Preparing for a rainy day, as some may call it, comes in many forms. For some people, this means buying extra lanterns, heaters, and first aid supplies for a major emergency, whether it be a weather calamity or the breakout of war.
While all these items and more are important, they will all be useless in the long run without proper supplies of food and water. If you recently started researching long term food storage but are not sure where to get started, you are in luck. To access our ultimate guide to long term food storage as part of your emergency preparedness measures, keep reading.
How to Plan Your Emergency Long Term Food Storage
Top Benefits To Preparedness
Before delving into the ins and outs of long term food storage, it is important to understand the top benefits associated with emergency preparedness. When you build your supply of long term food storage, you ensure that you are ready for any short or long-lasting emergency that may occur. While you hope such events never take place, it is better to be prepared rather than find yourself lost at sea without a paddle if they do. Even in short term emergencies like a snow storm, it is often difficult to leave the house for a grocery run.
Also, while you may think food shortages are an emergency that happens in third-world countries alone, this is not the case. Food shortages have the potential to occur at any time and place, whether or not an emergency is happening in your specific location. Most grocery stores only have enough food to feed customers for up to 3 days. If an emergency happened, your grocery store's supply of food would surely dwindle fast.
Another benefit to long term food storage is the ability to save on expenses in the long run. If you have a pantry that allows you enough space to store in bulk, you can buy when sales run and keep plenty of food on hand for whenever you need it. Then, you will not need to go to the grocery store as often, which saves you money on food and gas. When you buy less frequently, it is easier to focus on essential items rather than tempting buys that serve no nutritional purpose.
We would like to add one final note to this point. When you invest in long term food storage, you not only create a security blanket for local emergencies but for family ones too. If someone in your family loses their job, becomes ill, or has financial issues, you have enough food in your pantry to feed everyone. When life gets stressful, it is nice to have one less thing to worry about.
Assess Your Goals
The first step to plan your long-term food storage is to assess your goals. Consider why you want to bulk up your food supply as this will determine exactly how much space you need. For instance, if you want to have a 3-day supply of groceries on hand in case of emergency, you will not need as much storage space as if you wanted a month's supply of food.
Think about whether you want your pantry to be stocked with all your food essentials or just some extra canned items. Whatever your goals for your long term food storage may be, identify them before you shop.
Consider Your Location
The most ideal location for food to be stored long term is near an outside wall in your basement. This is because that part of your house is one of the coolest and will keep your food fresh for a long time. If you do not have a basement, any cool, dark location like a corner or closet will suffice. If you live in a smaller home or apartment and do not have as much storage capacity, spaces under your bed or the top shelf of your closet can work too.
Make Sure You Have Sufficient Storage Space
If you are unsatisfied with the amount of storage space you have to work with and you can add extra, consider installing wood or wire shelves in your pantry. With a few tools and some time, you can construct your own shelving and increase your capacity for long term food storage.
We will get into exactly how to build out your food supply further down, but in the meantime we would like to offer a few tips for when you shop. Begin by grabbing a few extra canned items when you go to the grocery store. Try to use double coupon days and discounts to boost your food supply. Always purchase produce in season to save money. You can even go to pick-it-yourself farms to buy fresh produce to be canned or pickled at home.
Foods To Store In The Pantry
The first grocery items to consider when planning out your long term food storage are the items you will keep in your pantry. Whenever you add foods to your pantry, make sure you purchase items you eat and enjoy often.
If you buy foods that are not regular pantry staples in your home and an emergency occurs, your family may be obliged to eat foods they dislike in an already stressful situation. Plus, when you buy foods that everyone enjoys, it makes rotating your grocery items a breeze. It is imperative to rotate your food so it does not expire and become wasted, so choose foods you like and know well.
Dried foods like rice, beans, peas, and lentils are great pantry items to stock up on. Canned soups, fruits, and vegetables, protein bars, mixed nuts, dried fruits, pasta, oats, crackers, pancake mix, cereal, peanut butter and jelly, and beef jerky are all essentials to have on hand. Remember also to store your favorite coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, along with some powdered drink mixes, dried milk, evaporated milk, or condensed milk. You will want to have things like pasta, beef jerky, pickled vegetables, oats, and crackers on hand too.
For any baking needs that may arise with an emergency, consider storing flour, baking soda, salt, yeast, and sugar. If you want to have a few cheat treats like candy bars, chocolate, and cookies, that is never a bad idea either. For hearty meals, pantry items like bouillon cubes, seasonings, sweeteners, spices, packaged goods like macaroni and cheese, and canned meats will do the trick. If you have young children in the house, make sure you buy extra baby food and formula too.
Many of the foods that have the longest shelf life are lacking in the nutritional department. When doing your shopping, try to balance out these processed, packaged foods with healthy canned foods.
Water is another essential you need in your long term food storage. Buy enough water to meet your emergency preparedness goals. So, if you are stocking up 3 day's worth of food, you need to buy 2 gallons of water for every person in your household for each day. This extra water will suffice for drinking, but also give you extra water for cooking, cleaning, washing, and flushing toilets.
How To Store Fresh Foods
You can incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into your long term storage. To store fresh food and make sure it lasts, you must keep these items in a cool, dark place that has air to keep everything from going bad. You might purchase or build a storage bin with proper circulation to store your fresh food in. Wire bins, plastic bins, and wooden orchard racks are good ones.
If you purchase fresh food, you need to focus on the quality of the fruits and vegetables. If you see fresh produce that is bruised or has dented skin, it will rot in no time flat once you put it into storage. That rotting can even spread to your other foods too. The best way to avoid this is to buy fruits and vegetables with a clean and smooth exterior, purchase locally from a farmer's market, and purchase in season.
Winter squash, onions, cabbage, and root vegetables are ideal options for long term food storage. Winter squash does best when stored at 50 degrees. You should wrap each squash in a paper towel or newspaper and keep them separate from each other. Onions are perfect for long term food storage because they contain large quantities of sulfur. Put them in a cool, dry place. Funny enough, panty hose are a fantastic way to store your onions. They will stay fresh for as long as 8 months when stored in your pantry properly.
You can incorporate root vegetables into your long term food storage plan if you cure them. Curing is simple. All you have to do is lay out your root vegetables in one layer on paper in an environment with a temperature of 45 to 60 degrees. Leave them that way for 2 weeks. The best way to store root vegetables long term after curing them is by placing them in a cold place with a temperature of 35 to 40 degrees and good humidity. Unheated basements, garages, and root cellars work best. You could also use a wooden crate filled with sawdust or straw if you have a cold area surrounding your house to use.
Cabbage also needs to be stored in a cold, humid place. If you store them right, they will last as long as 3 to 4 months. The best way to store them is to hang them with the head down by their stem or wrap them in newspaper and keep them on the floor.
Storing Frozen Foods
Frozen foods are another great option to weave into your long term storage plan. If you want to make meals ahead of time and store them for as long as a year, put them in a deep freezer and you will have plenty of options to choose from when you need them.
There are a few other miscellaneous items you will want to include in your long term food storage. Things like a charcoal grill and charcoal, or a propane stove with extra propane, a can opener, storage containers, and disposable dishes and utensils will vastly simplify your cooking endeavors if an emergency strikes.
Check For Expired Foods
Bulking up your food storage for an emergency is always a good plan and can save you money in the long run. That said, if you do not check for expired foods from time to time you could end up losing money. If foods expire, it canbe dangerous or unpoeasant to eat them which is money down the drain. Whenever you add groceries to your pantry, place items with the closest expiration date at the front. Check your pantry every 3 months to rotate items nearing their expiration date.
If you see rust on a can, you need to eat that food right away. If a can is bulging, toss it out, as bacteria could have gotten inside. Always stay away from foods that have a strange feel or aroma.
How to Build Out Your Food Supply
Start Slow And Steady
When building out your food supply for long term storage, starting slow and steadily building your inventory is the best way to go. You can bulk your food inventory in increments over a period of weeks, months or more. This will help you budget accordingly and allow you to meet your storage goals without issue.
The 1-Month Mark
Start by buying extra food every week when you go grocery shopping. Identify how many groceries your household requires in a week and tack 25% extra on to comprise your extra food for storage. After a month has passed, you will have a full month's worth of food stored. Be sure to rotate foods close to expiration and eat them so your stored items stay fresh and ready.
The 3-Month Mark
Once you hit the 3 month mark, you can incorporate bulk items. You can keep buying your extra 25% worth of food every week, but buy foods like crackers, milk, fats, grains, and leavening to have on hand.
The 6-Month Mark
Once you have been buying and storing food for 6 months, you should have plenty of options to choose from in case of an emergency. Continue to check and rotate your foods as needed, using any items you have to before they go bad. This is the time where you can add in things other than just survival essentials, like any treats or baking items. Make sure you have plenty of rice, grain, sugar, salt, and so forth.
The 6-Month Mark
It could take you months or even years to build up as much as 1 year's supply of food, but if that is your goal the effort is well worth it. If you budget wisely and choose your food items with care, this is not a hard goal to achieve. Just increase your long term food storage in increments and choose items with long shelf lives so you do not have to rotate them out too often.
Tips on Using Your Provisions
Allow us to offer a few final tips on keeping and using your provisions for long term food storage. The first thing you need to avoid when using your provisions and keeping them fresh is humidity. While a couple of the foods we mentioned, like root vegetables, do well in a humid environment, they are they exception. Humidity rots and molds most foods, so you need to make sure you keep your foods dry and free of any unwanted moisture.
Oxygen Is Your Enemy
The next thing you need to know is that oxygen is your enemy when storing food long term. Oxygen will reduce the quality of your food, making it unfit for consumption. The best way to avoid this is by using oxygen absorbers and sealing your groceries in food-grade buckets so rodents cannot get in.
Keep Your Food Away from Light
Light poses a real threat to storing your food long term because it alters the taste and appearance of the food. This lessens the flavor and texture of your food while undermining the nutritional content. The best way to avoid this problem is by keeping your food stored in a dark, cool place free of light.
Temperature Is Key
Our final tip for using your provisions is to pay attention to the temperature of your storage area. Most foods keep best at a lower temperature so they do not form bacteria and become inedible. The optimal temperature for storing your food long term is anywhere between 50 and 60 degrees. If you have a cellar or basement, that is the best way to keep your food in a cool, dark place with a regulated temperature.
Learning how to do long term food storage starts with a few simple steps. Identify your goals for storing the food, decide how much you will need, and incrementally increase your grocery supplies. Before you know it, you will have a wide range of food choices to pick from for that rainy day.