Every person needs to have a food supply if disaster strikes. However, this doesn’t mean they should buy a few canned goods or stock up on dry goods. There is a lot more than goes into building an emergency food supply. What should every person know when taking this step?
The first rule of safe food storage is picking the right space to keep it in, according to Prepared Bee. You’ll want somewhere dry, dark, cool, and pest-free. Dryness is crucial since moisture leads to mold, while darkness helps retain nutrients and flavor. Shoot for temperatures between 50-70°F if possible. The cooler, the better within this range, as long as the area doesn’t freeze. A basement, pantry, or cellar is ideal if the conditions are right. You can also convert a closet, unused room, attic, garage, or crawlspace by regulating temperature and moisture.
You must keep pests away from the food. How can you do so? Store dried goods and canned items in airtight, food-grade plastic or glass containers. This denies pests access and is better than cardboard or paper. Second, keep storage areas very clean and inspect stores at least monthly. Look for any signs of insects, rodents, or their droppings and immediately dispose of infested items.
For areas prone to pests, use traps and monitor them regularly. Traps such as glue boards, bait stations, or pheromone traps will indicate if you have a problem beginning. Addressing an infestation early makes eliminating it much easier.
Control temperature and moisture as these attract pests. Ideal conditions are below 70°F for storage, with a relative humidity of 60% or lower. Adding desiccants can lower moisture, but monitor levels so food does not become overly dry.
When bringing newly purchased items into storage, inspect carefully and freeze flour-based items for 48 to 72 hours to kill eggs that may be present. Implementing these best practices will provide long-lasting food security.
Storing Food for the Long Haul
Once you find the perfect storage location, now it’s time to fill it using the best storage methods for long-lasting edibles. This boils down to limiting oxygen, light, moisture, and temperature fluctuations. The following materials and strategies will get you started:
- Food-grade plastic buckets or drums with tight lids: These come in handy five to seven-gallon sizes, sometimes with prepackaged food kits. Just pop sealed containers, Mylar bags, or oxygen absorbers inside the bucket and clamp the lid down tight.
- Mylar bags: These metallic pouches block moisture and oxygen. For best results, pair them with oxygen absorbers. Seal items in Mylar using a hot iron or specially designed bag sealer machine.
- Mason jars: Timeless glass Mason jars lock in freshness if you use new lids and bands each season and ensure a proper vacuum seal. Jams, sauces, nuts, and other preps keep for up to 30 years.
- Vacuum sealing: This removes oxygen for maximum freeze times of up to 5 years and pantry times of up to 2 years. A FoodSaver vacuum sealer machine is a stellar investment for long-term food preppers.
- Food-grade buckets with gamma seal lids: Similar to regular buckets but featuring a twist-to-seal gasket lid for easy access without tools. These make accessing your food fast and frustration-free.
- Heavy-duty plastic containers: Food-grade plastic containers in transparent or solid colors block moisture, light, and air. Choose BPA-free containers with airtight seals.
Prepping Your Pantry Items
Now for the fun part. What should you store? Nearly any food can be preserved long-term if properly packaged, but some have inherent long shelf lives. Focus on versatile, nutrient-dense foods your family already eats. The following are shelf-stable foods with impressively distant expiration dates.
- White rice: Kept dry and sealed, white rice can hang around for 30 years and still be edible. Brown rice has oils that eventually go rancid, limiting its life span to about 6 months.
- Dry beans, peas, and lentils: Up to 30 years when stored in breathable containers at 50-70°F. If temps exceed 80°F, move these to the fridge or freezer.
- Instant coffee: Sealed jars or cans of instant coffee keep for 20-25 years at room temp. Brewed coffee isn’t shelf stable but instant dissolves easily in hot water when needed.
- Raw nuts in shells: Up to five years sealed at 40°F with low humidity, or two years at room temp. Roast nuts at 300°F for long-term oily nut storage.
- Pure maple syrup: Unopened bottles can last up to 10 years thanks to the natural preservatives in this sweet syrup. Granulated white and brown sugar keep for two to four years.
- Soybean, corn, and canola oils: three to five years if stored cool, dark, and tightly sealed. Coconut oil solid at room temp keeps six months unopened, or two to five years refrigerated.
- Natural nut butter: A yummy source of protein and healthy fats. Store creamy almond butter and peanut butter powders for up to two years.
- Dried fruits: Raisins, cranberries, and apricots easily make it five years or longer sealed in cool darkness.
- Powdered milk: While fresh milk must be refrigerated, powdered varieties remain nutritious for ten years if kept cool and dry. Add to oatmeal, drinks, and more.
- Cereals, pasta, crackers: Up to 30 years for unopened boxes stored under 70°F. Reseal opened boxes carefully or use hard containers.
- Canned foods: Highly convenient and often overlooked, commercially canned foods like vegetables, soups, meats, and fruits stay safe for up to seven years stored below 85°F.
Organizing Your Food Reserves
Getting your stash in order makes taking inventory and meal planning easier. Consider organizing by food type, date packed, expiration date, or frequency of use. Label everything clearly, including contents and dates.
First In, First Out:
The first in, first out (FIFO) method of food storage and use helps maintain both food quality and safety. With FIFO, the first foods that are received into storage are also the first ones removed to be used. This ensures a steady rotation through perishable inventory so older items do not languish at the back. Utilizing FIFO minimizes waste since older items are continuously cleared out instead of remaining to expire and spoil. It also reduces the risk of eating food that is past its prime condition. Overall, systematically using the first foods stored also as the first foods accessed makes the best use of resources while upholding standards of freshness.
By Expiration Date:
Organizing your long-term food storage by expiration date can make your emergency food supplies much easier to manage and can help prevent wasting food or money. Grouping foods with similar expiration dates together ensures that the items closest to expiring get used first. This avoids finding food that has already spoiled when an emergency hits. Checking expiration dates regularly also prompts you to use and replace food before it expires.
An organized system allows you to see what needs to be used soon and what needs restocking. Grouping by date also simplifies taking inventory and rotation of supplies. Being able to quickly assess your reserves and efficiently access your stores is extremely beneficial in an emergency or disruption of normal services. Overall, an effective dating and organizational system is vital to get the most value out of your investment in long-shelf-life foods and ensure you have safe, edible food when you need it most.
Organizing your long-term food storage by category offers several advantages. First, it makes taking inventory and monitoring expiration dates much easier when similar items are grouped. For example, you can quickly scan all your canned goods in one area rather than searching through everything. Second, categorizing by type of food ensures you maintain diversity in your stockpile. If all the grains are together, all the oils and fats together, etc., it’s easy to see if you are lacking in any major food group.
Third, grouping by category allows you to ration food groups evenly if necessary during an emergency. Rather than arbitrary selection, you could deliberately rotate similar quantities from each stash as you consume inventory. Finally, keeping types of food separate helps for orderly rotation. You can identify the oldest cans, boxes, or bags within each section to use next based on the purchase date. Overall, compartmentalizing your stockpile makes accessing and managing the pieces simpler.
Organizing your long-term food storage alphabetically can provide several useful benefits. Doing so helps avoid waste and ensures you’re eating the nutrients in your stored food while they’re still fresh. An alphabetical system makes it effortless to create shopping lists for replenishing your stock. You can quickly see what letters or food groups you’re missing. Overall, taking time to arrange your emergency and long-term food in alphabetical order can save you time, reduce waste, and make your stored provisions easy to access and replenish when needed.
Maintaining detailed food inventory lists prevents accidentally buying duplicates of what’s already stockpiled.
No matter how airtight your storage methods are, periodically check containers for signs of moisture, insect infestations, temperature changes, and other potential problems. Do visual inspections every three to six months. Check all seals, and look for condensation, mold, leaky lids, and torn packaging.
If anything seems compromised, you may need to replace lids, use up food sooner than expected, adjust storage temps, or remove insect-infested products before they spread.
Make sure your stockpile includes foods your family enjoys and update it as tastes change. Try utilizing what you store to get comfortable with recipes and preparation methods. Nothing lasts forever, so aim to use and replace items before their prime storage life expires.
With smart planning, materials, and proper monitoring, you can enjoy tasty survival food for decades to come. Simply use your best judgment when assessing shelf life and safety factors. Don’t risk eating something that looks or smells off after prolonged storage. A well-provisioned pantry is a wonderful asset for every household.