We all know the food pyramid that the USDA has foisted upon us. Pile on the bread, baby! Regardless of whether you actually buy into the serving counts, it stands as a half decent reference point for figuring out what to store for long term. It also helps us identify potential gaps in our long term food storage plans.
In my mind there’s only one real reason to have long term storage. It’s to augment fresh food that we can get with stored food that we can’t get or have difficulty obtaining. This could be as simple as food shortages for non local food, or as bad as a full on economic and societal collapse which prevents you from getting any significant amount of food from the outside. Or anything in between. Generally speaking, I like to assume that I’ll be able to produce some food, and buy or barter for other food, and plan accordingly.
Rice, Grains, and Pasta
All three of these store well, and you can actually make pasta with grain on your own. All of these foods are carbohydrate rich, provide necessary fiber, and are really a building block for many different kinds of meals.
Rice is the most common food grain in the world. It can be consumed by anyone, and oddly enough, there is no record of any sort of food allergy related to rice. For purposes of food storage, you want to focus on white rice. Brown rice doesn’t store well Grain size (short, medium, long) doesn’t matter from a storage perspective for the most part, but some folks say long grain stores longer. Buy what you’re used to. Rice can be stored for ten years with no problem, and properly stored it will last for over thirty years.
Wheat is a critical part of any long term storage plan. It’s a very versatile food staple. You can crack it and make a cereal, grind it for flour to use in breads, etc. You can sprout it for vitamins and to add flavor to sandwiches. You can make wheat berries out of it, which are a fun snack, or grow wheat grass for even more vitamins. There are several common types of wheat varieties, of which I recommend hard red winter wheat for storage purposes. Once again, properly stored this stuff will store for up to thirty years.
Warning: Do not attempt to just store whole wheat without it being part of your regular diet. It will kill you due to all of the fiber shocking your digestive tract. Make whole wheat flour and things made with it part of your diet now! Besides, it’s good for you and tastes MUCH better! Also be aware that many people can develop wheat allergies. Not a good thing if your storage is mostly wheat. Get acclimated to it now!
Pasta is a processed product, usually created from Durum wheat. You can make pasta yourself out of wheat flour, water, eggs, and salt. It’s pretty straight forward! That said, pasta is cheap and stores well, so buy plenty of it. Pasta off the shelf will store for about a year in the original packaging, or you can repackage it into airtight containers for thirty or so years.
You can store other grains here too, but I won’t go into them all here. You can store Corn, Rye, Oats, and really just about any sort of grain you’d eat. Most of them are stored in similar ways.
How much of this stuff should I have?
All told, you’ll want about 25 lb per person per month for whole grains. Divvy it up however you see fit. This stuff is cheap and stores forever, so buy extra just in case. Remember, these are the kinds of things that will be hard to come by if the zombies show up, but will be easier if we remain zombie-free and are only worried about the weather.
For pastas and similar prepared products, use your judgment and store as much as you might need. For example, If you eat pasta once a week, and figure that you use two pounds of dry pasta per meal, you need 104lbs of pasta put away for a years supply.
Fruits and Vegetables
This is something you should strongly consider making part of your normal rotation of shorter term foods, and just using as part of your regular diet. You should have cans or jars of preserved fruits and vegetables put up. While I’m a big fan of growing your own food (or buying it at a local farmers market, roadside stand, etc) and preserving it at harvest time, you can always buy this stuff at the store. Chances are you already cook with this already, so figure out about how much you eat normally, and do the math to put away a long term supply based on your term target.
Rudy’s Advice: Don’t underestimate the value of preserving your own food. Our kids aren’t all that picky, but for example, even some of our kids who hate store bought canned pears will sit and eat a quart of pears that we preserved ourselves. It really does taste that much better. It’s also a great family bonding time, and it can be a ton of fun!
Pretty straight forward here. You need to store powdered, evaporated, and condensed milk. These are good for cooking, and make a great substitute for ‘the real thing’ in a long term bind. You should focus mostly on powdered milk to be sure. Plan on about 70 lbs of powdered milk per person per year. Add in another couple pounds of evaporated and condensed milk for cooking, and you’re good.
Dried milk can be stored for anywhere from three months to five years in airtight and oxygen free packaging. I don’t know about you, but that’s a pretty broad range. As it turns out, dried milk is really dependant upon temperature. If you store it at about 70 degrees, which is recommended for most food storage, it will keep for about three or four years.
Yes, they truly are a magical fruit. Well, not really a fruit, but you get the idea. You should probably pick a nice variety of beans based on your current consumption. In addition to the usual dried beans, you should also consider split peas, lentils, etc. Variety makes a big difference, and I gotta say, I love my wife’s split pea soup more than just about anything she makes.
Storage for dried beans is basically the same as for whole grains. You can store them bought off the shelf for about a year, or stored in airtight containers for about ten years. Beans do lose some quality after then, but you can eat them for about thirty years.
More Advice From Rudy: Rice and Beans, or Wheat and Beans are naturally complementing foods. They will provide you a complete protein when served together. Remember that, it’s important!
Meat, Chicken, Fish
Frozen, dried, canned…This stuff isn’t all that easy to store for long term. You can dehydrate things like ground beef and it’ll store for a while. This is an area where you want to augment this quickly with livestock. Chickens and rabbits are great for raising plenty of good meat with minimal hassle and space. If you have a pond or something similar, you can raise catfish and other ‘easy’ fish for added protein. Chickens are good for eggs too. Highly recommended! On the whole egg note, don’t forget about powdered eggs. They’ll store nicely for about a year in an unopened can and while maybe not as tasty as the real thing, they’re better than nothing!
Fats and Oils
This is another one of those critical areas. You need to have fat to survive. The problem is that fats and oils go rancid quick, and rancid oil makes you sick. Bad plan! The best plan is to buy what you use, store it unopened in a dark cool place, and rotate often. Store bought oils will have good use by dates to reference. A good rule of thumb for oils is about a year.
Shortening will last much longer, and is also good for cooking. Store some! Peanut butter, mayo, and salad dressing are other fats to consider storing. They’ll store about a year or so unopened off the store shelf.
For a year’s worth of storage, plan on about two gallons of oils, four pounds each of shortening and peanut butter and a couple of quarts each of salad dressing and mayo. Yes, that’s per person. Your aiming for about 13 lbs total of fats and oils per person.
For long term food storage, you need to store honey and pure cane granulated sugar. Store it in a dark dry location, but not the fridge. DON’T remove oxygen from sugar. While sugar and honey will both store indefinitely, sugar begins to lose some of it’s appeal in a couple years. It’s perfectly edible but it will clump and get a bit unappetizing. Honey will store forever. You can store brown sugar if you like, but it needs to be kept moist and won’t store quite as well. Maple Syrup is a great storage item. It will store for two years unopened on the shelf.
For a year’s supply for one person, you should consider storing 5lbs of honey, 40 lbs of granulated sugar, 5lbs of maple syrup.
I won’t go into these in detail for now, but you should plan on the following items for a one year supply (again, per person):
- Baking Powder: 1lb
- Baking Soda: 1lb
- Yeast: 8oz
- Salt: 10lb
- Vinegar: 1gal
Miscellaneous and Comfort Foods
These are things that aren’t necessarily critical, but store well, and help add variety to your storage. Once again, one year for one person follows:
- Jam/Jelly: 3 lbs
- Jello or other powdered gelatin: 2lbs
- Dry Soup Mix: 5lbs
- Drink Powders (Crystal Light, Lemonade, Kool Aid): 8lbs
I hope this helps. It’s not all inclusive, and there’s plenty of ways to augment this, but it should give you an idea on how to get started. As always, more later!
Rudy’s Final Tip: Many of these things can be augmented by off the shelf items from the store. Things like Hamburger Helper, those Rice a Roni packages, stuff like that will store well and is often a ‘meal by itself’. I personally love Zatarains mixes. Good lord those taste good. Don’t just store raw rice and wheat when you could also store other yummy goodness.