How to Store Food Long Term: Food Charts and Our Strategy

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Have you ever gotten that unsettling feeling when the “best-by” date on your milk jug mocks you from the fridge shelf (and your toddler is yelling for his morning cup of milk)?

Before COVID and rising global food prices, most people could sit back and relax. Food was practically always on the shelf.

Today is much different, though. Food inflation continues to be a serious concern around the world. It’s becoming increasingly clear that having a well-stocked supply of food that can withstand more than just a grocery run’s delay is vital.

How to Store Food Long Term
Some of our food that we will show how to prepare for long term storage

Here at Survival Stoic, preparedness is more than just a philosophy; it’s a way of life. Our founder, Jason Hitchcock, learned this firsthand after a devastating tornado. Suddenly, food (and the ability to cook it) wasn’t available. Realizing that you don’t know where your next meal is coming from is never fun.

Building a long-term food storage plan goes beyond just stocking your pantry, though. Food plays just as big of a role for the mind as it does for the body.

Luckily, storing food doesn’t have to be hard! I’ll go over exactly the foods I store and how I store them. I’ve included food storage charts to help you see how to store food long term for each item at a glance – no need to dig through the whole article.

Table of Contents

Core Strategies for Long Term Food Storage

Let me tell you something: I don’t like surprises, especially when it comes to my pantry. After that whole tornado situation a few years back, I realized that a well-stocked pantry isn’t just about convenience; it’s about peace of mind.

That’s why I take long-term food storage seriously. Over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two through trial and error (and, let’s be honest, a few exploded cans of tomatoes). Here are the core strategies that form the backbone of my food storage plan and that I believe can work for you, too.

Oxygen is the Invisible Enemy!

We all obviously need oxygen. However, it supports oxidation, insects, microorganisms, and fungi, all the things that spoil food. In order to keep food fresh long term, we must keep oxygen away from it!

Whenever I find stale food in my pantry, is is a result of oxidation. While the food we buy in the store is often in sealed bags and packages, this only protects it from oxygen in the short term. The packaging is not intended to protect it long term.

Oxygen can not penetrate Mylar bags and glass, however, it can penetrate plastics. Some plastics are better than others (such as HDPE and PETE) but are still not as good. I prefer Mylar bags in general for dry goods, and glass mason jars for canning.

Since it is impossible to package food into bags without oxygen, I use oxygen absorbers. I place an oxygen absorber inside the bag before I seal it up, and it will absorb any remaining oxygen in the bag. They are more effective than vacuum packaging, and can reduce the oxygen level in the bag to less than 0.01%.

Kristin Showing Oxygen Absorbers
Some of the Oxygen absorbers that I use

Keep in mind that there are different oxygen absorber sizes depending on the bag size and type of food. The kit we use below makes this selection easy.

Protect Food from Moisture

This is probably an obvious one, but still should be mentioned. Remember that moisture is not only water, but the humidity in the air. High humidity can support mold and fungus. Even if I have my food in an airtight container, I don’t want mold to grow on it!

Store your food in a climate controlled area. Garages and sheds are the worst places since they can be very humid in the summer. I store my food in my basement, which has been sealed with waterproofing and also has a dehumidifier.

Protect Food from Extreme Temperatures

Extreme temperatures can support condensation (and moisture) as well as degrade containers over time. Freezing conditions are also not good for canned goods, since water expands when it freezes. This can cause cans and jars to burst.

Ideally, a cool area between 50°F and 70°F is best.

Protect Food from Pests

Pests like insects and rodents can eat through most packaging, exposing food to oxygen and moisture. I have personally seen what mice can do, they are persistent. They will even eat through Mylar bags, so it is important to protect them as well.

It would be terrible to invest the time to store food in Mylar bags only to discover it is destroyed by mice when I need it. I like to place my mylar bags in heavy plastic buckets to protect them. Cardboard boxes are not a good choice here.

Protect Food from Sunlight

I find it is amazing how just the sunlight can degrade plastic over time. It seems like it doesn’t matter what kind of plastic it is either. Over time I have seen plastic fade and then start to crumble. Because of this, I make sure none of my food is in any direct sunlight, even if it is only coming through a window.

Use a Proper Container

I use and recommend Mylar bags and airtight containers for storing food long term. You’ll find tons of complicated instructions out there on the internet, from using old plastic containers to dry ice.

But I’ve found two simple items that can be used for any dry food and provide all the protection that I need. They are affordable as well.

The Pack Fresh Combo Box Set are the Mylar bags that I use. It comes with everything that I need, including the bags, oxygen absorbers, labels, and a bag sealer. The oxygen absorbers are sized correctly with the bags, so it takes this guess work out as well. Plus, you can save 10% off at checkout with code “survivalstoic”.

Kristin showing her Pack Fresh Food Storage Kit
My favorite food storage kit

After sealing my food in Mylar bags, I place them in these 5 Gallon Plastic Storage Buckets. They come with a unique lid that provides an air-tight and waterproof seal. I like them because I can unscrew the lid and take it on and off without affecting the seal.

Kristin Showing her favorite food storage buckets
My favorite food storage buckets

To see how to use both of these in an easy step-by-step format, see our How to Use Mylar Bags guide.

Don’t Forget to Rotate

I also recommend rotation, an often overlooked part of long-term food storage. I use the FIFO method (First In, First Out). Simply put, old stuff gets eaten first, ensuring my supply stays fresh. That does mean you’ll need to actually eat the food you store, not just leave it sitting there!

But that brings me to the next point: use your stored food. I find that if I never eat the things I store, I won’t know how to cook them. I’ve found this especially important with kids, as they need some practice before eating something new!

This is why I prefer using smaller bags and the buckets I mentioned above. I can easily pull out a couple bags during a minor power outage and practice my preparedness before a bigger event occurs.

Other Key Points

  • Don’t forget you need a way to cook! Check out our guide on the best emergency stoves for power outages for our favorite options.
  • Different foods require different storage methods. Food that is low in fat and has a low moisture content (less than 10%) will last the longest and is the best to store long term. Examples that are not good to store long term in Mylar bags are nuts, fruits, vegetables, chocolate, crackers, granola, beef jerky, and popcorn.
  • In general, whole foods that have a higher fat content will spoil quicker than milled products (brown rice will spoil quicker than white rice for example.)
  • Variety is the spice of life, even in a long-term storage situation. Sure, I have a hefty stock of beans and rice – they’re the ultimate survival duo – but I also include things I enjoy eating. Yes, this means I have candy bars and fruit snacks alongside my rice.
  • Finally, the mental aspect of preparedness is just as important as the physical. A lack of food can quickly reduce mental reserves. Remember, we’re building a resilient food storage plan, not a punishment! Survival Stoic is all about empowering you with the knowledge to stay sane and alive.

How to Store Grains Long Term

Food ItemShelf Life (years)ContainerTreatment
Barley (whole grain)30Mylar bagsOxygen absorber
Cornmeal10Mylar bagsOxygen absorber
Couscous20Mylar bagsOxygen absorber
White Flour5-10Mylar bagsOxygen absorber
Millet30Mylar bagsOxygen absorber
Multigrain soup mix25Original canNone
Oats30Mylar bagsOxygen absorber
Rye30Mylar bagsOxygen absorbers
Sprouting seeds5Airtight containersRefrigerate if possible
White Wheat30Mylar bagsOxygen absorber
White rice30Mylar bagsOxygen absorber
Pasta30Mylar bagsOxygen absorber
Spaghetti (canned)10Original canNone
Potato Flakes25Mylar bagsOxygen absorber

Grains are the workhouse of my pantry, and when it comes to long-term food storage, they’re an absolute must. They are the basis for many meals and provide much needed carbohydrates and fiber. They are packed with vitamins and minerals as well.

Kristin showing how to store white rice long term
White Rice is one of my pantry staples

I go for White Rice and Oatmeal as my basic staples. Potato Flakes, while technically a vegetable, are great for long term storage as well. They all last the longest and are the most cost effective as well. Add in some of the others in the list above to add variety.

Here are the storage techniques that I have found to work the best:

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. Choose the Right Containers: The most crucial factor is an airtight container. This prevents moisture, oxygen, and pests from spoiling your grains. I recommend using mylar bags stored in food-grade buckets.
  2. Use Oxygen Absorbers: The appropriate size depends on the container size and storage duration. Refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations for the oxygen absorber, as they can differ! (I learned this the hard way.)
  3. Seal it up!: Put your grains in mylar bags, seal them up, and then place the grains inside your air tight container.
  4. Select the Perfect Spot: Find a cool, dry location in your house. Aim for temperatures between 50°F and 70°F. Avoid areas with fluctuating temperatures or high humidity. You can use your basement, but make sure it is not too humid.

How to Store Milk and Dairy Long Term

Food ItemShelf Life (years)ContainerTreatment
Brick Cheese6 monthsOriginal packagingFreeze if possible
Canned Milk15Original canNone
Sour Cream (canned)18 monthsOriginal packagingNone
Cheese Spreads4 monthsOriginal packagingRefrigerate if possible
Condensed Milk15Original canNone
Dried Cheese10Mylar bagsOxygen absorber
Infant Formula12 monthsOriginal canCool, dry place
Non-fat dry milk25Mylar bagsOxygen absorber
Non-fat Dry Milk25Mylar bagsOxygen absorber
Powdered Cheese10Mylar bagsRefrigerate if possible

Long-term dairy? It seems like a bit of an oxymoron. Too bad I can’t live without cheese (and my son cannot live without milk)! I’ve gotten a bit creative with shelf-stable dairy over the years.

Forget the fancy packaging – dry, powdered milk is a game-changer. I’m always surprised by the number of options out there. Here’s a breakdown of what I recommend:

  • Nonfat Dry Milk: This is a fantastic option, packed with essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. I keep mine in a mylar bag with an oxygen absorber. (Pro Tip: You can add butter later to make it not nonfat.)
  • Flavored Dry Milks: Powdered milk isn’t always tasty. However, my kids love powdered strawberry milk. It’s a bit like a milkshake mix, in all honesty. The same storage principles apply.
  • Whole Dry Milk: Despite the name, this milk isn’t “whole.” In my opinion, it’s similar to 1% milk. However, due to its fat content, it has a shorter shelf life. I’d recommend getting nonfat dry milk and then adding powdered butter to it. For every cup of (prepared) milk, you need about two tablespoons of butter.

When buying dry milk, look for products fortified with vitamins A and D, free of artificial colors or flavors, and labeled “Extra Grade” for superior quality and longer shelf life.

While powdered milk is great, it’s sensitive to light, moisture, and temperature. Cold and dry is key. Don’t shove it in your garage. Use opaque containers (like mylar bags), as light exposure can cause vitamin degradation. Throw an oxygen absorber in the bag as an extra layer of protection, too.

Kristin Showing cans of Evaporated Milk
Canned evaporated milk is easy to store

Dry milk is fantastic, but there’s a whole world of shelf-stable dairy products I’ve also tried, such as:

  • Canned Milk: I can find canned milk at my local grocery store. They do have a slightly different flavor (my kids noticed). However, they are a decent alternative.
  • Evaporated Milk: This concentrated milk requires mixing with water for consumption. It has a longer shelf life than fresh milk and offers a unique flavor profile for cooking.
  • Canned Cream: You don’t realize how many recipes require cream until you don’t have it!

Now, onto the category that really stumped me for a bit: cheese. Cheese just doesn’t store for that long under normal circumstances. I have found a few ways around this, though:

  • Canned Cheese: Is canned cheese real cheese? Who knows. My kids do look forward to me cracking one of these jars open, though.
  • Dried Grated Cheese: Parmesan and Romano cheese in their dry form are shelf-stable for years, naturally. I often find these in jars at the store. Learn to cook with them.
  • Cheese Powders and Blends: If you’re cooking something that needs a cheesy flavor, you can use cheese powders, which store well.
Kristin Showing a jar of cheese that she stores
Cheese can help make any dish more interesting, especially for kids

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Choose the Right Method: There are tons of different ways to store dairy. Check the table above for my suggested method, which depends on the particular type of dairy you’re storing.
  2. Get the Right Container: Generally, I store powdered milk products in the same containers I use to store grain. Mylar bags inside durable buckets work best.
  3. Use Oxygen Absorbers: You’ll want to purchase oxygen absorbers and use them as directed by the manufacturer. The size depends on the size of your container.
  4. Seal the Bags: Put everything in your mylar bags and seal them up. Store them inside a larger bucket in a cool, dry place.

How to Store Juices and Beverages Long Term

Food ItemShelf Life (years)ContainerTreatment
Juice Box/Cans5 – 10Original packagingStore in a cool, dry place
Dried Juice Mix25Mylar bagOxygen absorber
Instant Coffee10Original containerStore unopened

No, you don’t have to stock juices or coffee. However, they’re an easy way to get in some extra nutrients, and dried juice mixes last a very long time. For the sole purpose of keeping the children happy (and myself, let’s be honest), store at least some of this stuff.

Try it out before purchasing a bunch, though. While some of these dried juice mixes are good, others aren’t! You will likely have your own preferences.

Kristin showing some of the drink mixes she stores
I like to keep a few drink mixes and instant coffee on hand

I especially like the instant coffee from Nutrient Survival. See our bug out food guide and our Nutrient Survival Review for more, plus find out how you can save with our discount code.

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. Portion Out Your Juice: I like to use smaller containers for dry juice mix, as I don’t tend to use a ton of the mix at a time. Smaller packages minimize exposure to the air and moisture once it’s open.
  2. Get the Correct Packaging: I recommend mylar bags. Then, place these bags into a larger bucket for protection. Mylar bags aren’t that durable.
  3. Purchase Oxygen Absorbers: You’ll want oxygen absorbers for dry drink mixes. Use them according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  4. Seal the Bags: Put everything in your mylar bags and seal them up. Store them inside a larger bucket in a cool, dry place.

How to Store Fats and Oils Long Term

Food ItemShelf Life (years)ContainerTreatment
Butter (canned)2Original canNone
Cooking Oil2Original containerCool, dark place
Lard10Original containerOxygen absorber
Margarine2Original canNone
Mayonnaise3 monthsOriginal jarMust refridgerate
Olive Oil2Original containerCool, dark place
Peanut Butter2Original jarCool, dry place
Powdered butter25Mylar bagOxygen absorber
Salad dressing1Original bottleNone
Shortening1Original ContainerCool, dry place

Everyone needs fat. Many people focus on storing rice and beans because they’re easy! However, you need fat to thrive or even survive long-term. You can’t even absorb some vitamins without enough fat in your diet.

Kristin showing the Peanut Butter she stores
Peanut butter requires no prep and is easy to store

Fats have proven especially hard for me to figure out. Unlike dry goods, they present a unique challenge: rancidity. Exposure to heat, light, and oxygen are the arch-villains of any long-term food storage. These elements cause oxidation, the process that turns fats rancid.

Rancid fats aren’t just unpleasant to eat; they are toxic.

Unsaturated fats are the most vulnerable to rancidity. These fats are liquid at room temperature, like olive or vegetable oil. Saturated fats hold up better, including coconut oil and animal fats.

Peanut butter is one of my favorites and is a classic prepper food. It requires no preparation, although I always got fussed at for eating it out of the jar?

Despite rancidity always looming, there are a few ways I have found to store fats long-term:

  • Minimize Light Exposure: I am extra careful when storing fats and oils. To minimize light exposure, I use dark-colored containers. I often find sealed metal containers at the store.
  • Airtight Containers: I keep everything airtight as much as possible. Vacuum sealing is a great plus, but it can be hard to do at home.

I store a lot of powdered butter. It lasts the longest, can be used to make low-fat milk into whole milk, and functions almost exactly like butter once you add water. Lard is another solid option.

While you can keep other oils, they typically only last a couple of years. Most commercial cooking oils are several months old when you purchase them at the grocery store, too, limiting the lifespan they have left.

Step-by-Step Directions

  • The vast majority of fat items can be stored in their original containers. Some powdered options do need to be stored like grains, though. For those items, follow the directions in the grain section above.
  • The best way I have found to battle the short shelf life of fats is to use them with the FIFO method. I simply use the peanut butter and oils that I have stored by using the oldest first and replacing it with new.

How to Store Meat Long Term

Food ItemShelf Life (years)ContainerTreatment
Canned Meats5 – 10Original canNone
Freeze-dried meats25Original PackagingNone

Being completely honest – meat is a hard thing to store. Even the most effective traditional preservative options, like smoking and salting, only extend meats’ shelf life to a few months – not the years that I’m looking for.

Kristin showing her long term storage of canned meat
Some of the canned meat that I store

With that in mind, I’ve found commercial canned meat to be a solid option. Don’t be worried about it being nasty! We eat chicken & dumplings with canned chicken all the time, and it’s very tasty. (We even have it as one of our survival recipes if you’re interested.)

If your budget allows, freeze-dried meats are a great option, too. You will have to rehydrate them, and they do best in soup and similar options. You aren’t going to freeze-dry a steak and enjoy it later, but pieces of freeze-dried chicken in Alfredo can add some much-needed protein.

Step-by-Step Directions

  • When I purchase both canned and freeze dried meat they are already packaged for long term storage. Just keep in mind that once they are opened they have a limited shelf life.
  • Make sure you cook with some of these before you actually need them. Our survival recipes have some of our favorites.

How to Store Fruits and Vegetables Long Term

Food ItemShelf Life (years)ContainerTreatment
Dried Fruits1 – 5Mylar bagsCool, dry place
Canned Fruits5 – 10Original canNone
Freeze-dried Fruits25Mylar bagsCool, dry place
Canned Vegetables5 – 10Original canNone
Dehydrated Vegetables15 – 20Mylar bagsCool, dry place

Fruits and vegetables are a cornerstone of a healthy diet. They’re full of vitamins and minerals. However, I’ve found storing them challenging. Of course, fresh fruit won’t last long at all. Even canned fruits might not last as long as you’d expect, though.

Kristin showing her long term storage of canned vegetables
Canned vegetables are affordable and easy to store

There are two challenges that make storing fruit and vegetables difficult. Produce continues to “breathe” after harvest, hastening spoilage. Most fruits and veggies will continue to mature, often past the stage they can be eaten.

Many fruits and veggies also have a high moisture content, making them susceptible to rot and mold growth. Many people try to argue that potatoes and onions are long-lasting and work for long-term food storage. However, potatoes only last a maximum of eight months with great storage – not exactly long-term in my opinion!

To store fruit and veggies long-term, you must treat them. Drying is a popular option for creating shelf-stable fruits and veggies. This works particularly well for tomatoes, peppers, apples, and herbs.

Keep in mind, home drying won’t produce the same results as commercial, freeze-dried fruits. While you can get a dehydrator and make your own shelf-stable fruits, it won’t save you that much money, and commercial options last much longer.

Canning is another time-tested method that works great. You can find many canned fruits and veggies at the store. Simply store these in a cool place, and they can often last for many years. However, they won’t last over five years. I’ve had acidic tomatoes eat through the can in less than that.

So, while canning does help these foods last longer, I really focus on rotating these stores. My kids love canned fruits of all kinds, so it’s pretty easy to go through cans before they go bad. I also use a lot of canned tomatoes in sauces and soups, so I keep those stored up.

Plus, all this rotating helps ensure that we store what we eat.

Freeze-dried fruits are also a great option. However, I’ve found that these aren’t typically very filling due to the high water content, so you can go through them fast. I recommend setting them aside for cooking only. Adding them to oatmeal and hot cereals can really spruce them up.

Augason Farms has alot of great options, and you can save 10% off with our code “survivalstoic”.

But if you give your kids a bag of freeze-dried strawberries, they will eat the whole thing. Use them as an ingredient, not snack food.

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. Choose the Right Method: Some items should be stored in their original containers; for others, I recommend putting them in mylar bags. Use the chart above for a detailed overview.
  2. Purchase Mylar Bags: These are ideal for long-term storage (25+ years) due to their excellent moisture and oxygen barrier properties. I recommend portioning fruit into smaller Mylar bags. This limits the amount of time each bag is open before I use it all.
  3. Seal the Bag: I put my fruit or vegetables in the bag and seal it up.
  4. Label It: For easy identification and rotation, I label my Mylar bags with the contents and date of storage.

How to Store Beans and Legumes Long Term

Food ItemsShelf Life (years)ContainerTreatment
Dry Beans25Mylar bagsOxygen Absorbers
Lentils25Mylar bagsOxygen Absorbers
Nuts (shelled)6 monthsMylar bagsFreeze when possible
Nuts (unshelled)1Mylar bagsOxygen Absorbers
Sprouting beans5Airtight containerRefrigerate
Soybeans30Mylar bagOxygen Absorbers

Beans are a staple of prepping. It seems like everyone stores them. However, in my opinion, you don’t need to store nearly as many as people recommend, especially if you’re storing meats and dairy.

Jason showing the beans he stores in Mylar Bags
Some of the beans I have stored in Mylar Bags

I still recommend storing at least some, though, because:

  • Protein: Legumes are an excellent source of protein. They range from 20-35% protein, making them a complete protein source when combined with grains.
  • Fiber: They’re a rich source of dietary fiber, crucial for gut health and promoting a feeling of fullness. I can make legumes stretch pretty far.
  • Variety: There are tons of different legumes out there, including several kinds I’ve never even heard of. Of course, only store what you eat. If you particularly want to store a variety of legumes, practice cooking and eating the kinds you’re interested in.

I store practically all dried beans in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. They can last for many years, and they’re one of the foods I’ve had the most success with.

Step-by-Step Directions:

  1. Get Your Storage Container: I recommend using Mylar bags and placing them inside buckets. Generally, you can use the same storage containers for your beans that you are using for your grains.
  2. Package and Seal: Fill your chosen container with your sorted beans or lentils, leaving a little headspace (about 2-3 inches) at the top. Place the recommended amount of oxygen absorbers inside the container according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Tightly close the lid on your jar, bucket, or Mylar bag. For Mylar bags, use a heat sealer to create an airtight closure.
  3. Label Everything: Clearly mark each container with the type of bean/lentil and date of storage. Also save the package with the cooking/soaking instructions (I just throw them in the bucket with the Mylar bags.)
  4. Find a Cool, Dark Place: Find a location that stays consistently cool, ideally between 50-70°F.

How to Store Spices and Condiments Long Term

Food ItemShelf Life (years)ContainerTreatment
All Spices (whole)4Airtight ContainerCool, dark place
All Spices (ground)2Airtight ContainerCool, dark place
Baking ChocolateIndefiniteAirtight ContainerFreeze if possible
Bouillon Cubes10Airtight ContainerNone
Chili Powder3Airtight ContainerCool, dark place
Herbs (dried)2Airtight ContainerCool, dark place
Ketchup1Original bottleNone
SaltIndefiniteAirtight ContainerNone
Soy Sauce2Original bottleNone
Steak Sauce2Original bottleNone
Vinegar (distilled)IndefiniteAirtight ContainerNone
Worcestershire Sauce2Original BottleNone
Baking SodaIndefiniteAirtight ContainerNone

Yes, stockpiling calorie-dense foods is important. However, I firmly believe salt and seasonings play a vital role in long-term food storage. After all, wars have been found in the name of spice – and for good reason.

Most of us live in a luxurious world of flavor, so we don’t grasp just how valuable spice is. We’ve never lived without it! When you’re eating beans and rice again, you’ll be wishing for a sprinkle of salt.

Kristin showing the spices she stores long term
Some of the spices that I store

There is a huge psychological aspect to seasonings and salt. A touch of rosemary or fragrant curry can go a long way.

Salt has been used as a natural preservative for centuries. It draws out moisture, creating an environment less hospitable to bacteria. While not a sole solution, it can certainly contribute to the longevity of some food items.

Luckily, storing these things isn’t challenging. Salt itself can last basically forever. It will get hard over time, but you can always break it apart again. It doesn’t “go bad” in the traditional sense.

Seasonings can be placed in airtight containers and stored somewhere cool and dark. A basement is a great option. Glass jars with tight-fitting lids are one of my favorite options. I avoid using flimsy plastic bags, as they can puncture and allow moisture or contaminants in.

Whenever possible, store whole spices and ground them upon use. While pre-ground spices are convenient, they lose potency and tend to go bad faster, in my experience.

Here are the particular spices I store:

  • Salt: This is a no-brainer. I recommend both table salt and sea salt for variety.
  • Black Pepper: A kitchen staple, it adds a touch of heat and complexity.
  • Garlic Powder & Onion Powder: These concentrated powders add tons of flavor without the hassle of chopping fresh ingredients.
  • Red Pepper Flakes: A touch adds a kick of heat, perfect for perking up any dish.
  • Italian Seasoning: A versatile blend of herbs like oregano, basil, and thyme, it’s great for pasta dishes, vegetables, and more.
  • Chili Powder: This blend adds smoky warmth to stews, soups, and chili.
  • Bay Leaves: These fragrant leaves add depth to soups, stews, and bean dishes.
  • Boullion Cubes: A few years ago, I discovered that Boullion cubes last much longer than all the separate components. I store them instead of all the things I need to make stock.

Of course, store seasonings and spices that you use. I put onion powder in just about anything, but you might not.

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. Choose the Right Container: Many species can be stored in their original container. However, some require an airtight container. Of course, I recommend going smaller in this case, as you won’t be storing as much onion powder as you would rice!
  2. Put it in!: Spices are easier to store than practically anything else on this list. Typically, you just need to close them up in an airtight container. I like to throw them in the bucket with my rice and beans so I have a food “kit” of sorts.

How to Store Sugar Long Term

Food ItemShelf Life (years)ContainerTreatment
HoneyIndefiniteAirtight ContainerNone
Jams/Jellies1Original JarCool, dry place
SugarIndefiniteAirtight ContainerNone
Maple SyrupIndefiniteOriginal JarNone

While we often overlook it today, sugar is a valuable asset to long-term storage. When it comes to longevity, granulated sugar reigns supreme. When stored in an airtight container, it can last literally forever.

Kristin storing sugar in a long term container
I always put my sugar in an air-tight container

Moisture can cause clumping and hardening, but I’ve pulverized clumpy sugar several times to make it usable again. You do have to watch for insects, though. I wouldn’t leave sugar in it’s original, paper bag. Put it in an airtight container, instead.

This is one of the few things I don’t recommend storing in your basement, either. Mine got very clumped very quickly! We have an extra cabinet in our kitchen, and I keep a large plastic container full underneath there.

Powdered sugar is much more susceptible to moisture absorption than granulated sugar. I recommend using it within a reasonable timeframe after opening the package, or storing it in a very dry place with a desiccant (a moisture-absorbing packet) to prevent caking.

Liquid sweeteners like honey and corn syrup have a much shorter shelf life compared to dry sugars. Even honey doesn’t last forever, despite what some parts of the internet say. That said, it has a rather long life span, though it can crystalize over time. If yours does so, warm the container in hot water to reliquify it.

Because honey crystallizes, I recommend storing it in many small containers in case you need to re-heat it.

Maple syrup is another great option. It can last years unopened on a cool shelf. I just leave mine in the original container.

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. Get the Right Container: The most important factor is an airtight container. This will prevent moisture, pests, and odors from affecting your sugar. I specifically recommend these food-grade containers. Don’t use the paper bags sugar comes in, as these aren’t airtight.
  2. Pack Your Sugar: Carefully pour your sugar into the chosen container, leaving a little headspace at the top for expansion.
  3. Seal It Well: Ensure your container is completely sealed to prevent air and moisture from entering. Always check twice, even if you think it’s sealed all the way! I also recommend re-checking after about a day or so.

How Much Food Should You Store?

More food is practically always better. I recommend purchasing as your budget allows it. That said, many people vastly underestimate how much food they need to remain satisfied.

My suggested minimum caloric intake for an adult male is 2,300 calories. Honestly, I recommend storing the same for women, too, despite our intake needs being slightly lower. (Women need more iron and other nutrients, and we can get pregnant!)

For a years’ supply of food, that’s 839,500 calories in all. That said, this will keep you fed, but it may not keep you very happy! It also doesn’t account for food loss. What happens if bugs get into something?

For this reason, I absolutely recommend adding more than the minimum. Of course, kids need less. Those between 1-3 need about a third of these calories, ages 4-6 need half, and ages 7-9 need 75%.

Remember, plan for your future family, not the one you have now!

Here’s my recommendation for a one year food supply per adult in your family:

  • Grains (400lbs): This is around 2 cups of cooked grains per day. That’s not a lot! I recommend including some whole grains like rolled oats for added fiber and nutrition. Add in some white flour and corn meal for baking and variation.
  • Beans & Legumes (90lbs): This is around 3 oz per day. Again, that’s not a lot! However, it will provide the average adult with enough protein when paired with dairy. You can use meat instead. If you store 10 pounds of meat, store 80 pounds of beans, for instance.
  • Milk & Dairy (75lbs): I focus on versatile milk products, like dry cheeses and powdered milk. Powdered butter can go a long way to making food flavorful.
  • Meat: You want at least 90 pounds of protein. Split this between beans, legumes, and meat. Variety is important, especially if you’re storing a lot of the same grains. Don’t forget about powdered eggs!
  • Fruits & Veggies (90lbs): Focus on freeze-dried options that your family likes. Freeze-dried blueberries can be added to muffins, oatmeal, pancakes, and bread. Dried bell peppers and onions can be added to pasta of all sorts.
  • Fats/Oils (20lbs): Fats provide essential fatty acids, and they can help boost your caloric intake. A little fat goes a long way.
  • Sugar (60lbs): I recommended granulated sugar and honey, for the most part. I also have a few jugs of maple syrup.
  • Drink Mixes (25lbs): Drink mixes are commonly overlooked, but we highly recommend them. Choose any powdered juice and instant coffee that your family enjoys! Kool-aid is another great option (or powdered lemonade mix).
  • Auxiliary foods: There are some foods that may not fall into these categories, but that I recommend storing them, anyway. For instance, baking soda is necessary for baking. Chocolate can go a long way. Vitamin and protein powders can provide a nutrition boost, especially for pickier kids.

Learn how to cook everything you store. I cook a meal using only stored survival food once a week (at least). Instead of ordering out when we run out of food, we dip into your supply! Again, check out our survival recipes!

Budgeting for Long Term Food Storage

Building a year’s worth of food storage can be daunting on the wallet. However, you don’t have to buy everything at once. Instead, I purchase only a can or bag of something each time you go to the store. One container of powdered milk a week can help build up your food storage very quickly!

While I do recommend purchasing some freeze-dried meals, they can get expensive quickly. Focus on storing core groups of food first, like grains, beans, and healthy fats. These provide more nutrition for your buck.

Buying in bulk can offer significant savings, but it’s important to be realistic about storage space and consumption. Also, don’t let the promise of cheaper bulk prices prevent you from storing anything.

We’ve also secured discount codes from several companies. Use these whenever you purchase from them for a percentage off. For instance, Augason Farms sells #10 cans of many common storage foods, like beans and freeze-dried strawberries. Save 10% off when you use our code “survivalstoic”. Also see our guide on the Best Emergency Food Kits and the Best Emergency Food Company for more options and discounts.

Where to Start with Long Term Food Storage

I recommend budgeting a specific amount to spend each week to purchase long-term food. $25 is a good option for most families. Then, each week, purchase food with that amount of money. I’d start with the four basics: grains, proteins, fats, and sugars. You can purchase $25 worth of each every week. See our guide on building a 3-month food supply for more strategies on building up your supply.

Once you have a year’s supply of these foods for everyone in the family, move on to beverages, fruits, veggies, and other foods I discussed above.

Storing up on food isn’t the only thing you need to do to prepare for a food shortage, though. If you’re new to preparedness, check out my How to Start Prepping guide, which explores first-aid kits, water filters and purifiers, and other important preparedness steps.

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Kristin is a fulltime writer with an obsession for being prepared. She spends much of her time working towards making her family self-sufficient, including homeschooling her children. When she isn’t writing, she’s shooting with her husband or homesteading.