Creating a food storage is practical for keeping your family’s food source protected. There are three different types of food storage: emergency food, short term supply, and long term food storage.
Emergency food is food that can be easily packed into a 72-hour kit or hauled away easily. This food needs to be high calorie, light, and easy to prepare and eat.
Short term food storage is food that your family eats on a regular basis. This food is practical because it creates a pantry that can be tapped into for small emergencies.
Long term food storage is food that can be stored for large emergencies. This is typically hard to move, but can keep your family alive for potentially years.
A well rounded food storage is the best way to keep your family prepared.
Emergency food should be kept in either your 72-hour kit, Bug out Bag, or other transportable container. Some of these traditional items are MREs (Meals Ready To Eat, used by the military), and high calorie bars.
Some non-traditional items include:
Couscous – Unlike pasta or rice, this grain only needs one cup of water to prepare. It doesn’t even require a cooking time. Simply pour your cup of water over it, cover and let it sit five minutes. It saves on fuel and water.
Tuna Pouches – These can be edible right out of the packet and are very light in a bag.
Meal Replacement Bars or Shakes – While you normally think of these as “diet bars,” these bars are a great product in an emergency kit. They have the nutrition and calories of a full meal but have a long shelf life and take up little space.
Instant Dinners – Individual cups or packages of ready-to-eat meals such as spaghetti, ravioli and chicken and dumplings are easy to use.
All of these foods should be placed in an airtight ziplock bag or sealed in a mylar storage bag (read later in the article). Have these foods stored in a bag or bin that can easily be carried or tossed in the car.
Short Term vs. Long Term Food Storage
Food storage could include food that is in the fridge, fresh food you want to preserve or keep around for awhile, shelf stable items like canned beans, and non-sealed food like flour and pasta. Since these items could be used for emergency food, regular daily food, and long term storage, it’s easy to get confused on what, and how much you should store.
I will be honest… I don’t have a super straight answer for you. However, I think I can help you get started! Here are three things you need to think through before we answer the initial question.
First: Short Term Storage Is Important Because…
Short term storage helps keep fresh food around your house, and ingredients on the shelves. Whether you buy frozen items, freeze them yourself, buy cans, or can things yourself, it all keeps food around you home.
Most people have several days worth of food around their house (thank you bulk food stores). It makes sense for your wallet and for your time to have several days worth of food. Statistically, people have to head out to the store about once a week, and spend about $150. Stores also only carry about 42,000 items on their shelves at any given time. Thinking about the math generally, at any given time, there is 2-4 days worth of food available in your city (this is thinking that if there are more people, there will be more stores). If an emergency strikes, will your family be safe without a store for three days? Four? Five? That’s why short term storage is important.
Second: Stock up on fresh food for small emergencies, or so that your family has access to fresh foods.
To create a few months of shelf stable food, you want to start gathering food that you eat on a regular basis. Here are the steps for success:
- Track your food buying and eating for a month. Make a detailed list. How much did you buy and how much did you eat? Figure out what was shelf stable (that means it can be non-refrigerated for at least three months).
- If you bought foods that were not, start researching some ways you can store them, or else look into buying them in a different form (canned, bottled, frozen, powdered).
- Determine a budget. How much extra can you spend a month on shelf food. This could as little as $5 a month.
- Go out and start buying however much extra you have. Make sure this is from the items your family is actually eating and using. This is important so that you can rotate them quickly enough.
- If you can, dry, or freeze fresh food, make sure to factor these items into your rotation.
- Label your items with the date they were purchased, and place the oldest food behind.
- After a few months, you are set with an awesome pantry!
Third: Have a longer supply for a disaster, loss of job, or sudden hike in grocery prices.
Once you have a practical pantry in place, you can start getting items for longer storage. This is where you need to do some serious thinking. What do you want to be prepared for and what are your family’s needs. Before you decide take the time to write down these facts for your family:
- We are preparing for _________________________________. (a disaster, loss of job, a scenario of no food, etc.)
- Our dietary needs are ___________________________________. (all organic, no gluten, non-gmo, 5-ingredients or less, low sugar, etc.)
- Our budget for food storage is ____________________________. ($20 a month, one time $1,000, unlimited, etc.)
Once you really think about these questions you can start getting closer to deciding what is best to store for your family. After reading about lots of options, I have determined there are three main ways to preserve food for at least one year. These ways are: storing all shelf stable pantry items, storing dried food that lasts 30 years or more, wet/dry canning individual meals into glass jars.
Storing Shelf Stable Pantry Items Or Frozen Food
- Canned items like soup, meat, beans, vegetables, and fruit
- Olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil
- White and dry pasta (not sealed)
- Brown and White Rice
- Whole Wheat Flour, White Flour, Gluten Free Flours
- Nuts, Peanut Butter
- Deep Freezer meats, vegetables, butter, fruit, etc.
- Home canned foods
- These foods are very easy to incorporate into your daily eating. Just rotate these items from oldest to newest.
- Typically can be eaten as is. You may not need to store extra water to cook these foods.
- Allows your family to eat fresher, more nutritious, and tastier food than food that can last for 30 years.
- This typically saves your family money because you can buy when things are on sale, and have months where you do not stock your pantry.
- This can be done fairly cheap if you are buying basic items like beans, rice, pasta, etc.
- You do not need to package your food in any special containers if you use them within a year.
- You can incorporate home canned products.
- These are typically easy to access (they come in ziplock bags, etc.).
- These foods have to be rotated and marked diligently so that nothing spoils.
- They do not last as long as the long term food storage.
- You have to track how much food your family is eating on a regular basis so that you eat things before they spoil.
- You’ll have to cook most of your meals with stored items so that you can use through your food. (This is my largest drawback. I want to make meals with fresh meals most of the time)
Storing Dried Food or Freeze Dried Food
**This food has to be stored in an airtight container that does not allow oxygen to penetrate, with oxygen absorbers, and have less than 10% moisture content.
- Dried Grains: Wheat, Oats, Barley, Pasta, Rice (NOT: Brown Rice or Whole Wheat Flour)
- Dried Beans and Lentils
- Freeze Dried meats, fruits, and vegetables. (less than 10% moisture)
- Sugar, Salt, Honey
- Powdered Milk
- When stored in a proper food storage container, you do not need to rotate these items.
- Most last for at least 30 years.
- They are very cheap to buy when they are not already packaged.
- They often are pre-packaged which reduces the amount of work for you.
- There are many companies that sell freeze dried meals that allow your family to have a variety of flavors.
- If they are not already packaged correctly, you will need to buy additional items to store them correctly.
- They require extra water to cook these items.
- You will need some items with less shelf life to support (oil, butter, etc.) your diet.
- There are less flavors if you do not purchase freeze dried meals.
- Freeze dried meals taste very different than non-freeze dried food.
- Pre-packaged food is more expensive.
- If your family has special dietary needs, these items may not all work.
- You will need recipes, know how to use raw wheat, store a can opener, and have a wheat grinder.
- You will need yeast for your wheat products.
Wet/Dry Canning or Sealing with Glass Jars
- Just about anything can be sealed with a jar sealer. From chocolate chips to pasta, as long as it is dried you can seal it.
- You can divide up your food into meals.
- It creates easy to use meals for everyday use.
- You do not need to stress about moisture content, as long as it is not wet food. (wet items need to be sealed using a pressure canner or water bath)
- It is easy to seal.
- You will still need some shelf stable pantry items to rotate (oil, wet items like tomatoes, etc.)
- Buying the food saver sealing equipment and jars cost extra money.
- It takes organization to learn where everything is.
Great… But Now Which of These Should I Use to Store My Food?
Okay, so those are the different methods. Personally, I don’t think any method can be used exclusively. A nice well rounded food storage is going to bring the most stability, nutrition, and variety of flavors.
If you want to just buy and be done, check out some of these emergency food suppliers:
If specific dietary concerns are most important to you, the shelf stable route is for you.
If you would like food that can sit and wait to be tapped into when needed, the long term dried items is good for you.
I personally want all of these things! Here is my method of storing is to:
- I have a small stash of emergency food. I keep this in a special bin by the door.
- I have at least 3 months (I shoot for 6 months) worth of canned, frozen, and pantry items available. That means that my family could completely live on my supply without needing to go to the store. This is more food than you think! (I include things like canned butter and canned olive oil)
- Then I determine any special food I would like my family to have. While we do not have special dietary issues, we struggle with intestinal pain. I make sure I have fiber pills, and probiotics stored. A friend of mine store gluten free flour in airtight, sealed plastic food buckets.
- I have 1 year worth of dried, long term, and cheap food. This consists of hard red wheat, rice, beans, pasta, oats, sugar, salt, baking soda, popcorn kernels, and some already ground white flour. You may want to add dried fruits and vegetables or freeze dried meals.
This combination works for me because I have a large pantry that can add a variety of flavors, I have lots of food stored that will keep me alive, is very low maintenance, and I am not stressed to eat pantry/freezer items in every meal (since there is a small enough supply it won’t go bad before I use it all!)
I have not done much with the dry glass jar sealing because I am not organized enough. However, I own a sealer and the jars. My next project will probably be sealing chocolate chips… let’s be honest, we’ll need some of those too!
Food Storage Calculator
Every site I have found is a little different on this. Some are extravagant and some are merely rations. If you want enough to keep yourself and your family alive, here is the bare minimum your need for each person:
Grains (400 lbs per person)
- -Wheat (red/ white) ($3.50/#10can @ LDS, $8.50/#10can @ EE)
- -Rice ($4.00/#10 @ LDS or 50lbs./$17.99 @ Costco) -Barley
- -Oats (regular and/or quick, #10can/$2.50 @ LDS) -Macaroni ($4.30/#10can @ LDS)
- -Pasta (Spaghetti $4.95/#10can or $23.85 for 25lbs. @ LDS)
Legumes (60 lbs per person)
- – Black Beans -Pinto Beans -Kidney Beans -White Beans – Lentils
- – Peas
Dairy Products (48 lbs per person)
- – Milk (Non-fat dry Milk, canned/evaporated, soy milk)
- – Cheese (powdered or canned)
Buttermilk (5 lbs per person)
Sugars (60 lbs per person)
- -Sugar, White (#10can/$6.00 @ LDS approx 6lbs.; $8.49/#10can @ EE)
- -Sugar, Brown (25lbs./$18.69 @ Costco; $7.50/#10can @ EE)
- -Sugar, Powdered (50lbs./$34.25 @ Costco; $6.95/#10 can @ EE)
- – Honey (Busy Bee Honey, 6lbs./$13.99 @ Costco)
Salt (8 lbs per person)
- -Iodized Salt (25lbs./$3.75 @ Costco)
- -Beef Bouillon
- -Chicken Bouillon
Leavening (6 lbs per person)
- – Yeast (1lb./$4.50 at EE, 5 yr. shelf life in freezer)
- – Baking Powder
- – Baking Soda (25lbs./$7.50 at WinCo Foods)
- – Eggs (Whole Egg Powder $18.95/#10can @ EE approx. 70 eggs)
- -Flax Seed (as egg substitute)
Fats (30 lbs per person)
- – Butter
- – Shortening
- – Cooking oil, 10qts.
- -Peanut Butter
Other Baking Needs
- -Cocoa Powder
- -Shortening (powdered $11.50/#10can @ EE)
Other Cooking Needs
- -Chopped Onions
- -Carrot Dices
- -Chopped Celery
- -Gravy Mixes
Spices & Seasonings
- -Black Pepper
- -Lemon Pepper
- -Cayenne Pepper
- -Garlic Salt
- -Seasoning Salt
- -Italian Seasoning
Drinks & Misc.
- -Tang (great for Vitamin C) -Fruit Drink Mix
- -Hot Cocoa
**EE = Emergency Essentials
**LDS = Latter Day Saint Church Store
Since these are minimal amounts, I would plan storing more than this amount.
A site called Modern Survivalist has done some great break downs and show how many 5 gallon buckets would would actually need per person. Start small and work your way up! Multiply these amounts per person in your family. Remember the amounts found on Modern Survivalist are if your entire storage was dried foods. If you are using pantry items to support, you will have smaller physical amounts. You will need the same totals though. Just add up the ounces in the cans and convert them to pounds. (1 lb = 16 ounces or about two regular size cans) The beans are considered your protein source. You’ll want more than this amount though. Consider canned meats or freeze dried meat as another option.
How Do I Preserve My Fresh Food, and What Food Storage Containers Do I Use For One Year
Storing Fresh Items Up To One Year
The easiest way to store fresh food is by refrigerating it or freezing it. This is great to be ready for a loss of job or hike in grocery prices, but it won’t help you if the power goes out.
Freezer burn occurs when too much oxygen hits the food in your freezer. Make sure to use freezer bags to keep your food tasting great!
Remember that items with more than 10% moisture content are not safe to store with oxygen absorbers. Thus, they fall into this range. Examples of those items are whole wheat flour, many gluten free flours, brown rice, dried fruit that does not “snap,” commercial jerky, nuts, and fats. That means that you can store them in an airtight container, but they need to be rotated within a year. Don’t be afraid to calculate these items into your food storage though! They just need to be rotated.
Storing Fresh items 1-5 years
Once you get past a year, the amount of dry pantry items “best by” dates start to go bad. (personally there are items I eat after those dates, like ketchup, but it’s not recommended) At this point you are starting to look into canned items, home canned items (wet and dry), and some pantry items that have been sealed properly. Just make sure that if you are buying canned oils, butter, and canned food, that you are checking the dates and rotating.
Additionally, many dry items like popcorn kernels, baking soda, sugar, and white flour, are actually able to stay safe for many years. As long as they are away from moisture and rodents, these items do not go bad for several years. You could keep these in a regular 5 gallon bucket and seal them to stay fresh.
How To Can in a Water Bath and Pressure Cooker
Before doing any canning, USE A RECIPE. Don’t just go into this willy-nilly. Some foods need more acidity to be safe, and other can’t be canned at home at all. Additionally, I would probably just invest in a pressure cooker. Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. This does not kill of botulism. Adding even 11 pounds of pressure from a cooker, can increase the boiling temperature 240 degrees or more. That will be hot enough to kill of the spores.
However, there are still recipes that are safe enough using a water bath canner. I am simply providing the steps you will need to complete before any canning project. These general steps are from Food Network, but can be found in other places as well:
Prepare the jars and lids:
Wash all jars and lids thoroughly with soap and water and rinse well. Fill your canner with enough water to cover the jars by at least 1 inch and bring to a simmer. Using a pair of canning tongs, lower the jars in gently, tilting them to fill with the hot water. In a small saucepan, keep some water warm but not boiling; place the lids in the water. Have an additional kettle of water on to boil.”
Follow the recipe that you have found.
Fill and close the jars:
Using canning tongs, remove the jars from the canner, carefully pouring the water back into the canner. Set next to the sauce. Turn the heat under the canner to high. Use a ladle to pour the sauce into the jars through a canning funnel, leaving 1/2-inch headspace at the top. Run a clean chopstick around the inside of the jar to dislodge any trapped air. Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel. Place the lids on, and screw on the rings until just finger-tight.
Seal the jars: Using canning tongs, gently transfer the jars to the canner, taking care to keep them vertical. When all the jars are in the canner, there should be at least 1 inch water covering them; if you need more, add water from the kettle until the jars are sufficiently covered. Then cook for the recipe time.
Remove and cool:
Using canning tongs, gently remove the jars from the canner and transfer them to a kitchen towel or cooling rack, again keeping them vertical. Do not set hot jars directly on to cool counter surfaces. Leave to cool, undisturbed, for at least 12 hours. If any of the jars do not seal when cool, reprocess using the method above, or refrigerate and use immediately.
Label and store:
Add a label to the lid or side of your jar, noting the date it was canned. Remove the rings and store jars in a cool, dark place for up to one year. Refrigerate after opening.”
Dry Canning in a Glass Jar
For dry canning you will need a food saver and a hose hook up. You simply place your dry items in the jar, place the lid on top, attach the hook up, turn on, and then you’re canned! That’s it. I would look up recipes for this as well, and consider using oxygen absorbers to help increase it’s shelf life. Remember, you can only use oxygen absorbers with food with lower than 10% moisture. That means check your seasonings before throwing them in there with the absorbers!
Storing Food for five years or more
Many foods that can be stored over five years, can last 30 years or more. These items are extra dry, and when kept cool, can sustain nourishment for many, many years. While the nutritional value decreases, these foods can keep your family alive.
Here are the shelf life values for these dry items:
- Wheat: 30 + years
- White rice: 30 + years
- Corn: 30 + years
- Sugar: 30 + years
- Pinto beans: 30 years
- Rolled oats: 30 years
- Pasta: 30 years
- Potato flakes: 30 years
- Apple slices: 30 years
- Non-fat powdered milk: 20 years
- Dehydrated carrots: 20 years
- White Flour: 10 years
You can also freeze dry your own food. Freeze driers are going to cost several thousand dollars, but then you could freeze dry everything you eat. From left overs to fresh fruit, or bulk items. As long as the moisture is under 10%, you can store it for about 20 years! This is a great option for families with strict diet needs, but want to store food more many years.
Unfortunately due to new FDA regulations, it has become increasingly difficult to dry pack or can your own products. There is a site where you can buy your own dry canning supplies, but it will cost about $1500 dollars to get all the equipment needed.
You can buy these items pre-canned from the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Store, or from the freeze dried food companies.
Once you have these very dry items, your options for storing them are mylar bags, #10 aluminum cans, or plastic storage containers.
Mylar bags are metal bags that keep oxygen out. You will have to use an oxygen absorber inside the bag. These are great because they are cheap, easy to get a hold of, and don’t take up much room.
To use, place your dry item inside, place an oxygen absorber, push the extra air out, close the opening, and then use a hair straightener to melt the bag together. You’ll want to do this about half an inch from the top.
#10 Aluminum Cans
Unfortunately without a dry canner, these guys won’t do you much good. These are what most emergency food produced are packaged in though.
If you did buy them, you can place your food inside of them with half an inch to space, place the oxygen absorber, and then seal with a canner.
Plastic Food Storage Buckets
There are buckets that are a high enough grade of plastic that they do not allow oxygen in.
A lid that looks like this:
…is great for short term storage. You will need a lid that seals the air out. It will need to be like this:
Once you place your items inside, put in an oxygen absorber and seal it up! If you crack the seal on these, you’ll have to buy a whole new lid!
Are you feeling overwhelmed?
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