College students and singles know what they can and cannot live without. We can live without a working stove; we cannot live without a new sweater that would finish off an outfit for that job interview or date perfectly. Okay; maybe that’s just me.
But when you’re in college, priorities can be different than they perhaps should be, and food storage is a perfect example of things we think we can do without.
I don’t have to worry about that until I’m older and officially a “grown up,” right? Wrong!
In my college and post-college experience, I have witnessed the crazy things that can happen to anyone, anytime, and food storage can be an incredible comfort in these times. Even when faced with the challenges of limited money and space that college presents, food storage is still doable.
When I think of food storage and trying to build my own, I imagine a giant drum of 1000 pounds of cracked wheat barreling down a hill with me running for my life in front of it.
But planning out your own storage does not have to be so scary. The important thing to remember is to think of the foods you like and use. You don’t need cracked wheat if you don't know how to use it. Keep track of how much and what type of food you use for a week and start planning from there.
There are also online blogs that offer lists and other tools to help you get started. Shelfreliance.com provides help with their Q Planner: you add in your information, budget, and food preferences and they create a plan just for you. “This is the perfect solution for students or single households, because it requires very little time and effort,” says J. Bart Mills of Shelf Reliance. “With a few easy clicks of your mouse, you can begin building a quality food storage you know you will enjoy.”
Sometimes building a supply of food can be intimidating, especially when on a budget. “We suggest that you just start small,” Mills says. “You can begin by purchasing food you are familiar with and would be able to prepare and eat if necessary.” You do not have to buy everything at once. Now that you’ve kept track of what types of foods you use in a typical week, pick up one or two extra of those items each time you go shopping. If you typically use three boxes of macaroni and cheese a week but notice one time that they are on sale when bought five a time, save the extra two as food storage. “The key is to keep things simple,” says Mills. “If you are placed in situation where you need to use your food storage, storing items that you already know how to use will make things easy and not nearly as intimidating.”
Storage space in temporary housing is tight without adding a year’s supply of food storage. Books, clothes, and recreational gear all take space, and if you’re sharing a kitchen with two to five other people, things can get cramped quickly. Try raising your bed with cinderblocks and storing some of your less-used items in a plastic bin, using a dresser drawer or two for some items, or putting lighter items on those high-up shelves in closets that you can never really reach without great difficulty and thus probably aren’t currently using.
Don’t worry about trying to collect a full year of food storage; it’s unrealistic for college students to hold on to more than a three-month supply of food since they are often moving from one place to another. The typical length of a semester is only three months, and you don’t want your car to be packed full of food and have no room for your other belongings when you leave at the end of the school year. Plan for a few weeks to a month of storage rotating out regularly.
For single households, life may be a little more predictable. Perhaps you have a job and an apartment with more than a three-month lease. In that case, it would be more feasible to gradually build a supply up to three months, again, rotating regularly, and then continue as you are able.