Finding ways to maximize your food storage capacity requires expert tips and research. This guide will show you how to build your long-term food storage.
To get started with long-term food storage, you need to build a plan and prepare your storage location. Find a spacious, cool area in your home for storage. All foods can be bought in bulk and packaged with our tips for optimal longevity and shelf-life. Get started right away.
Long-term food storage is an excellent solution that can help you overcome daily challenges. While it is geared towards emergency preparedness, you should be willing to stockpile food for the long run. After you build up a three-month supply, we can get started building your long-term storage.
Disastrous events can occur when we least expect them. This is why we are always testing new food storage strategies to stay prepared. Building food storage requires a commitment over time, so our team is always ready.
How to Store Food Long-Term
Long-term food storage sounds intimidating at first. The costs seem daunting and the repackaging of food is a time-consuming task. However, in the long run, you will save both time and money by starting today.
It will result in fewer trips to the store, less gas used on your vehicle, and more food in the house for easier preparation. Not to mention the peace of mind you can have knowing that you and your family are well protected in an emergency.
Step 1: Build a 3-Month Food Supply
Before even thinking about your long-term supply, we always recommend getting started with something short-term. A 3-month supply serves as an excellent benchmark to aim for in the beginning.
Look for easy-to-store foods in your pantry like canned and pre-packaged goods. The goal is to eliminate your need to shop weekly and give your a safety net to rely on while building something larger and more significant.
Step 2: Create Your Long-Term Plan
While you build your three-month supply, you can start to work on your long-term plan too. Start making a list of all the dietary preferences in your household. These will play an important role when you start shopping.
Make a list of foods that you all enjoy eating. The goal is to eliminate waste when building food storage. You should also track daily meals in your home to try and determine the minimum caloric intake you need per person in a single day.
Don’t worry. We will discuss some tricks later on how to determine the correct calorie numbers.
Step 3: Choose Your Storage Location
The storage location is critical. You need to find a place big enough to hold all of your supplies while hiding them from sunlight, keeping them in a cool area, and eliminating extreme temperature fluctuations.
If you don’t have a reliable shelving system anywhere, you might need to build or buy something too. The ideal location is typically in a corner in the basement that stays dry and cool at all times.
Step 4: Find Your Suppliers and Go Shopping
Finding the right place to buy your food can save you tons of money, especially when buying bulk items. Membership stores are an excellent place to start because they sell industrial-sized amounts for a fraction of the cost. We do not recommend a traditional grocery store for bulk food buying.
Do some research in your area to find the best spots near you. Depending on your location will have an impact on the best stores for you.
Step 5: Stock the Shelves and Maintain Consistency
After you buy some food, it is time to stock the shelves and keep it going. It won’t happen in a single day, so start small. Once you have your storage area ready, we can start using different packaging methods and creating an accessible storage system.
Stick to your plan too. Every week is a new opportunity to add to your supply. Even if it is only one item, it still represents progress.
What Types of Food Can You Store for Long-Term?
The types of foods you are looking for should be dry, long-lasting foods. Long-term storage is defined as ten years or more, with some foods lasting nearly 30 years.
Dry foods that contain less than 10 percent of moisture are the perfect candidates for long-term storage. Anything higher than ten could be difficult. 13% is a crucial number, with any foods higher than that posing too high of risk towards bacteria, mold, and fungus growth. This is an easy way to spoil your food quickly.
An essential supply of food for one person may include:
- Cans of vegetables (potatoes, onion, celery, carrots, tomato powder)
- Grains (wheat, oats, rice, corn, barley, pasta–get a good variety)
- Sugar or honey
- Quarts of oil (oil, shortening, peanut butter)
- Baking soda
- Baking powder
- Cans of dried fruits
- Cans of freeze-dried meats
- Corn and corn starch
- Dry dairy products like milk and eggs
There are plenty of food options to choose from for a long-term supply.
Principles for Building Your Long-Term Food Storage
1. Assume the Worst
Predicting the future is not something you can do confidently. We have no idea when the next crisis will strike. So, it’s best to assume the worst. Imagine a situation where you are unable to leave your house to get stuff from a nearby store.
By assuming the worst, you will never leave anything up to chance and always make sure your foods are packaged correctly, and the storage is fully stocked.
2. Think About the Foods You Will Actually Use
Some people make the mistake of stocking up on different styles of processed foods or similar foods that they don’t like. The goal of food storage is to eliminate waste.
Processed foods don't store well and are packaged poorly, attracting rodents and bugs into your home. Buy only the items that are considered essentials, especially at the beginning.
3. Assume You Won’t Have a Working Refrigerator or Freezer
Refrigeration and freezing are great ways to preserve our foods. But sometimes, these methods may not work out, especially during power outage emergencies. Your freezer will stop working, and if the grid stays down for a long time, all the foods in your freezer will go bad.
To avoid something like this, install a backup power system that can power only your essentials, like a fridge or freezer. The other option is to eliminate the freezer from your storage plan.
Try dehydrated foods, canned foods, dried foods, and naturally fermented foods. These all store well and last a very long time.
4. Label All of Your Foods
Every time you buy new food that will be stored, you should label it with a permeant marker that says what kind of food it is and the date it was purchased.
The type of container you use could change the way you label, but it’s an absolute must for every product on your food storage shelves.
5. Use a Food Calculator
Every human being has a basic caloric requirement that they should meet daily. For example, the average male adult should consume about 2,722 calories per day. This number will vary based on your activity level, age, weight, etc. Consider calories when you are preparing for your food storage.
There are tools like a food calculator that you can use to estimate calories based on specific foods. For example, the calculator will calculate the total number of calories in a bag of rice based on the total weight of the bag.
Using a tool like this can save you time in your preparation process while ensuring your accurate estimates.
How to Package Your Foods for Long-Term Storage
Long-term storage packaging requires tight seals that eliminate oxygen flow around the food and keeps moisture to a low enough level. There are a few different options you can consider for your foods. We will discuss three of the most efficient methods: plastic bottles, glass jars, and Mylar bags.
Each storage method will store specific foods better than others. We will also mention the foods that shouldn’t be stored in each process. Some foods contain too much moisture and can spoil quickly if not stored the right way.
Instead of throwing away your old plastic bottles, put them aside to be cleaned and start building up. You will have a dozen bottles ready to store your grains before you know it.
Recycled plastic bottles are a cheap storage option that stores wheat, rice, beans, and other similar food items best. After cleaning out the bottles, you can start filling them with food.
These bottles provide a solid barrier away from oxygen and added moisture, though it is much weaker than glass jars and Mylar bags.
Remember that any plastic bottle can be used as long as it is recyclable. Look for the PET or PETE recycle symbol on the side of the bottle to confirm it is a suitable option for your food storage.
Avoid using milk jugs as a storage option. They do not provide a strong enough seal for food storage. The most crucial aspect of any bottle you choose is an air-tight seal lid. Check each lid of your bottles to confirm they can seal correctly.
- Cheap, budget-friendly storage option.
- Available in many different shapes and sizes.
- Bottles can consistently be reused.
- Storage in bottles can last up to five years.
- Bottles cannot protect against rodents.
- Bottles are susceptible to light.
- Bottles provide the weakest oxygen barrier.
If you are looking for something more elegant and secure, glass jars could be the perfect choice for your food storage needs. Similar to plastic bottles, they are available in many different sizes to accommodate various food options.
Glass jars are also recyclable. You can purchase new ones or use old ones from around your house after a thorough cleaning. They are a more robust option that creates tougher oxygen and moisture barriers.
Glass jars can keep toxins out of your food too. They are an inexpensive option to create a stronger seal for your food and keep away rodents and insects.
The downside to glass is how fragile it can be if you mishandle it. It requires care when packaging and storing on shelves. It is also essential to place them towards the back of your shelves to eliminate their risk of falling and breaking.
Glass jars are incredibly versatile and can be used for both long-term and short-term food storage. The most reliable glass jars to use are Mason jars because of their durability and reliable air-tight seal.
All foods stored in glass jars must be dry and contain a moisture content of under 10%. Ideal foods are low in both fat and oil content too.
- Provide an excellent barrier against oxygen and moisture.
- Protects food against rodents and insects.
- Glass jars are easy to clean and reusable.
- Block leach toxins from spoiling your food.
- Inexpensive and easy to buy in bulk.
- Glass is fragile and breaks easily.
- Glass cannot protect food from light.
Mylar bags are a more intense storage container that requires extra preparation and more upfront cost to make it possible. However, they provide several layers of protection for your food with substantial barriers against light, oxygen, moisture, and insects.
You can purchase high-quality Mylar bags meant explicitly for food storage. They are more flexible for storage and seal tightly to guarantee long-term shelf life for your food.
Mylar bags are available in various sizes, but you need some extra equipment to make this storage method possible. You will need a bucket, a heat source for sealing, a permanent marker for labeling, and oxygen absorbers.
Avoid putting foods like nuts, granola, raisins, and other similar foods with high moisture content in your Mylar bags. They do not store well, especially with oxygen absorbers. Mylar bags work by eliminating all oxygen in the bag to create a seal that preserves the food inside.
- Protect against light, oxygen, and insects.
- Longest lasting food storage method.
- Wide variety of bags available for purchase.
- Bags can be washed and reused in the future.
- Bags cannot protect against rodents.
- Mylar bags are difficult to stack on shelves.
What are Oxygen Absorbers?
Oxygen absorbers are a small tool that must be used during long-term storage to help seal your food. They are added to the bag or jar with your food and eliminate the oxygen presence around your food. When used correctly, they can remove up to 99.99% of oxygen in your food storage.
Oxygen absorbers work quickly and should be added to any storage method you decide to use. They can fit inside plastic bottles, glass jars, and Mylar bags. After they are opened, you have up to 3 hours to place them in the container before it’s too late.
Oxygen absorbers work by forming a chemical reaction with oxygen. They are made from iron powder that rusts when exposed to oxygen. That means when exposed to oxygen; the absorbers suck up all of the oxygen they can.
Oxygen absorbers are only effective when used with foods containing low amounts of moisture, fat, and oil. With too much moisture, the oxygen absorbers can cause botulism.
What are the Benefits of Long-Term Food Storage?
Building a long-term food storage supply requires commitment. It is best to consider the benefits to stay motivated and help understand why it is vital for your household. Predicting the next disaster or emergency is impossible, and the only precaution you can take is creating security and protection for yourself and your family.
Peace of Mind
It is difficult to put a price on peace of mind. Knowing that you and your family have a backup plan that can keep you safe and healthy in the event of food shortages, power outages, and other related events will help you sleep better at night.
Many people would never have expected lockdowns due to a pandemic. This has helped people realize how important long-term food storage really is. Don’t wait until the next emergency happens to get started.
Not only do you create excellent safety for yourself, but the convenience factor is unmatched too. In your storage, you have a long list of foods that can be used at any time. This helps you avoid running to the store when you don’t need to and saves you time in the long run.
You can buy groceries less frequently and create more time in your life by starting a long-term food storage supply.
While the initial time and cost commitment can seem overwhelming, you will end up saving more money over time. Buying foods in bulk is incredibly cheap when compared to traditional grocery shopping.
You can also eliminate trips to the grocery store to buy one-off items when they are priced at their highest point. Other savings include gas used to drive to the store and temptation purchases that occur while you are at the store. This is the best way to build your food storage on a budget.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker