Not being able to find what you need, when you need it, can be a source of frustration that slows down progress. Although some of us are naturally disorganized, that can be a real problem when it comes to creating and maintaining a survival stockpile. Since it is advantageous to always know what you have on hand as well as how much or how little of it, you first have to be able to find things that are like in kind, which is a difficult task if you do not have some sort of organizational system in place. Though it is a given that a sense or order is a must, the question is how to best achieve it.
Photo: Space Cowboys
Shelves are a universally popular choice for stockpiles. They can be bought or built to your specifications and some styles are wheeled to make them easily mobile so they can be relocated as needed. Shelves give you a clear view of the front of the products which are placed on them, which makes selecting items easy. It is necessary to pay attention when stocking shelves, however, to ensure they are not overloaded. The downside of shelves is that rotating items to ensure nothing expires can be a pain as can stocking new items since you have to reach around and through your supply to pile new items at the rear. No matter how careful you are, there will probably come a time when things get knocked over and your work is doubled by the mess that creates, making shelves a good choice but one not without drawbacks.
Five gallon buckets are another popular choice for stockpile organization. Inside of them, food can be kept dry and safe from the elements, but pests are another matter. Rats are persistent little beasts that can chew through buckets and bins given enough time. They also have a taste for unusual, unexpected things, having consumed containers filled with soap and iodine as well as eating tape in our barn, suggesting a 'try and see' approach in which they assume everything is food until proven wrong; just because you think something you are storing is not appetizing to a rat does not make it so. On a positive note, five gallon buckets are stackable to a point (although they can get heavy) so if you use them as storage it is possible to avoid having shelves or another support structure. Just make sure seals are tight and buckets are checked regularly for signs of entry by unwanted pests.
If you've been shopping in the soup aisle recently, you may have noticed a change in the way your local grocer displays cans. Campbell's Soup in particular has opted for the use of can dispensers that allow soups to roll out for easy consumer access, eliminating haphazardly stocked shelves and improper rotation. Though not everything in our stockpile will be in a rolling can, for those items that are, why not install a gravity-based dispenser? Stackable types are available for purchase, but the ability to stack them is not infinite. You will need to stack them on another type of surface to allow breaks between clusters of units so they are not overloaded with weight. Even so, they will give you the benefit of easy access to stock that needs to be used and easy replacement with stock recently bought as cans roll through the mechanism into place.
However, it is possible to step your game up even more with a space-saving measure that operates along the same lines. Instead of lining your shelves with walls, you can line them with cans by building your own gravity-based dispenser and mounting it to a wall. By taking advantage of your wall space and turning it into a can dispenser, you save space and make it impossible not to rotate stock. The next item to be used is placed into position by gravity and new stock slides into the top, taking a position in the stockpile. Simply pull from the bottom every time and nothing gets left behind to expire. Although it may be necessary to use a step ladder to place new cans into your dispenser, the overall space saved and efficiency of the system is something you might find worthwhile.
Photo: My Family Essentials
There are many types of can dispensers that can be built for your stockpile without going to great expense. Repurposed plywood and pallets are adequate to get the job done and plans can be found online to guide you. The floor to ceiling builds seem to be the best choice as they give you a full view of the canned items in your stockpile at all times which makes it that much easier to stay on top of your needs. Building this type of dispenser could very well be more cost effective than buying or building shelves based on the materials to which you have access.
What are your thoughts on the best stockpile storage set up? It is shelves, buckets, dispensers, or something else that you prefer? Tell us how you keep your survival stash in check in the comments.