The Best Foods for Long-Term Storage


Storing food is an important part of any disaster preparation plan and ensures that your family has enough to eat in a worst case scenario. Since you can't know for sure when disaster will strike, you should store foods with a long shelf life (at least one to two years), and keep the food in a location that's cool, dark and dry.

Food storage.
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Whole grains, especially wheat, have an incredibly long shelf life if stored in dry, vacuum-packed containers. Whole wheat lasts from 10 to 20 years if stored properly, and most other grains last approximately 10 years. It's very important that the grains be whole, not cracked or ground into flour, because cracked grain and flour don't last as long. It's also extremely important to protect grains against rodents, insects and moisture, as any of these quickly destroy your stored grains. Store your grains off the ground in vacuum-packed containers, if possible.

Cereals and grains overview.
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Dried legumes, like soybeans, split peas and lentils, last approximately seven years if protected against moisture, temperature swings and pests. Dried vegetables and dried fruit have a comparable shelf life. Because these foods are dried, they are more susceptible to moisture in the air, so protect them in sealed, vacuum-packed containers that are stored off the ground.

Bowl of dried prunes.
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Dehydrated milk can keep for up to five years if stored properly. However, if any moisture is introduced, dry milk spoils more quickly than other items. Store dry milk in smaller, vacuum-sealed containers, so that you won't lose all your milk if one package fails.

Milk cartons.
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Most commercial canned food, generally, keeps for about two years, although you should always check the expiration date printed on the can. On one hand, commercial canned goods have the advantage of being prepackaged in tough containers, making them much easier to store. They also offer some variety in a post-disaster diet and can easily be used in day-to-day cooking as their expiration dates approach. On the other hand, they may not last as long as properly stored dried foods and, generally, require a can opener.

Canned food assortment.
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  • "Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook"; Peggy Layton; 2002
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