Storing Food in a Self Storage Unit in Times of Concern

A variety of tin cans

One of the reasons for renting a self storage unit is to keep some things in reserve in case of emergencies. With the coronavirus outbreak currently causing concern, some people may want to store some of their favorite brands of food just in case the shops run out. But is this possible, is it a good idea, and what types of food can be stored?

We all know the things we like to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and if we don’t have them for a while we would certainly miss them. Then there are the particular needs of those who are fussy about what they eat or have special dietary requirements, plus the kids who will howl if they don’t get the food they like. All in all, storing away some favorite types of food might be a good idea, whether in kitchen cupboards or somewhere larger.

And at this moment in time, with the consequences of the COVID-19 virus still somewhat unknown, some people are looking to store some things they think may run out in the shops. Toilet paper and cleaning products are popular items, and storage units can be used to keep them in. But, for anyone wishing to add food to this list, there are some do’s and don’ts and we always need to obey a storage facility’s rules — not to mention be responsible citizens as well.

Can Food Be Kept in a Self Storage Unit?

Well, yes and no. Perishable food is definitely not a possibility, and this includes much that may not be obvious. While meat and vegetables could clearly encourage rodents, insects and funguses to take up residence in a unit, storing dry foods can also be a bad idea. For example, grains and biscuits for pets look innocuous but can trigger the same problems. The good news is that tinned food can quite often be stored, and that storage facilities can sometimes be found which accept other types of food as well, as long as clients are responsible.

Some self storage providers are flexible regarding food, understanding that their clients’ needs are many and various. Lior Rachmany at Dumbo Moving and Storage, a Brooklyn-based self storage company that has dedicated itself to becoming one of New York’s leading players, says that any food that can last more than 6 months and does not need to be refrigerated can be kept in their units. And Brendan Connies-Laing, owner of Easystore Self Storage in the UK, says that several online food sellers have used their units, complete with refrigerators, and without any problems.

How Should Food be Stored?

Regular storage units are subject to the fluctuating temperatures where they are located, which could be freezing in Minnesota or blood-boiling hot in Arizona. Heat in particular is an enemy of regular canned foods — the contents can spoil and may even contain bacteria which thrive at such temperatures. In addition, a damp environment can cause cans to rust and burst. The answer is to rent a climate-controlled unit, which keeps temperatures moderate and humidity under control.

Airtight containers are essential if you are planning to store grains or flour, for instance, and it should be remembered that these have a shelf life of just a few months. A facility may allow the storage of spices and other such comestibles, though it is wise to vacuum seal them before they are put in a container. Last but not least, check the expiry dates on any food products you are planning to store in a unit, and also the condition they are in — dented or bulging cans may no longer be properly sealed, which could cause big problems down the line.

Self Storage and the Coronavirus

You may also be asking yourself if it’s a good idea even to visit a self storage facility at this time, with the danger of meeting people or touching surfaces that are infected with this new virus. There are precautions you can take, such as not coming within a close distance of other people, not touching surfaces unless you can help it (or you are wearing gloves), not touching your face, and washing your hands periodically and thoroughly.

You will also be pleased to learn that some facilities are taking extra precautions. San Diego Self Storage, for example, have educated their staff in prevention against the disease and have increased the frequency with which they clean their premises, among other things. If you’re looking around for a self storage facility, ask what their current hygiene policies are and base your decision on what they say.

One other thing you might like to consider is valet self storage, whereby the company collects and delivers your items so you never have to visit their premises. Sean Sandona at Doorage, a company offering self storage in the Chicago area and priding itself on its good service and community commitment, says the valet service they specialize in is ideal right now — clients get everything they need but avoid contact with anything outside their homes.

Should You Store Food?

Although storing food can be slightly more problematic than other items, it’s possible to put it on the list — grandma kept a lot of pickles and bottled fruit on those shelves in her pantry for a good reason. There are even foods especially designed for storage, such as dehydrated or freeze-dried meals, though these can be expensive. If you’ve served in the military you may even have sampled MREs (“Meal, Ready-to-Eat”), which you might be able to pick up at army surplus stores if you’ve still got the taste for them!

Most people, however, will want to eat regular food, and the word of advice here is to store what you like to eat — nobody wants to be responsible for providing their loved ones with a monotonous diet. With a little careful planning this should be possible, and The Department of Homeland Security agrees that some food can usefully be stored in times of health concerns, though people should not go overboard.

This leads us on to a final word of warning. Panic buying can mean that shops run out of a product before they normally would and this can affect vulnerable members of the community, especially those without the time, money or mobility to enable them to shop around. Emptying a shelf of important foodstuffs at your local supermarket can have a knock-on effect, and the advice is to plan, not panic, and be considerate toward others.


The self storage industry has a role to play in whatever situation society finds itself, and it can give a sense of security to anyone concerned about whether they’ll have what they need in the future. A supply of food can often be kept in a storage locker, and with planning it can hopefully be suitable for all those who will eat it. Most importantly, if you want to put food in a storage unit, read the facility’s rules and abide by them, and keep in mind the people who might be put in difficulties by empty supermarket shelves. Follow all this advice, and you will be sure to have plenty of good things to eat in case of emergencies, and peace of mind as well.

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About the author

Francis Chantree

Francis writes and edits articles for the RENTCafé portal. His education includes a master’s degree in artificial intelligence from Edinburgh University and he gained his doctorate studying linguistic ambiguity. In addition, his work compiling corpora and writing technical manuals have proved to be a great background for his current work. Francis can be reached at

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