Today, food storage is an important topic! The more we prep today, the safer we all are for tomorrow. Did you know that the average male consumes almost 2,500 calories a day, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But if a cataclysmic event that disrupted the agricultural industry and the supply system for food, supermarket shelves might quickly empty, and we quickly could go from feast to famine.
As preppers we must plan carefully how to maintain our food supply to fill our nutritional needs in the event that chaos erupts. That plan should include storing ample supplies of food, finding sources to replenish that supply, and learning how to preserve food so that it will last as long as possible.
We should store at least 3-months supply of food in a location where it is not only secure from theft, but will remain useable for as long as possible. It’s crucial to make sure that the supply provides at least 2,200 calories per day, and covers basic nutritional requirements. I also recommend people try as much as possible to replicate a diet that they are accustomed to eating. No one wants to sit down at the dinner table expecting a normal home cooked dinner and finding out they have suddenly been placed on a diet! Talk about a moral breaker!
Also, at some point you and I are going to need to produce our own food to replenish our food cache. Preppers have a lot of options for becoming nutritionally self-sufficient, but they have to learn how to grow crops and raise animals, and take into account the particular pluses and challenges of their local climate zone. You have to know what grows in your area and when it will grow best. Animal protein is a different challenge. Hunting is an option, but no hunter I know is successfull 100% of the time.
Depending on the circumstances, you may not want to eat the animals in your area or even worse…you may not be able to safely go into the forest in your area as they may be full predators of the two legged type. Raising cattle is water and land-intensive, so rabbits, goats and chickens—which have the added advantage of producing eggs. Aquaculture systems to raise fish are another useful protein source.
The Shelf Life of Food and Getting prepared for long term food storage
Foods will have a long shelf life if they can resist heat, moisture, oxygen, and light. Ordering shelf-stable food that can store for 25-30 years is an admirable goal, accomplished best when stored in #10 cans and commercially prepared food buckets packed in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers.
Top Ten Foods with a Long Shelf Life:
- Dried Rice
This lasts 30 years or more; however, like other dried products, require proper packaging to keep out the vermin.
- Dried beans (a legume)
Combined with rice, beans provide the perfect source of protein, which is why they are so popular with preppers. While many preppers stock beans, they often don’t know that beans may be ground into flour for baking breads, biscuits and cookies, making them ideally versatile and useful to preppers.
- Dried Lentils (a legume)
Lentils have sustained man since biblical times and have an almost indefinite shelf life! The longest lasting lentils are whole, not cracked. Because of their size they are quicker to cook than pinto beans. They are an excellent source of fiber!
- Dried Peas (a legume)
Often overlooked by preppers, dried peas have an incredibly long shelf life like other legumes. Split peas have a 4-5 year shelf life on their own and you can increase the shelf life to 25-years or more by packaging in mylar with oxygen absorbers
- Popcorn + dried corn (*Please ensure its Non-GMO, organic is best)
Popcorn is extremely versatile as you can pop it or grind it into cornmeal. (Do not expect cornmeal to last as long as dried corn, as cornmeal is more susceptible to vermin.) Dried corn will also help you sustain livestock. Many preppers plan to bait deer with dried field corn.
- Hard Red Wheat
Hard red wheat is a prepper staple because of its long shelf life. Once, you’ve ground your hard red wheat into flour, the shelf life decreases.
An excellent source of energy, raisins are an ideal prepper food because they “don’t spoil, bruise, or need refrigeration,” according to SunMaid, America’s favorite brand of raisins.
- Dried Pasta
Italians have long stored dried pasta to get them through lean times, but did you know pasta has a legacy dating back hundreds of years to the Chinese and possibly beyond to Jerusalem? Rice flour was made into dumplings in China, but this kind of pasta is perishable, unlike Italian semolina pasta. Durum wheat semolina isn’t overly absorbent, which is probably why it’s such a durable food (and credit given to the Italians)! Indeed, durum wheat pasta has a long shelf-life; however, the egg noodle variety is much lower at 5-8 years under proper conditions (dry canned with oxygen absorbers). While other pastas have a much longer life, extending 25-30 years under proper conditions.
Highly nutritious and versatile, preppers will find many reasons to hoard oats.
- Dried meats
Beef jerky was an American pioneer staple. Don’t overlook cured meats like Salami, which can have a long shelf life as well.
Shelf-Stable Condiments, Spices and Fats
- Sugar – lasts indefinitely!
- Honey – lasts indefinitely too.
- Salt – Surprisingly, salt is not a spice. (See more about salt below).
- Tea – Dried tea leaves have sustained man through the centuries. (The process of boiling water to make tea was a key to making water safe to drink.)
- Freeze dried coffee – Many prepper sites list coffee as shelf stable, but it isn’t necessarily so, because the oils of coffee reduce shelf life. Green coffee beans are available for long term in #10 cans and you can roast them, the way pioneers did.
- Cacao – Cacao was food of the ancient Mayans for many reasons! A long shelf life among them.
- Maple Syrup – Natural goodness for your pancakes, maple syrup won’t spoil! ****Skip Mrs. Buttersworth, it’s not real maple syrup.
- Vanilla Extract – The alcohol content keeps your extract fresh forever!
- Vinegar – Discover the many reasons preppers stock vinegar.
- Baking soda
- Coconut Oil – Most oils become quickly rancid: the exception is coconut oil. With a two-year shelf life, and surprising health benefits, coconut oil is a new prepper favorite!
- Soy Sauce – This popular Asian condiment is fermented for long shelf-life. Enjoy!
How to Plan Your Food Storage
Here are some considerations and tips for long-term food storage….
Plan on variety, but don’t get too creative. Combating menu fatigue will be an issue, but there are a variety of brands of shelf stable foods packed in #10 cans or commercially packed food grade canisters to give you the variety you need. Internet searched favoriates of people include:
Augason Farms – Ideal for potatoes and milk.
Future Essentials – Future Essentials has the long term needs of prepper foodies in mind when they pack shredded mozzarella in #10 cans, and also their hard to find bread crumbs, which will come in handy to coat and fry fish.
Mountain House – Popular with backpackers, Mountain House freeze dried foods also come in #10 cans. Top on the list is their beef stroganoff.
Provident Pantry – Popular for their freeze dried ground beef and milk, Provident Pantry has a variety of foods on offer From a freeze dried ice cream sandwich, to instant Nonfat Dry Fortified Milk.
A few important points to consider when buying your foods are below.
- Buy foods with high caloric content. Stressful times will require more sustenance. Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) for U.S. Army personnel have around 1200 calories per meal and with high protein content to sustain physical stamina. You should think the same of foods you buy.
- Think about serving sizes. You’ll get a general idea about how much food to pack, but when it comes to serving sizes, one cup of beef stroganoff won’t be enough food for a hungry man who’s spent a hardworking afternoon fighting zombies. The “servings” are a food rationing measurement. In times of stress, you’ll need more food. Likewise, think about volume and weights of foods. If the product packs water, it could be deceiving about how much food product you’re getting. Freeze dried foods pack more easily into limited space and is equivalent to more food.
- Don’t just buy grains and leave them in bags. Storing grain is often a goal of Preppers as bags of rice, for example, are fairly inexpensive and can provide sustenance. Improper storage will surely get an infestation of pests. The grain must be sealed away from pests (preferably stored in food grade buckets, sealed into mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, and vacuum sealed with gamma lids). This will help prevent moisture and oxidation. The easiest solution is to purchase commercially packed grains to ensure the product will be fresh and available for use when you need it most. For example, rice stored in #10 cans, left has a 25-year shelf life. See our section on long term grain storage. And don’t even think of stocking up on wheat if you don’t have a clue on how to bake from scratch.
Foods with a long shelf life
Twinkies were infamous for having a long shelf life, but likely this is because these fluffy cake morsels of sponge cake don’t have any dairy in them and were douced with chemicals…little has changed. lol . It’s true that Twinkies spoil more slowly than other bakery items, but they only last around 25 days and not 25 years.
On the topic of shelf life of the foods in your pantry, there’s much to know. If your aim is long term food storage (25 years shelf life), then look for freeze dried foods in nitrogen packed #10 cans.
The following below will provide you with help on the shelf life of foods in your pantry, including decoding food dates, knowing the difference between freeze dried and dehydrated foods, and resources for getting more information on the shelf life of food.
Decoding food dates (Julian dates)
In the United States, there’s no universally accepted system of food dating: only infant formula requires product dating by federal law! While it’s optional, manufacturers want product dating to make their product taste more appealing to consumers. Also because when a product expires, they have an opportunity to sell more.
Of course sometimes manufacturers want to “hide” their dating. For the most part, decoding food product dates is relatively easy:
- “use by” dates are for quality (not for safety reasons);
- “best by” dates are also for quality
- “expiration” dates are for the following below..
- Julian dates are closed coded dates
This dating scheme used to help employees manage the freshness guarantee of products. That’s the toughest date to decipher, but you can do it! They look like packing numbers. According to the USDA they are “specifically, a means of identification of product slaughtered, prepared, processed, or packaged on a certain date in the case of a recall.”
For more help, contact your local cooperative, grocery outlet or the FDA for help decoding food product dates.
Know the difference between freeze dried and dehydrated foods. Because
knowing the difference will affect the price and the flavor!
- Freeze dried foods are flash frozen in a process where the water content of the ice is removed through a process of sublimation. Essentially the ice changes from a solid to a gas . The benefits of freeze dried foods are that they rehydrate quickly and they have a longer shelf life than dehydrated foods. Because they rehydrate well, freeze dried foods retain their flavor, texture and nutritional value better than dehydrated foods.
- Dehydrated foods have had the water content removed naturally or by heat. While the process is beneficial for storage of grains, legumes, vegetables and fruit, the hydration process is not as forgiving as freeze dried foods. Essentially, the food texture doesn’t quite return to the original state after returning the water content.
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