations. The good news is that most crawl spaces have relatively stable, low temperatures. Of course this depends on how yours was built. It *should* be fine stored there. Make sure you don’t put it directly on the floor or against the walls though. The temperature difference could cause moisture pockets to build up in the food. The food bins need to be on pallets or something similar.

  5. I live in Southern CA i do not have a basement and the house i rent is very small and limited space inside. In the garage I have put industrial shelving up and stocked with variety of canned goods pastas, carton milk, juices, variety of packed peanuts, foods from senior food box distribution that is monthly. Will that be safe to eat in an nuclear explosion

  6. Hello,

    Complete newbie here. I have a limited amount of space in my basement but a lot of space outside in my shed. I live in the mid Atlantic area so the shed would range from say 20F in the winter to 100F in the summer.

    My plan for dry goods like pancake mix or flour or similar items would be to freeze them in my freezer for a week or so to get rid of the bugs, then package them in the mylar bags.

    Any reason I shouldn’t store these mylar bags in the shed? They’ve already been frozen, heat shouldn’t affect them so I’m looking for any “gotchas”. Also trying to apportion space between the shed and basement.



    • It’s always risky to store food in places with big temperature fluctuations. If you take all of those precautions, they *should* be okay. You’ll need to put the mylar bags into sturdy buckets so rodents don’t get to them. I’d be more worried about the high temperatures — they will make fats in your food (beans and whole grains have lots of natural fats!) go rancid. Technically still edible but not desireable.

      Best solution: Try to rotate through these foods every year or so. It’s a pain in the butt to repackage everything each year but it is better than having all your food go bad.

  7. My survivor food is in mylar bags and in sealed plastic buckets. Is it ok to store it in my steel pole barn? It is up off of the floor and always dry. There is no heat and gets below freezing in winter.

    • It’s always risky to store in places which have high temperature fluctuations. I’d honestly be more worried about heat than the freezing temps — it makes fats go rancid quickly. As for freezing temps, the food also needs to be VERY dry or moisture pockets can form when the food thaws out, potentially creating enough moisture for botulism to grow. Better safe than sorry!

      *See if you can move other items from in your home to the barn to make room for the food indoors.

  8. I have a question concerning milar bags. When placing a flashlight inside a milar bag in a darkened room I can see many specks of light coming through the material and the same at the bag seams. Is this a concern of a poor quality bag?

  9. Hi,
    If I have purchased survival food in heavy plastic tubs and the food products are already in sealed plastic bags do I need to be concerned with heat and humidity? I can store them in the crawl space on shelving but I know it gets humid down there.

    • Ideally, you always keep food away from heat (humidity is less of a concern when they are in sealed Mylar). The heat destroys nutrients. The bigger concern is that heat will make natural fatty acids go rancid. Foods without a lot of fat will last a long time even in heat (such as white rice) but foods with lots of natural oils will go bad much faster (like whole-grain rice).

      See this post for ideas about where to stockpile supplies if you don’t have much space:

  10. I learned by accident when storing pastas, rice, etc, never leave them in the original boxed packaging. Luckily this was years ago in my regular pantry before I learned the importance of stocking up. I now empty all my dry goods out into sealable containers or heavy duty ziploc bags. The boxes often have eggs from the store and once they hatch your food stores will be ruined by weevils or little moths.

    • I also learned the hard way by getting a massive moth infestation. I got used to eating food with webbing and dead larvae in it (it’s gross but safe if cooked). As you said, the insect eggs are already there when you buy the food so even storing in sealable containers won’t do much good. You can microwave some dry foods at high for 3-5 minutes or put them in the freezer for 1-3 days to kill any eggs. This makes them safer to store in bags, jars or buckets.

      • Should be fine for foods in plastic bags though, right? For example…oats in a sealable plastic bag from store, can I freeze for 3 days then leave in plastic bag?

        • Yes, you can leave the foods in their packaging when freezing. However, when letting the food come to room temperature, make sure give the packaging a few shakes. You don’t want moisture pockets forming in the middle of the packaging. I’ve never had issues but I also don’t do food packaging on high-humidity days.

  11. How can I be safe to have everything I / we will need ? If somebody are taking it or something? And if I have it more than one place – I will need everything for every space, right?

  12. When choosing a place to store supplies, how important is it to consider access after an event like an earthquake (my most likely situation)?

    Right now, I have food stored in a closet, but am thinking that might be hard to access if the building was to collapse.

    I’m thinking of moving it to an exterior corner of my shop (temp controlled and insulated) so that even if the building does collapse, I can probably get to the supplies since they will be near the outside of the debris zone.

    • Hi James – You are correct to identify your most likely disaster situation and correct in your thinking about keeping the stockpile accessible. One idea is to keep the main stockpile in the shop but also a smaller cache in the closet, that way you have two options should anything happen.

  13. I store mine in our crawl space. We are lucky enough to have half of the crawl space at 6ft height. I put up shelves and store everything in here.. the key component is the dehumidifier which drops the humidity to 50 and reduces the heat.

  14. Question. I store most of my preps on the concrete floor in my basement. Most of what’s on the floor are canned foods in can rotators and several buckets of flour, rice, beans etc. The buckets have mylar bags with oxygen absorbers and sealed with gamma lids. Should I be worried about temperature fluctuations and getting pallets instead? The room where they’re in as at 16c in the winter and 25c in summer. Sometimes I run a dehumidifier in there when the relative humidity is above 50%. Thanks for any insight.

    • Yes, you are absolutely right to be worried. Storing food directly on a floor is a bad idea (especially in a basement where there is a lot of temperature fluctuation which can cause humidity problems in your preps). The solution is simple though: just put some wood pallets on the floor and put your preps on top of these. We talk more in depth on this topic in this post: Hope that helps!


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