How to Build and Stock a Pantry

Design, build and fill a pantry that will provide your family with enough food to get through an emergency, a snowstorm, or just day-to-day life.

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    Remember, if you have to weather an emergency, your stress level will be much lower if you at least like what you're eating.
    Photo by Adobestock/valeriihoncharuk
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    Detail of the pantry.
  • pantry
    A little extra preparation will protect your family during emergencies.

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A well-stocked pantry is something I wouldn't want to be without. The customary quick trip to "pick up a few things" becomes impractical when the nearest full-service grocery store requires a 72-mile round-trip over unpaved and winding roads and adds $5.30 in gas money to the cost of groceries. But even if we lived right next to Foodland, last summer's many hurricanes and last winter's Blizzard of the Century provided powerful reminders of just how fragile our food supply can be.

A properly designed and stocked pantry is not as big an undertaking as it might seem. If you do some gardening and put up any of your produce by canning or drying, you already have a good start. Although the upfront price may seem somewhat costly, you can cut costs up to one-third by either fitting an existing closet with shelving or by building a pantry into a corner of your basement (you'll have to build only two walls instead of four). Note: Building your pantry into a corner without insulation should be done only with basements that are submerged in soil; the soil will insulate your pantry, keeping stored food cool. Building a pantry in an above-ground basement requires extra insulation, adding to the cost.

Last, remember that this is one project you don't want to skimp on. After all, a solid, well-stocked pantry is insurance that your family will have food and drink throughout any emergency.

Building the Pantry  

The size of your pantry will depend pretty much on your reasons for building it. When we took stock of our own reasons, we decided that we wanted a place to store our annual supply of home-canned vegetables and fruit, and we wanted to be able to save money by buying food in bulk. Our survival instincts also told us we would be wise to have sufficient supplies on hand to feed the two of us for six months in an emergency (such as an illness or injury that keeps us from going out or a natural disaster that closes the highway interstate so stores don't get restocked).

We haven't yet experienced an emergency lasting six days, let alone six months, but that hasn't stopped us from digging into our supplies on occasion. We generally shop every six to eight weeks, but we sometimes skip a trip in winter when roads are icy or in summer when farm chores and marathon canning sessions don't give us time for a serious shopping trip.

To hold everything we wanted to put into it, our pantry had to be 15' long and 4 1/2' wide. We used 11 1/2"-deep shelving along three walls. On one of the short walls, we put up 4 1/2" shelving to hold flavorings, spices, and seeds for sprouting. We were left with a 31" aisle. Now, we're sorry we didn't make the aisle six inches wider. As it is, space is a little tight and I'm always afraid I'll knock a jar off a shelf trying to turn around with my arms full.

11/7/2017 10:17:53 PM

Hey, there, pinky57! We just are finishing a remodel in our mobile home; one of the things we introduced was an 84"H x 18"W Quality One unfinished cabinet from Menards. The top shelf holds our *ENORMOUS* pressure canner, and the shelves are spaced in such a way that there is *plenty* of room for canning jars, both empty and filled! I've asked my husband to retrofit custom pull-out shelves for some items (i.e., food processor, small pressure cooker, etc.), but the standard setup works wonderfully well. The top-most upper cabinet will hold even the largest Presto Canner!!! Plus jars, to boot! I couldn't be more pleased, seriously - it's been a game-changer in what we can store!!!

11/7/2017 10:02:00 AM

Since we live in a mobile home on land with high water table, a basement is out of the question. We have a small pantry closet made in a former broom closet in the kitchen for items we use daily, then a metal shelving unit in a back bedroom. We close off the heating to that room so it stays cool all winter. We also have a freezer in there. We grow and preserve as much of our own food as possible. My wish list is to build an addition onto our home that will include a large pantry, not just to store food, but all the equipment and canning jars we use. Who has room for their canning pots/pressure canner, dehydrator, etc. in their kitchen? Empty canning jars can be a pain to store, especially to keep them sorted by size.

2/3/2014 9:07:27 AM

i use the food saver jar sealer to vacume seal dry beans rice and other dry foods in canning jars whitch can be resealed over again as you use the contents.



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


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