Learn how to have a long term food storage pantry to save money, have food security, and boost preparedness!
It has been quite the journey to developing the pantry we keep today. When we first got married, like most people, we went to the grocery store once a week to gather ingredients for the next seven days. We had little to no extra food in the pantry. As we started having children, we tried a two week grocery haul, to eliminate the amount of times we went to the grocery store (this was before Instacart days!)
As we had more children, and started getting more skilled in food preservation techniques, our pantry grew and grew. We prefer a large rotating pantry over what would be considered a traditional prepper pantry. We simply keep a large amount of foods we like to eat on hand, and rotate the oldest to the front…kind of like a grocery store!
There are a variety of reasons that someone might want to keep a long term food storage pantry.
Why you might want long term food storage
Whatever reason you may want to build a long term food storage pantry; whether it be for natural disasters, off-setting the cost of inflation, or for peace of mind. Here are some of the reasons that creating and keeping long term food storage might be a good idea:
- Flash Floods
- Tropical storms
- Supply Chain Issues
Whichever reason that you are wanting to store food long term. It is a good idea to have a plan! Knowing what food can be stored is a good start.
What food you can store long term
If you own a home freeze dryer…almost any food can be stored long term. Knowing what foods can be stored without processing in the freeze dryer is important. Things like wheat, corn, beans and salt can be purchased in bulk quantities fairly inexpensively, and have nearly unlimited shelf life, providing they are packed and stored properly. If necessary, you could survive for years on small daily amounts of these staples:
- Powdered Milk
- Iodized Salt
- Fats and Oil
The following food items make eating from the staples much more sustainable long term:
- Dry Beans
- Nut Butters
- Dry Yeast
- Baking Powder
- Spices & Seasonings
- Baking Soda
Other grains, besides wheat, to consider storing include rye, rice, oats, triticale, barley and millet. Pasta products also satisfy the grain component of the diet. White rice will maintain its quality longer in storage than will brown rice.
Grains stored in bulk require grinding before use. You can get a hand crank mill or an electric one. Make sure you buy one that can grind corn. For years we used a hand crank flour mill, now we mostly use an electric one. We still keep the hand crank on hand in the event of a power outage.
Freeze Dried Food
Freeze drying food is one of the best ways to add long term food storage to your pantry because the food lasts for 25+ years!
Most consumers flinch at the cost of a home freeze dryer, BUT if you consider the cost of purchasing freeze-dried food, it is cheaper long term to do it yourself. We recommend Harvest Right and have written an in depth review explaining the PROS and CONS of our freeze dryer. Freeze-drying food at home is unique to other food preservation methods like dehydration because it preserves the nutritional value of the food. It’s hard to beat a 25 year shelf life!
Freeze drying is a great way to store crops that you grow, if you garden. Fruits like strawberries and blueberries make excellent snacks. If you can afford to purchase a freeze dryer, it is by far the most efficient way to store food for long term use. Freeze-dried foods can be stored without the use of chemicals and don’t need to be refrigerated. You’ll simply need Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers to pack them for long term use.
Home Canned Food
Canning your own food is a great way to store food. Many canning recipes, like home canned tomatoes, are simple to learn. This ensures healthy shelf stable food. Learning to can is a highly valuable skill for anyone interested in long term food storage.
Canning has been used for hundreds of years to store foods that would otherwise be wasted if you grew extra food in the growing season. Starting with boiling water bath canning is a good idea until you build up the confidence for pressure canning and more complex recipes!
How to prevent pests from getting into long term food storage
A variety of pests can spoil a stockpile and waste hard worked for food! Here are some of the most common pests you may run into when setting up your long term food storage pantry.
It might sound surprising (and gross!), but most grains you purchase bulk or in the grocery store, contain insect eggs. These eggs will eventually hatch if you do not eat the food fast enough. When setting up a long term storage system, this can pose a problem. To remedy this problem, let the grains freeze for 1-2 days before packing for long term storage. Read more about why a freezer is essential for homestead living.
Rodents can wreak havoc on a pantry full of food. Keeping an uncluttered space to store food is the first tip to keeping it free of rodents. Secondly, keep traps and other deterrents handy that you check regularly. If you have any small holes leading into your food storage pantry, a bit of steel wool shoved into the hole will keep them out because they refuse to chew through it.
Where should I keep my long term food storage?
There is a lot of flexibility when planning where you will keep your long term food storage. Not everyone has a beautiful walk in pantry. You can use closets, basements, under beds, spare bedrooms, etc., to make space for extra food storage. When we lived in our tiny house, we had to be quite creative with how we stored extra food. There are a few prerequisites that you should consider when planning your pantry space. It should be:
Food lasts longer and maintains it quality when it is not exposed to light and/or heat. Of course, food storage should never be kept in a place that has danger of water damage.
Planning a long term food storage pantry
It isn’t hard to know what your household will need as part of your long term food storage plan. Start by recording what you consume for an ENTIRE MONTH. I include food, soap, dental floss, toothpaste, toilet paper, drinks, and ANYTHING used by the members of our home. Write it all down.
Keep track of the types of meals you make and foods you eat for a month or two. Get a notepad, and take a quick inventory of what is currently sitting on your pantry shelves. Make a list of 30 meals you regularly make and what ingredients are needed to make those meals. Just observe your habits.
If you are not in the habit of cooking from scratch consider learning how to make some meals from the bulk ingredients listed above, plus what you could grow on your homestead.
When deciding what foods to stock, use common sense. Consider what you could use and how you could prepare it. Storing foods that are difficult to prepare and are unlikely to be eaten could be a costly mistake.
One approach to long term food storage is to store bulk staples along with a variety of canned and dried foods.
How to have long term food storage
- Educate yourself on how to store food safely and effectively.
- Monitor what your household consumes for 1-2 months.
- Write everything down.
- If you are currently using a lot of products that do not store long term, try replacing them.
- Learn to cook from scratch if you aren’t already.
- Start slow and build overtime
Remember: all dry ingredients or supplies should be stored off the floor in clean, dry, dark places away from any source of moisture. Foods will maintain quality longer if extreme changes in temperature and exposure to light are avoided.
How to quickly build long term food storage
The following is an easy approach to quickly build long-term food storage:
- Buy a supply of the bulk staples listed previously (learn how to properly store them).
- Learn how to make the meals you like completely from scratch.
- Build up your everyday stock of canned goods until you have a two-week to one-month surplus. Rotate it to maintain a supply of common foods that will not require special preparation, water or cooking.
- From a sporting or camping equipment store, buy commercially packaged, freeze-dried or air-dried foods. Although costly, this is an excellent form of stored meat, so buy accordingly. (Canned meats are also options.) Another option is to purchase a home freeze dryer and start producing your own freeze dried products.
Frequently Asked long term food storage questions
What is the easiest food to store long term?
- Dried beans, lentils, or peas
- Protein Powder & Supplements
- Canned soups, fruit, and vegetables.
- Jams and preserves
- Whole coffee beans & dried tea leaves
- Powdered drink mixes
How much food do you need for long term storage?
Figure out the number of people you are planning long term food storage for, and the calories in the food you plan to store. Make sure that you provide at least 2,500 calories per person for each day.
- Plan for 300-400 pounds of grain
- 60-80 pounds of beans
- 60 pounds of sugar
- 10 pounds of salt
Supplement the basics with a variety of canned or freeze dried fruit, vegetables, and meat.
How do you stock food for years?
Switch from buying food in it’s processed state, to buying it in it’s more whole form. These will naturally have a much longer shelf life, especially if they are stored in an air tight, dark, dry, cool environment. Here are some examples.
- buy whole coffee beans instead of ground
- wheat berries instead of flour
- whole corn instead of corn meal
- learn to cook with sourdough instead of relying on commercial yeast
- dried bean instead of canned (learn to can your own!)
What foods can be stored for 10 years?
It’s important to note that any food that is freeze dried and stored properly will last well beyond 10 years. Foods commonly sold that store for decades include but are not limited to:
- Wheat Berries
- White Rice
- Baking Soda
- Dried tea leaves
- Boullion cubes
- Corn Starch
- Dried Beans
- Instant Coffee
How do I build food storage to meet my family’s needs?
- Develop a plan that includes the number of people, unique dietary preferences, and takes into consideration minimum caloric needs.
- Prepare a cool, dry location to store your food supply.
- Search for reputable suppliers where you can purchase foods specifically packaged for long term storage at reasonable prices.
- Begin to implement your plan and consistently stock up on long term food supplies until you reach your goal.
Other non-food related items to consider:
Though this article is specifically addressing long term food storage, it is a good idea to consider these other items that can be handy in the event of a disaster:
- Can opener, utensils, cookware
- Medical supplies and first aid manual
- Hygiene supplies
- Portable radio and extra batteries
- Flashlights and lanterns
- Camping cookstove and fuel
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Fire Extinguisher
- Blankets and extra clothing
- Shovel and other useful tools
- Money in a waterproof container
- Infant and small children’s needs (diapers, formula, etc.)