When someone says, "long term food storage" what do you think of? I used to think of canning, simply because years ago I had a huge garden and did a lot of canning. Now, I think of the closet in the basement of our house that has shelves of a different variety of foods that are preserved in many different ways.
There are so many options out there for preppers regarding long term storage! Where does one even begin? Well, the first place to start is to educate yourself. You want to get the best bang for your buck and one way to do that is to research what is available. Some important things to keep in mind are: what is the most economical; what you will need to use to prepare it, i.e. water, camp stove, etc.; and what is going to last the longest (shelf life). This can take a lot of time and research to find what the best choices for you and your family are, and that's why I'm here to help! I will share what I have found in my research (and experience) that may be helpful to you in yours.
Store bought canned foods
Store bought canned foods are a good, economical choice. One thing that makes canned foods economical is that you can pick some extras up when you're buying your normal groceries. That way you aren't spending a whole wad of cash on them at one time.
Canned foods usually have a "Best By" date of 1-1/2 to 5 years. However, they will last long after their best buy date, as that simply means that they will taste the freshest until that date. After that date they will lose some of their flavor from having sat in the liquid for that long of a time. But, they will still be good for eating. Be sure to check the cans and don't buy any with dents in them. If they have dents, or are leaking any food they can be contaminated and could cause botulism. When you are ready to open the can, make sure there are no dents, leaks, rust, or corrosion on them; as air may have gotten inside them and spoiled the contents. If there are not dents, rust or corrosion and you open the can, make sure are no small bubbles in the liquid inside the can, no bad odors, the food hasn't become mushy, and the liquid isn't cloudy. Any one of those would indicate the food has gone bad; don't eat it. Also, if you open the can and the contents explode, don't use it or eat it.
Make sure you rotate your canned foods to keep your stock fresher longer. Simply take out the ones that may be close to expiring and replace them with newly purchased ones. Then you can use the ones you took out with your normal family meals. This will just ensure that if your food stays stored for a number of years you will have the freshest selection you can.
If you have the space, canned foods are the best choice for long term food storage because you can eat them right out of the can if you don't have the means to warm them up and you don't have to have an abundant supply of water on hand to cook them.
Home canned foods
Does anyone really can their own foods at home any more? Yes, there are those who still do! If I had a garden, I certainly would. Most home canned foods will last up to 10 or more years. Just make sure the seals are still tight, there are no dents in the seals, and there is no mold or cloudy liquid inside the can. Home canning is probably the most economical in long term food storage! But, how many of us have the time or the resources to can our own food?
Freeze dried foods
Freeze dried foods have a very long shelf life; some up to 25 - 30 years if properly stored! However, they are not the most economical; whether you are lucky enough to afford a freeze dryer or purchase the food from a company that uses commercial grade freeze dryers. I know you can freeze dry foods at home without a freeze dryer just using your freezer and dry ice, but I haven't gotten into that as of yet and don't feel qualified to talk about it at this time.
Freeze dried foods are a good choice if you don't have a lot of space, if you go camping a lot, or for use in your MREs (Meals Ready to Eat, which I will talk about at a later date). Do keep in mind you will need to have a good and plentiful supply of water on hand to cook them. I have some freeze dried foods mixed in with my canned foods in my storage, mostly to have a variety of choices as well as saving space. I will use those when water is more plentiful.
Freeze dried foods come in a variety of packaging. There are small individual pouches that will feed one, larger pouches with 4 or more servings, and the number 10 large sized cans that have enough to feed several people for several meals. Pouches are usually packaged in tubs or boxes and some companies offer individual pouches for purchase. The pouches are convenient in that you can add hot water directly into the pouches to heat them up and don't need additional cookware.
Here is a list of three of the most reputable companies that sell freeze dried foods. You can easily purchase their products on their websites. All three companies also sell some of their products on Amazon, and shipping charges can be avoided if you have Amazon Prime. Plus I think delivery is quicker through Amazon. (I always check to see if what I want is available on Amazon before I purchase directly from the company.) Some of their products may also be available at local stores such as Walmart.
Wise Company (They have gluten free foods available)
Augason Farms (They also have gluten free foods available)
Mountain House (I did not see any gluten free foods available)
I will be honest with you here, I have not had that much interest in dehydrated foods until recently. In my research for this article I was unable to find any companies that dealt strictly with manufacturing dehydrated foods and the sale thereof. Although, I did find that Augason Farms offers some dehydrated foods as well as their freeze dried foods.
Recently, for some reason (I believe it was God) I was prompting to look up and research how to dehydrate food. I've thought about it a couple of times in my lifetime, but never really felt like it was something I wanted to pursue. But, it was brought to my attention that now that I'm a prepper it might be something that would be of benefit for me and my family. So, I started watching YouTube videos on dehydrating food. They really grabbed my interest!
I always thought the only things you could dehydrate were fruits and beef jerky. Boy, was I wrong. One of the things I discovered was that I could make the meals that my family likes to eat and dehydrate them and store them! And, let me tell you, there are some pretty picky eaters in my family! I discovered I could make my homemade spaghetti, hamburger stroganoff, hamburger vegetable soup, chicken alfredo, fruit roll ups, and a plethora of other things that I make on a regular basis (minus the fruit roll ups, I've never made them). So, lo and behold, after watching dozens and dozens of videos I decided to take the plunge! I'm looking forward to receiving my food dehydrator from the UPS man this coming Monday! Yay me! I found what looks like a pretty good and reliable dehydrator on Amazon for only $60. Of course, that was after researching them for at least three days.
Getting back on track...dehydrated foods are another type of food that have a pretty good shelf life, and aren't overly expensive if you make them yourself. If the foods are dried and stored properly they can last up to 10 years. They do need water to re-hydrate them, but I figure since they won't be my main source of food storage they will be worth the effort of finding enough water to cook them. They would be primarily for eating once or twice a week at the most. I'm sure dehydrating your food is something I will post a lot more about once I actually try it and see how well it goes, so stay tuned!
Beans and Rice
Dried, uncooked, beans are a good addition to have in your long term food storage. However, I wouldn't plan on having a ton of them without other foods to go with them as I'm sure even a hangry person would grow tired of them over time. They are definitely inexpensive and if prepared and stored properly will last up to 10 years, maybe longer. The best way to prepare them for storage is to put them in mylar bags in family meal sized portions (depending on the size of your family) along with an oxygen absorber and seal the mylar bag. I will have more on how to properly prepare and store beans later on.
White rice is another good addition to have in your inventory. The same would go for rice as beans, it shouldn't be a primary staple as you will grow tired of eating only rice or beans after a long period of time. Rice is also relatively inexpensive food item and when prepared and stored properly it can last anywhere from 25-30 years. It should be prepared and stored in the same was as the beans.
Thank you for hanging in there and reading this entire post. I know it's longer than my usual ones (thus far) but there was a lot to cover in it. Please bare in mind these are only the basics of prepping and we will delve into some of these subjects much deeper in the future.
If you have any tips or insights that you think would help others regarding long term food storage please feel free to comment below (you will need to be signed up and logged in before commenting). Take care, and God bless.