Short Term vs Long Term Food Storage | Build a Stash

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Food storage is scary at first. But there are a few ways it can be accomplished. We are here to end the debate between long-term and short-term food storage.

What differentiates long-term food storage from short-term food storage? Short-term food storage is everything you eat daily with a shorter shelf life. Long-term food storage is an emergency food supply with a longer shelf life of up to thirty years. We recommend starting short-term and working towards a long-term supply.

Understanding the difference between long-term and short-term food storage enables you to store food for as long as possible in a safe manner. You will know what to store and how to store it. Luckily, this guide explains both storage methods, exploring specific foods to help you get started. With the resources listed below, you should be able to build your own food storage.

We used to think that the only difference between long-term and short-term food storage is the quantity of food stored. But when we started considering the foods’ shelf life, our food storage program improved. Learn these storage methods and watch how you can transform the way you think about food in general.

Table of contents


What is Short-Term Food Storage?

Short-term food storage consists of everything you eat daily. It’s the food items in your kitchen pantry. You rotate through these foods frequently, and they usually include some of your favorite meals. Your short-term food storage should be enough to sustain you through short-term emergencies.

It’s good to stock up on at least 90 days’ worth of food that can sustain your family through emergencies. When you do this, your family will still have food to eat should you lose your job, fall sick, and encounter financial challenges.

You may also face issues like a reduction in income, power outages, and natural disasters. But with well-stocked short-term food storage, you will survive without even changing your eating habits.

Foods stored in your pantry short-term generally have a shelf life of about one to five years. This is relatively short compared to long-term food storage. Some foods even have a shorter shelf life of one year. However, low acid canned goods may store for more than eight years in your pantry.

Foods to Stock in Your Short-Term Storage

Short-term food storage consists of foods that you can eat every day with easier access. They can be bought at your local stores with much shorter shelf lives between 1-5 years.

These foods all fit into your kitchen pantry or equivalent store space without requiring any advanced storage techniques.

Foods with low acid levels have a much longer shelf-life and can even extend to eight years in some cases. High acid foods will be much lower towards the one-year timeline.

  • Canned meats
  • Canned fruits and veggies
  • Pasta sauce, condiments, salsa
  • Canned soups, beans, and chili
  • Jams and jellies
  • Peanut butter
  • Dried fruits and nuts
  • Instant hot cereal, ready-to-eat cereal
  • Dried or smoked meats like beef jerky
  • Chips, cookies, crackers, granola bars, fruit snacks, trail mix
  • Basic staples (flour, pasta, sugar, rice, spices, salt, etc.)
  • Sports drinks and soda
  • Bottled water
  • Powdered drink mixes
  • Hot drinks: herbal teas, hot chocolate, coffee, and tea
  • Milk and milk substitutes
  • Flax seeds
  • Coconut sugar
  • Sunflower seeds

What is Long-term Food Storage?

Long-term food storage is an emergency food supply meant to protect you from any future crisis. They comprise dry goods carefully stocked up in your home.

These foods contain essential nutrients and calories to help you survive in emergencies. Your long-term food storage is there to supplement your short-term food storage when the times are tough.

You should see it as an investment that will help you scale through a prolonged crisis. The foods in your long-term storage should be low in oil and moisture. If you store long-term storage foods properly, they should last for about twenty to thirty years. These foods will keep you healthy when there is nothing else available to eat in your home.

Long-term food storage serves as your hunger insurance policy. Food stored long-term is usually rich in calories. They may take time to prepare, though, depending on the food type and packaging method they store.

Foods to Stock in Your Long-Term Storage

When stored correctly, foods in your long–term storage can last for more than 30 years. However, some long-term storage foods may store for only ten years.

Examples may include powdered eggs, powdered non-fat dry milk, and more. But long-term storage foods such as dry beans and grains will last for about 25 to 30 years.

Dry foods that last the longest in your pantry are those with low moisture content (often less than 10%) and also low in fats and oils.

Grains with moisture content higher than 13% are susceptible to mold, bacteria, and fungus growth. They won’t store for long. Here’s a list of dry foods that you may want to stock up in your long-term storage:

  • Dried and freeze-dried fruits
  • Pasta: elbow macaroni and spaghetti
  • Dried potatoes: potato dices, potato flakes, and potato slices
  • Legumes: lentils, dry beans, and peas
  • Salt
  • Grains: wheat, white rice, spelt, rolled oats, Kamut, and steel-cut oats
  • Dried corn: flint corn, sweet yellow corn, freeze-dried corn, dent corn, and corn starch
  • Baking soda
  • Dried and freeze-dried vegetables
  • White sugar
  • Powdered eggs
  • Powdered dairy

Your food storage program should rotate long-term storage with short-term storage. This way, you will always have a fresh food supply, and your potential waste will significantly reduce.

Benefits of Food Storage

Food storage is an incredible way to make your food more inviting, protect you from disasters, and keep you well-fed. Be prepared to eliminate the waste and improve your quality of life with a killer food storage strategy.

Short-Term Storage

Short-term food storage qualifies as food being stored on shelves with the intention of daily usage. It does not require any particular types of storage or packaging techniques and gives you easy access to food when you need it.


  • Reduces waste of food.
  • More straightforward storage method to get started.
  • No complex packaging techniques are required.
  • Cheaper option to get started.
  • Less storage space is required.
  • A more straightforward method to plan.
  • A more comprehensive range of food options to choose from.  


  • Shorter food shelf life.
  • Nutritional value in food fades quicker.
  • Temperature fluctuations can cause spoilage.

Long-Term Storage

Long-term storage holds all of the bare essentials you need in your home in a disastrous event. They are foods that are nutritional and high in calories. While they may take more time to prepare due to the packaging methods having this backup plan is a safety measure taken by many homes.


  • Longer lasting shelf life.
  • More storage methods available.
  • Larger quantities can be stored.


  • Lots of equipment needed.
  • More upfront cost.
  • A lot of initial work to package foods.

What Storage Conditions are Required?

The conditions are similar for both storage methods. But it is crucial these principles are followed, or the shelf-life of all your foods could significantly decrease. This would cause a significant financial burden if you were forced to throw food away before its expiration date.

Cool, Dry, and Dark

This is pretty straightforward. Packaged food in storage should be in an area that does not experience a high fluctuation in temperature, weather, or sunlight. It is best to find a closet or basement area that remains relatively cool with little to no exposure to sunlight.


The types of containers that food can be packaged in range greatly based on the food and storage scenario. Your short-term foods will usually come packaged already and can remain in their containers. However, if you buy food in bulk, you may empty the food into a glass or plastic jar that seals shut to keep them fresh too.

Long-term storage options include cans, mylar bags, plastic bottles, buckets, and glass jars. You will need oxygen absorbers in most of these storage options to help seal the food and eliminate airflow that causes food to spoil.  

The Verdict: What’s Best?

Now that you are an expert on food storage and all of the different available options, you probably want to know the best method. Truthfully, there is no single best method. Instead, we recommend you combine the methods based on your own specific needs and goals.

Building a three to six-month short-term supply with a long-term supply in the basement would be a highly effective method that protects your family in the long term. The most important thing to remember is patience and consistency. It cannot all be accomplished overnight.

Start by creating a plan that you can stick to. Buy foods every week and add to your supply. Before you know it, you will surpass your goal and be well on your way to building thorough food storage that covers every aspect we discussed.

Using both methods will grant you access to more foods, and you can maximize your available storage space in your home. Good luck on your journey!