Food Storage Shelves: To Build or Not to Build?

These are shelves in my cold storage room. See the supports on the back wall? Check back, because I am working on an idea to help my cans be earthquake safe.
This is an older picture of how I used to store my cans in boxes on shelves that came with our house. But my husband built new shelves. Shelves, shelves and more shelves.

To build or not to build, that is the question. Here are three questions you might want to ask yourself when trying to decide if you will build food storage shelves, or not.

#1 What is our budget? If you are living on a lean budget, building shelves out of wood is the least expensive way to go. About $60 for an 8 ft long by 24″ deep by 6 ft high shelf and twice as long as a purchased metal shelf. But what if you or your spouse can’t build your own shelves? Then you will probably need to buy. You don’t have to buy them new. Look in Craigslist for store closing sales or moving sales. And don’t overlook bookshelves and cabinets with doors.

#2 How many cans do you plan to store? I know some of you store grains in buckets, but let’s look at just my can goals and numbers for a minute:

242 #10 cans, average cost at LDS Home Storage $4.45 per can, average weight is 5 lbs per can = $1076.90, weight 1210 lbs.

1865 small cans, average cost at grocery store is .50 per can, average weight is 12 oz. per can = $932.50, weight 1399 lbs.

That’s a lot of cans! You may live in a tiny apartment and have only a 3 month food storage goal. Don’t be embarrassed about that. You have a goal that works for your space and budget. Do you know what your food storage goals are? You could always buy shelves along the way and not set up a room ahead of it. There are so many options! I have moved my food storage two different times in this house and I’ve only been here for 2 1/2 years. I’ve rearranged my cans at least 5 times on the shelves. My kids think I am pretty strange when I show off my food storage arrangements to them. 🙂

As nice as they look, I chose not to buy The Harvest 72″ #10 Shelf Reliance rotation systems because I would rather spend the money on food right now, than on expensive shelves. So keeping my #10 cans stacked in boxes and putting them on wood shelves is the frugal way to go for me. I stack the newest on the bottom and the oldest on the top. And take a few out and put them on the shelf above the stack so they are easy to grab. You do have to restack the boxes as you buy more #10 cans, but I need the exercise. If some of you love fancy shelves and have the money to afford them, go for it. Ponder this decision for your family.

To visualize how many shelves you need may seem difficult. And some of you might be storing in different parts of your home in closets, under the bed, in a pantry, and the kitchen. So it will help if you figure out how many cans, totes, and boxes you want to store. Your going to rearrange them down the road so don’t get obsessed with this. Just an estimate will help.

#3 Is your family growing, or shrinking? I have all the shelves I need right now for our family, but my family is shrinking AND growing. Grandchildren could be just around the corner. And I know young married couples don’t have large amounts of food storage and could benefit from their parents keeping some extra food storage around. So I will probably keep the same long-term storage goals for quite awhile even though kids will move out. Your family may be growing so look ahead. More children, means more food storage, which will mean more shelves.

I hope you are able to figure out what works for your family. My husband recently made shelves from an idea in his head. He has carpentry skills. He says he’s sure there are some better ideas out there. We left space on the bottom of our shelves for larger items like totes and buckets. More pictures coming! I like shelves that are 18″ – 24″ deep. Lots of room. Make sure you mount any free standing shelf to a post(s) in the wall to be earthquake safe. Can you imagine going into your food storage room after an earthquake to the mess below? More earthquake preparedness ideas for your food storage room coming soon!

Build Your Own Food Storage Shelf Pattern Links. (Most of these links were found looking for free garage shelf patterns. But, remember. I do not promote storing food in the garage. Let me know if any of these patterns work for you):

How to Build Sturdy Basement Shelves

Slanted Shelf Pattern for Canned Food Rotation

Pattern for Wall of Cans and Water Barrel Storage

How to Build a #10 Can Rotation Shelf

An Economical Built in Utility Shelf (scroll down)


How to Bulid Wood Shelves

How to Make a Self-Rotating Food Storage for Canned Goods

Todd’s Shelves

Creating Space for Food Storage – Great ideas!

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