Prepare with foods that last longer

Long-term food storage is comprised of shelf-stable foods that can last for 10 to 30 years in storage. Shelf stable foods contain 10% or less moisture, a pre-requisite for long term storage. There are different storage options to choose from and different requirements for each. Read on to learn more about this important part of emergency preparedness.

Dry Bulk Food

What is dry bulk?

Dry bulk items consist of baking ingredients needed to create meals from scratch. Dry foods that we see in our pantry are typically the best and easiest types of foods to store and typically provide excellent nutrition if stored properly. This type of storage can be intimidating but most people already know how to cook some of the most popular dry bulk items like rice and pasta. So, if you are comfortable with this type of cooking, dry bulk is a very smart addition to your long-term food storage plan. Remember, water must be factored in.


wheat, wheat berries, rice, beans, pasta, oats, split pea, potato flakes, lentils, barley, quinoa, flax seed

Things to first consider

Your ability

Know what you are getting into with this option – grinding wheat is not for everyone. You must know how to use the foods you are storing. Is there another type of storage that suits your skillset or patience?


Do you have recipes for the food you are going to store? If you don't, it will take time to gather them. Unless you have the recipes in your head, it's a helpful to store different types of recipes to guide the preparing of your bulk storage.

Pre-storage prep

This type of storage requires preparation with mylar bags, etc. Would purchasing food that already comes this way be easier for you even though it may cost more?

Other things you will need to store

Additional food items

When cooking from bulk food storage you will need to have other ingredients on hand to add to your scratch recipes. These include items like oils & fats, sugar, salt, corn starch, baking soda, and baking powder. All of these come with their own shelf life and storage requirements as well.


If you are storing wheat, you will want to store a wheat grinder and a non-electrical way of grinding your wheat for no-electricity situations. Also, you will need a fuel and heat source to cook with.


Bulk Dry: If stored properly, can be stored for 25 to 30 years.

Oils & Fats: Long-term storage of fats is not possible. In general, fats typically have a recommended shelf life of 1-2 years, depending on storage conditions. You want to keep your fats and oils in a cool, dark, dry place, and have a backup sealed for as long as possible. Keep a rotating stock using the FIFO method.

Dehydrated & Powdered Foods

What is dehydrated & powdered food?

Dehydrated food is created simply by removing the food’s moisture at very high temperatures. Food shrivels in size as the moisture is removed, about 95% of the water is removed in vegetables and 80% in fruits. This allows for more food to be stored in less space.


fruits, vegetables, eggs, cheese, milk, butter, meat, texturized vegetable protein, honey, cocoa, peanut butter

Things to first consider

While the convenience makes this type of food worth storing, know the following:

  • The heat required to dehydrate food affects both taste and nutrition, removing up to 25% of its nutritional value.
  • If you have picky eaters, they may not like it as much as other food storage options.
  • This needs to be rotated sooner than other long-term foods.
  • There are different types of dehydrated foods, so shelf life varies.
  • Depending upon the distributor, you may have to package for long term storage yourself.

Other equipment needed

Most dehydrated foods require water and cooking so remember to store the following:

  • water for cooking - research the water needs of the food you store and factor it in accordingly
  • a heat-source
  • fuel for that heat source


If packaged and stored properly, dehydrated food can store for 10-20 years with exceptions (like fruit with a 6-months to 1 year shelf life). Powdered food tends to have a shorter shelf-life ranging 1 to 5 years (sometimes longer) when packaged and stored properly.

Freeze-Dried Food

Freeze-dried food is hands down the most widely purchased long term emergency food storage on the market today. There have been a lot of changes and improvements made to it over the years. It's improved taste, ease of use by just adding water, and long storage life make it popular amongst prepping enthusiasts.

What is freeze-dried food?

Freeze-dried food is created by using high-end technology that zaps the moisture out of food quickly. During this process, 98% of the water is removed, reducing the food’s weight by about 90%. It freezes the food’s original flavor, allowing it to taste fresh. It retains the food’s color, form, size, and texture and retains 99% of the vitamins, nutrients, and enzymes of the original. Water must be added back to make the food edible.


fruits, vegetables, cheeses, eggs, meats, texturized vegetable protein, meals ready to eat including entrees, side dishes, desserts & snacks

Source: My Patriot Supply

Why this option is popular

This type of food storage is popular because it's just easy. You can order freeze-dried food in any way that suits your liking. Cans can be ordered as part or full meals / just add water, stir, and wait 7 minutes. Different cans of freeze-dried ingredients can be mixed to create new dishes. An added bonus is that vegetarians have many TVP options to choose from.

One of the biggest advantages is that purchases come ready to place in storage. There is no need to DIY as with bulk and some dehydrated foods.

Source: My Patriot Supply

Things to first consider

This option costs more money. But there are ways to pay less.

  • The best way to get your money’s worth is to purchase the #10 cans.
  • Purchasing by the case will save you even more on your investment.
  • Not all companies have your best interest at heart. Do your homework and buy with serving size and calorie count in mind, or it will cost you even more.

If eaten frequently, freeze-dried food may cause constipation.

  • Play it safe and store some type of OTC med to treat this condition should it happen to someone in your family.

Other equipment needed

Freeze-dried items need supplies from which to heat and prepare. Remember to store:

  • enough water for mixing - critical!
  • a heat source if you want it heated, though not required
  • fuel for that heat source


If stored properly, freeze-dried food can store for 20 to 25 years. Keep in the packaging the food is shipped in.

Packaging Your Food For Long-Term Storage

Moisture and oxygen are enemies to long term storage. Proper packaging for long term storage will help keep both away from your stored food. Remember, only food with 10% or less moisture is suitable for the following packaging. Here are some popular packaging options.

Mylar Pouches

The mylar pouch has long been a mainstay for long term packaging. The outside foil layer protects against oxygen and moisture. The inside layer is made of food grade plastic.

Additional items needed: oxygen absorbers, heat-sealing source, 5-gallon bucket or other tightly sealed container.

Source: Sorbent Systems

#10 Metal Cans

The second best are metal cans as they have a near-zero oxygen transfer rate if they are made for food and are lined with food-grade enamel. #10 cans are the most common. The cans are relatively inexpensive but tend to be very hard to find as of late. They cannot be reused like other containers but are great for storing food up to 30 years.

Additional item needed: 1 300cc oxygen absorber per can

Glass Jar with 2-piece lid

All glass jars with a tight sealing lid can be used for long-term food storage. The popular Mason-type canning jars provide an excellent oxygen barrier, and they are widely available. You can also use a vacuum sealer with a lid attachment for extra protection. Be sure the jars are thoroughly cleaned before using them for food storage.

Additional item needed: 1 300cc oxygen absorber per jar

Source: 02frepak

Oxygen Absorbers

The use of oxygen absorbers greatly prolongs the shelf life of stored food. Because it absorbs the oxygen from the container, it inhibits the growth of aerobic pathogens and molds. An oxygen absorber is not edible, not toxic, and does not affect the smell and taste of the food you are storing. How many do you need? Here are some examples.

  • 1-gallon mylar bag: use 1 to 2 300cc
  • 5-gallon mylar bag: use 5 to 7 300cc or 1 2000cc

Heat Sealer

The mylar pouch needs to be sealed with some type of a heat source. Heat clamps are sold specifically for mylar pouches, but home curling irons and hair straighteners work just as well so if you already have one, you're good to go. It takes just a few seconds to create the seal. Make sure to get as much air out of the pouch as possible before sealing.

Source: e Package Supply

5-Gallon Bucket

Mylar storage: Because rodents can chew through mylar, you must place all sealed mylar pouches inside some form of sealed plastic container. It does not have to be 5-gallons or even food grade but must have a lid with a very tight seal.

Dry bulk storage: If you are placing dry bulk directly inside a plastic container, it must be food grade and 5-gallon buckets work perfectly.

Before any food is to be stored, clean the containers with soapy water, rinse and dry thoroughly.

Storage Conditions

Once you have invested your time and money, this last step is vital to the success of your long-term storage. Pay close attention to temperature, the moisture level, and placement of your food storage.


The optimal temperature is in the cool to moderate range, approximately 40 to 70° F. Higher temps promote vitamin breakdown in all stored foods.


The humidity in the storage environment should be low. In areas of high environmental humidity, a dehumidifier may be needed. If dried foods pick up moisture from the storage area, mold, yeast, and bacteria can grow.


Store your packaged food at least 6 inches from the ground in a cool, dark place. Consider storing food in multiple locations.

What Not to Store

Here is a list of food not to include in your long-term storage. Many food items on this list are okay for medium-term storage (1-5 years, maybe longer) where attention to rotation is important.

Vacuum Sealed Wet Foods

Vacuum sealing moist or wet foods provides the optimal environment for growth of botulism.

Milled Grains

Milled grains include whole wheat flour, cornmeal, cereal, and granola. The milling process makes the grain accessible to oxygen, leading to rancidity of the grain oils and causing changes to other chemicals in the flours.

Oily Grains & Seeds

Nuts, brown rice, pearled barley, sesame seeds, and flax seeds have high levels of oils that are subject to rapid rancidity. The more unsaturated the oil, the greater the chances for rapid rancidity. So, the better an oil is for you, the more likely it will deteriorate quickly. Consuming these foods in an emergency is safe, just not palatable.