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In addition to a well-stocked pantry, every family should stock up on the best food for long-term storage. Here's a list of the best survival foods with the longest shelf life to keep you fed and healthy during natural disasters, pandemics, job loss, and economic downturns. 

Food for long term storage.

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Why Everyone Needs Long-Term Food Storage

1. Emergency Preparedness 

Natural disasters, pandemics, and other emergencies can disrupt the food supply chains and access to grocery stores. Having a supply of non-perishable food ensures that you and your family can sustain yourselves during emergencies. 

Just think back to 2020! People were clearing the shelves and many stores were price gouging and taking advantage of the food shortages. If you had a small stockpile that could sustain your family through natural disasters and pandemics, you wouldn't feel pressured to panic buy or experience food scarcity. 

2. It Will Save You Money

Buying shelf stable foods in bulk during sales or from stores like Costco Wholesale can significantly reduce your annual grocery costs over time. And when stored properly and rotated through efficiently, these foods can sustain you for a very long time.

Check my top 17 Pantry Staples I Buy at Costco to Save Money.

3. Prepared for Job Loss

Job loss or other personal financial crises can really catch you off guard and change your financial situation overnight. A well-maintained food storage system and well-stocked pantry can provide a buffer during tough times and reduce the financial stress. Think of it as a second emergency fund in the form of food. 

If you have experienced income loss or other financial strife and need help filling in the gaps, visit your local food pantry. Anyone of any income level experiencing financial stress and food insecurity can visit most food pantries and food banks. 

Equipment You'll Need to Store Food Long-Term

Wallaby Goods 1 Gallon Mylar Bags.
  1. Mylar Bags with Oxygen Absorbers: This is by far my favorite method to package and keep foods in long-term storage. Mylar bags are really high quality storage containers and provide a strong barrier from light, moisture, and air, all of which can degrade food quality overtime. When paired with oxygen absorbers, the food inside them will last years. They are my go-to storage method for packing dry beans, legumes, oats, and rice.  
  2. Food-grade buckets with Gamma Lids: 5-gallon food grade buckets are great for storing large quantities of dry goods in one container. This is where I will keep dry goods we are currently rotating through. They're also great for storing opened pet food. Just throw in a few oxygen absorbers to help keep the food as fresh as possible.
  3. Can opener: You won't need a can opener for storing food, but you will need it for opening canned goods in your long term food storage. Especially if there is no electricity and you usually use an electric can opener. Any basic can opener will do! 
  4. Vacuum Sealer: If you use the mylar bags with oxygen absorbers you won't need a vacuum sealer (they are very similar!), but if you already have a vacuum sealer for freezing foods (I personally own both), a vacuum seal can be great for packaging long-term foods as it will significantly reduce the oxygen content. 
  5. Dehydrator: I've yet to invest in a dehydrator myself, but storing dehydrated foods is very popular for a number of reasons. Dehydration removes most of the moisture from food, which inhibits the growth of bacteria, yeast, and mold that cause food to spoil.

    Properly dehydrated and stored foods can last for years while retaining most of their nutritional content. Most importantly, you can dehydrate almost anything, including fruits, vegetables, protein, cooked rice, beans, as well as full meals, such as soups, stews, chili, oatmeal, pasta, and more! Simply add water and eat!
Mylar bags sealed with rolled oats and black beans.

How Much Food Should You Have on Hand Per Person?

The general recommendation is that each family should have enough food and water on hand to sustain each family member for 3 days (don't forget to include your pets!). Ideally, I think it's best to work up to storing enough food and water on hand to sustain you for 7 days. As a general rule of thumb, stock 1 gallon of water per day per person. 

For example, for my family, we would stock 9 gallons of water to be prepared for 3 days (this includes our pet). 

1. Salt and Spices

Spoon of salt with word salt written in spilled salt.

In an emergency or economic downturn, meals cooked without proper salt and spices would be very, very bland. Basic spices and herbs can dramatically improve the flavor of stored foods, making meals more enjoyable and varied. 

Salt and dried spices have a very long shelf life, when stored properly. Salt in particular can last indefinitely when kept away from sunlight and moisture. 

Best storage method: Keep in a dark, cool place in airtight containers (containers these ingredients come in is fine!) or store in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. Mylar bags can give the added benefit of keeping the salt and spices blocked from any light. 

2. Honey 

Honey.

Similar to using salt and spices to food, having a sweetener in your long term food storage is just as important. I recommend honey over other liquid sweeteners such as maple syrup because honey is one of the few foods that can last indefinitely (Crystallized honey is not bad or any less flavorful/effective. Simply warm to bring back to its liquid state and use as needed!). Honey also contains natural antibacterial and antifungal properties which can support your overall health during emergencies. 

Best storage method: Honey does not require special storage conditions beyond keeping it in a sealed container and out of direct sunlight. I recommend buying honey in bulk from Costco for long term food storage. 

3. Rice 

White Rice.

White rice can be used as a base in several meals (check out my favorite meals to serve with white rice here!) and when stored properly, can last for up to 30 years. Unlike brown rice, its low moisture content helps prevent spoilage and extends its shelf life significantly. 

Best storage method: ​Rice is best stored in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers or in 5-gallon food-grade buckets

Tip: Stock a combination of dry white rice and ready-made or dehydrated rice. During a natural disaster, you may not have the ability to cook dry white rice from scratch. If you have dehydrated rice on hand, you can simply add water and eat. 

4. Beans and Legumes

Cooked pinto beans.

Beans and legumes are one of the best sources of plant-based protein, making it a fantastic food to keep with your emergency supplies, especially for vegetarians and vegans. 

​Dried beans and legumes will keep for several years, or even decades when stored properly and can be used in a ton of different recipes (check my Bean Recipes here!). 

Best storage method: Dry beans and legumes are best stored in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers or 5-gallon food-storage buckets

Tip: In addition to keeping dry beans and legumes on hand, I highly recommend stocking a few types of canned beans. These are really helpful to have on hand when cooking is not an option and can be eaten straight out of the can. 

5. Oats 

Oats.

We like to keep rolled oats, instant oats, and oat groats (oats in their most unprocessed form) on hand. We use the oat groats to make homemade oat milk, rolled oats for basic cooking and baking, and instant oats to make instant oatmeal. 

Best storage method: ​Oats are best stored in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers or 5-gallon food-storage buckets. We also will often make instant oatmeal jars and divide between airtight glass mason jars for single servings. 

6. Oil and Vinegar

Vinegar.

Similar to spices, salt, and honey, keeping oil and vinegar on hand is great for all types of cooking and can greatly enhance the flavor of your meals. These two ingredients are great staples that you can use to make salad dressings, marinades, sauces, and homemade pickling recipes to boot! 

​Extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and vegetable oils will keep best in long term storage. Keep out of direct sunlight and buy in dark amber containers when possible. Buy these ingredients at Costco to save money! 

7. Peanut Butter

Peanut butter.

Peanut butter is a rich source of plant-based protein, healthy fats, and essential vitamins and minerals. It requires minimal processing to make and does not spoil easily, making it great for long-term storage. 

Peanut butter can also be used for more than making peanut butter sandwiches. It's great to use in smoothies, oatmeal, baking recipes, sauces, dressings, and dips!

Best storage method: Keep in a dark place directly in the jars it's sold in with the seal intact. 

8. Pasta

Different types of pasta.

​Like white rice, pasta makes a fantastic base for a number of recipes and can keep for YEARS when stored properly. I recommend stocking your basic white pasta over fancier plant-based pasta brands or whole wheat pasta as it will keep much longer. 

Best storage method: ​Store in a dry, cool place in the containers the pasta is sold in, or transfer to mylar bags with oxygen absorbers for prolonged freshness. 

9. White Flour 

White flour.

White, unbleached all-purpose flour is a fantastic item to keep in your long-term food storage. When stored properly it will last for 2-3 years and can be used to make several types of baked goods, breads, naan and is also great for thickening sauces, gravies, soups, and casseroles! 

It can also be used to make a sourdough starter, so you can cook infinite loaves of fresh bread from scratch with just 3 basic ingredients: white flour, water and salt!

I got a sourdough starter from a friend and use it to make this No-Knead Sourdough Bread Recipe!

Best storage method: Since white flour only lasts for 2-3 years, I typically buy it in bulk and store it in a large, airtight glass container. I will put the expiration date on the bottom of the jar and make sure I rotate through efficiently. 

10. Canned Goods

Basic canned goods.

​Canned goods have a long shelf life, often ranging from one to five years or more, depending on the product and storage conditions. Canning preserves food by sealing it in airtight containers and heating it to destroy any microorganisms. Canning also preserves the nutritional value, making it a great source of essential nutrients during a financial or natural disaster. 

I recommend storing a wide variety of canned goods so you don't get bored. Try to incorporate a range of canned fruits, vegetables, protein, beans, soups, tomato sauce, chili, and more. 

​11. Water 

Water jugs.

It can be easy to focus on stocking emergency food and forget all about water. But fresh, drinkable water is essential. Again, I recommend storing 1 gallon of water per person per day. Don't forget to include your pets! 

12. Pet Food 

Dog food.

Don't forget your pets! Keep an appropriate amount of dry and/or wet pet food on hand to sustain your pet for at least 7 days. 

  • Dried fruit (great to buy in bulk at Costco
  • Baking powder and baking soda (great if you love baking!)
  • Powdered milk (We don't stock this because we are lactose intolerant. However, I am considering adding powdered coconut milk to ours! I just saw some at Grocery Outlet at a major discount)
  • Freeze-dried foods (similar to dehydrated foods)
  • Beef jerky
  • Instant Coffee

Helpful Tips to Get Started

  • Buy foods you will actually enjoy eating. One of the biggest mistakes people make when starting a long term food storage stockpile is stocking foods they don't like. For example, beans are a HUGE staple in ours. But if you hate eating beans, it makes no sense to keep it on hand for emergencies just because it's one of the longest-lasting foods. When it comes down to it, you won't want to eat it. Make sure all food items you add is something you actually enjoy. 
  • Stock a variety. ​The best food storage is well-balanced and varied. Make sure you can make a variety of meals with what you have. You don't want to be stuck eating peanut butter out of the jar for days to survive. 
  • Rotate efficiently. ​Many of the foods on my list can be stored for YEARS if not indefinitely. But there are a few items, such as canned goods and flour that should be rotated through so it does not spoil. Keep a spreadsheet to keep track of when foods go bad and make sure to factor them into your meal plan as needed to prevent food waste. 
  • Stock up slowly. ​Don't feel the pressure to go out today and spend thousands of dollars starting a long-term food storage. Instead, add 1-2 items to your grocery shopping each week and stock up over months. 
  • Use Ibotta to find deals. In addition to stocking up slowly, I recommend using money saving apps like Ibotta to find cash back on items you can add to your food storage.
  • Do not store your long-term food in the garage. Unless your garage is temperature controlled, it is not wise to store food in the garage. The temperature fluctuates widely and can cause food to spoil significantly faster. Instead, keep your food storage in a cool, dry basement, or somewhere else in your house where the temperature does not fluctuate so severely. We keep ours in the closet in our second bedroom. 
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