Prepping to survive a disaster, whether it is on an apocalypse level or simply one that makes things a little rough for a few months, requires careful planning. One of the things many people automatically assume is the most important thing about prepping for disaster is the food storage. Well, in many cases, they are right. However, you cannot simply fill your freezer and pantry and call it an emergency food storage.
You are going to be putting some serious cash into building up a food storage that will sustain your family for weeks, months or for the over-eager prepper, years. That is going to require a lot more space than your kitchen cupboards and pantry.
You need to do some scouting around your house to find the best possible place to start storing your food. Check out the following qualities your food storage space should have in order to ensure your food will stay in good shape for years to come. Nobody wants to have their food supply spoil or get destroyed by one thing or another.
Nobody says your survival food should be bland. In fact, here’s a tip: if you stock up some beef jerky, you can up the level of taste in your survival meals by a good notch. Beef jerky is easy to store, easy to carry around, and lasts a long time. You can even make some by yourself, from raw beef or from the game you hunt. All you need is a suitable grill.
Out of Direct Light
Light is bad for food. The standard light fixture in a room is okay, but you don’t want the food exposed to hours of sunlight on a daily basis. Hopefully, you wouldn’t leave the light on in the room and only need the light when you are adding items to the shelves. If you are storing your food in a spare bedroom, invest in some heavy curtains for the windows. You could also use aluminum foil to cover the windows. While it is a little redneck, it is very effective.
Speaking of the aluminum foil on the windows, it can also help keep the temperature down in a room. You don’t want the food storage to get over 80 degrees. Ideally, a temperature of 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit should be your goal. That is prime storing conditions and ensures you will get the longest shelf life out of your foods. If your food is being stored in a basement or root cellar, heat is not typically an issue. However, you don’t want the food exposed to freezing temperatures. It will ruin the food.
A basement is a great place for storing food, but if it is damp or regularly floods, you need to find somewhere else to store the food. Dampness promotes mold growth and you don’t want that. Some basements are only a little musty and a good fan will help keep the humidity level down. Fans can also help regulate temperature if you are using that spare room. Always store food at least 6 inches off the floor, just in case there is flooding from a broken pipe, the hot water heater bursts or the washing machine goes on the fritz.
Out of Sight
You don’t want your stockpile of food visible from the outside of your home or if somebody comes to the front door. It doesn’t matter if your neighbors seem like nice people today, when they are starving, niceties go out the window and they want your food. They will do what it takes to survive and that includes taking your food any way they can. Keeping it in a basement, a room with a closed door or hidden in a root cellar is your best bet.
Food is heavy. A lot of food is really heavy and will break weak and inadequate shelves. Invest in shelving that can hold several hundreds pounds of food. Those pretty white wire racks are great for the pantry, but not so great for a proper food storage. They bend and will give under the weight of a few cases of canned goods. If you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars buying garage shelving units, you could make your own out of wood if you are handy. Make sure you use sturdy wood and reinforce it.
On a side note; when you are putting your shelves together, many of the models are made with a lip that hangs down. Put the shelves together upside down so that lip is upwards. This will help keep your food from sliding off the shelves if there are any vibrations or what not. Falling cans of food are not only a safety hazard, it could also end up ruining the food.
Once you have found the perfect place to store your food and have taken care of the windows and made sure it is properly ventilated, you have a few more things to do to ensure it is the best food storage possible. These items are things you should be checking regularly.
Check the dates on your products often. Make sure you pull the oldest food forward and add new stuff to the back. You want to make sure you are eating the oldest stuff first and not leaving it all to the end when it is super old. Use a bold black or red marker to write use by dates or dates that you bought the food on the packaging. Those tiny little stamps are impossible to read in many cases.
Stay on top of pest problems. Set mouse traps and poison bait if you are so inclined at the first sign of trouble. Don’t let them destroy your food storage. They can work through hundreds of pounds of food in a short time. If you are not regularly checking your storage space, you could come back to a pile of poop and shredded cardboard. Make sure the room is sealed. Mice can get through the tiniest holes and cracks around the foundation.
Ants and cockroaches can also be an issue. Make sure the area is clean and there is no food left out to temp the pests. Use chemical or natural repellents to keep them out of your food storage area.
Don’t let your food storage be ruined by choosing the wrong space. Follow these guidelines and pick the right place to start stockpiling a supply of food and water that will sustain your family after a disaster.
- Where should you store your food for survival emergencies?
- Where not to store your food
- What food to store for survival purposes?
- Some foods are difficult to store. Which one?
- Expand the shelf life of your stored food- here are 18 methods
- 1. Use Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers
- 2. Keep the food in a cool, dry, and dark place
- 3. Don’t stockpile food that is high in fat
- 4. Don’t store medicine in the bathroom
- 5. Store food in the freezer
- 6. Have efficient ventilation in the basement
- 7. Get rid of pests
- 8. Freeze-dry the food
- 9. Decrease the temperature and maintain it constant throughout the year
- 10. Use desiccant with seeds
- 11. Preserve eggs with mineral oil
- 12. Freeze the seeds
- 13. Freeze pasta before you store it
- 14. Use chlorine for water
- 15. Properly preserve oil
- 16. Preserve fish
- 17. Place the water barrels on wooden pallets
- 18. Store raw ingredients and not cooked foods
Where should you store your food for survival emergencies?
It goes without saying that some places are more suitable than others to store your food. Here are the most common:
- Root cellar
- Spare bedroom
- Linen closets
- Behind clothing in the closet
Storing in limited space
Apart from knowing which food to store for survival purposes, you also need to keep a lot of food in a limited amount of space. It’s an essential skill, especially if you live in a small house, apartment, or have a small pantry. Here are some solutions to store your food if you have limited storage space:
Shelves Under the stairwell
If you have space under the stairwell, you should clean the interior space and place shelves in it. You will be able to store your food and various supplies on these shelves. You need to follow the same food storage rules, such as standard room temperature and no moisture.
Under the bed
Are your beds high and do you have space that you don’t use? As long as you maintain the temperature at an average level, you should get the best out of the area and use it to store food.
Shelves in the closet
Take advantage of the extra space in your closet and use it to store food for survival purposes. If possible, you can install new shelves in the closet to efficiently keep food.
Where should you hide your food?
If a natural/manmade disaster takes place and wipes out all grocery stores, people will do anything to survive. Desperate times call for desperate measures and you never know what people will do when they don’t have any more food. If they have ever been in your home and spotted the stacked food in your kitchen, they might come and try to get it when desperate.
You can either share the food you have or keep it to yourself—and risk endangering you and your family because of it. Stay on the safe side and keep the stocked food away from anyone’s sight. Only talk about it with your immediate family. Don’t tell your friends at work or neighbors about your stored food. If you do anything for your family to provide them with food, the chances are they will do the same, even if that means threatening your life. Why risk your life by not being discreet in peaceful times?
We encourage you to keep your food out of sight. Even so, the risk of extreme situations where thieves and even government agents break into your home in search of food is high in disaster scenarios. Try to store your food in unusual locations to make sure you and your family still have food if that happens:
You can make a secret hiding place beneath a bathroom/kitchen cabinet and store the food there.
In the kitchen cabinets
We don’t talk about the kitchen cabinets per se, but about the gap between two corner cabinets that many of us barely use. You should build a shelf back where it’s not easy to spot.
Inside old appliances/electronics
If you have an old TV that you will never use again, you can take everything inside out and place food inside. When people break into a home, they couldn’t care less about an old TV, especially if there’s no power. You can do the same with old devices and appliances that you no longer use.
Inside a lamp
As long as you can use the lamp for such a purpose, you can store food in the base of the lamp or a hollow lamp.
Inside solid-colored boxes
Empty boxes that most people would not expect to discover food. The original containers for your TV, fridge, laundry detergents, etc., make such storage options.
Inside solid-colored bottles
Needless to say, you have to thoroughly clean and rinse out bottles of body wash, bleach, shampoo, hairspray and insert Mylar bags of food in them. You might have to cut off the bottle’s top and glue it back afterward.
Behind a vent
Please keep in mind that storing food behind a vent could block airflow. Therefore, you should only use the vent in a room that you don’t use or don’t mind getting warmer than the rest of the rooms in the house.
Inside a wall
You can create a hiding place for food behind a trim piece and even behind a painting.
Inside the box spring
People might check out for food under a mattress, but most will skip examining inside the box spring. A box spring can fit up to 10 cans and bags of food.
Behind a headboard
Begin with pulling the bed out from the wall about afoot. Stack as much food as possible and use a blanket to cover it. You want to make it look like a large headboard with a nice blanket on top.
Furniture with secrete compartments
Many companies make furniture with secrete compartments. Even if you pay the extra buck, you will have excellent storage space to hide your stash of food.
Inside decorative pillows
Even if you can only store a bag or two of food, decorative pillows are excellent places to hide some food.
Inside a birdhouse
The chances for invaders to look for birdseed are close to none. You don’t risk anything by storing some food in a birdhouse.
At the bottom of potted plants
As long as you store food that isn’t sensitive to humidity, you can keep some food at the bottom of potted plants.
Under the garden
Insert canned food inside large PVC tubes and bury them under the garden. People who break into homes for food won’t have the patience and time to dig in your garden searching for food.
In a container buried in the backyard
Make sure that you use a weatherproof recipient. You can use mylar bags in buckets (food-grade). Bury them in the backyard and plant grass/cover with leaves for best hiding. Remember where you buried the recipients.
One last tip
Everything that is hollow and can be hollowed can become an excellent place to store food.
Where not to store your food
It makes perfect sense to make a food stockpile, but you don’t want to have it in the middle of your living room. In some areas, the temperature and humidity are difficult to control, and they don’t make for the best places to store food. Here are some examples:
In the summer, the attic tends to get very hot, and controlling the humidity is tricky.
You cannot control temperature or humidity in the sheds. Plus, the risk for pets is high with the outside sheds.
You can store in your garage you live in a mild climate and the garage will not freeze, or the temperature won’t get higher than 80 degrees. However, the garage is no longer a reliable storage space if you live in a very humid area.
Laundry room, bathrooms
Humidity is high in the bathrooms and laundry room. You shouldn’t store food in here.
We care to remind you that hot temperatures and humidity will shorten the shelf life of your food in half or even worse when you store food in such conditions for a long time.
What food to store for survival purposes?
Stocking up on food takes patience, time, and money. You don’t need to be an experienced survivalist to know that some foods will have a long shelf life, whereas others will lose taste after just a couple of weeks. If this is the first time you’re stocking up on food, check out our recommendations below.
Even if you don’t really like rice, you should always include it in your stocking food—you never know when you will use it. White rice is cheap, widely available, and easy to store for extended shelf life. As a matter of fact, rice can last for up to 30 years if you keep it in food storage bags and food-grade containers.
Just like with rice, as long as you store dried beans in the right package, they can last up to 30 years. To expand their shelf life, you will have to store them in airtight recipients. It’s crucial to reduce moisture and the risk of spoilage with kept foods.
You can find dried beans in a 6-gallon watertight pail with more than 400 servings. We know that rice can get a tad boring, so you can add dried beans and some spices to get a nice meal. To properly store dried beans, you should use airtight sealable food storage recipients and mylar bags to stop oxygen absorption. The bags will expand the shelf life of the foods you store.
Oats are great because you can add them to many kinds of snacks and meals and are very filling. Even if they’re not as easy to cook as other food types, they can be stored for 30 years or so. They require the same storage conditions as dried beans.
The methods to cook oats are various: toasting, boiling, grinding them into flour, baking them, and even sprouting them/ turning them into oat milk. Rolled oats are excellent for our health because they are rich in antioxidants and have a powerful soluble fiber (Beta Glucan) that reduces cholesterol levels and protects LDL cholesterol.
Pasta is also an excellent food to store for a long. It’s a great carbohydrate to combine with much other food. You can eat it cold or hot, according to your preferences. Commercially-packaged freeze-dried pasta can last between 8 and 30 years.
When buying Italian pasta, check out the expiry dates because they vary a lot.
You can store cheese in many ways: wax, freeze-dried, canned, etc. Even if it’s a dairy product, cheese can last for quite a long time.
Dehydrated fruit slices
Dried fruits (dehydrated fruits) are fruits that have been dried out. Apricots, raisins, apples, and dates are some of the most common dried fruits. You can dehydrate any fruit and numerous types of vegetables.
Most dehydrated fruits in bulk are pricey, so you might want to make your own with a food dehydrator. Remember that slicing and drying fruits and vegetables requires time and energy—think twice before you buy and start using a food dehydrator.
Most dehydrated fruits will last up to five years, but raisins and dates can last a bit longer if you store them as you store beans but at a cooler temperature.
Dried and canned corn is cheap and can last up to a decade. You can use it in many foods and it’s pretty tasty.
Think about dehydrated carrots when you think of food that lasts for more than two decades. They have a 25-years shelf life.
Canned beans and canned spaghetti
Many people like canned beans and they come in many forms. You can add small tins of beans in your bug-out bag and tasty to eat both cold and hot.
Lentils and peas
Many preppers will stock lentils, and you should store whole and not split lentils because they are longer lasting than the split ones. Lentils provide us with fiber and are easy to cook. You can eat lentils on their own or in combination with other dishes.
The shelf life for lentils is around five years, but you can expand their shelf life up to two decades if you store them in mylar oxygen absorber bags.
Pemmican is a survival treat created by the Native Americans. It’s made from the lean meat of local wild animals. The meat is dried over the fire, then combined with flavoring beanies and fat, and pressed into snacks (biscuit size).
You can find pemmican products in a wide variety; they’re a tasteful source of protein with a long shelf life.
Powdered whole eggs
You won’t necessarily want to store powdered whole eggs if you have chickens. However, you can keep and add canned powdered eggs as they last up to 7 years.
We know that twinkies are sugar and fat-packed, but they are a great option to have in your pantry in difficult times. It seems that Twinkies can even outlast a nuclear fallout. In 2012, a science teacher was determined to determine how long Twinkies can last. He ate 30-year old Twinkies; apart from a stale taste, the Twinkies were safe to eat.
MRE (Meals Ready to Eat)
MRE was created for soldiers to have high-energy sources of foods with a long shelf life. They are compact and carry 24/72 hours worth of nutrients. They make for the best food to have in a bug-out bag/72-hour survival kit and you can have various meals in just one pack. You can mix them or eat them as they are.
Mrs are excellent to use in disasters or short-term scenarios where you have to rely on an emergency food source for a short amount of time. That is why most 72-hour survival kits include MREs.
What condiments last for a long time?
Salt and sugar
Even if you can use honey as sugar, don’t forget that salt and sugar are excellent to add to your foods because they last indefinitely. They’re the main condiments in most recipes.
Baking soda and the baking powder will last indefinitely. You should, nevertheless, consider if you want to cook loaves of bread when the world around is at an end. Many people only store food that doesn’t need a lot of cooking.
Honey is an excellent natural sugar that can last forever.
Instant coffee, tea, cocoa powder
Whether you will be drinking a lot of coffee and/or tea in emergencies depends on your water reserves. Either way, tea, coffee, and cocoa powder can last for more than ten years.
You can use the stock for soups, rice, potato, etc., to add flavoring to your meals.
Powdered milk and powdered protein supplements are an essential food to stock that you can put in drinks or cook. The protein powder offers a lot of nutrients and lasts for over two decades. Make sure you add a moisture absorber in the storage packs.
Some foods are difficult to store. Which one?
Some foods are tricky to store on a shelf for a long time. You should either stop eating the foods or look for an alternative that holds well.
Graham crackers, soup crackers, and saltines don’t last for more than a few months before they go stale. Don’t think that you will eat stale crackers because you won’t.
Salad dressing doesn’t do well on the shelf for several years. Even if your kids might love Ranch dressing on everything, you won’t be able to store it for decades. Instead, you should keep a dry ranch mix that you can whip into the sauce after learning how to make mayonnaise.
In just one year, vegetable oil will go rancid. You can replace vegetable oil with coconut or lard. Even if oils can go rancid, they will hold for an extra year on the shelf.
Once you open a jar of mayonnaise, you will need to eat it as soon as possible. If you have a running fridge, you can store it and eat it over a more extended period. If you need to have mayo in your house, we recommend you buy small jars that you can finish before it goes bad.
Most dried fruits
Most dried fruits will last between six and 12 months. You should include them in your stocked food, but keep in mind to rotate them quickly.
If you don’t eat them soon, breakfast cereals will go stale. They will lose the taste quickly after you open the package.
After you open a bottle of maple syrup (a cheap one, especially), it will get mold soon enough. We recommend you learn to make your own with some sugar and maple flavoring.
Similar to dried fruit, you have to rotate nuts every six months. They’re an excellent source of protein and fat; you need to check out the expiration dates every once in a while.
You won’t be able to store dairy products for years. Milk, eggs, butter, and cheese will require refrigeration. Even so, they will not last for decades.
Expand the shelf life of your stored food- here are 18 methods
Even if some foods don’t require particular storage methods, you can still expand their shelf life by minding some recommendations.
1. Use Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers
It’s the most straightforward way to package food of many kinds for a long time. Rice, pasta, dried beans, and whole grains will last for more than a decade if you use Mylar bags. Add oxygen absorbers in every bag and place them in5-gallon buckets. The buckets should be BPA-free plastic and food-grade.
Sugar and salt don’t need an oxygen absorber. Salt is a preservative, while sugar will solidify in time. Both salt and sugar will last for a long time when properly sealed and stored.
2. Keep the food in a cool, dry, and dark place
As we’ve already mentioned, some places don’t make for appropriate storage spaces. For instance, don’t store your food in the attic. The temperature can get as high as 100F degrees in the summer. Even if the summer doesn’t get very hot in your area, the temperatures vary a lot in the attic and ruin your stored food.
We remind you to store your food in a basement with efficient ventilation. You might want to switch the locations from time to time. If you also have a bug-out area for survival purposes, you will need to store food in there as well.
3. Don’t stockpile food that is high in fat
Fat food goes rancid quickly, so you should store foods high in carbs and proteins—dried beans, powdered eggs, honey, etc. If you properly keep them, some high-fat foods will last up to a year. Remember to rotate the stockpile twice a year. Dry dog food and peanut butter are such foods; dog food will need oxygen absorbers to last for a year.
4. Don’t store medicine in the bathroom
As noted, humidity is one of the most important factors that alter foods. Store your medicine in basemen or cool places with efficient ventilation. Instead, store things like soap, floss, toothpaste, and toilet paper in the bathroom.
5. Store food in the freezer
You cannot rely on the freezer in survival scenarios, where the risk of a power outage is high. However, you can include it in your survival plan. Even if the power grid goes down, you still have food for several days to eat until you move to the stored food.
6. Have efficient ventilation in the basement
You want to stop moisture, mold, and mildew that typically develop in the basement. If there are windows in the basement, proper ventilation should be easy to manage (open the windows). Otherwise, you will have to install a fan or a vent.
When the humidity is high in the basement, opt to install a dehumidifier. It will give better results than many ventilation systems.
7. Get rid of pests
Pests can ruin a lot of your food. For example, 5-gallon buckets won’t stop rats from invading your food stockpile. Sealing the buckets is essential, but you should also put the buckets in large metal buckets that rats cannot chew.
Keep your eyes on moths as well since you will notice the damage they’ve done only after it’s too late. Should you see webbing around the food, on the walls of the basement or pantry, find efficient ways to get rid of the moths.
8. Freeze-dry the food
In case you didn’t know, pharmaceutical companies use freeze-drying to expand the shelf life of products. The method is also efficient for foods, even if the freeze-drying machines are more complex to handle. If you do a lot of freeze-drying for foods, you should have at least a high-quality food dehydrator. Even if you pay the extra buck, it will freeze several amounts of food drays simultaneously.
If you want to freeze dry your food and not dehydrate/can it, you should opt to use it with vegetables, fruits, and even small chunks of beef and chicken.
9. Decrease the temperature and maintain it constant throughout the year
It seems that every 18F increase in the shelf life of compounds makes the chemical reactions’ speed double. The reverse is also true, so the cooler is your pantry, the better for the food. Therefore, food will be safe to eat past its expiration day. Even if this doesn’t sound like a great plan right now, you never know how you react when disaster comes knocking at your door.
If the basement/pantry isn’t cool enough, you should check it out and find ways to obtain the cool temperatures you need to store food safely.
10. Use desiccant with seeds
Desiccants are made to eliminate the moisture from the recipients. You should always add to the jar where you store seeds, removing moisture after sealing the jar. Silica gel is the most used desiccant, but you can also use rice wrapped in a paper towel, dry milk, or a layer of powdered charcoal. Make sure that the seeds never touch the charcoal, though.
11. Preserve eggs with mineral oil
You can preserve eggs for a year with mineral oil. You need to coat the whole egg with mineral oil to expand its shelf life. Keep in mind that you will have to flip every egg upside down every week. If you like eggs, you will store them for12 months with this method.
12. Freeze the seeds
Almost all seeds can be frozen, but only after dried. You can also keep the seeds in the fridge, but freezing is far more effective. Some tropical seeds don’t correctly store when frozen.
13. Freeze pasta before you store it
If you plan to store past in mylar bags and 5-gallon plastic buckets, you should keep them in the freezer for five days or so. This way, any larvae eggs that could alter the food will die. After you take the pasta out of the freezer, you should let them get to room temperature before sealing them. This way, you will avoid condensation inside the bag.
14. Use chlorine for water
Even if tap water is already treated with chlorine, what will you do if you drink rainwater? You should add chlorine to a few gallons of clean water in a container and add it to the tank afterward.
Always store the water stockpile away from light so that it doesn’t grow microorganisms that can endanger your life.
15. Properly preserve oil
Olive oil can last for three years, whereas coconut oil has a 5-year shelf life. You can freeze oils, even though you lose some of their nutritional values. You can also add a preservative (BHT) to expand their shelf life.
16. Preserve fish
Place some ice on the fish when you store it in the fridge. Additionally, separate the two with a plastic bag or similar.
17. Place the water barrels on wooden pallets
There is no evidence that cement in the basement alters the plastic barrels. However, stay on the safe side and place some wooden pallets first. The reaction of cement and plastic only occurs when cement is very hot, which is rare in the cement (not impossible, though).
18. Store raw ingredients and not cooked foods
There are numerous examples, so feel free to spend as much time as necessary to store all the raw ingredients you see fit for your family. For instance, you should store cocoa powder instead of chocolate and wheat berries instead of grain. Don’t forget to keep the tools you will need to process your raw ingredients. For wheat berries, you will need to use a manual wheat grinder.