When everything finally hits the fan, it won’t be long until you begin to see the effects of food shortage. Grocery stores will be forced to lock up their doors and those who didn’t prepare will soon find themselves with nothing to eat.
Maybe you’ll be able to wait in line every day to receive a small serving of food from FEMA, but you know best that you can’t always rely on the government to be there to save the day. This is why it’s important to prepare ahead and start building a food storage of your own. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as buying a bunch of rice and beans and calling it a day.
A proper food storage should instead have a wide variety of options to choose from. This way you’ll always have some diversity in your diet to help you avoid getting appetite fatigue – a mental block where you can no longer eat a certain type of food after consuming it too much. This is especially important if you have children or elderly in your family, as they’re much more likely to give up on eating altogether if their diet becomes too bland and monotonous.
So what are the best survival foods for long-term storage?
Let’s find out.
Best Foods for Long Term Storage
When buying food for long-term storage, you need to make sure to buy food that you’re actually going to eat.
Having a lot of diversity in your food supply is great and all, but if you hate the taste of everything you have – you’re still going to get appetite fatigue. So while Spam and Vienna sausage may be cheap, steer clear of buying anything you wouldn’t actually consume on a regular basis.
A better option is to instead follow the famous saying “store what you eat, and eat what you store”. This means that a majority of the food you have stored away is food that you’re actually going to eat on a regular basis.
Now you can still add food to your storage that you don’t normally eat, but you need to begin incorporating it into your diet if you do. This will not only help keep the food in your storage from going bad but will also teach you how to effectively cook with everything you have.
You can further ensure your long-lasting foods don’t go bad by rotating your food supply, but we’ll talk more about this another time. For now, let’s discuss the best types of survival food to add to your long-term storage.
Best Protein for Long Term Storage
When times get tough, it’s essential that you must have enough protein in your diet. Protein is responsible for building and repairing every cell in your body, including (but not limited to) your bones, cartilage, muscle tissue, skin, hair, nails, and virtually every other part of your body. Furthermore, protein is also used for the production of vital hormones and enzymes, as well as to help support your immune system.
Beans are one of the best sources of protein you can buy for LTS (Long Term Storage) because they’re cheap, healthy, and have an extremely long shelf life. Aside from being high in protein, beans are also high in fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins, copper, zinc, iron, magnesium, and potassium.
While the vitamins and minerals in beans are great for your health, fiber is what comes in handy in times of need. This is because food that’s high in fiber is extremely filling and even works to keep your digestive system running smoothly.
If you’re unsure what kind of beans to buy for storage, then it’s important you do your research beforehand. This will help you get an idea of what kind of meals you can make while using limited ingredients.
Lentils, black beans, navy beans, pinto beans, and lima beans are all great for long-term storage, but there are many other types of beans out there as well.
A great way to add a large variety of meat to your food storage is to buy canned meat. You can buy canned chicken, beef, ham, tuna, salmon, sardines, and even “mystery meat” (such as Spam and Vienna sausages). All canned meat comes pre-cooked as well, so you can eat it straight out of the can with no problems whatsoever – great for when cooking isn’t ideal.
You’ll generally find that canned meat comes with a “best by” date that’s around 3 – 5 years in the future, but this date is typically false. Instead, you can expect to get a shelf life of around 10+ years from your canned meats if stored in a dark and cool location. Although the taste and texture will change long before the meat goes bad.
You can even can your meat through a process known as “canning”, but we’ll discuss this process more at another date and time.
If you don’t mind spending the extra money then you can’t go wrong with freeze-dried meats. Anything freeze-dried has an incredibly long shelf life (25+ years) and is extremely light as well (great for bugging out).
This is because the freeze-drying process extracts virtually all of the water out of food. Not only does this reduce the weight of food significantly, but it also helps to prevent food from growing mold or decomposing.
While peanut butter may not be the best food for long-term storage, it’s a great way to add some flavor to your diet. Peanut butter is also a great survival food because it keeps you feeling full and satiated – which is much needed when food is scarce.
Peanut butter is also a great source of healthy fats and even comes with a small amount of fiber to help keep your digestive system running smoothly. However, because peanut butter only has an average shelf life of 2-3 years, you’ll have to eat it somewhat often to include it as part of your food storage.
TVP – Textured Vegetable Protein
TVP (textured vegetable protein) is essentially a soy protein product that contains no fat and is often used by vegans or vegetarians as a way to add protein to their diet. It can also be combined with other meats to lower the cost of each meal, as it’s much cheaper than traditional meat from an animal.
Be warned though, the taste of TVP is not for everybody, so you might want to buy a small amount to begin with. Now if you don’t mind the taste and texture of TVP, then it’s a great idea to add some to your long-term food storage.
Textured vegetable protein is not only affordable, but it also comes with an extremely long shelf life when kept in an airtight container (without oxygen) and stored in a dark, dry and cool location. However, once TVP is rehydrated it will only last up to 5 days if stored in a refrigerator, and up to 2 months if frozen in an airtight container.
Best Carbohydrates for Long Term Storage
Carbohydrates are mainly used to provide energy for your body, but they also help with your overall brain function. Whole-grain foods also contain a type of carbohydrate known as fiber, which is essential for your digestive health.
One of the best carbohydrates you can buy for long food storage is rice. It’s low in cost, has a high amount of calories, and is even a great source of nutrition. However, not all rice comes with a long shelf life. Brown rice, in particular, manages to go rancid fairly quickly due to the oils it contains in its natural bran layer.
Because of this, white rice is often the most recommended type of rice for LTS due to its long shelf life (25-30 years if stored correctly). Other types of rice that are good for LTS include jasmine, basmati, arborio, kalijira, and wild rice.
If you’re worried about the amount of nutrition you lose by switching from brown to white rice, then you may want to consider buying parboiled rice. This type of rice contains 80% of the nutritional value of brown rice, while still maintaining the longevity of white rice. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t buy brown rice, but if you do you want to make sure to eat it often so it doesn’t go bad.
Pasta is a great carb source to store away because it’s relatively cheap and you can combine it with other types of food to make a complete and nutritious meal. Pasta is also extremely filling and tastes amazing if prepared properly.
We recommend storing away pasta such as angel hair and couscous as they cook much faster than other kinds. If stored properly, you can expect a shelf life of 25-30 years.
Another great carb source that will be highly valued when SHTF is potatoes. While a regular potato may have somewhat of a short shelf life, you can greatly extend its lifespan by either canning them or making/buying dehydrated potato flakes. Another good way to store potatoes long-term is to buy instant mashed potatoes and/or dehydrated potato slices.
Just make sure to take the dehydrated potato products out of their regular packaging so you can store them in an airtight container (such as mylar) with an O2 absorber. Dehydrated potato products should have a 5 – 10+ year shelf life if stored correctly.
While rice and beans may be great survival food, what’s the point in storing them if you can’t have some cornbread to go along with it? Okay, maybe it won’t be the end of the world without cornbread, but with the wide variety of different foods, you can make with cornmeal (hush puppies, fried fish, polenta) it definitely deserves a place in your food storage.
However, because cornmeal only has a limited shelf life (10-15 years if stored properly) you may want to consider buying plain popcorn in bulk and grinding it into cornmeal with a grain mill. This is because popcorn will have an indefinite shelf life if stored in a cool and oxygen-free environment. You can also do the same with dent corn or “field corn” as it’s often called. Dent corn can last up to 25+ years if stored properly.
If you don’t want to give up eating bread once SHTF, then you’re going to need to add some whole wheat to your storage. Whole wheat can be used to cook food such as biscuits, muffins, cereal, pancakes, cookies, and plenty more.
While whole wheat flour may have a rather short shelf life, you can always buy wheat berries instead and make your own whole wheat flour with a grain mill. By doing so, you’ll have flour that is much more nutritious than the kind you would buy at a store. This is because “wheat flour loses 40% of its vitamin content in the first 24 hours after milling and 85-90% after 2-3 more days”, according to Kitchen Stewardship.
Another benefit of buying wheat berries is that they will last indefinitely if stored correctly. Heck, they even found wheat berries in the Egyptian pyramids that still managed to sprout.
Just make sure to do some research on the different types of whole wheat (hard red, soft red, hard white, and soft white) before making a purchase. This way you ensure that you’re buying the right type of whole wheat for what you plan on cooking. Hard red and hard white are my personal favorites.
Barley is another type of grain that is great for storage as it can be used as an alternative in foods that normally call for pasta or rice – giving you even more variety in your diet once SHTF. Recipes that typically call for barley include soups, stews, casseroles, pilafs, hot cereal, bread, and anything that could use a meat extender.
The two main types of barley are hulled barley (only the outermost hull is removed) and pearled barley (has husk and bran layers removed). While hulled barley may be the more nutritious of the two, it has a much shorter shelf life than pearled barley (maximum shelf life of 10 – 15 years versus 1 – 2 years).
Oatmeal is a great food for survival purposes because it has more soluble fiber than any other type of grain. This soluble fiber will help keep you satiated and suppress your appetite for extended periods of time.
When it comes to oatmeal, there are a few different types you can buy – steel cut oats, rolled oats, quick oats, and groats.
Groats are simply the whole oat with the hull removed. While groats may be the most nutritious type of oatmeal, they also take the longest amount of time to cook. Then you have steel-cut oats, which are essentially groats that have been cut into smaller pieces. This helps to reduce the amount of cooking time needed.
Rolled oats, however, are oats that have been steamed, rolled flat, and then cut into smaller pieces. This type of oatmeal will cook even faster than steel-cut and is typically used for baking. All three types of oats (steel cut oats, rolled oats, and groats) can last up to 15 – 20 years or more.
The last type of oatmeal (quick oats) may have a slightly shorter shelf life (10 – 15 years), but it does have the advantage of being able to cook in only a matter of minutes. This is because quick oats are rolled oats that have been rolled even thinner to further reduce the cooking time needed. The other downside of quick oats is that they’re processed to the point that they begin to lose some of their nutrition.
Even though quinoa (KEEN-wah) may be a little on the expensive side, it’s a great survival food to have around for when SHTF. This is because quinoa is rich in protein, fiber, and many other important vitamins and minerals.
Quinoa is also considered to be a complete protein source, meaning that it contains all nine of the essential amino acids that your body needs to survive. As a matter of fact, quinoa was considered a sacred crop by the Incas and was commonly referred to as the “mother of all grains”.
And while many believe quinoa to be a cereal grain, it’s actually what is known as a pseudo-cereal. This means that quinoa is technically considered a seed, even though it’s prepared and eaten like all other grains. However, because quinoa is not an actual grain, it does have the benefit of being gluten-free and easier to digest.
You can expect quinoa to have a shelf life of 10 – 20+ years if stored under optimal conditions.
Best Fats for Long Term Storage
While fats may have gotten a bad rep over the years, having some fat in your diet (especially mono and polyunsaturated fats) is actually good for your health. Dietary fats give you energy, boost your immune system, protect your organs, support cell growth, and help your body to produce hormones. You even need a certain amount of fat in your diet just so your body can absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Fats are actually so important for your body that you can’t even exclude them from your diet without dying from rabbit starvation. So make sure to add some more fats to your food storage if you plan on living long after SHTF.
Eating nuts is a healthy way to add both fats and protein to your diet. Nuts are also a great snack for when the grid is down because they require absolutely no preparation to eat. Unfortunately, nuts have a high content of oil which causes them to go rancid rather quickly.
If you don’t mind eating nuts fairly often then we recommend storing almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans, and hazelnuts. While none of their shelf lives are extremely long (maximum 9-12 months past best by date), you can extend their shelf life by storing them in airtight containers in a freezer.
In order to ensure the longest shelf life possible, make sure to avoid buying any nuts that are salted. It’s also best to avoid buying nuts that are deshelled unless you plan on storing them in a refrigerator or freezer.
Peanut butter and peanut powder are also great ways to store fats as well, and they store even better than regular peanuts. The best way to keep nuts in your diet long-term, however, is to plant some nut-producing trees of your own.
While you would normally want to store seeds that are capable of growing food, you may want to consider storing some that are edible as well. Besides being a great source of healthy fats, seeds are also packed full of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Much like nuts, seeds also make the perfect snack when the grid is down because they require virtually no preparation to eat – unless you want to make flax meal. However, seeds also have a high oil content as well, so you can expect the shelf life of seeds to be rather short.
Sure, you could go ahead and throw your seeds in a refrigerator or freezer to extend their shelf life, but most edible seeds (sesame, flax, hemp, and sunflower seeds) will only last around a year past the expiration date at most.
Chia seeds, on the other hand, are known to have a little bit of a longer shelf life (4 – 5 years or more if frozen) and just so happen to be one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids – an essential fatty acid the body can’t produce naturally.
Chia seeds can also be used to make chia gel, which is essentially a small number of chia seeds mixed with water. Chia gel can then be used in many different ways, including as a substitute for eggs when baking.
Another way to get omega 3 fatty acids into your diet is to eat canned fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and albacore tuna. Canned fish that comes with oil is even available if you want an additional supply of healthy fats.
Besides fish, there are a few other types of canned meat you can buy that are high in fat as well (though not all are necessarily healthy). Some that you may want to try to include in your long-term storage include corned beef, Spam, and even canned bacon.
The best part about canned food (besides the long shelf life) is that you can eat it right out of a can anytime you’re hungry. Sure, it may taste better when it’s heated up, but if for some reason you don’t want to cook, or maybe you don’t have the fuel to cook, then you’ll be perfectly fine to eat the meal straight out of the can.
Cooking oils are edible fats (usually in liquid form) that can be used for frying, baking, and even to add extra flavor to a meal. Cooking oil will also be one of the easiest ways of adding fats to your diet once SHTF, so do yourself a favor and make sure to store some away.
The two cooking oils that I would recommend most are coconut and olive oil, as they’re both rich in healthy fats and have a reasonably long shelf life (as far as oils go). You can expect a possible shelf life of 2 – 3 years from extra-virgin olive oil, and up to 5 years or more from virgin coconut oil.
You can also greatly extend the shelf life of your oils by storing them in a refrigerator or freezer. You may find that olive oil becomes cloudy and solidifies after a while, but there’s no need to worry as this is perfectly normal. Just wait until the oil returns to room temperature then it will once again be ready to use.
For the absolute best shelf life possible, make sure to buy olive oil that’s in tinted glass or stainless steel.
Before the second half of the 20th century, lard (rendered pig fat) was the most popular cooking fat used in the United States. However, after coming out with Crisco, Procter & Gamble knew they needed a way to convince the American people to switch over from using lard, so they began marketing their partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil as a “healthier” alternative.
While we now know that the original Crisco was filled with trans fats that are bad for your health and clog your arteries, lard’s reputation has been tarnished for so long now that the damage is almost irreversible.
This is unfortunate as lard is much healthier than previously imagined, being both a great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and vitamin D. Lard is also one of the best fats you can use when cooking.
It has a high smoking point that makes it great for frying and its large fat crystals make it an effective shortening in baking as well. You can even spread it on bread in place of butter, or mix it with a few other ingredients to make bread itself.
Just make sure to avoid buying commercially produced lard at the grocery store as it’s filled with preservatives such as BHT that can be detrimental to your health. Instead, you would be better off checking your local butcher or buying lard online. You can even render your own lard if you can get your hands on some pig fat, but fair warning, you may want to consider rendering it outside as the smell can get pretty intense.
The only major downfall of lard is that it does have a relatively short shelf life, despite being high in saturated fats. Stored on the shelf it will only last up to a year at most, but when canned properly it could last you a few years. Freezing is another viable option for storage and will get you a similar lifespan to canning. You can then scoop some out of the freezer whenever you wish as lard doesn’t need to be defrosted.
If you plan on using lard when baking then make sure to buy leaf lard as it contains virtually none of the pork flavor. Leaf lard is also responsible for making some of the flakiest crusts when it comes to pies and pastries. This is because leaf lard is made from the soft fat surrounding the kidney and loin.
One of the best fat sources you can have stored away for when SHTF is cheese. And not just because it’s filled with nutrients such as Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, protein, calcium, and zinc, but because it simply tastes good.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to store any of the cheese you buy in the refrigerator section at your local grocery for very long. This is because there’s far too much moisture and not enough acidity in most commercial cheeses to prevent botulism from occurring.
No need to worry though, there are many other forms of cheese you can buy that are suitable for long-term storage. A few good examples would be freeze-dried cheese (5 – 25+ years), canned cheese (10 – 25+ years), and dry powdered cheese (5 – 10+ years). You can also wax your own cheese – or buy a wheel of waxed cheese – if you prefer, but unless it’s a hard cheese such as Cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or Asiago, it won’t really be worth the effort.
However, if you do insist on having some regular cheese after SHTF then you’ll need to make sure to store your waxed cheese in a cool, dark environment (preferably at a temperature of around 35° – 45°) in order to get as much shelf life as possible.
While butter has been wrongly accused of being an unhealthy source of fat for decades, science has now proven that butter is healthy if consumed in small amounts. Butter is also very high in calories, so it’s the perfect fat for survival situations.
Butter is also high in saturated fats, and even contains a fair amount of monounsaturated fats as well. Polyunsaturated fats are also present in minimal amounts, plus vitamins A, D, E, B12, and K2.
There are a few different ways you can store butter for long-term storage, the best two methods being dehydrated butter powder and commercially canned butter. Butter powder has a shelf life of 5+ years when unopened, and around 9 months or so once opened. Commercially canned butter such as Red Feather Butter has a listed shelf life of 2 years, but many preppers have stated that they’ve seen cans of butter lasts over a decade without going bad
Here’s a quote from Pleasanthillgrain.com that confirms the previous statement.
“How long does it last? Ballantyne says the product has a shelf life of “at least” two years, but that only reflects the possibility that the can itself could be compromised—which it could, but it won’t if it’s stored in a dry place because it’s a very high quality can. They also say the butter retains nutritional value well beyond that time frame. In actual practice, customers have found the product to be indiscernible from fresh butter after more than a decade of room-temperature storage! Pretty amazing.”
Many preppers even swear that canning butter at home is a good idea, but from my research, I wouldn’t take the risk. Since butter is mostly made from fats, storing butter at room temperature can easily lead to the formation of botulism. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to die just to eat some butter.
If you do want to extend the shelf life of regular butter then your best option is to freeze it. While regular butter typically has a shelf of 1 month after the “best by” date, freezing it can extend the shelf life to up to a year. The better you can prevent oxygen from reaching the butter, the longer it will last. Vacuum sealing can help with this process, but even vacuum bags don’t keep the air out for long.
Once removed from the freezer, the butter will typically last around 30 days before it starts to go bad.
Clarified butter is essentially butter that’s been melted and had all of its lactose and milk solids removed, either by skimming or straining. Ghee is when you take it one step further and remove all of the moisture as well. When most preppers talk about home “canning” butter, they’re typically referring to making clarified butter, although most refer to it as ghee.
Because ghee has all of its milk solids and moisture removed, it tends to have a longer shelf life than regular butter. Clarified butter has a somewhat of a long shelf life as well, but not quite as long as ghee.
Another advantage that ghee has over butter is that it’s digestible by people who are lactose intolerant. Ghee is also high in fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, and E, as well as Omega 3 and Omega 9 essential fatty acids. Ghee even contains a short-chain fatty acid called butyric acid, which is known to reduce inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.
The high smoke point (475°) of ghee makes it perfect for frying and sauteing, but it can also be used to add a buttery flavor to meals such as vegetables, popcorn, etc.
Now when it comes to the average shelf life of ghee, I have to admit there is a lot of conflicting information online. Most of the information states that store-bought ghee can last anywhere from 1 to 2 years if left unopened and stored in a dark, cool location. Once opened, it can last up to 4 months if it’s once again stored in a dark and cool location, and up to a year if stored in the refrigerator.
However, there is also plenty of information online that states that ghee can last indefinitely as long as it’s unopened and stored in a dark and cool location. Pepperqueen from Chowhound.com says “I have ghee in the fridge that is at least 6 or 8 years old and I am still using it. It still smells good and tastes good”.
She’s not the only one with this belief either. Many preppers believe that as long as you keep your ghee away from moisture and sunlight and keep the lid tightly closed, you’ll have nothing to worry about for the foreseeable future. You can also freeze your ghee if you want to extend the shelf life even further.
If you love eating bacon as much as I do, then I recommend you save your leftover bacon grease in a container and store it away for later. This is an ol’ southern trick I learned from my grandma, as she would always pour her leftover bacon grease in an old metal coffee container and leave it by the stove.
This way whenever she wanted some extra bacon grease to cook with, all she had to do was scoop out a spoonful and she was ready to go. Or she would simply leave it by the stove as she was cooking and eventually it would transform back into a liquid. Once this transition happened at 75° – 80° Fahrenheit, she could then drizzle it on whatever she was currently cooking.
One of the most common ways to cook with bacon grease is to use it as a 1:1 substitute for recipes that require vegetable oil or vegetable shortening. You can also use it as a 0.8:1 substitute for recipes that require butter. This is because 20% of butter is actually water, whereas bacon grease is 100% fat.
Now there’s a wide variety of ways to cook with bacon grease. You can use it to fry eggs, chicken, rice, or basically anything else you can think of. You can also use bacon grease to add flavor to cornbread, black-eyed peas, oven-roasted potatoes, refried beans, popcorn, and even pie crust! However, my favorite way to cook with bacon grease is to add it to vegetables such as brussel sprouts, asparagus, cabbage, kale, greens, etc.
Just make sure to use a strainer when pouring bacon grease into a container, as you want to make sure there are absolutely no particulates left behind in your grease. This will help ensure you get the most shelf life possible out of your bacon grease. To further extend the shelf life of bacon grease, I recommend keeping it refrigerated and its lid tightly sealed to prevent any moisture from getting inside the container.
But be warned, you have to let the grease return to room temperature before you pour hot grease into the container. Or at least simply wait until the grease cools down. Failure to do so will quickly transform your kitchen into a warzone, with grease flying everywhere and destroying everything in its path.
Not a good idea.
Best Nutrition for Long Term Storage
When creating a survival food list, it’s essential that you remember to store food that’s packed with vitamins and minerals. After all, the worst time to have a diet lacking in nutrition is right after a disaster situation.
In the event of a true disaster situation, not only will your body most likely be under a tremendous amount of stress, but you’re probably going to be exerting far more energy than normal. This is why a healthy diet is so important for preppers and survivalists. The last thing you want to happen when SHTF is to be sick or to have a body that isn’t functioning properly.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to be a vegan or anything like that, but both your body and your brain would benefit from introducing a small amount of fruit or vegetables into your diet. Just consuming a small amount of nutritious food will be better than eating absolutely nothing healthy at all.
Some of the benefits of eating a healthy diet include better sleep and digestion, a boosted immune system, increased energy, improved mood and memory, stronger teeth and bones, and a reduced risk of cancer, heart diseases, diabetes, stroke, etc. And while it’s important to eat a healthy diet filled with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants all the time, it’s even more important in a survival situation.
Canned Fruit and Vegetables
The easiest and most affordable way to store fruit and vegetables long-term is by storing them in a can. You can either buy canned fruit and vegetables from the grocery store, or you can preserve your own fruit or veggies by canning them yourself.
Canned fruit and vegetables that are stored in a metal can always have the longest shelf life, but if you have your own garden then it might be a good idea to can some fruit or vegetables yourself. Just make sure to follow the proper guidelines when it comes to canning to ensure you get the longest shelf life possible.
The shelf life of canned fruit and vegetables can vary greatly, but this is what the USDA at ask.usda.gov has to say – “High acid foods such as tomatoes and other fruit will keep their best quality for up to 18 months; low acid foods such as meat and vegetables, 2 to 5 years. If cans are in good condition (no dents, swelling, or rust) and have been stored in a cool, clean, and dry location, they will be safe indefinitely”.
There was even a study done by the FDA where they found a large number of canned goods from the year 1865 that sank to the bottom of the Missouri River in the steamboat Bertrand. They didn’t find the sunken steamboat till 1968, and when they finally opened the canned goods they found that all of them were still edible. Even over 100 years later!
Here’s an excerpt that was written by the FDA – “Among the canned food items retrieved from the Bertrand in 1968 were brandied peaches, oysters, plum tomatoes, honey, and mixed vegetables. In 1974, chemists at the National Food Processors Association (NFPA) analyzed the products for bacterial contamination and nutrient value. Although the food had lost its fresh smell and appearance, the NFPA chemists detected no microbial growth and determined that the foods were as safe to eat as they had been when canned more than 100 years earlier”.
Today you’re going to learn the most important survival food to have in your long-term storage – SPROUTS! A sprout is any type of seed, bean, lentil, or nut that is currently in the process of sprouting.
Sprouts are packed full of live enzymes, amino acids, antioxidants, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making it the perfect food to consume in a survival situation. In fact, the health benefits you receive from eating sprouts are more beneficial than the benefits you would receive from eating the plant at any other time during its life cycle.
Another reason that sprouts should be an essential part of your long-term storage is because of how easy it is to “cook”. All that’s required to begin the sprouting process is water, seeds, and a container to germinate them in. This whole process can take anywhere from 2 to 3 days on average, to 5 to 7 days at most. Whereas some seeds such as Quinoa can even sprout in as little as twelve hours!
The best way to store seeds to achieve the longest shelf life possible is to store your seeds inside of a freezer, preferably in a mylar bag that’s been vacuum-sealed. However, you can also extend the shelf life of your seeds by storing them in a dark, cool location, but if you store them inside of a freezer then you can expect the shelf life to double. Unfortunately, you should never store your seeds meant for sprouting inside of a refrigerator. The constant fluctuation of humidity can actually shorten the lifespan of your seeds.
Now when it comes to deciding what seeds to add to your long-term storage, I recommend choosing sprouts that you think will taste best, have a long shelf life, and possibly even grow in your area. This way you can maybe grow your seeds for food or create more seeds to sprout in the future. My favorite sprouts would be Alfalfa, Mung Beans, Broccoli Sprouts, and Lentils. Here’s an extensive list of seeds that can be sprouted and their average shelf life at 70°F and 70% humidity.
If you’re new to sprouting seeds, I recommend that you buy a variety pack of sprouting seeds such as this one (link goes to Amazon.com) to help you get an idea of what type of sprouts you like to eat. This Basic Sprouting Guide will also help to teach you everything you need to know to sprout seeds by yourself.
Long before preppers were stockpiling their pantries full of food for long-term storage, our ancestors were drying (commonly referred to as dehydrating) their food out in the sun to increase its lifespan and reduce its overall weight and size. Fortunately, you no longer have to lay your food out in the sun as our ancestors did. All you have to do now is purchase a dehydrator and you can extend the lifespan of your food from the safety of your home.
But what exactly is a dehydrator and what does it do?
To keep things simple, a dehydrator is simply a device that circulates heat in an enclosed space to slowly remove moisture from the food inside (can be used for fruit, herbs, meat, nuts, or vegetables). Removing moisture from food helps slow down the growth of bacteria which both increases its shelf life and reduces its overall weight and size.
This means you can store a large amount of food in a small space, which is perfect if you want to build a prepper pantry for LTS but are limited on space for storage. The only major downside of dehydrated food is that it requires both water and energy to prepare. The taste and texture of the food will also be altered a little bit, but it’s a small price to pay if you want the extra shelf life and reduction in size and weight.
Some of the best vegetables for long-term storage include beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collard greens, corn, green beans, kale, mushrooms, onions, peas, peppers, spinach, turnips, and zucchini. This list of veggies is by no means the only vegetables you can dehydrate either, they’re just some of the veggies that I’ve bought or dehydrated in the past.
The average shelf life of dehydrated vegetables is 6 to 12 months if stored correctly (airtight container in a cool, dark location). The recommended temperature to store dehydrated vegetables is around 70°F, but you can extend the shelf life even further if you store your dried veggies at a lower temperature. The average shelf life of dehydrated vegetables is 12 to 18+ months in the refrigerator and 24+ months in the freezer.
To get the best shelf life possible for your dehydrated veggies, you need to store them in an airtight container such as a mason jar, vacuum-sealed bag, or mylar bag. You should also place an oxygen absorber in the container to extend the shelf life even further. Less oxygen = less chance of bacteria growing.
Now if you want dried vegetables that have an extremely long shelf life for long-term storage, then I recommend you skip buying the dehydrator altogether and instead purchase your dehydrated vegetables in a #10 can from companies such as Augason Farms, Rainy Day Foods, or Honeyville. The combination of dehydrated food with a #10 can will give you an extremely long shelf life (25 to 30+ years) that would be hard to duplicate on your own.
If you have stored your own dried vegetables then don’t be afraid to leave a comment below telling me what your experience has been so far. I would love to hear from more people that have experience dehydrating fruit, meat, or vegetables for long-term storage.
Everyone knows that having fruit in your diet is highly beneficial for your health, yet so many preppers don’t include fruit as a part of their long-term storage. This is a common mistake that should be avoided as fruit is one of the best survival foods that money can buy.
The reason fruit is such a great food for survival purposes is because it’s packed with antioxidants, essential vitamins/minerals, and fiber. The antioxidants are great for lowering blood pressure, increasing cognitive function, improving brain memory, and many more beneficial reasons. The vitamins and minerals are great for improving your overall health. And the fiber is great for improving the function of your digestive system.
Fruit is also high in natural sugar, so it’s a great snack to have around when you inevitably get tired of eating rice and beans. The only problem with having fruit in your LTS is that it’ll all go bad in under a month’s time. Of course, you can always buy canned fruit or even frozen fruit, but my favorite option for LTS would be to buy (or dry your own) dehydrated fruit or freeze-dried fruit.
Fun fact: If you (or your kids) ever leave a bag of potato chips open, you can simply toss them in your dehydrator until they are crisp again!
The average shelf life of dehydrated fruit is supposed to be twice as long as vegetables, but this is only true for fruit that you dehydrate yourself. Dried fruit that you buy online or from the store will typically have about the same shelf life as dried veggies, and in some cases even less. You can expect a shelf life of 6 to 12 months if stored in a dark, cool location and 12 to 18 months if stored in a refrigerator. Of course, a much longer shelf life can be achieved if the moisture level is low enough and if it’s stored in an airtight container with O2 absorbers and placed in a dark, cool location such as a fridge or freezer.
If you do plan on dehydrating fruit on your own, then you need to be aware that some fruit such as apples, pears, peaches, pineapples, and bananas are prone to oxidation and may require pretreatment to prevent browning and lengthen shelf life.
There are many different ways to pretreat dried fruit, but the best way that I’ve found is to place your prepared fruit in a mixture of water and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) for 3 to 5 minutes before dehydrating. You can buy vitamin C in powdered or tablet form from the drugstore or grocery store. Here’s a great guide that discusses the pretreatment of dried fruit in-depth.
Some of the best dehydrated fruits are apples, bananas, blueberries, cherries, kiwis, peaches, tomatoes, strawberries, mangos, pineapples, and grapes. Once again, this list is by no means complete and there are many other fruits but you can dehydrate and place in your long-term storage.
Freeze-Dried Fruit and Vegetables
The best type of food for long-term storage is freeze-dried food. The second best is dehydrated food.
Freeze-dried food is better than dehydrated food for long-term storage because it comes with a lower moisture level and therefore a longer shelf life. While freeze-drying reduces 98-99% of the water from food, dehydration only reduces 90-95% of water. Freeze-dried food also retains more vitamins and minerals (except vitamin C), has better taste and appearance, and doesn’t require cooking to prepare (only water). The only downside is that it’s more expensive.
The process of freeze-drying can be broken down into 3 simple steps:
- Freeze: The temperature inside the freeze dryer is lowered to -40° to -50° Fahrenheit, causing all of the food inside to freeze.
- Vacuum: After the food is frozen, the atmospheric pressure inside the chamber is then lowered with a vacuum pump. With the reduced pressure inside the chamber, all of the ice molecules inside of the food will transform into a gas instead of a liquid whenever heat is added. This process is known as sublimation.
- Dry: Heat is slowly added to the trays until the ice begins to reach the point where it would normally melt. However, since liquid water can’t exist in an environment with such a low atmospheric pressure, the ice molecules will instead transform directly into a vapor. Over time, most of the water will evaporate out of the food until there is only 1-2% of moisture left behind.
The end product is essentially the same as dehydrated food (only better) so it should be stored in a similar manner. Simply keep your freeze-dried fruit and vegetables in the airtight container they come in and store them in the darkest, coolest place you can find. Don’t worry about storing your freeze-dried fruit and veggies in the refrigerator though, as they have such a long shelf life it wouldn’t be worth the extra fridge space. Just make sure the temperature around your freeze-dried goods doesn’t exceed 75°F and you will be sure to get the recommended shelf life on the label.
Complete Meals for Long Term Storage
Sometimes it can be nice to sit the whole family down and make everyone a nice home-cooked meal, but sometimes you may just want to be lazy and eat a complete meal that’s ready to go such as a soup or an MRE (Meals Ready to Eat).
Created in 1975 by the US military, MRE’s were designed to replace the MCI rations (Meal, Combat, Individual rations) that were commonly used throughout WWI and WWII. The main reason for the change is because the United States wanted a ready-to-eat meal that was lighter, more affordable, easier to carry, and more nutritious than the previously used MCI’s.
Unfortunately, MRE’s are only supposed to be sold to the US military, so getting your hands on an actual MRE that isn’t already near its expiration date can sometimes be easier said than done. Now there are ready-to-eat meals you can purchase that are similar to MRE’s, but you’ll have to do your research and maybe some taste testing to find a company you particularly care for. Some companies that I would recommend trying are Rothco, Western Frontier, and XMRE.
Now the average shelf life of MRE’s is somewhere between 3-5 years, but they can last up to 10 years if stored in a dark, cool location, and even longer if frozen. However, I wouldn’t recommend spending too much money on MRE’s for long-term storage, but I will admit they do come in handy in certain situations.
Personally, I have a couple of cases stored away in case an emergency ever happens and I need to grab food quickly and get out the door. Instead of grabbing some form of protein, carbohydrate, and fat, you can just grab an MRE and you’re good to go. Ready-to-eat meals typically come with a main course, side dish, dessert, candy, sauce or seasoning packet, powdered drink mix, coffee, flameless heater, and accessories such as a spoon, match, creamer, sugar, salt, chewing gum, etc.
The main reason I wouldn’t recommend buying too many MRE’s is that they can be fairly expensive. Most companies charge anywhere from $10-$13 per meal, and that’s only if you buy them in bulk (12 per case). Eating a diet of nothing but MRE’s can also lead to gastrointestinal problems over time, plus they’re not designed to be healthy either. The taste could also use some improvement, but I guess it’s not that bad considering it’s an entire meal in a pouch.
Since canned food can last years beyond its expiration date, it’s not a bad idea to add some canned soup to your food storage. Since most canned soup comes with some form of meat, carbohydrate, and vegetable, it’s the perfect meal to eat all by itself.
And with such a wide variety of canned soup on the market, there’s bound to be at least a few different kinds of soup that you like to eat. There’s beef with vegetables, chicken noodle, chicken and sausage gumbo, chicken and dumplings, clam chowder, split pea with ham, steak and potato, and many more. There’s even soup that’s organic, vegetarian, and even gluten-free.