Introduction to Food Storage: Heat and Eat Bin

Staying Focused on Preparedness

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We recently made a decision to bump up our food storage from keeping three months on hand to twelve months. Something that we started even when having three months of storage was a Heat and Eat Bin.  In my Introduction to Food Storage: Why? post I told you about our real life experience of being without power for several days. Not only were we without power but almost the entire county was without power. The grocery stores were either closed or extremely limited and the restaurants were closed.

The house we then lived in was entirely electric.  When the power went out our ability to cook foods also went out.  We did have a camp trailer with a stove/oven and a small camp stove so that was helpful.  With our cooking options being outside of our home quick to cook items were very helpful.  We were still on a Standard American Diet in those days so I had plenty of Heat and Eat options for our meals.

These days, most of the food we eat is prepared from ‘scratch’. While many of our meals can be created rather quickly the bulk of our food is things that require planning ahead. And a good portion of it requires extensive cooking times.  Because I wanted to have some foods on hand that are for ’emergency’ needs we decided we needed a Heat and Eat Bin.

My Plan for the Bin

I think it is important to remember that canned food overall has less nutrition than fresh food. Many real food enthusiasts choose to never eat food from a can. If that’s you, then you probably do not want to create a Heat and Eat Bin.

For us, this truly is a bin. I had one of those large Rubbermaid style containers that became designated as the Heat and Eat Bin. In this bin are foods that require no preparation other than opening up the can or jar and (sometimes) heating up the contents. The foods in this bin are ‘convenience’ style foods.  They are not the foods we eat every day. One reason for the foods to live in the bin is to keep them out of the every day foods.

While these are convenience foods, they are foods that I purchased after scouring the ingredient list and deciding they were okay for the intended purposes. The intended purpose is for ’emergency’ use.

That emergency may be a power outage.  However, depending on the duration of the outage the bin may or may not come into play.  Our outage that I linked about lasted from Sunday until Friday. Using that scenario, we would first eat from any foods that were in our fridge before busting into the Heat and Eat Bin.  If there was an event that left the possibility of a longer term power outage then the heat and eat foods would be welcome during that time of transition. I don’t want to sound too much like I need a tin-foil hat but if some large regional event happened to knock the power out long term, not having to think about meals for a couple of days could be helpful. Again, the nutrition of canned goods is lower so having a good supply of ferments (sauerkraut, pickles, etc) can help with that. I share how fermenting works in our food storage plan in this post.

Another great thing about having the bin is that it is portable. If we were ever in a situation where we needed to leave home in a hurry, we could grab our heat and eat bin and our camping bin (which happen to be conveniently located right next to each other).  These can be a great addition to a 72 hour bag.

Not sure what a 72 hour bag is?  A 72 hour bag is a collection of basic items your family may need in the event of an emergency. FEMA recommends having a kit of your own food, water and other supplies to last 72 hours in case you need to survive on your own after an emergency. This kit should be portable (it is often referred to as a Bug Out Bag or BOB) in case you need to evacuate.  To learn more about building your own real food style 72 hour kit you will want to listen to this podcast from The Living Kitchen/Cooking TF.

The Heat and Eat Bin can also be quite convenient for times when I’m under the weather and someone else is cooking.  One thing we have noticed is that while the foods are okay they are certainly not as tasty as foods we prepare ourselves.  Originally I had thought the children might be tempted to open a can of soup as a snack (that is part of the reason for stashing them in a bin) but after eating a can recently, Lulu declared it to not taste as good as she expected. She didn’t go as far as saying my cooking is better but it was still nice to hear. 😉

What kind of things are in the bin?

I’m glad you asked.  We have canned salmon, sardines in tomato sauce, tuna, black beans, red beans, greens and assorted soups.  We also have oatmeal even though this doesn’t really fall under the strict rules of heat and eat, since we need to add water to it but it is close enough (plus I do have stored water).  I’m also planning to add a few more things to the bin that break the Heat and Eat rules slightly. I’m totally enthralled with dehydrating right now and love the ideas from Backpacking Chef. And in January my friend Wardee from GNOWFGLINS is starting a new eCourse all about dehydrating. I always learn so much in her eCourses that I’m sure it will be great.  I see lots of great opportunities to improve our Heat and Eat Bin selections.

Since FEMA recommends a three day supply of food for emergency kits that is where we started with our Heat and Eat bin. Just like with all food storage it is important to rotate these items.  Since this bin contains things we do not eat from regularly, I make sure to check the bin each year when I clean out the freezer (usually late July to early August) and check the expiration dates. Anything that will expire before the next year check gets pulled out and put on a shelf in the kitchen to use.  New items are purchased for the bin on the next shopping trip.  While these expiration dates are not the date the product is no longer safe to use it just makes sense to us to keep things current.

Also in the bin are miscellanous items like a can opener, disposable dishes and silverware, salt, pepper, a roll of toilet paper and a jug of water. These things are there specifically in case of needing to take the bin and go. Our camping bin does have some of the same items in it also but if it were to be left behind and we didn’t have a can opener then it might be challenging to get our salmon open!

Do you need a Heat and Eat Bin as part of your food storage?

Maybe or maybe not.  You may choose to keep your three day emergency food only in your BOB or just in your cabinets.  But it is smart to have three days of emergency food somewhere. If you are not comfortable with canned foods then you will need to find an alternative. Jerky and/or pemican plus other dehydrated items might work for you.  Again, I highly recommend the podcast from The Living Kitchen/Cooking TF to give you ideas for your own emergency kit/Bug Out Bag.  While I think having a BOB is very important I won’t be putting up a post on it since the podcast is so much better than anything I could write up.


Have you put together a Bug Out Bag or other sort of emergency kit? What tips can you offer?


See all posts in this series here.


Millie Copper
Millie Copper is a Wyoming wife and mama. After reading Nourishing Traditions in early 2009, her family began transforming their diet to whole, unprocessed, nutrient dense foods—a little at a time while stretching their food dollars. Millie is passionate to share how, with a little creativity, anyone can transition to a real foods diet without overwhelming their food budget. Millie began blogging in late 2009 and has amassed a collection of frugal recipes and methods. Her specialties include cooking with wild game and creating “Stretchy Beans”. Discovering a love of writing, she has penned four books focusing on healthy eating on a budget and is trying her hand at fiction writing. Learn more at


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