We should all have an emergency plan in place for long-term food storage. Canned foods, dried beans, and grains are commonly known to last a long time in storage. When certain foods are prepared, sealed, and stored correctly, they can last several years or longer, depending on the food.
Here are 14 foods that are good for storage:
- Canned Goods
- Freeze-dried and Dehydrated Foods
- Whole Grains
- Dried Beans and Legumes
- Nuts and Nut Butters
- Peanut Butter
- Spices and Herbs
- Powdered Food and Drinks
- Pickled Food
- Survival Bars
- Cooking Bare Essentials
This article will provide you with a list of excellent foods for long-term storage and tips to maximize their storage life.
1. Canned Goods
Canned goods from the grocery store must have an expiration or “best by” date stamped on them but are known to last a long time in the pantry. According to the USDA, canned goods can last for several years past the date, as long as the can is not damaged in any way and is rust-free. The quality and taste may diminish over time, but the food itself will still be safe to eat.
You can also can your own food for long-term storage.
Can Your Own Vegetables
If you are into vegetable gardening but always have a ton of leftovers you can’t seem to give away fast enough, can them! Preserving them for storage will ensure you have ample food over the winter and even the following year. You never know what your following harvest will yield, so it’s smart to be prepared.
There are many options when you can your own food (from your garden or store-bought). For example, If you have too many tomatoes and peppers, you can make batches of salsa to can. Or, when there is a great sale on meat at the grocery store, get enough for both dinners and canning.
Can Fully Prepared Meals
Another great option is canning meals and soups with meat, vegetables, and seasonings. Avoid canning heavy starches like pasta and rice due to the interference with heat transfer during the canning process. Raw meats are also able to be canned when done correctly.
For canned foods, the ideal storage area is a cool, dark, and dry room. A basement is an excellent choice for storing food, but not everyone has that option. Storage temperatures should remain lower than 75° Fahrenheit or 23.89° Celsius, but the cooler, the better.
2. Freeze-Dried and Dehydrated Foods
Dehydrating food is a simple task and can help cut down on food waste. There are several ways you can dehydrate foods, but the most common methods are using an oven or dehydrator. Learn Earth Easy provides a great guide on dehydrating methods, including the sun drying method that has been around since ancient times.
Jerky Stores Well and Is a Good Source of Protein
Jerky is a great “grab and go” source of protein and vitamin B12. It’s often recommended for those venturing into the wilderness for hiking, camping, and hunting to keep some jerky on hand.
When stored properly, unopened commercial jerky can last for a couple of years, and homemade jerky can last up to 6 months in the freezer when packaged correctly.
To properly store jerky, you must use a vacuum sealer or an air-tight container and keep it in a dark place with cool temperatures (below 75° Fahrenheit or 23.89° Celsius), like a pantry, basement, or root cellar.
Consider Drying and Dehydrating Produce for Storage
Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins and essential nutrients. They are also easy to freeze-dry and dehydrate for storage, even if you are a beginner to these methods. The Manual provides a few effective ways to freeze-dry food.
Tip: To optimize storage life for freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, use oxygen absorbers.
3. Whole Grains
Grains like oats, whole wheat, rye, barley, and rice can be stored for an extremely long time. They are an excellent source of the protein, vitamins, and minerals your body needs.
Store Grains Properly To Prolong Storage Time
Culprits that lessen the long-term storage ability for grains are high heat, humidity, and air.
Grains should be stored in a cool, dry place like a pantry, root cellar, or basement. You can use a vacuum sealer or air-tight storage container storage and include oxygen absorbers to keep moisture out. With proper prep, placement, and temperature (75° Fahrenheit or 23.89° Celsius), grains have been known to last up to 20 years or longer.
If possible, keep grains off the floor to prevent contamination from pests.
Tip: Oxygen absorbers are excellent for more than just grains. Any food stored long-term that requires low moisture will benefit from oxygen absorbers. Other examples of food requiring low moisture storage are dried beans and legumes, freeze-dried foods, and spices.
4. Dried Beans and Legumes
Much like grains, beans and legumes are easy to store and will last a long time under the proper storage conditions. To maximize storage life for beans, follow the same guidelines as for grains. If you don’t have much room for storing a lot of food, at least keep a variety of grains, beans, and legumes because they will last for 30+ years and still provide you with great nutrients.
Healthline provides a rundown on several of the healthiest beans and legumes, which may give you a better idea of what you want to add to your food storage.
You may be thinking, “Wait, what?” Yes, there are proven methods that have been around for centuries to preserve eggs for up to 12 months or longer, like the water glassing method. This method is used to preserve unwashed farm fresh eggs, which you can get from a local farmer or a neighbor with chickens.
Preserve Eggs Using the Water Glassing Method
The water glassing method is where you use hydrated lime—known as pickling lime—to make a solution for the eggs to be submerged in during storage. The solution coats and seals the shells, preventing bacteria from entering, and it enables them to be stored for over a year with the fresh quality still contained. Check the eggs thoroughly to ensure there are no cracks, or the whole batch will be ruined.
You cannot use store-bought eggs for the water glassing method because store-bought eggs are washed and bleached, which destroys the natural coating on the egg.
Eggs are porous, so when chickens lay them, there is an existing coating on the egg to protect it from contaminants. This is why unwashed farm-fresh eggs can be stored on the counter or in the pantry for up to four weeks before washing them and putting them in the refrigerator for another four weeks.
Consider Alternative Methods of Preserving Eggs
There are other ways to store farm-fresh and store-bought eggs long-term. The Purposeful Pantry provides a guide with several traditional and modern ways to preserve eggs. Some of these methods include freezing, pickling, and mineral oil coating.
Eggs can also be preserved by pickling, which is discussed later in this article.
6. Nuts and Nut Butters
Nuts like almonds, cashews, pistachios, and walnuts have grown very popular as a quick snack food that gives you the nutrients boost you need while maintaining a healthy on-the-go lifestyle. They are packed full of the healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals your body needs. They are also easy to store and can be used to make other foods.
For example, almonds are the healthiest of the nut family and can also be used to make almond butter and almond milk. So, when you think of stockpiling nuts like almonds, branch your thinking into other ways to use the food you are storing. Having a variety of versatile foods that also provide essential nutrients like grains, nuts, and beans is beneficial when hard times are upon us.
7. Peanut Butter
Along with your nuts and nut butters, peanut butter stores particularly well. If unopened, peanut butter (which derives from peanuts, a legume) can be stored for up to two years. The oils may separate in peanut butter and other nut butters, but they are still safe to consume. Peanut butter is an excellent source of protein and antioxidants, often more so than other nuts and nut butters.
8. Spices and Herbs
Dried spices and herbs can last up to 5 years when stored properly. Seed To Pantry School provides a guide to dry canning spices and herbs. Since the flavor in spices comes from the herb’s natural oils, even when canned, they can start to lose their flavor after two years. Using an oxygen absorber and keeping them stored in cooler temperatures will help preserve spices longer.
Fresh herbs can also be canned to keep for several months and can still be used for cooking or medicinal purposes. The Bossy Kitchen has a guide for using the salt method to preserve fresh herbs. Salt preserving will keep the natural oils so the herbs will stay fresh with flavor.
9. Powdered Food and Drinks
Think electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, and protein when stockpiling powdered drinks. You don’t want to hoard a bunch of sugar-loaded drinks. The powdered substance should replenish your body with the nutrients it needs to keep healthy and hydrated.
Happy Preppers gives several good powdered and packet drinks that will benefit your health, including drinks with probiotics.
There are also several powdered foods you can start stockpiling, including eggs, meats, cheese, and peanut butter. Bouillon and powdered bone broth are always good to store since they’re used in making soups, sauces, and for flavor. Bone broth is also an excellent source of nutrients for those sick days when you can’t seem to keep food in your stomach.
Powdered foods and drinks will last 25+ years in storage when stored properly.
10. Pickled Foods
The most commonly known pickled food may be cucumbers (a.k.a. pickles), but the pickling fun doesn’t stop there. Did you know you can pickle other vegetables, fruits, eggs, and even meat? Pickling food was around long before freezing or canning and was used throughout history as a way to preserve food for long-term storage (lasting up to 2 years in an ideal storage environment).
So, if you are ever in a pickle with leftover produce, eggs, or meat (see what I did there?), pickling is another great way to preserve food.
11. Survival Bars
These are very easy to make and include fruits, nuts, seeds, and nut butter, making them packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and protein. These bars are meant to be a quick pick-me-up source of healthy calories for energy. In fact, they’re packed full of good fats, protein, and other nutrients. Properly stored homemade survival bars packaged in vacuum-sealed bags will last up to 20 years.
Commercial survival bars typically have a minimum shelf life of 5 years but can last up to 20 years when stored properly.
12. Cooking Bare Essentials
Oils and fats are used for flavoring food and providing essential fats and minerals to your diet. They should be stored in sealed containers lifted off the floor to prevent contamination and always stored in a dark, cool place. As with all food you keep in storage, rotate your fats and oils to keep a fresh stock.
Salt and sugar should be stored in air-tight containers with oxygen absorbers to keep the moisture low.
Other essentials like baking soda, baking powder, and cornstarch can be kept in original packaging if already sealed in containers. Otherwise, repackaging may be necessary to stay fresh over a long period.
Studies have shown that due to the acidic nature of vinegar, it can last “indefinitely” in storage. Vinegar can be used in a variety of ways, from canning, cooking, cleaning—the list goes on. Stockpiling vinegar would be wise, especially if you are starting to preserve food for storage.
The process for storing vinegar is the same as everything else mentioned (a cool, dark location is best), except you can keep it in its original container, even after opening.
MREs (meals ready to eat) are pre-cooked packaged meals often used by military soldiers. These packaged meals still retain their moisture and can be eaten cold or heated. MREs are guaranteed to last for three years but will last longer as long as the package is not compromised and they’re stored in cooler temperatures.