Food is a requirement and priority for your health and survival. In a crisis scenario, food shortages are likely to occur therefore it’s important to store enough nutritious food to cover your family’s needs.
In this section we will walk you through the following steps:
- What type of foods you can store long-term
- How much food your family should stockpile, based on your space, budget, goals, and needs
- How to store food supplies for optimal shelf-life and how often it needs to be rotated
Let’s dive right in!
What are the best foods to store long-term?
The best foods to stockpile are those that have both a high nutritional value and long shelf-life. You have many options when it comes to putting together your supply of food storage. You can either store canned and dried goods, purchase all your meals from long-term food storage companies, or do both. There are pros and cons to each of these options.
Buying individual food items (i.e. bags of rice and beans)
- You have complete control over the ingredients that go into your meals.
- You can fully customize your meals and cater to your family’s dietary restrictions.
- If you buy your food on sale, it can be more cost-efficient in the end.
- This is a great option for those on a limited budget.
- You may have to prepare and cook most meals from scratch.
- It’s difficult to calculate how many calories and servings you’re getting per meal.
- Stores sometimes miss expired items and don’t take them off the shelf. Always check the expiration dates of any items you purchase.
Buying bulk meals from emergency food storage companies
- Meals are quick and easy to prepare! Just add water, boil for about 15 minutes, and serve. During times of emergencies, this is a huge benefit.
- Some companies such as Legacy Premium, Nutrient Survival, and Mountain House have a reputation for hearty, healthy, and delicious meals. They’re definitely worth the investment.
- Some companies offer gluten-free, vegan, and other dietary options.
- You don’t have full control over all of the ingredients that go into your meals.
- Food buckets come with a standard number of meals. You don’t have the option to customize the buckets to include your preferred meals only.
- The cost might be a little higher than buying individual ingredients and food at the grocery store.
- Not all emergency food is created equal. You should research your options prior to committing.
Ultimately, your decision comes down to the storage space you have available, your budget, and your family’s needs and preferences.
How much storage space do you have? And what’s your budget?
Two major considerations for building your food storage is how much space you have and how much money you’re able to spend on it.
Storage space: You can only store as much food as the space in your home allows you to. There are many ways to maximize storage space, whether you live in a studio apartment or a large home.
Your food should be stored in places where the temperature does not fluctuate too much, since this can alter the shelf-life of your food over time. Some storage places to consider are inside closets or the kitchen pantry, in garage shelves, and under the bed. If you need extra space for cans, think about installing a can food dispenser rack.
Budget: If you have a larger budget, you have a lot of freedom in which foods you’re able to buy. But realistically, I know that’s not the case for most people— myself included.
Since long-term food storage is not the only category to consider when putting together an emergency preparedness plan, you should list your priorities and set aside a budget to cover each of your needs, for example, a budget allotted to water storage, food, emergency supplies, alternative sources of power, etc.
If I can do it on a small budget, so can you!
When I first started preparing my stockpile of food, I was a recent college graduate (i.e. practically broke). With a limited budget, I would scour the clearance aisle and look for the discounted items at the store. Within a short time, I had a decent amount of food to cover my needs for a few weeks and my stockpiles increased from there.
Determine how much storage space you have available for food items.
Determine how much money you’re able to spend.
What are your food storage goals?
While every family is different, we recommend having a three-tier plan to achieve a complete independent survival stash of food storage. We believe this to be the most convenient and cost-efficient solution.
Tier one consists of having enough food to last your family 2 weeks. We emphasize a minimum backup of 14 days because we know that disasters not only create high-demand but they can have a significant impact on the import and sale of supplies.
Think about it!
Imagine a 6.0 magnitude earthquake rocking the city of Los Angeles. If the roads and infrastructure become damaged, it would make it very difficult for supplies to reach all 4 million residents in a timely manner. You can expect the grocery stores to be wiped out within hours.
What would happen if New York City experiences another eight-day blackout like the one that occurred in July 2006? No electricity means that some of the food in your fridge and freezer might go to waste. Also, local grocery stores and restaurants may have to close since the registers won’t work.
For a two-week supply, we recommend having a combination of fresh, frozen, dried, and canned foods. With independent ingredients, you should be able to prepare at least 14 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. These items are essentially what you would have in your pantry, therefore they should be used and rotated often.
Tier two consists of storing enough food for 3 months. We recommend investing in freeze-dried food buckets. Even though it’s a bit more expensive, this food lasts you 25 years and it’s easy to prepare— just add water and cook! Also, you don’t have to buy it all at once.
Tier three consists of a one-year supply of food. This might not be a goal for everyone but if it’s something you're thinking about, you’ll want to consider the idea of gardening, fishing, hunting, and raising animals to supplement your already existing two-week and three-month food supply.
Decide what your food storage goals are.
Will you plan for a 2 week, 3 month, or 1 year plan?
How much food do you need to meet your goals?
Now that you’ve decided how many days you’re going to prepare for, you'll have to determine how much food will be necessary to reach your goal.
Our bodies need a minimum amount of calories to survive. During emergencies, our bodies may exert more calories than usual if we’re more active, stressed, and anxious. According to WebMd, these are the estimated calorie requirements that we need to function at a normal level— these numbers are averages for moderately active individuals.
In order to get an accurate estimate of how many calories your family may need, list the people in your household, their ages, and the average maximum calories they require based on their age— use the chart above for reference.
Then, add the subtotal of how many calories your family will need in ONE day.
Tier one: The 2 week food plan
There’s no cookie-cutter meal plan that will suit every family’s food storage needs, which is why our approach is different than what you’ll find in many emergency preparedness resources. Let me explain.
The misleading food storage calculator
If you do a simple Google search for “food storage calculator” you will find several websites offering you a quick and easy solution. Input the amount of people in your household and you’ll get a result of how many pounds of wheat, flour, rice, oil, and myriad of other ingredients you’re recommended to store.
If you’re like me, you’ll look at that list and ask, “What do I need 12 lbs. of shortening for?” or “How am I supposed to use 450 lbs. of wheat?” I kid you not, these are the results I got when I calculated the needs for my family of 3.
Food is such a personal thing that there’s no way an online calculator will be able to provide you with an accurate food list.
That’s why we’ve made templates that allow you to draft your own meal plans and calculate the items you need so that you can take into account your family’s preferences for certain foods and consider any health restrictions.
Keeping in mind how many calories your family needs daily, write up a basic meal plan with 7 healthy and unique breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options. The base ingredients of each meal should have a shelf-life of at least one year. If any fresh/frozen ingredients are required, be sure the meal can still be prepared in case those ingredients are not readily available.
Download the templates below to help you jot down some ideas. We provided some of our own suggestions to help you brainstorm.
* The Survival Food List template has information on the shelf life of certain foods. Use it as a reference to draft your meals and also to keep track of what you have in storage and when you need to rotate it.
Tier two: The 3 month food plan
If your goal is to store three months’ worth of emergency food, the easiest solution may be found in freeze-dried meals. This preservation method allows the food to retain its nutritional value for many years and relieves you from the inconvenience of having to keep up with expiration dates on store-bought food items.
There are many freeze-dried food manufacturers out there so identifying which one provides the best quality and value can become overwhelming. We understand this is a long-term investment, so we want to highlight six important criteria that you can use to determine which company might be the best choice for you.
How to compare emergency food manufacturers
Before buying long-term food, you’ll want to ask yourself:
- What is the advertised shelf-life of the food?
- What is the number of servings versus the number of calories in each bucket?
- How healthy are the meals?
- Do the meals taste good?
- How long do the meals take to prepare?
- What is the reputation of the company making the food?
Let’s discuss what these questions mean for you and why they’re so important.
What is the advertised shelf life of the food?
- While the majority of the companies claim that their food will last well over 20 years, we have to examine how accurate that statement is. Mountain House, for example, states that their food will still taste good for up to 30 years. After the 30 year mark the food will still be edible, however it may change in texture or flavor. Other companies, like Wise Foods, Legacy Premium, and Emergency Essentials commit to a 25 year shelf life, so long as the food is stored in ideal locations, which is described as a cool, dark place with a consistent temperature of 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
- I don’t know how many unbiased food critics will wait 25 years or more to taste their emergency food supply, but hopefully each company is being honest.
The number of servings vs. number of calories
- The number of servings advertised on a food bucket are relative to the company. There is no government standard nor regulation for serving sizes. To one company, a single serving could mean one cup, whereas another company’s serving size may be two cups, yet they are both still advertised as 1 serving. To avoid being misled by serving sizes, pay attention to the number of calories per serving. By comparing the amount of calories you typically eat in a day versus the calories per day that the food bucket advertises, you can determine whether or not you’ll be satisfied with what they provide. For more information, watch this short video.
- The number of calories is relative to the ingredients that make up each food packet. Carefully examine which ingredients are being used in the meals. Think about it this way- half a cup of white granulated sugar contains 387 calories while half a cup of almonds contains 412 calories. It doesn’t take a genius to determine which one of the two is better for you. Make sure that the majority of the calories in each of the meals are nutritious calories rather than fillers, additives, and sugar. Food is fuel and if we don’t feed our bodies nutritious calories, we will have a lower chance of thriving in emergency situations, or any situation for that matter.
- The total weight of each food bucket is another important factor to consider. Some servings are advertised as “1/4 of a pouch” or “10 servings per container." That is irrelevant when you don’t know how much the pouch weighs.
Weight makes a difference in determining how much food you're getting!
- Emergency Essentials sells a 1-Month food bucket with 282 servings for just $250. That bucket weighs 33.5 pounds.
- Ready Wise sells a 240-serving bucket which weighs 45 pounds and costs $600.
- Legacy Premium sells a 240-serving bucket at $599, and it weighs 64 pounds.
- When purchasing food, remind yourself how many calories your family requires per day and double-check that the company you’re purchasing from provides the minimum amount of calories you need.
How healthy is the food?
- Getting through an emergency situation can become a challenging time for anyone. What would make it worse is feeling lethargic or sick the whole time because the so-called survival food is highly processed and not providing the necessary nutrients for physical energy. Deciding which survival food to purchase is not only a long-term commitment, but it’s also a health commitment. It’s vital to check which companies make their food from real ingredients and which companies use genetically modified ingredients. Most companies make their nutritional information easy to find.
- Dietary requirements: If you have any allergies or dietary restrictions, make sure you look for labels that clearly state information on the facility in which the food is processed.
- Sodium: This is something that can easily be overlooked in labels. Too much sodium can cause high blood pressure and fluid retention. Mountain House, Emergency Essentials and Wise Foods have a reputation for containing a lot of sodium per serving, whereas Legacy Premium prides themselves in providing a low sodium option for all their meals.
- Select food with these labels: Non-GMO, No MSG, No Artificial Flavors, No Caramel Color, No Hydrogenated Oil, No Trans Fat, and No High Fructose Corn Syrup.
Does the food taste good?
- Many companies offer comfort foods, like macaroni and cheese. This is a great idea especially if you have children.
- Children are not the only picky eaters. I agree that when I’m hungry and my ONLY option is a freeze-dried meal, it will certainly be enough to satisfy me. Why not go for something that will actually be enjoyable? Taste-testing food is an option I recommend to anyone. Before making a “1 Year Supply” purchase, for instance, try a few sample pouches. Have your family try it too and get a general consensus for which company's food you prefer most.
- Some brands to consider are Legacy Premium, Mountain House, Nutrient Survival, Augason, Ready Wise, and My Patriot Supply.
How long do the meals take to prepare?
- Cooking without access to power can be tricky. Make sure that the food you’re buying can be easily prepared with water. Most companies have developed meals that cook in under 15 minutes with boiling water. Typically those meals can be prepared with room temperature water too but the cooking time varies.
- Meals Ready To Eat (otherwise known as MRE’s) do not require cooking to prepare- just water. They are extremely convenient but are typically more expensive than freeze-dried meals. Some long-term food storage companies, like Mountain House and Backpacker’s Pantry, provide a great selection of MRE’s.
What is the reputation of the company making the food?
- Most survival food companies do not make their own food. For instance, Legacy Premium meals are manufactured by Honeyville, Inc; Ready Wise meals are made by Cottonwood Manufacturing, LLC; Mountain House is produced by ODF Foods. Each manufacturer carries its own long-standing reputation. Taking time to research these companies may help you determine which one is the best for you.
Tier three: The 1 year food plan
Planning a stockpile of food to survive an entire year would require that you invest in resources and knowledge beyond canned, dried, and freeze-dried food- unless you have the space for 24 large buckets.
In any case, you should consider the natural resources of your area, such as lakes, rivers, and wild land that would give you the ability to fish, hunt, and forage. Each country has its own laws, so be sure to research those first to determine what is legally accessible to you.
Learning how to grow and preserve your own produce and raise animals is something else you may want to look into. I have found Facebook community groups to be extremely helpful and encouraging, especially when learning new skills like dehydrating and canning.
How do you store food for optimal shelf-life?
In order to prevent early spoilage and rodents from getting into your food, you should learn how to store it properly. These are some tips to consider:
Where should long-term food be stored?
The ideal place to keep your food supplies is in a room where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate drastically, such as in the pantry. If you purchase freeze-dried food, you should find the temperature specifications on the meal pouches and bucket label.
To prevent rodents from gaining access, you should keep food storage areas clean and uncluttered. Be sure to inspect your food and storage containers periodically as well. For information on how to deter rodents, click here.
How often does food need to be rotated?
The canned and dried food you buy from the store should be rotated often. You can reference the survival food list for the estimated shelf-life of specific items, but as a general rule of thumb, store what you eat and eat what you store. In other words, your
2-week emergency food stash should consist of the same foods that you normally eat. Buy enough that you always have a 2-week overflow, and always eat the older items first.
As for freeze-dried foods, those should last you as long as they're advertised for. Oftentimes, vegetable-based meals last 25 to 30 years. Freeze-dried meats and meat-based meals last about 15 years.