How to Store Food for Long Term Storage

Whether you’re a prepper or not, it’s important to understand how food storage can keep you fed, safe and healthy during long-term emergencies such as an economic collapse, natural disasters, or societal chaos.

That is what I like to call “preparedness 101.” After that, we will talk about other essential items you need to store to be well prepared for any emergency.

What is your #1 priority when it comes to preparing for an emergency? Is it to make sure you have enough water to survive? Enough ammunition to protect yourself and family? A good first aid kit? What is it that you feel is the most important thing you could do to be better prepared? It’s simple: It’s food!

Why Is It Important to Store Food Long Term?

As I have shown in previous articles on this website, food is a valuable commodity during times of scarcity and turmoil. We live in a world that has grown increasingly dependent on trips to the grocery store to survive and thrive.

Food is more than just a necessity for our health and survival. Food can also be a powerful force for good. Food is a great way to build strong relationships, provide a positive sense of community, and build a better society.

During an emergency, we will often find ourselves with very limited access to food. Many of us have forgotten how to grow our own food. Many of us have not been taught how to cook or how to properly prepare food.

This is important because it gives us a skill set that will be needed when the “normal” food supply has dried up. It will be a “humanity skill” that many of us will need to call upon to help others who are suffering. If you learn how to store food properly, you will be able to provide for your family for years to come. In fact, during an emergency, it may be months or even years before you are able to get back to “normal.”

It is true that many preppers focus too much on preparing for short-term emergencies like a hurricane, earthquake, or terrorist attack. But if you are going to be truly prepared for any kind of extended emergency, you must also store food for long-term use.

I believe everyone should have a basic understanding of how to grow some of their own food and how to properly prepare it for maximum nutrition and energy. This is especially important for those of us who live in large cities and have little or no access to healthy food.

How Much to Store for an Emergency?

Since this is a long-term storage project, we need to think about what we are storing in terms of “months not weeks.” That means our goal here is not to stock up and be totally out of reach of “normal” grocery stores for as short a time as possible. No. Our goal is to stock up enough so we will be able to feed our families for an entire year. Or longer. Maybe even two or three years.

That being said, I don’t want to give the impression that you should spend a huge amount of money on this endeavor. Instead, I want to encourage you to start small and build up from there. Don’t buy 10-year shelf life foods in bulk. Start with what you need to get started and then add to it as your financial situation and needs dictate.

I think it’s important to note that even if you only have a short-term emergency on your mind, it is still a good idea to store some food.

Why?

Simply because you never know what kind of emergency might surprise you. You might be affected by a hurricane, an earthquake, or even a terrorist attack. So, no matter what is on your personal “emergency radar screen,” it is a good idea to have some long-term food storage.

What Foods Have the Longest Shelf Life?

It turns out, the answer to that question is not simple. It varies from item to item. But, if I had to guess, I would say that as a general rule, whole grains have the longest shelf life. Beans and legumes (dry or canned) also seem to last longer than most other foods. Root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and turnips also seem to hold up better than most other foods. And fresh fruits and vegetables are typically very perishable. This is especially true of raw greens such as lettuce and spinach.

However, all these rules are subject to exceptions. For example, many prepackaged cereals and snack foods are made with “preservatives” that actually have a negative effect on the shelf life of the food. On the other hand, many canned fruits and vegetables have high sugar contents which actually act as “anti-preservatives.” In other words, the high sugar content in the food inhibits the growth of “bad” bacteria and extends the shelf life.

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to the question of “What foods have the longest shelf life?” The only real answer is “It depends.” And “It depends” is not an answer you can print on a T-shirt or stick on the side of a box. But, at least you now have a place to start when it comes to selecting items for your long-term food storage.

The Best Way to Preserve Food for Long Term Storage

There are quite literally dozens of different ways to preserve food from the modern type of MREs that the military uses or the more old-fashioned methods that your grandparents used to use.  While all are practical, some are easy and convenient while others are quite a bit cheaper.

So, which is best? It really depends on your situation. If you have plenty of money and time, I’d like to suggest you experiment with each of the preservation techniques mentioned below until you find one or two that work best for you. If you don’t have much money or time, most of these can be done on a budget.

Methods For Preserving Food You Can Do Yourself

  1.  Canning: This is my personal favorite method of food storage. There are a ton of online resources that give instructions on how to can food.  If you can afford it, it might be worth the money to invest in some canning supplies so you’ll have preserved foods to help fill in any dietary gaps. It’s true that you can safely eat canned foods for as long as the seal is intact, but it doesn’t mean you should, canned food can go bad so be cautious. As the years go by, the nutritional value and overall quality of fresh vegetables will deteriorate, so it’s best to rotate these vegetables and replace them with fresh vegetables each spring.
    Whether it’s homemade salsa or pickles, canning is a great way to preserve your food for use later. Follow the most up-to-date recommendations to be sure you are canning the safest and healthiest foods.
  2. Dehydrating: Dehydrating food is easy. Simply spread the food out on a tray or cookie sheet and place it in the oven at its lowest setting (usually 115 degrees F or 45 degrees C) for several hours until the food is completely dry. When you remove it from the oven, the food will be crisp and easily crumbled into small pieces. Dehydrated foods are great to have on hand as they are extremely high in nutrition and very low in calories. You can use them in a variety of ways. They make great snacks and can be added to granola or other cereal or bread products. They can also be used to thicken soups and stews or added to protein shakes or smoothies. You can also rehydrate dehydrated foods by adding water or other liquid and heating it until it is steaming. This will bring back the natural moisture that was removed during dehydration.
  3. Dry storage: Foods such as rice, beans, lentils, and flour should be stored in air-tight containers in a cool, dark place. Make sure the containers you use are able to withstand fluctuating temperatures. These foods can last for years this way and are an excellent source of complete nutrition. They are especially good for people who are on a budget since they require no fuel (energy) to prepare and they are very inexpensive.
  4.  Freezing: Freezing is a simple and effective method of food preservation. It’s important to use proper freezer storage techniques to ensure the maximum quality and safety of your frozen food. Freezer storage involves placing perishable food in a zippered plastic bag or container and then placing it in the freezer. Then, when you are ready to use the food, remove it from the freezer and allow it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
  5. Sun Drying: Sun drying food is a great method for preserving your own food. The process involves spreading the food out on racks and allowing it to dry in the sun. This is a very easy and inexpensive way to preserve food. Dried foods tend to be dark and chewy, but they are a good source of protein.  They are also very nutritious, high in fiber, and low in calories.
  6. Salting: Salting is another simple and effective way to preserve your own food. It works by drawing moisture out of the food. The food must then be refrigerated until it is completely dried out before it can be eaten. Salt can be used either as a rub (1-2% salt) or as a brine (3% salt).
  7. Smoking: Smoking is a great way to preserve meats, poultry, and fish. This is an expensive method of food storage, but it has many benefits. The most important benefit is that smoked foods have an extended shelf life. They will remain edible for about one year after being initially stored in the smoker. The second most important benefit is that smoked foods are extremely nutritious. They are very high in vitamin C and are a good source of other B vitamins. And, they are very low in fat and contain no cholesterol.
  8. Drying: If you grow your own herbs then drying them is the easiest way to preserve them. You simply hang them upside down in a dry, dark place until they are completely dry. Then, transfer them to an airtight container and store them where they will not be exposed to light or moisture. This is a great way to have on hand a continuous supply of herbal medicines.
  9. Curing or Brining: Curing food is similar to drying it only the process is faster. Foods that are cured are used for flavorings such as bacon and ham. The most common type of curing used by households is brining. To brine food, you simply add enough water to the food to make it pliable. Then, you pack it into containers, add enough salt to cover the top of the food and let it stand for at least 24-hours. Salt has been used to preserve food since the Roman era.
  10. Fermentation: Fermenting food can be very useful for preserving certain foods that otherwise would spoil quickly. It’s a great way to preserve foods that aren’t well suited to freezing or drying. Most foods that are stored this way are highly nutritious. They are very high in fiber and contain no cholesterol.  Fermented foods include pickles, cheese, yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha.
  11. Vacuum Sealing: Vacuum sealing is another easy and effective way to preserve your own food. It’s similar to a Ziploc bag in that it seals the food so moisture cannot escape. The biggest difference is that you put the food in a vacuum sealing bag and then seal it up. This allows you to store your food for longer periods of time. Foods that should be vacuum-sealed include meat, cheese, fish, poultry, and fruits.
  12. Root Cellars: Root cellars are wonderful for extending the useful life of produce like carrots, beets, potatoes, turnips, and winter squash. But you could also store other foods like apples, pears, sweet potatoes, and nuts in your root cellar.
  13. Alcohol: Summer fruit like blueberries and other berries can be preserved in a variety of ways. They can be used to make tasty drinks to sip while enjoying the sunshine or they can be turned into gourmet jams and jellies. This is definitely more of an adult food preservation project, but it could still be an enjoyable one.
  14. Honey: Honey has been used for thousands of years as a sweetener, medicine, food flavoring, and preservative. It has also been shown to have numerous health benefits. Honey has a high sugar content. This makes it very effective against most types of bacteria and other microorganisms. Because of its low water content, most honey does not allow most bacteria and other microorganisms to survive. Honey is naturally acidic, which readily kills off microorganisms, and it naturally contains a small amount of hydrogen peroxide, which also helps to kill germs.
    You should keep your honey stored in a dry place. It should be away from direct sunlight and other forms of heat or moisture. This will help to extend the shelf life of your honey.
    Honey is so amazing at preserving things that it was used by medieval peoples to preserve food and other items. It has been proven to be an effective weapon against food poisoning, tooth decay, bad breath, athlete’s foot, and various other illnesses and problems.
  15. Saving Seeds: Saving seeds is a great way to make sure that you have a continuous supply of foods to eat for years to come. You can save seeds from many different plants like tomatoes, corn, squash, beans, peppers, carrots, and cucumbers.  This is very important if you want to grow more of these plants in the future.

 

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