Food Storage on a Boat

Food Storage

20160213_175020Food storage, along with water, are probably the second two most important considerations, the first being that there are no holes in the bottom. You won’t be sailing very far thirsty and on an empty stomach. There are several considerations concerning food. Many have written about this, but here is our take from things we have learned while we’ve been readying ourselves for our cruising life.

There are four types of food storage to be considered. Refrigeration, dried, cool and canned. As a subset of canned, you can include storing certain foods in oils, too. We have worked towards all four. Here is a breakdown of how we perceive all four.


DSCN1163This is type of storage about speaks for itself. It is a good idea to have at least a small refrigerator of some sort, for temporary storage. A lot of people will tell you that it is not necessary, and that is true. You can live and cruise without it, but if you can have it then why not? A scenario that comes to mind is that while you’re cruising you sail through a school of fish or in an area where the fishing is really good. You end up catching two or three fish, but then you have to worry about storing the leftovers until you can eat all of it. If you have refrigeration, you can store uneaten fish until such time when you can make other storage arrangements. You could even freeze the fish until you were in a place where you could can or dry them. All this is not to mention that if you have refrigeration, you’ll have ice to put in those sun-downers while you are at anchor in the tropics at some beautiful Pacific island. The thought of sitting in the cockpit with a cold drink and watching the sun go down is really appealing!


Drying is yet another way to handle long-term food storage. There are different ways to dry foods, and certain foods don’t do well with being dried, but this is a very viable means of storing a lot of different20160526_121243t foods for the long-term. We’ve heard of people drying their fish by slicing it thin and hanging it on their lifelines, as well as laying it out in the sun. First Mate recently bought a drier that does a fantastic job. She uses it in combination with her vacuum packer, and whatever you have dried and packed will stay good for many, many months. Storing in this fashion also takes up less space, especially when you use the vacuum packer.

Cool Storage

Cool storage, such as in the bilge, is great for wine, eggs, and foods that will last in a cool place. Cool storage is also good for fruits and vegetables that you plan to use fairly quickly. Boxed wine without the box stores really well, and eggs can store for a few months without refrigeration.

Canned Storage

Canned storage is a really great way to store foods. You can literally store food for years once it has been canned. You might wonder how you could can foods aboard, but we’ve done it, and we have a system worked out to can while aboard. All it takes is a bit of propane and a canner, along with the jars. They do take up more space than drying, but you also have to consider DSCN1074
they come packed in their own water, so canning actually augments your water storage. After all, if you do not need to re-hydrate your dried food, then 20160220_070708you have saved that much water. Canned foods are like carrying that much additional water with you. You might think that a canner is too big to store, but you can store other things inside the canner while you’re not using it. You can also buy a smaller canner that might only have room for six or so jars. Canning is also a great way to store food without creating additional trash. You reuse all your storage equipment, so there is nothing wasted. At first glance canning may not seem practical on a sailboat, but if you consider that you may anchor at an island and have access to buying great fruits and veggies, you will be able to buy as much as you can carry and can them to use later. Imagine being able to can tomatoes for spaghetti, or potatoes for french fries. You can even can butter, cheese, and bacon! What a great breakfast to pull out the eggs, cook them in bacon grease, fry some potatoes, and cover the whole thing in cheese. What a way to rough it!


There are many ways of storing foods in the long term, for aboard. Our forefathers were experts at food storage, and we can learn a LOT by reading how they handled things without refrigeration. Having a refrigerator aboard for cruising or voyaging is a great addition, but you only need to rely partially on refrigeration. It augments what you already have in place. I might add that we have stored foods in each of the ways that I have outlined here, and they all work.

Refrigeration is a great addition for storing in the short term, and also for making ice! Canning does not take up all that much space when you consider the fact that you will not have to store as much trash and will be reusing all your equipment, it just makes sense. You can also can almost anything. You’d be surprised! Cool storage takes advantage of the bilge area and is good for storing things that won’t go bad very quickly. Drying is great and saves a lot of space.

I’ll go into how we provide for the power needs of each of these in another article. Suffices to say that they are all within our power budget.