Food Storage for College Students

Grain and pasta food storage in glass jars
courtesy of

As a college student, I sometimes feel like a nomad. I move frequently, so food storage always seemed like a waste of space to me. The closest thing to food storage I had was 40 frozen corn dogs from Costco! Besides, food storage is a “grown-up” thing that I don’t need to worry about until after college.

Then I realized that although we may feel invincible, college students are in fact NOT immune from natural disasters and worldwide plagues, I decided I needed to have some sort of emergency preparedness in case tragedy strikes.


The first thing that comes to mind when I think of food storage is the giant blue bins of water my family has in our garage. I definitely don’t have space for that in my college apartment that I share with five other girls.
Walmart USA commercial shelf - cereal
Walmart USA commercial shelf – cereal. Picture by Franki Chamaki on Unsplash.

Preparing your own food storage is a lot more practical than that. It is important to think of the foods you like and use on a weekly basis, especially those with a long shelf life. For example, if you don’t know how to use or cook with rolled oats, you don’t need it! Keep things simple. If you were to be placed in a 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.

Sometimes building a supply of food can be intimidating, especially when on a budget. Simply start small. You do not have to buy everything at once. Notice when items you frequently buy go on sale. When your favorite cereal is having a buy one, get one free discount, put the extra box in your food storage.

Items to Have

Until researching it, I didn’t realize that most of the food that counts as food storage is actually food I buy on a pretty consistent basis. Some items include:

  • Nonperishable foods for your pantry to carry you through for a couple of weeks: peanut butter, jerky, pasta, nuts, cereal, dried fruit, canned beans, canned soup, granola, protein bars, juice boxes
  • Household food item staples: salt, pepper, olive oil, vegetable oil, honey
  • Go-to sickbed foods, like chicken or vegetable broth and crackers in case of illness
  • A 30-day supply of water (water bottles or a Britta Filter)
  • Hydrating drinks such as Gatorade or Body Armor
  • Powdered drink mix-ins

I have always hated the idea of powdered milk. After writing this article, I spoke with Gale Boyd, my writing manager here at Third Hour. She told me she also had always hated non-fat powdered milk, but when her family moved abroad, they became familiar with NIDO. NIDO is made by Nestle and is full-fat, so it will give you nutrition in times of need. Plus it tastes amazing so you won’t feel deprived if you love milk. The instructions for mixing are easy to follow on the label, and you can find a big can of it in the Mexican foods sections of most grocery stores. Buy one can of that and some cocoa and sugar and you’ll always have chocolate milk. It has about a 2-year shelf life.

And I know it is not technically good to rely on frozen foods for food storage, but I have a few staple items, like meatballs and corn dogs, that I know will come in handy should I need a quick meal. I also know that if there is not an emergency before I move out at the end of the semester, I will still be able to eat these food items.


Storage space in college housing is tight. When you are sharing a space with two to five people, finding storage space to claim as your own can become difficult. Try raising your bed with cinderblocks and storing some of your less-used items in a plastic bin under your bed. The food will be easy to access, hidden, and you can find another purpose for the plastic bin when you move out. We all have those unnecessarily high shelves in our closets that seem useless. Try putting some food storage up there to make the space useful.
Writer Amy Keim shared that she and her husband use linen closet shelves for food storage — but initially, it wasn’t empty. Keim had “bedsheets, pillows, and old twin-sized comforters there. But as I looked around our house, I realized that would be the easiest area for us to store food — I’d just need to move some things around.”

Keim folded sheets smaller, put a few of the blankets on the side of the couch, and squished the remaining pillows and sheets onto the same shelf as the towels. And voila! A food storage area was now available.

You can find free space in your house for food storage; it may just take some creativity on your part. But considering the benefits of having a food safety net, it’s totally worth it.

Grocery shopping
Picture by Marie-Michèle Bouchard on Unsplash.

Three to Four-Month Supply

Having an entire year’s worth of food storage is not reasonable, nor is it necessary. College students should aim to have a three or four-month storage. I typically look for items with long shelf lives that won’t expire till near the end of the semester. 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.
I like to go to Costco at the beginning of the semester and buy snacks and meals that won’t expire till the end of the semester. I slowly eat through these stashes as the semester goes on, but continue to purchase new items to replenish the stash.

As President Gordon B. Hinckley once said:


“We can begin ever so modestly. We can begin with a one week’s food supply and gradually build it to a month, and then to three months. I am speaking now of food to cover basic needs. As all of you recognize, this counsel is not new. But I fear that so many feel that a long-term food supply is so far beyond their reach that they make no effort at all. Begin in a small way . . . and gradually build toward a reasonable objective.”

May we come to understand the importance of food storage and make it a priority in our lives.

How do you store food in a tiny space?