How to prepare your family to survive and thrive in todays uncertain world

Long Term Food Storage Planning

food storage 240x3201 Long Term Food Storage PlanningWe 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

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

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

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.

Other Grains

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!

Milk

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.

Proteins

Beans

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.

Sugars

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.

Cooking Essentials

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

Wrapup

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.

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28 Responses to Long Term Food Storage Planning

  1. Adrianne says:

    Hi Rudy

    OK so I have heard a couple things that maybe you could clarify for me? You say to store baking powder but I heard that it has next to no storage life. How long can I keep it? I was advised to rotate mine every 3-6 months just because it loses it’s effectiveness pretty fast.

    Also – have you tried powdered butter? Or canning butter? I haven’t tried either but I’ve heard that canning butter works really well, I’m hesitant to try though.

    • Rudolph says:

      Baking powder has an indefinite shelf life when stored correctly, actually. As with many items in your long term storage keeping it dry and cool is critical for shelf life. Once opened, however, baking powder will last about six months.

      I’ve never tried powdered or canned butter. I’ve heard about it but never actually tried it. Sounds like something fun to try sometime!

    • Neila says:

      I have also seen about baking powder going bad after a few months. Many sites that I have looked at have recommended storing baking soda and cream of tartar instead since both products do have an indefinate shelf life. For one teaspoon of baking powder, combine 1/4 teaspoon baking soda with 5/8 teaspoon cream of tartar. I have used this when I didn’t have the baking soda and it worked great. Plus the cream of tartar will give you fluffy scrambled eggs ;)

  2. Adrianne says:

    Oh and I forgot to ask – I went and bought a 50 pound bag of bread flour the other day. It’s sitting in it’s bag on my kitchen floor – I know it will be about a year before I go through it, do you know if I should just leave it in the bag or should I put it into buckets?

    • 70s Earthmother says:

      Adrianne, what about storing it in smaller amounts, like one month’s usage, so the container won’t be opened as often? And Rudy, will flour last longer if frozen? At least as long as there’s power for the freezer?

    • Rudolph says:

      Flour is good for about a year in a standard store shelf style packaging. You can repackage into a storage container with oxygen absorbers and store in a cool location for about five years. Storing flour even cooler will extend the shelf life longer.

  3. 70s Earthmother says:

    another great post, Rudy. I learn lots of new stuff from everything I read here.

  4. Striker says:

    I’m interested in long, longterm storage of grain. If I have access to large quantities of wheat relatively cheap, do I need to do anything in particular to make sure they last (in the buckets)? You say once properly stored, it lasts up to thirty years. I’d be interested to know more about proper storage.

    • Rudolph says:

      I’ll have a separate post addressing storage methods soon. This post got really long and I didn’t want to go into too much detail.

      I will also post more details about some specific items, like wheat, rice, etc. Including some recipes and whatnot!

  5. Josh says:

    Can you store dry goods in a 5 gallon #2 bucket that is not food safe if the food is in a sealed mylar bag? Will the harmful chemical come throught the mylar?

    • Rudy Kearney says:

      you absolutely can. As long as the food is sealed, the bucket type is irrelevant.

      Now, I wouldn’t recommend using something that held turpentine or something like that, but your average home depot non-food safe bucket is fine with the mylar bags you describe.

      But honestly, it’s just as cheap if not cheaper to get food safe buckets. I’m finding buckets for under $2 each on craigslist on a regular basis, with lids.

  6. Josh says:

    Hi Rudy,
    I would like to store some hot chocolate powder (like swiss miss). Do you know how long it would last in a vacuum sealed bag with oxygen absorbers?
    I am also wondering about bullion powder stored the same way?

    • Thelma says:

      You cannot put oxygen absorbers in sugar or items containing sugar because it will make them as hard as a rock.

  7. Dennis says:

    Speaking of plastic storage containers. Some cat litter comes in 5 gallon square plastic buckets. If properly cleaned would they be suitable for storing food? I have 5 cats and use a lot of cat litter resulting in stacks of plastic buckets. I have just been using them for water buckets when washing my cars or windows but I was wonding if they could be used in any way for food storage.

  8. Jane says:

    I have heard that putting rice in a 250 degree oven for 2-3 hours will kill off any possibility of infestation in long term storage. Is this true. Also that bags of flour, when frozen for about a week, does the same and extends the storage life. How, then would you prepare dried beans for long term storage?

  9. Bill says:

    I occasionally but 1 lb bags of different types of beans at teh supermarket. Can you leave the beans in the original plastic bags that they were packaged in and then place them into mylar bags with an oxygen absorber? Also, if peanut butter is left unopened, how long will it store? I was thinking about placing the jars in mylar bags with an oxygen absorber to keep out oxygen to prolong the shelf life. Will this work?

    • Rudy Kearney says:

      Yes you can.

      Peanut butter stores for several years at least. Mylar is unnecessary.

  10. Suzie says:

    I have a food saver & was wondering,if possible,I can just food save everything?I’m new at all of this and getting a late start.I wish that on the lists of food items with the shelf life also had,next to it,which ones needs oxygen bags & ways to store them safely.That way someone like myself wouldn’t have to keep going back and forth.

    • Rudy Kearney says:

      You can. We’ve got one, but we don’t use it for everything. But there’s little reason why you couldn’t.

      I’ll see what I can do about the list you’re talking about … it’s a good idea!

  11. Suzie says:

    I meant oxygen absorbers

  12. Bill says:

    I have started buying the powdered drink “Tang” at Sam’s lately. I see on the container that the expiration date is 2014. Do you have any idea how long past the expiration date that I can keep the product if left unopened?

    • Rudy Kearney says:

      Not a clue. I don’t drink it. You could try contacting the manufacturer.

    • Kathy says:

      I have an OPEN can of tang that is still good after 2 years sitting in the cupboard. Unopened, i believe 5 years in a cool dark place would be about right

  13. Lefty Prepper says:

    I worked at a homeless shelter where we served a LOT of expired foods. Nutrients will decline, but you won’t get sick from most things that look and smell OK. I repeat, most. Powered drink mixes will last for years and years (30 year old hot chocolate anyone? yum!) beyond an expiration date.

    Most oils and fats will last twice as long as the dates if you keep them out of heat/light/air, and usually smell bad when they go bad. Cloudiness in oil is fine, but sniff it. I would store more oil than you suggest Rudy, since I found the family used a lot more when we cooked off grid. More honey as well since it does store forever and has antiseptic properties. Both could also be traded.

    Powered butter tastes OK, but not quite like real butter and it takes some practice to moisten it correctly and not eat clumps or watery crud. If you eat a generally un-processed diet you might find the taste a bit chemical.

    This new Doomsday Preppers TV show has told me that instant hand warmer packets are the same thing as oxygen absorbers and eggs can be stored for up to a year if you coat them in mineral oil and keep in the inevitable cool dry place. Any idea about that?

  14. Barb says:

    I have never tried this but have heard of a method for storing fresh uncracked eggs called water glassing. It uses sodium silicate (sold at the hardware store). Clean eggs with a dry cloth. Put them in a crock and cover 2-3 inches above the top most layer with diluted sodium silicate, using one part sodium silicate to 11 parts of cooled, boiled water(1/3 cup sodium silicate to each one quart of water). Cover crock and store under 40 degrees for up to three months. As i said I have never tried this but the info was found in an 1970′s book called ” Putting Food By”. Thought I would share and would like to know if anyone has done this.

  15. mallyob says:

    don’t know about you lot BUT!..when I was in the armed forces UK, in the mid 1970′s , we were opening ration cans of food packed and dated from 1959 onwards! Of course us soldiers ALWAYS complained about ALL army food but I never came across a case of “Delhi Belly” from any of those rations! Does food produced and packed for the military last longer?