I started working on my long-term emergency food storage (LTS) about a year ago. Below I share some of the information I researched before starting my cache of Long-term survival foods.
Long-term food storage D.I.Y. is an emergency food cache for long term disasters or family emergencies. Used when food is scarce. It offers 2000+ calories per day per person for one year or more and consists of foods packaged to provide 30 years of shelf-life, such as white rice, beans, and wheat.
Long-term VS. Short-Term Food Storage
Short-term foods are used to feed your family during short emergencies when utilities like water and power are not available, or you are on the move trying to get away from a disaster.
Short-term food storage is for emergencies of up to 3 months. It is comprised of non-perishable foods with a shelf-life of up to 5 years that require minimal preparation. Long-term food storage includes foods for emergencies of up to 1 year that take significant resources to prepare but have 30 + year shelf-life.
Foods you typically find in short-term emergencies are ready to eat and take no water and don’t have to be cooked. Though you may wish to heat them. Canned soups and stews require no refrigeration and are ready to eat out of the can.
Examples of foods in a Short-term Emergency Food Supply
- Ready to eat canned meats, fruits, and vegetables
- Canned juices, soups, and stews
- Sugar, salt, and pepper
- Crackers, power bars, beef jerky,
- peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars, and trail mix
- Cookies, hard candy, instant coffee, tea bags
- Dried macaroni and noodle dishes that just require hot water
Foods in long-term food storage like dried beans aren’t the best choice for short-term emergencies when you react to the emergency. They take hours of soaking time, a significant amount of water, and hours of cooking time and fuel.
Examples of foods in a Long-term Emergency Food Supply
- White Rice
- Wheat Berries
- Dried Beans
- Rolled Oats
- Dried Pasta
Long Term Food Storage: 1-Year Supply
The charts below show the suggested amount and types of food to store for one person for a one-year food supply. The foods are recommended by Brigham Young University, together they provide 2000 to 2400 calories per day.
Chart #1 Recommended Grains In Long-term Food Storage
|Grain Type||#10 Cans||6-Count Cases||Pounds|
|Wheat Berries/Husked wheat||24 cans||4 cases||132lb|
|White Rice||12 cans||2 cases||65lb|
|Rolled Oats||12 cans||2 cases||39lb|
|Pasta (macaroni or spaghetti)||6 cans||1 cases||21lb|
Chart #2: 11 Dried Foods For Long-term Storage: Other than Grain
|Food Type||#10 Cans||6-Count Cases||Pounds|
|Legumes (beans, split peas, lentils)||12||2 cases||62lb|
|Milk, non-fat dry (15-year shelf-life)||12||2 cases||49lb|
|Sugar (or other sweeteners like honey)||12||2 cases||70lb|
|Apple Slices, dried||6||1 case||6lb|
|Potato Flakes||12||2 cases||22lb|
|Carrots, dried, 10-year shelf-life||3||–||8|
|Baking Soda Baking/Soften Old Beans||–||–||1|
|Vitamin C Tablets||–||–||365 Tablets|
9 Short-Term Food Items In Long-term Storage
You’ll notice that the foods on this list have a short shelf life. They should be used and rotated with the First In First Out Storage Method (FIFO) so you always have a usable supply on hand. If we go through an extended catastrophe or disaster you’ll need substitutes for these ingredients and the nutrition they provide.
Concentrate on Fat substitutes, it’s really hard to come by fat in an SHTF scenario. Our bodies and brains need fat to function properly.
Chart #3: 9 Short-Term Food Items In Long-term Storage
|Per Person Amount|
|Cooking Oil||1+||2 gallons|
|Frying Oil||1+||3 cans, 3lb|
|Butter/stored in freezer||1||6lb|
|Fruit Drink Mix with vitamins|
or bottled multi-vitamin
|2||3 #10 cans/|
|Eggs, dried (baking)||3+||2 #10 cans|
honey, molasses, brown sugar, jams, jellies, syrups
|The shelf-life of honey is indefinite.|
Non-Food Items: Long-term Food Storage
Chart #4: Non-Food Items
|Manual Can Opener|
|Grain Mill/ Grain Grinder|
|Recipes and meal plans for stored items|
Top 3 Foods In Long-Term Food Storage
The best foods for LT food storage have a 30-year shelf-life, are low in fat, and contain less than 10% moisture. The following staples are used to make filling comfort foods and provide most of the calories in Long-term Food storage.
1. White Rice
Fifty percent of the people on this planet eat rice daily because it is high in nutrition and an excellent carbohydrate source. When eaten with cooked dried beans, it provides a whole protein.
Tip: Brown rice is not the same as white rice when it comes to storage. It has a maximum storage life of 18 months due to natural oils so stick to white rice.
White rice is stored in an oxygen-free container, in a cool, dry location, will keep 30+ Years
2. Hard Wheat
Hard wheat is top-shelf when it comes to LT Food Storage, high in fiber, protein, iron, and B Vitamins, it also provides an excellent source of starch and energy.
No other food is as flexible as wheat. It can be cooked and eaten or milled to make bread, pasta, pizza dough, crackers, and pastries.
For LTS storage, use wheat berries, wheat with the outer husk removed because the husk contains natural oils that decrease storage life. An Oxygen-free container does not stop fatty foods from going rancid.
Best Wheat For Long-term Storage
Hard red and hard white wheat berries are the best wheat to store for LTS.
Both are flexible and can be used as general-purpose wheat, plus they are high in gluten-protein necessary for making superior leavened bread.
I like red and white wheat, but Hard white wheat is a milder flavor than hard red wheat.
Store wheatberries instead of flour for Long-term storage because flour has a short shelf-life of 5 years.
Hard wheat berries stored in an oxygen-free container, in a cool, dry location, will keep 30+ Years
To learn more about different types of wheat to store check out Best Wheat Berries For Long-Term Storage
3. Dried Beans Vegetable Protein
Dried beans are the main protein source in long-term storage. According to Medline Plus, beans and legumes pack a punch, providing protein, fiber, B-vitamins, iron, folate, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc.
Use cooked dried beans in soups, and stews, or boil them to eat plain. Beans can also be milled into flour.
When combined with white rice beans, make a full-chain amino acid, also called a full protein.
Dried beans stored in an oxygen-free container, in a cool, dry location, will keep 30+ Years
9 Foods To Store Oxygen-free
Like those with less than 10% moisture and low fat, some types of dried foods will last decades longer if stored in an oxygen-free container. Following is a list of the most common foods stored this way.
- Hard Wheat Berries
- Ancient Wheat: Emmer, Spelt, Teff
- White Rice
- Dent Corn
- Dried Beans
- Rolled Oats
- Potato Flakes
- Legumes (Beans, pulses, seeds)
Don’t Store Oxygen-free (moist and high-fat foods)
These foods have too much fat or moisture content above 10%. If the foods are high in fat an oxygen-free environment won’t stop the fats from going rancid. If the moisture content is higher than 10% you risk botulism.
|Any Food Above 10% Moisture Content|
|Any Food high in fats, fats quickly turn rancid.|
|Milled Grains, other than Rolled Oats|
|Beef Jerky and Dried Meats|
|Dehydrated Vegetables and Fruit|
Repackage Food For Long-term Storage
Unless you purchase survival food professionally packaged you need to repackage dry goods for maximum shelf-life. Store-bought packaging doesn’t provide a sufficient oxygen barrier.
5 Top Containers
Containers sealed with oxygen absorbers inside are intended to remove oxygen and kill bugs as preparation for decades of storage life. The containers you choose for long-term storage should provide a sufficient oxygen barrier not provided by most store-bought packaging.
The most popular D.I.Y. containers for long-term food storage are food-grade pales lined with a Mylar bag and include an oxygen absorber inside the sealed bag.
#1 Mylar Bags
Mylar bags come in all shapes and sizes, so they’re pretty handy for planning and portion control. For Instance, You might choose to use a smaller bag, so fewer dry goods are exposed to oxygen when opened.
Mylar Bags: The Good And Bad
Mylar bags are an excellent oxygen barrier, but they are weak and easily damaged by handling and pests.
For the long haul, bags should be stored inside a hard-shelled container like a lidded plastic tote or a food-grade pale with a lid.
Mylar Bag Thickness
Purchase Mylar bags at least 5MIL thick, or bags will be too weak to store dry goods, and they may be translucent, which will let light in. Light oxidation also spoils food.
Tip: If you are using a household iron to seal Mylar bags, avoid bags with the Ziploc-type seal. They are a pain to work around when heat sealing the bag.
#2 Food-grade Buckets
Use buckets marked as food-grade, and you can put food in direct contact with the plastic.
Don’t use buckets that aren’t food-grade or used to store non-food-grade items like chemicals or solvents.
If you plan on using “only” a bucket, you need a lid with a gasket seal. Gamma Seal lids are a popular option, but they are expensive.
I use sealed Mylar bags inside buckets, so I can use a cheap snap-on lid without a seal.
Cheap lids don’t create an oxygen barrier, but they keep rodents out and protect the Mylar, which provides the seal.
Cons of Using Buckets
Buckets, alone, don’t provide a true oxygen barrier. The wall of a bucket allows for the transfer of air over time, and lid gaskets have a tendency to fail.
Pros of Using Buckets
Food-grade Buckets are reusable and flexible. They can be used for everything from storing bulk foods to fermenting honey mead, and they are good for keeping rodents at bay.
Tip: I would avoid using non-food grade buckets, even if you are lining them with Mylar. Down the road, you may want to use the bucket to pickle vegetables or make cider.
#3 Mylar Bag And A Bucket (Best Option)
Store your dry bulk goods in a sealed Mylar bag, inside a food-grade bucket, and top it off with an inexpensive lid that just snaps on.
No need for an expensive gasket lid. Mylar is without a doubt a superior Oxygen barrier.
Compare the price of a high-quality gasket lid with the cost of a large Mylar bag and a cheap snap-on lid.
You’ll save money and provide better protection for your food with a 5+ mil Mylar Bag, a bucket, and a cheap no-gasket lid.
Learn more about food-grade vs. non-food grade buckets, What’s the difference between food and non-food grade pales?
#4 #10 Cans
#10 cans are the bullet-proof method for long-term dry good storage protection. They provide excellent protection from physical damage, and they have a superior oxygen barrier and seal.
A good choice for LT food storage if you have access to a cannery or if you purchase foods pre-packaged for long-term storage.
Cons of #10 Cans
The only real cons are 1. expense and 2. availability.
- Lack of Availability: You may or may not have access to equipment to can yourself.
- Cost: You can purchase foods professionally packaged in #10 can, but it’s more expensive than bulk storage in Mylar bags and Food-pales.
#5 Plastic Soda Bottles (PETE Plastic)
- Pete bottles are free, reuse them instead of throwing them out.
- PETE bottles are excellent for dried foods you are rotating or storing short-term.
- Bottles have to be cleaned and sterilized
- PETE Bottles are clear and let in light, which oxidizes food.
- Plastic is not a true oxygen barrier, so the maximum shelf life of foods is diminished.
- Thin PETE plastic won’t hold up to rodents.
- They are a pain to fill
#6. Ball Jars
Pros: Glass Jars for long-term Storage
- An excellent way to store food long-term if you want small manageable portions.
- Excellent oxygen barrier.
- Good for low-volume items, foods you are currently using, and over-flow that won’t fit in larger containers.
Cons: Glass Jars for Long-term Storage
- Glass lets in light, which speeds up light oxidation of food.
- Dry goods stored in jars should be stored in a light-free area or covered.
- Ball Jars are delicate and break easily.
Kill Bugs In Dry Foods
When dry foods like white rice, wheat, and dried beans are repackaged into an oxygen-free container, you don’t need to freeze them before storage.
An oxygen-free environment kills bugs, pupae, and eggs within 2 weeks. There is no need to freeze staple foods before packaging if they are stored in an oxygen-free environment.
Freezing was the best option at one point, but with the advent of Oxygen absorbers freezing is outdated.
There is a risk of introducing moisture to stored grains and beans with freezing, so avoid it unless you have no option.
75° F or lower but above freezing. Avoid storing food outside, in a garage or shed, or next to hot appliances.
Moisture: Keep it bone dry. The dryer the better. If storing in a basement put containers on a pallet or guerilla rack to get them up off the floor.
Light: Light causes oxidation to all foods. When possible use opaque containers instead of transparent ones.
Insects and rodents: Protect foods from rodents by using oxygen-free containers and oxygen absorbers. Bugs, pupae, and eggs will be dead within 2 weeks in an O2-free environment. Use tough-sided containers to keep rodents away from Mylar and weak Pete bottles.
Supplies and Equipment
Mill, grinder, or food processor
Obtain a handmill, grinder, or food processor to mill wheat berries into flour. Grinding by grain manually is a lot of work, but electric mills don’t work when the grid is down so it’s best to have both.
Mylar bags, Food Grade Pales, and Oxygen Absorbers
Store materials for oxygen-free storage of dry foods.
Dry staples need water to prepare. Don’t forget to plan for the extra water requirement.
Stove Or Cooking Device:
Have a plan for how to cook when the power is out indoors and outdoors and in all types of weather and emergency.
Stockpile enough wood, charcoal, or propane to cook your meals
Learn how to make a bread starter from flour and water. No pre-packaged yeast is required.
I grew up cooking but as I get older I realize many younger folks don’t know how to cook from scratch. Learn the basics of cooking so you can prepare meals from Staple foods. The payback in quality and flavor is worth it.
Store condiments like soy sauce, salt, and sugar to enhance flavor and reduce palate fatigue.
Rotating Food Food Storage
Some of the foods in your emergency-food pantry will need to be rotated using something like the first-in, first-out rotation used by restaurants. It’s a pretty simple concept.
The oldest can of beans in your pantry is the next one you’ll eat.
Rotation is much easier if you follow the cardinal rule of food prepping, “Store what you eat.” If you do that, all you have to do is keep track of “Best Buy Dates.” and eat the oldest foods next.
Organize & Take Notes
If you are organized you can keep a notebook with all kinds of information to track food supplies. Such as
- type of product
- the amount in storage
- the best buy date on the food
This method doesn’t work for me. Maybe I’m unorganized.
My Food Rotation Method:
- Put like foods together.
- Put heavier foods towards the bottom.
- Store foods, so the oldest is towards the front.
- Use the Oldest Foods first.
- Keep a list of foods that are running low and replace them.
Most of the foods that you buy at the grocery store will require some kind of rotation as will the short-term foods you have for long-term storage such as oil for cooking, condiments, canned meat, soups, stews, vegetables, and fruit.
6 Reasons To Rotate 30-Year Staples
You don’t have to rotate foods with a 30-year shelf life, but it’s good practice. You learn a lot and save money by using the foods you’ll survive on.
- It saves money on your food budget because you’re using bulk foods
- Allows you to experiment with different cooking techniques
- You learn how to process and cook with bulk-foods and the equipment you need
- It helps you develop meal plans
- It helps you nail down what your family does and doesn’t like.
- Allows you to gauge how much water you need to store or process for cooking.
- Allows you to see flaws in packaging techniques and weak points in your long-term food storage.