Long-term Food Storage: Needed For Emergency Preparedness?

Long-term food storage refers to foods that have a long shelf life of 20-30 years to an indefinite shelf life. There’s a reason why long-term foods are so highly recommended, but I don’t believe it’s the best way to store food for when disaster strikes. I want to explain why you should have a long-term supply of short-term foods, rather than a long-term supply of foods you’re probably never going to need or use. 

Dried foods like popcorn kernels, kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, lentils, rice, etc.

Examples of Long-term Food Storage

Before we talk about long-term food storage we need to know what we are referring to. Below are some examples of long term foods:

  • Dry pasta
  • Dry white rice
  • Whole kernel oats
  • Dry beans (black, pinto, kidney, etc.)
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Real honey
  • Lentils
  • Hard wheat berries 
  • Coffee beans 
  • Some dehydrated foods
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Why Is Storing Dried Goods Recommended

There is a reason why storing dried goods is a good idea and has been recommended for centuries. Back before the convenience of processed foods and grocery stores long-term food items were considered staples. They were cheap and relatively easy to make and filled with nutrition.

Let’s look at rice and beans. Besides having a long shelf life rice and beans when combined make a complete protein, making it an easy long-term protein source as well as having other good nutrition benefits.

Wheat berries when ground up make flour and with flour you can make bread, pasta, tortillas, etc which are filling and have better nutritional value than bagged flour. Those three will help you stay full when there isn’t very much food available.

Salt could be used to not only season but preserve food. 

The Problem With Long-Term Food Storage

The problem with long-term food storage is that most people will buy long-term food storage, for emergency situations like a natural disaster or economic collapse. They buy this type of food and hope they never have to use it.

Too often long-term foods will sit in 5-gallon buckets collecting dust waiting for the worst-case scenario to happen instead of being used and rotated through. Because most people prefer the convenience of quick meals versus multi-step meals. To make it worse most people don’t even know how to cook with or prepare long-term stored food.

 

I want you to think about your long term food storage while I go through a few scenarios where you might use it and let’s see how you’re feeling about things.  

Long-term Food Storage Scenario

Let’s look at a pretend scenario. In this scenario, your community is reeling after a major earthquake. Grocery stores are empty and roads are impassable. Your family is hungry so you decide you’re going to crack open the wheat berries you were told you needed for situations like this and that you have had stored in the back of your closet for at least 15 years.

  • Situation 1: You open the bucket to find bugs in your wheat berries because they weren’t properly stored. Making them unusable.
  • Situation 2: You open the bucket and find perfectly good wheat berries but quickly find out that to use them you need a wheat grinder. Now, these wheat berries that have been taking up space in your house for over a decade, have no use and your family is still hungry.
  • Situation 3: Let’s say you thought of the wheat grinder but didn’t think about that wheat grinder being electric and you have no power. Again, your wheat berries are useless.
  • Situation 4: You thought to store a hand-powered wheat grinder, but you don’t fully know how to use it. You finally figure it out well enough but quickly realize that fresh ground wheat doesn’t act the same as store-bought flour. This means you wasted a lot of time, energy, and money, and your family is still hungry.
  • Situation 5: You have a hand-powered wheat grinder, you know how to use it, and you know how to prepare and cook with fresh ground flour. Now, do you have the means to bake or cook with that flour if you don’t have electricity or gas lines working in your house?

This same scenario could happen with any kind of long-term food, especially the dry goods that most people aren’t used to cooking and preparing.

4 Tips If You Are Storing Food Long Term

This brings me to my major point with long-term food storage. If you are going to store long-term food items

First: Make sure you are storing them properly.

Second: Know how to use and cook with them. 

Third: Just because they can sit in a properly stored bucket or in mylar bags for 25+ years doesn’t mean that they should. If you are storing them, make sure that you are rotating and using them. 

Fourth: Make sure you can use and cook with them without a power source.

Long clean containers filled with rice, oats and hard wheat

How To Store Food Long Term

I’m going to be completely honest, I don’t store a ton of long-term food, because I don’t cook or use them. Instead, I store about a year’s worth of short or mid-term food storage that I rotate through regularly. I figure if I have a year’s supply of food I’m rotating through all the time then I have a long-term food supply.

Remember, I’m not a survivalist. I’m not trying to live without a grocery store for long periods. I am just trying to store enough food and supplies so that my family is comfortable until things can stabilize. I prefer to store food that we eat and rotate through regularly rather than storing food that we hope to never use. 

However, I do store some foods for long term storage. 

Rice, flour, and sugar.

What Long-term Foods I Store

I believe that freeze-dried foods are the best options for long-term storage and I store quite a bit because I love that they can be kept at room temperature in a dry place and help me meet the nutritional needs of my family.  I talk more about freeze-dried food in this post, but to recap: 

  • Retain 97% of their nutritional value.  
  • You can make easy, quick, and hot meals with just hot water.
  • When stored properly most freeze-dried foods have a 25-year shelf life
  • Freeze-dried food will reconstitute *mostly* back to its original state.
  • They are lightweight and versatile. 
Woman sitting upright on couch with her hand holding her head up while smiling

I store rice and ground flour in 5-gallon airtight containers with oxygen absorbers in a cool dark place. I prefer gamma lids because they can screw on and off. I have seen people put rice and flour in sealed mylar bags inside of 5-gallon buckets, but I don’t do that. The reason I don’t is that where I live there aren’t very many pests or rodents. If my food was in a place where it was susceptible to bugs, rodents, or flooding I would put food in sealed mylar bags inside 5-gallon buckets just to be extra safe. The second reason why I don’t use mylar bags is because I plan to use the rice and flour within 3-5 years so, I don’t see the need to store them in double protection. 

With my sugar, I do the same as I do with rice and flour except for oxygen absorbers. If you put oxygen absorbers in with sugar it will cause your sugar to turn into a brick that you will need to chisel out instead of scoop. 

I don’t bother writing the expiration date on the buckets, instead, I write the date the buckets were sealed. This helps me know which buckets to rotate through first so they aren’t sitting there for a long time. 

Other long-term storage foods I store are honey and salt but I store them in smaller quantities and treat them more like my short and mid-term food storage instead of long-term food storage.

Recap

I give long-term food storage a bad rap because I think people focus on it rather than focusing on short-term food storage.  But if you know how to use and incorporate your long-term food storage in your regular diet then they are a great way to stock up for emergencies. They are cheap, filling, and full of good nutrition.

If you are one of those people who would much rather buy convenience and quick foods rather than go through the extra work and steps that most long-term foods require, then I suggest storing and rotating foods you use regularly and with a shorter shelf life like peanut butter, pancake mix, and other basic foods you eat. 

Do You Need More Help?

Food storage can seem very confusing at times, but my Food and Water Storage Workbook will make everything make sense! Learn what you need to do to build a well stocked food and water storage that you use and won’t go to waste.  

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Hi I'm JaNae!

I consider myself a practical prepper. I am not about zombies and bunkers. I believe in preparing for personal disasters — job loss, medical problems, financial problems, and natural disasters.

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