Prepping Food Storage – Top 10 Foods to Stockpile
More than one group of experts are talking about increased risk of soaring food prices and economic instability. With recent droughts and other natural disasters around the world, our food production and delivery system is under a lot of of stress. If you can, I'd highly recommend stocking up on non-perishable food items.
- Freeze Dried Meals
- More Foods That Store Well Without Electricity
- 1. Lacto-fermented vegetables/ Home Preserved Products
- 2. Live Culture Dairy
- 3. Whole grains
- 4. Chia seeds
- 5. Sprouting seeds
- 6. High Quality Saturated Fat
- 7. Dried Beans and Rice
- 8. Real Salt
- 9. Bulk Spices, Herbs and Teas
- 10. Sweeteners, Including Refined White Sugar, Raw Sugar, Honey and Maple Syrup
Freeze Dried Meals
Valley Food Storage provides freeze dried food storage that is free of GMOs, MSG and fillers (unlike some other brands).
The food tastes like good quality prepackaged food – not overly salty or metallic. We've stocked up on some of meals as an easy to prepare option for emergencies such as a snowstorm or an extended power outage.
More Foods That Store Well Without Electricity
In addition to prepackaged meals, I also keep a stockpile of other foods that store well without electricity. Many food storage lists include large amounts of heavily processed food items because they are cheaper, readily available, and have amazing shelf lives.
This list is different because it includes living foods to provide probiotics and enzymes, which are critical to good health. It also features food that are more nutrient dense than standard packaged fare, as well as foods that enhance the flavor of bulk foods and those that can be used to preserve other foods to increase your storage even more.
So what are some of the best options for “real food” storage foods? Here are my top ten choices for foods that can be stored at room temperature for extended periods:
1. Lacto-fermented vegetables/ Home Preserved Products
Large containers of properly fermented vegetables can last for months, if not over a year, in cool conditions (for instance, an unheated basement or root cellar). Captain Cook used kraut on his ships to prevent scurvy, as did other sailors.
My mom talked about how they would preserve large crocks (15-20 gallons or more) of kraut from season to season. She said it would sometimes taste a little different but it was still good.
In my own experience, this past season I keep two one gallon crocks of kraut in my basement from October until May – seven months – and the quality was still acceptable at that time. The flavor was a little more tangy/bubbly than younger kraut.
At this point I repackaged it into smaller containers and put it in the fridge and freezer. Sauerkraut is very high in vitamin C, and is also a good source of vitamin K, which is often deficient in modern diets.
Home canned, dried or root cellared fruits, vegetables and other foods are not quite the nutritional powerhouses that lacto-fermented products are, but they are much easier to use for the bulk of a meal, or for an entire meal.
I've been working hard this season to preserve the bounty from the garden through canning and and drying, and will soon be filling the root cellar.
If you're unfamiliar with home food preservation, I recommend checking out the post “New to Food Preserving – Start Here“. If you decide to purchase canned food items, make sure to buy from a reputable source.
You may also be interested in:
- Canning and Preserving Recipes – from salsa and marinara sauce to jams and jellies
- How to make Sauerkraut
- How to make kimchi
- Root Cellars 101
- Above Ground Root Cellars – Enjoy Your Local Produce Longer
This year we purchased a HarvestRight™ home freeze dryer, and it has dramatically increased our home food storage options. It can be used to preserve food that is fresh, frozen, cooked or fermented.
Most fermenting cultures are shipped freeze dried and then rehydrated, so I suspect live culture food would also retain its active cultures after rehydrating. You can learn more about the unit in the post, “Home Freeze Drying – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly“.
2. Live Culture Dairy
You can use a yogurt culture to culture powdered milk. While powdered milk is not ideal, it does store without refrigeration. Culturing makes the nutrients much more digestible.
Milk kefir is also an option for a drinkable product. Milk kefir grains can also be used to culture coconut milk, if they are are occasionally revitalized in milk. Kefir provides protein, minerals and B vitamins. Traditional hard cheeses (such as Parmesan) may also last for months in cool dry temps.
3. Whole grains
Whole grains (in general) have excellent shelf lives, much longer than milled flours. If you store unprocessed wheat, such as red hard wheat it will last longer but you need to be able to process it. Places like Emergency Essentials sell grains and grain mills (electric powered and hand powered).
If you keep a sourdough culture, you can use it to make many baked goods, not just bread, such as sourdough crackers. Again, using sourdough culturing makes the nutrients in the grain more available.
Grains can also be sprouted and used to make a simple essene bread, which is very filling and nutritious. Read about purchasing and storing bulk grains here.
4. Chia seeds
Chia seeds have a shelf life of 4 to 5 years for dried seeds. They have omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, fiber, B vitamins, calcium and protein. They can be used to make drinks and no-cook puddings, as well as adding nutrition to baked goods and smoothies.
5. Sprouting seeds
Sprouting seeds also have a great storage life, generally 2 years or more. They are generally high in vitamin C, and may also contain other antioxidants and essential nutrients. They also provide fresh, growing food in a hurry when it may be in short supply.
Sprouting seeds are easy to use. You can grow them in handy sprouting kits, or in sprouting trays or even nylon stockings.
Mary Bell (in the Dehydrator Cookbook) suggests bringing sprouting seeds with you while camping. She says to soak them overnight in a bag of water, and then place them in a section of nylon sock attached to your backpack. Rinse daily, and in a few days you'll have live, crunchy additions to your trail rations.
6. High Quality Saturated Fat
Coconut oil, lard and tallow will all keep for at least 12-18 months (most likely longer) in sealed, airtight containers kept in a cool area. Keep extra containers of oil that you use regularly, and use the oldest first (buy it on sale).
Your body needs healthy fats. Your brain is largely made up of fat, as is protective coating on your lungs, and many other critical body systems. Fats are energy dense, which is also critical during emergency situations.
My personal favorite coconut oil is Nutiva, which tastes like fresh coconut to me.
7. Dried Beans and Rice
Dried legumes/beans have a great shelf. They can be stored in just the plastic bags from the store, 10 to even 30 years if sealed in airtight containers with oxygen removed.
Dried beans and rice keep more than 1/2 the planet alive. Consider stockpiling some, buy a 25 or 50 pound bag and break it into smaller 1 pound to 5 pound mylar bags with oxygen and moisture absorbers. That way you open a smaller bag of what you will use in the short term. Don't forget to label and date everything. Dried Beans and white rice have the longest shelf life. Brown rice and wild rice have much shorter shelf life.
Utah State University Cooperative Extension states: “Dry beans average about 22% protein in the seed, the highest protein content of any seed crop. They contain all essential amino acids, except methionine. Methionine can be obtained from corn, rice, or meat. Beans are an excellent source of fiber, starch, minerals and some vitamins.”
8. Real Salt
Unrefined salt has many trace minerals that are essential to health. In my experience, the unrefined salts (Real Salt, grey sea salt, pink salt, etc.) have a “saltier” more robust flavor, meaning you can use less to achieve the same result.
Buy 25 pound or 50 pound bags. Salt keeps forever.
Salt can also be used to preserve food (such as fermenting vegetables, above, and meats). Since ancient times, salt has been also used as a valuable trade commodity.
9. Bulk Spices, Herbs and Teas
Don't underestimate the power of herbs and spices. As well as being high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, many of them have preservative properties as well. The New Agriculturalist explains:
“Cinnamon is just one of a large number of spices that have long been known to preserve food. Recent research has tried to find out exactly how effective the spice can be, over what time period, and in suppressing which bacteria.
At Kansas State University, microbiologists have been testing the effectiveness of cinnamon and other spices in eliminating one of the most virulent bacterial causes of food poisoning, E.coli type 0157.
Complications arising from the bacteria can include anemia and kidney problems, and a serious outbreak can lead to fatalities.
The Kansas researchers found that cinnamon added to apple juice that had been contaminated with E.coli, was able to kill 99.5% of the bacteria within three days, at room temperature.
They also did tests on meat and sausage, and found that cinnamon, cloves and garlic all had a powerful ability to stop the growth of the bacteria.
Other microbiologists in Tennessee have found that oils extracted from oregano, coriander and basil, also have strong anti-microbial properties.
In future we may see more natural preservatives supplementing the synthetic compounds currently in use.”
I store my spices and herbs in glass jars out of direct light. I buy in bulk, store a small amount in the cupboard and the rest in the bulk food storage.
Larger spices, such as cinnamon sticks or other “chunky” spices, can be vacuum sealed in mason jars to extend shelf life.
Under cool, dry conditions out of direct light, spices should have a shelf of two years. They can still be used after this time, but potency will diminish. Spices could also be used as a trade commodity.
10. Sweeteners, Including Refined White Sugar, Raw Sugar, Honey and Maple Syrup
I'm sure some foodies will cringe at the inclusion of white sugar, but it is less expensive than the other options and has a great shelf life (white sugar will last indefinitely if kept in a sealed container in a cool, dry location).
Buy 25 or 50 pound bags and divide up into mylar bags based on how you use it.
Sugar can be used as a preservative for fruits. It can be used to heal wounds (as can honey). More details on the sugar for wound healing here.
I use sugar to brew my kombucha, too. Raw sugar can store as well as regular sugar, but may be cost prohibitive for many.
Honey can store easily for over a year, possibly decades. Older honey may need to be warmed. Archeologist have found edible honey in tombs over 1000 years old.
To store honey, Honey.com states:
Processed honey should be stored between 64-75°F (18-24°C).1 Honey can be exposed to higher temperatures for brief periods; however, heat damage is cumulative so heat exposure should be limited. It is best to minimize temperature fluctuations and avoid storing honey near heat sources.
The recommended storage temperature for unprocessed honey is below 50°F (10°C). The ideal temperature for both unprocessed and processed honey is below 32°F (0°C). Cooler temperatures best preserve the aroma, flavor and color of unprocessed honey.
Maple syrup has the shortest shelf life – around one to two years in glass bottles without freezing or refrigeration.
There are many other food options, but these are my top choices for foods that store a long time without refrigeration.
In addition to food, water is critical. Learn more about water storage and water filtration in the post Emergency Water Storage – What You Need to Know.
What are your favorite storage foods? Have any tips you'd like to share? Please leave me a comment and let me know.
View all our preparedness posts, including:
- Emergency Cooking – 10 Ways to Have a Hot Meal When the Power Goes Out
- Preparedness – Summer Storms, Tornadoes and Hurricanes
- Emergency Power Options for Your Home
Originally published in 2011, updated 2021.
That is all VERY interesting. I have often wondered about shelf life. My husband is on to me all the time about stocking up in the event of the "whatever". Great thoughts for me to think about. Debi
This is an excellent post, Laurie. We've spent the past year changing the way that we eat and as a result, our food stockpile has changed dramatically. You mentioned several things that we have discussed, but not yet implemented.
Fermenting is something I want to try this year. We also have a large garden for the first time and I can not wait to start dehydrating and preserving our foods that way as well.
And white sugar as a healing agent?? I had no idea! I just a good while reading more on that subject. How awesome is that?! Not that I hope to ever use the that information, but it's always good to be aware of what is available. Thanks for this list. I am sure I'll be referring back to it in the future.
Be certain that any refined sugar is CANE sugar, and not GRANULATED SUGAR. Scientists have not yet been able to make genetic modifications to sugar cane, so it is still as relatively safe as sugar can be. The other kind is made from gmo sugar beets and not fit for human consumption, much less use as a healing substance.
A word to the wise is sufficient.
I agree. Not only are most sugar beets now genetically modified to tolerate herbicide application (RoundUp Ready), they also don’t behave the same in the kitchen. This is clearly demonstrated in the article “SUGAR, SUGAR / Cane and beet share the same chemistry but act differently in the kitchen“
My husband can eat any sugar ever invented. I am too sensitive for most forms of crystallized sucrose and get a pretty good idea of how highly processed a brand is by whether a sore appears on the corner of my mouth, how quickly and how long it lasts! To my delight, organic demerara sugar (raw, but not to be confused with turbinado sugar) is okay once in a while. Thankfully, raw honey is okay on a daily basis. Due to severe candidiasis I stayed away from all sugar for years. Discovering that raw honey was not just ok but in many ways therapeutic has made life and cooking a lot more fun! Helpful precaution: Ayurvedic teachers say combining honey and ghee causes toxicity. The explanation is complex, try it at your own risk!
When my mother had an open wound that wouldn’t heal her doctor had me mix sugar and iodine together and pack the wound with it every day.
Did it work?
White sugar can be used for water kiefer after it has fermented there is not much sugar left…
Thanks, ladies. I know our eating habits have changed dramatically over the years, and it has changed the way I store food, too. Food prices are rising, with no end in site, so I think, if you can, it make sense to stock up. I just saw that they are facing crippling droughts in China – that's a lot of hungry people.
My hubby was the one who wanted to make sure I included the info on sugar as a healing agent. He learned that years ago when he was reading about military history. I could see where it would come in handy for veterinary use as well.
Wow great post! Thanks for sharing
Fantastic – as always. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks for your kind words, Jasmine.
Your list looks just like mine! Real food storage can be done, but the majority of info out there is just so much dead food. I've heard that the price of sugar is set to skyrocket the way coffee has, which at first didn't concern me until I remembered I use sugar in kombucha and many of my herbal medicines syrups! At that point, I started storing plain, white sugar alongside my honey.
Next week in the carnival, I'm doing a post on coconut oil. It is really an amazing food and SO appropriate for storage and emergencies! Thanks so much for participating in the Real Food Emergency Preparedness Blog Carnival!
Sugar has gotten a bad rap lately, and for good reason, but when used appropriately it is very handy. I don't know what I'd do without my kombucha. I'd miss it terribly!
This is a great article. I hope ou come and share it at FAT TUESDAY1
Where do you get your bulk coconut oil? Does it have a strong coconut taste? My daughter is allergic to all dairy so I've had to switch over to cooking with all coconut oil. I'd love to buy in bulk, but am a little hesitant to order a giant container and have it taste super coconutty.
Many grocery stores have small containers of coconut oil in their natural foods department. Refined coconut oil has no coconut flavor. I use it for things like frying chicken. Unrefined coconut oil has more of a coconut taste. That's the one I use for eating straight, or for applications where I prefer the coconut flavor. My favorite brand is Nutiva, which I order directly from their site.
I've used honey on a bad burn that my 2 yo got last year along with a few other "home remedies." Your comment on sugar and veterinary use reminded me of how my sister's dog was involved in an accident (racing a car) and lost a lot of her foot. The vet had her pack the injury in sugar twice daily to help grow back the tissue around the barely last remaining toe. The tissue grew back sufficiently and the dog kept the toe that kept getting infected. Sugar provides immediate injury to the cells to help make the repair — plus sugar keeps bacteria from growing as it is a preservative.
Thanks for taking time to comment and share your experience, Cheryl. My husband had a bad burn this summer that we treated with honey. It dried non-sticky on the wound, and there was no scar.
We store the things you mentioned, except that I use turbinado sugar in place of the refined white sugar. I also try to store cans of young coconut juice/water to have on hand for electrolyte replenishment when we've been sick, or if we've just been working or playing extra hard. 🙂 Even if you have a water filter, it is important to have water stored in containers in the event of a natural disaster, water pipe problems, or having to evacuate. We keep at least two weeks or more of water (one gallon per person per day) in the basement, and we like to keep full water bottles in a backpack along with a change of clothes, a first aid kit, and a one-gallon bucket full of things like chia seeds, fruit leather, nuts, etc. in case we ever have to evacuate. It would also work for a spontaneous camping trip if we throw in sleeping bags and a tent. 🙂
Great list. I’d just like to add that in addition to the health and preservative qualities of spices and herbs, storing them is a good idea to fight diet fatigue in the event of an extended emergency. With a good variety of spices on had you can make oatmeal or rice and beans taste different everyday. I buy almost exclusively whole spices and grind them as needed. If they are whole and stored in airtight packaging away from light their shelf life is hugely extended (I have some whole nutmegs that are at least five years old and still fantastically potent).
I also store dried fruits and veggies and some home-canned products to provide some variety, color, and nutrition to our food storage.
Lily – very good points. Whole spices can also be more easily vacuum sealed in glass jars with a basic Foodsaver attachment, further extending their shelf lives. Note to self – I need to add more of my favorite bulk food and spice sources to the resource page. 🙂
We also have whole Nutmeg stored in a baggie in a glass jar in a cabinet for at least 6 years and still tastes perfect when grated.
Yes, whole spices hold their flavor better than ground spices.
Great suggestions… but I’ll tell you, water is the thing that will really get you quick. Our well shorted out and we have been without running water for a month, while we save up for the repair (expensive!) And that has been such a HUGE eye opener. Even if we’re careful, we still need about 7 gallons of water a day for three people, 7 sheep, a pony, 2 dogs, cats, bunnies and chickens! We have an artesian well about 4 miles from the house, but gosh, hauling water in the cold is hard work. We plan to install several large rainwater catchers out in the barn, and also on all the gutters. Water is a very precious commodity for sure! Also plan to invest in a good filter too. Just adding my two cents of realty that slapped us across the face!
Sherri – very important point. Since the post was already pretty long, I felt it was best to deal with water in another post (which I really need to make time to write…). We do have a rain barrel set up, but that’s seasonal for the time being (https://commonsensehome.com/how-to-build-a-rain-barrel-plus-care-and-maintenance/). We also keep a small emergency stash of 30 gallons, and have a large Berkley filter and a Berkley sport filter available. Since we don’t currently have animals other than cats (hoping – if we get to stay here), our water needs are much lower, but it’s still a very important consideration.
The water filter’s name is “Berkey” rather than “Berkley” 😀
Great article! Reminds me to add spices/herbs and *salt* to prepping supplies. Thanks!
I’m going to bookmark this!
I hadn’t even noticed that Cultures for Health had viili and piimä starters in stock, so I’m head over heels happy to have had it pointed out to me! 😉
However I’d be cautious about calling viili yogurt without an explanation, since Americans think of yogurt as something thick (yay for chemical thickening agents… bleh!) I grew up on viili and piimä in Finland, and remember my grandmother always keeping a batch or two of different fermented milk products going at her cottage. She even had designated flat sort of shallow cone shaped viili cups for the purpose of making viili. The other grandmother had larger ceramic bowls of a similar shape for the same purpose. I guess oldtimers liked the material for the cooling effect of the clay, which is probably why crocks are still really useful.
Penny – you’re right, it’s not standard “yogurt” as most folks in the US think about it, but then almost all natural yogurts are not like the ones in the store, which are (mostly) thickened with additives. My first introduction to villi was when I found it on the Cultures for Health site, and I thought it was the coolest thing that you could culture a yogurt without having to fuss with temperature. If you have a link on your site where you discuss villi and piima in more detail, please feel free to add it here.
Since I had no access to a viili culture, I was using Zoi brand nonfat plain Greek yogurt from the grocery store for my starter, and I do tend to filter it, since I prefer the thick consistency when eating yogurt. And the whey gets used up in my breakfast smoothies and baking projects.
Piimä has been a bit more like an ingredient for other foods, since most recipes calling for buttermilk have a similar equivalent using piimä, and I’m not a great fan of the taste, although it makes spice cakes divine. Finns used to drink their milk as piimä before refrigeration, as the soured milk didn’t spoil in a canteen in the field (some craftsmen still make those old wooden canteens, since people collect them, some daring individuals even use them to store their sour dairy products). My mom told me that my bottle as a kid was never filled with milk in summertime, since it didn’t go bad in the heat.
You can use viili as a starter culture for more viili, but some Finns just dump a bit of piimä in the bottom of a viili cup, add a bit of cream (to taste), and cover with milk, without stirring the ingredients together. The culture climbs its way to the top of the bowl, and it’s done, when a soft, velvety film covers the milk. The culture is just left to set undisturbed overnight in room temperature under a kitchen towel, and then moved to the fridge overnight the next day.
My grandmother used viili cups to make viili, and usually served it with Talkkuna-flour ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kama_%28food%29 ) and fresh berries, or jam. The dish grew on me over time, it takes some getting used to, but I tend to start my holidays back home eating all the traditional foods that are hard to get in the U.S. 🙂
The “traditional” way of making viili is roughly translated from; http://cebic.vuodatus.net/blog/2193642/kotitekoinen-viili/
Thanks for sharing, Penny. Interesting information. 🙂
the best way to store food is on the hoof! thanks for your post.
Candace – that keeps it fresh, for sure, but not everyone has that option. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂
One problem I’ve run into is getting those darn moths in our bulk grains. Heck I’ve even gotten them from non-bulk foods in conventional grocery stores. Those buggers can get into just about anything.
I talked to an entomologist who told me freezing grains for two weeks was sufficient to kill all stages of the moths. After two weeks in the deep freeze they were safe to store at room temp in a bug free zone.
If using this method I’d definitely store my long term items far away from the kitchen…. like the garage or basement. I once brought home moths eggs in a bag of popcorn kernals. If I had my grains stored in the kitchen everything would have been infested.
Bryony – thanks for sharing this. Thankfully, I haven’t had a problem with moths, but I did get grain with weevils once – ugh! I do normally either freeze or vacuum seal my grain for long term storage. There are a number of other methods to thwart bugs, too, such as treatment with dry ice or diatomaceous earth.
This site is great! We do a lot of bulk grains and one way I have found to keep moths out is to add one or two ( depending on the size of your container) bay leaves to the grains. We do freeze first for a day or two but I have had both moths and beetles in our foods even after freezing. Since we started with the bay leaves we haven’t had any. Hope this helps.
Stacy – thanks for sharing your experience. So far, the only time I dealt with insects is when I bought grain infested with weevils and they hatched. Just nasty. Frontier herbs agrees with your praise of bay leaves, stating “Because it’s so strongly aromatic, bay laurel is resistant to many kinds of plant pests and diseases. Plants that grow nearby the bay laurel are said to benefit from this ability. In the home, bay is used to repel grain beetles and other insects. Place a leaf or two in each container of stored grains or in each box of stored clothing.”
Bay leaves are also very good for keeping roaches out of the house. Just crush a few dry leaves in each corner of a room and near any openings such as an air duct or vent…..viola!….no bugs.
How much area and how many leaves? Bugs aren’t a big problem here, but I know they are for others in different areas.
This is an amazing guide & I will definitely be incorporating more “live” foods in my storage now! Thank you so much for sharing this. These tips are fabulous for someone who wants to be prepared, but health conscience at the same time.
Thanks, “Pynk”. When I started researching food storage, I was frustrated by all the guides listing food I didn’t really want to eat.
Another use for plain old white sugar is to make water grained kefir. I bought my water kefir grains on Amazon and the Keysands company sent instructions with them. You just add the grains to a sugar water base and let it set in a warm dark corner. And it actually tastes very good as well as being nutritious.
There is also a book, “Wild Fermentation” by Sandor Katz that contains really great information on all kinds of products that are fermented around the world. He likes to “catch” the fermenting agent from the air around us, thus the “wild” part.
Also, regarding the Berkey water filter, I have extremely rusty well water and have been using my Big Berkey for around 6 months now and am very pleased with its performance. Now I do put my well water (from my tap) into gallon bottles and let it sit for a day or so and leave about an inch in the bottom when pouring it into the filter so that eliminates some of the rust, however there is a marked difference between the before filtering rust colored bottles and the after filtering clear bottles of water. I have not found any other filter that has worked as well!
Awesome post, thanks! Coconut oil and Himalayan pink salt I have in abundance, am working on the others. So glad I read this and found you, am subscribing now. Keep ’em comin!!
Really busy in the garden right now, but should be writing more after planting is finished. Lots of ideas in my head, I just need more hours in the day.
hi, I love all the info you are all sharing. I am new to this, it’s all a little overwhelming. I am wondering how to start with the food stocking, what is a good starter, and I have a rain barrel to water my garden. do you also use rain water filtered for drinking? and storage/ living in florida, it’s hard to keep things from heat and humidity, I am using a bedroom closet to store my home canned tomatoes. I am open to all info and help . I really miss my house in pennsylvania, with the nice cold basement. but have to make due. thank you all for such great info.
Start small with things that you know you need/will use. Buy a little extra on sale, or buy in bulk. I know Emergency Essentials stock airtight/water tight containers, moisture absorbers and oxygen absorbers that will help extend storage life in less than optimal conditions, and their prices are as good or better than anywhere else I’ve checked on the Net. Don’t try to do everything at once, just take it one step at a time. You may be able to sneak in storage under beds or in other nooks around the home. Any place with a relatively constant temperature is better than big temperature swings.
Having some source of clean water should be a top priority. You can use rain barrel water, but I would recommend a good non-electric filter like a Berkey. More on water storage here – https://commonsensehome.com/emergency-water-storage/
Check around for local preppers if you can find them, and they might be willing to offer specific advice for your area.
In an extended emergency, the whole seeds you’ve included (chia, sprouting, grains & beans) also double as seed for calorie crops. I’ve only begun to get interested in survival preparedness, but I’ve noticed a lot of “survival seed bank” products that seem to contain only vegetable seeds, or tiny packs of grain and legumes. If you really had to feed yourself, you’re going to need tens of pounds of seed in order to generate the several *hundred* pounds of storage grain or legumes necessary to feed a family for a year.
Also, it’s worth stocking up on storable vegetables in the fall, such as winter squash, apple, pears, onions, potatoes, garlic, cabbage, etc. Many varieties of these items will store for months in a cool garage, without fermentation. The potatoes also can serve as emergency “seed” as well.
Good notes. I think it’s also important for people to realize that if they intend to garden for survival food, they’d better start now, because there’s a learning curve to gardening, like most skills. There’s a link within the post to root cellar information, i.e., storing foods without electricity – https://commonsensehome.com/root-cellars-101/
Salt is a very important thing, especially for people who don’t live anywhere near a natural source of it. It should be noted that table salt (ie iodized salt) should be kept on hand, too, though not necessarily in large amounts. The body needs iodine to function properly, and salt is the easiest way to get it. 🙂
We keep whole grains rather than ground. I might suggest you all look for your closest local LDS Cannery. We have one about an hour away, and boy, I tell you, it’s worth the trip. We got over 400 lbs of food all told, all dried stuff in bulk bags or in #10 cans, and it cost us less than $125.
Another note – if you’re buying things for storage, make a point of learning how to cook with it. I gotta say, if I’d opened up the bulk red wheat, ground it, and tried to make bread for the first time in an *emergency*, I’d have failed miserably. LOL… I found out that fresh ground flour has a LOT of moisture in it, and I had to cut out almost an entire cup of water from my bread recipe. I’ve been learning to cook with our bulk beans, too.
We keep MREs in the emergency backpacks, so that if we were stuck in the car in a snowstorm or something, we’d have a ready source of food we didn’t have to worry about cooking. But those are for “on the go” type emergencies. If I’m at home during a power outage or anything of that sort, pretty much our day just continues as normal. *grin*
Thanks, ReAllyson. We don’t have an LDS Cannery nearby, but that could be a good option for many. I’ve also got a number of bulk purchase places listed on the Resource page – https://commonsensehome.com/resources/
I’ve actually stumbled across an interesting resource for planning, inventorying and updating your pantry and stockpiles, and decided to share.
At About.com, they have a section reserved for frugal living, and plenty of printable worksheets for keeping track of what you’ve got in store, or what you have canned, and so on. I ended up printing out the two files I linked to, and am keeping them in a prominent place in the kitchen. I’m hoping to get around to laminating a copy of each at some point. That way, I can just mark them with dry erase markers with comments such as “low”, “use up”, or “need more…” I’ve found it way easier to remember what I’m missing, if I scan through a list on the fridge door, rather than through the mess that is our current pantry.
I ended up spending a couple of hours yesterday just saving these files, and making sure I have a backup copy for bringing along to the printer next time I have access to one. I guess I’m catering to my obsessive compulsive type A personality here. But what it does, is improves the grasp we have of what we’re storing up.
Thanks for the links. I was thinking about hunting down some more of that sort of thing, but you beat me to it. 🙂
You’re absolutely welcome. I keep getting updates from responses to this thread while sorting out my file folders, so it was a good reminder to share. It’s not fun to hoard great resources. I just saved the gardening worksheets from the same website. Now I’ll just need a binder a mile thick to corral all those print outs, of which there are many by now. 😉
I just wanted to add that in place and/or addition to maple syrup, you can keep corn syrup on hand and make pancake syrup as needed. Corn syrup will last indefinitely, even if a little yellowing occurs. You can flavor the syrup with whatever you have available like fruit, juice, berries, or flavoring such as maple- which does only last about a year or so. Google syrup made from other trees than maple if you don’t have them available- interesting find:)
Corn syrup is SO BAD for health! Some things just aren’t worth it for the harm they cause the body, and this is one of them. there is NO redeeming value in HFCS!!!!
Don’t forget black pepper! It can be used as a preserver! Family members like to use black pepper to cover venison during hunting season. It means a less salty meat for those concerned about salt & blood pressure. Also, sugar can be used in curing meats. My grandfather always sugar cured his meats.
Yes, many spices are great as preservatives. 🙂
We go out 5km off the coast and get sea water to cook with. (We live in a pristine area). Use about 1/5 to 1/4 seawater in your cooking.
I would like to add the following improvements we have/are incorporating into our lifestyle: Use Pickl-It jars for all fermentation as it seals out oxygen creating an anaerobic environment which is crucial. Open crocks are not traditional (clay pots, animal skins, and oak barrels – all sealed which allowed the CO2 to push out the oxygen and not allow it back in) and result in a very compromised product which can be unhealthy. A Harsch crock, with the water moat, works but mold eventually shows up. Pemmican is a great survival food, and when prepared correctly (see http://www.traditionaltx.us/images/PEMMICAN.pdf and http://www.traditionaltx.us/images/JerkyDrierInstructions.pdf – or use a dehydrator). I have finished rendering 40 lbs of suet (internal cavity fat) into 25 lbs of tallow for making pemmican. I have started drying meat and will finish this step in the next couple of weeks. We have been canning stock made according to Nourishing Traditions cook book as it is excellent to have on hand to mix with grains, make sprouted bean soups (sprouting legumes changes the fat from polyunsaturated to saturated), and gravy’s.
Have you ever used the process of oven canning to lengthen the shelf life of dry foods such as rice, flour oatmesl, etc? And if so, do you recommend it?
I haven’t tried it, because I normally use the vacuum sealer for those types of goods. That said, it should be safe for dry goods, but not for foods that normally require water bath or pressure canning.
I have oven-sealed canning jars for storing dry goods. It works very well with very dry dehydrated foods, beans, pasta and such. I wouldn’t recommend it for sugar, as the heat can alter it.
I haven’t tried oven canning because I have the vacuum sealer, but I know friends have used it with good results.
Saurcraut in a jar is very easy and reliable.
Pack shredded cabbage tightly into a quart jar. Add 1teaspoon salt. Fill with boiling water. Put lifs on. Let.seabout a month in a cool, dry and dark place. Eat. Goof. Eayer bath van as is if you plan to kerp it awhile.
Norah, if folks want to try this method, I’d highly recommend mixing the salt with the cabbage to make sure it is evenly distributed. Cabbage is low acid, so the salt helps prevent spoilage and encourage friendly bacteria growth.
maple syrup will last for a very long time. If a mold grows on it return syrup to stove and bring to boil and skim any scum that forms. Then strain and rebottle or can, your syrup is as good as new. This can be done until syrup is used up. No Vermonter will ever throw out maple syrup as it can be brought back to good as new by being reboiled.
Thanks for the tip, Wildbill. The recommendations I’ve seen online talk about shorter storage times, but I know my syrup has lasted longer with no signs of spoilage.
I see that maple syrup has a shorter shelf life than other options. Do you know how maple sugar rates?
I can’t recall where I saw the reference, but if I remember correctly it still doesn’t store quite as well as other dry sweeteners because it has a higher moisture content.
Great article. Just a few more ideas. Someone mentioned worksheets for keeping track of your stores. Several years ago, while on vacation, our home was robbed. This thief not only took valuables but must have been hungry because he stripped our freezer, both the large one and the little on in our fridge. Took our pantry stores too; all except the wheat, oats and other grains. You can imagine what that would cost to replace! When we got home and reported it, our insurance agent said he was sorry we’d lost so much in food and the company couldn’t pay for it without documentation of what was taken. Imagine his surprise when I pulled out of my files full inventories of my pantry, freezer as well as our valuables. Also, don’t leave a list on your fridge or convenient to your storage. This just gives a thief a list of what to take. Keep it separate and train yourself to either keep two lists, one for shopping and the other for storage. When you write on one, do so for the other. When things get tough, there may be no insurance to reimburse you. Also, I now, don’t store everything in one place. I keep up to 5 different caches and use up one cache at a time, this way I am rotating and no one knows where ALL the food is stored.
Second, I have 4 very large planters, currently two of them are used for growing veggies like lettuce, radishes etc because if I ever run out of electricity, the dirt gets moved out and they become my refrigerator. I learned this when I moved where we had no electricity. To keep cold, you cover with a wet heavy cloth and tie with a rope. This isn’t for long term use, but to keep food long enough to use it up as in a day similar to a cooler. Works better if you can stay home and don’t have to bug out, but I also keep 2 more as barter items because I know I’ll be able to use them that way.
Sorry that you were robbed, but that’s excellent that you are so well organized. Thanks for sharing your tips – very good information.
Wonderful article. I look at my pantry and struggle… wanting to be prepared (I always have been. Life deals us misfortune all the time. With a full pantry it’s one less problem.) But, now I want to eat healthier. This helps me see where I need to change my ideas about food storage. Excellent ideas. Thanks for sharing.
Life can lead to many ups and downs. I know of a friend who had to cook almost solely out of her pantry for an extended period due to loss of income. When my husband lost his job back in 2008, I know I was glad to have many of the basics covered. Just keep working on it day by day. Thanks for taking time to comment.
Laurie, great article! Since going Primal/Paleo three years ago, I don’t stock wheat or much sugar. Lately, I’ve been reconsidering my food storage to include more wheat and sugar. Even though I don’t eat wheat, it has great barter potential as would sugar.
The other items are on your list are in my Primal Pantry. Great value adding info!
Thank you all this is a Great Info site it’s all greatly appreciated,the world needs more people like ya’ll,Take care…
So does honey store indefinitely? Great post, by the way.
They have found jars in the pyramids that were still edible, so I think “indefinitely” is a good word to use.
On the subject of honey, research has suggested that raw honey is the preferred type of honey to consume. Trace minerals, antibacterial and anti-fungal elements remain in the raw form. Once heated by pasteurization these are removed. Some even say that filtering also removes these properties. Eating the honeycomb is the rawest form and packed with all the goodness the body needs.
Often times the honey bought in big box stores has fillers, corn syrup and other “stuff” you don’t need or want, plus it may have come from foreign countries (China, Chili and elsewhere). Buying local from a beekeeper is the best way.
I get in on a bulk purchase from a local apiary. Great prices and a product you can trust. The friend who does the pickup has watched the harvest.
This is a very helpful post. Thanks for the information.
Pasta, Lentils, Instant Oatmeal, Rice are all good things to stock up on. Vacuum seal them, place in 5 gallon buckets, toss in a couple of hand warmers (these remove oxygen), put on a lid and stick them in the back of closet.
You can also make dill pickles in a crock. Mom always had a garden and one year the cucumbers went crazy and she was not able to keep up so we got out the big crock and I took her pickle recipe and multiplied it and we had a big crock of very large dill pickles and they were great all winter. we kept it in the basement. we did weigh the cucks down with a plate to keep them under the brine.
Yes, that’s old school pickling/brining. Great for those of us in cooler climates. Now heavily frowned upon by the FDA. (But we won’t tell them…)
Did I read “yoghurt maker”? 🙂 All you need for yoghurt is a bit of warmth (and left over yoghurt). I currently just cover it with a cloth and put it into the oven over night. I just leave the light on, no actual heat. But I’ve also read that keeping it under the warm blanket from last night would work. You’ll have yoghurt in the evening.
I usually just get rid of any excess whey that is visible on top with a spoon, but if you like thicker yoghurt just hang it over the sink in a cheese cloth until it stops dripping. That’s how our Greek guy at work says his grandma does it.
II just finished a batch of yoghurt hanging from my kitchen cupboard door nob and dripping the whey out. If you leave it overnight, whats left in the morning in addition to the whey is a very firm and delicious cream cheese that I love spread on home-made wheat bread or gluten free oat cakes. the addition of some garden fruit or chopped chives or sliced cucumber or…… it’s not only good but good for you also!!
Yogurt cheese – easy and tasty.
I think it should be noted that dry beans can become too old to cook well. I’m not sure of the exact science, but if the beans are old no amount of cooking will make them soft and the result is hard on the digestion. An article delving into this aspect would surely be important to homesteaders and preppers. Is there a way to preserve dry beans and avoid this loss of cooking quality?
Proper storage helps, especially vacuum sealing in glass, but you are absolutely right – they can get very tough. I haven’t seen any comparisons, but I’ll have to look around some more.
Beans can be made a lot softer and tasty if you use a “thermal cooking method”. Cook the beans on the stove for about 15 minutes. Use an almost full pot with short handles and a lid. Get ready a sleeping bag &/or blankets with a mylar blanket or a towel and trivet on top. Put in a laundry basket or box to keep it’s shape. When the beans are ready, quickly put the pot on the trivet and cover it tightly with the towel, blankets, bag, etc. Let it be for 3-5 or up to 8 hours – no peeking. Beans should then be very tender and still hot. If they are not, cook and wrap again. It’s really amazing how good they taste and they never burn this way.
I know some of my friends sell Wonderbags or Wonder Ovens that are insulated containers made specifically for this use. I should add them to the post.
Very detailed and good written article! So many people freeze fruits and vegetables and so little think that when there is some emergency usually there is also a great risk to be left without power. What do you do then?! I was thinking about this lately, so thanks a lot for sharing, good to know I’m not the only one!
lots of good, interesting info from so many nice sounding people! a few thoughts: learn to live off your stores, learn to grow what you eat, learn to adjust your diet primarily to those things you can grow or that are available in your area. in other words, learn to simplify!! example; I’ve stopped using sugar and switched to honey which I barter for with a local bee-keeper, along with stevia which I can grow easily in my garden. One of my main diet (storage) items is dried beans which are also easy to grow and save seed for. I use sprouting a lot in the winter; the sprouts are very highly nutritious, taste delicious with lots of variety, and I can grow and save lots of different seeds right in my garden. A tablespoon of seeds will give you lots of sprouts in just a few days. Wheat is another of my staples which I trade with a friend who grows organically..He gets beans in return. I own a grain grinder (electric or hand crank) but most days I just soak overnight along with whole grain rice and cook as is. Be sure to save and use the cooking water or you’ll be throwing out a lot of minerals. The cooked product can be added to any number of dishes but when I want to spoil myself I make wheat pudding; just substitute the cooked wheat for the rice in your favorite rice pudding recipe and use whatever fruit you can grow instead of raisens (which I can’t make). One last thought; if you don’t already know, look up the nutritional value of the three weeds, portulaca, lambs quarters(pigweed) and chick weed. Most of us spend a lot of time hoeing them out when they are far superior nutritional wise than the vegetables we’re growing; and they”re FREE.. You can save the seeds but as you probably know, they love to self seed everywhere.. Don’t make being self-sufficient too complicated; I’m an almost 80 years old pensioner and live on 4 lots in a small town in north-eastern Saskatchewan, Canada (zone 2a) and enjoying a simple, stress free live (most days)
Thanks for sharing your ideas, Len. I’m a big fan of weed eating, too. One of my favorite things about weeds is that they green up early while I’m still waiting the the rest of the garden to com ein.
Regarding buying pre-packaged emergency supplies, remember that glyphosate is now an even more significant risks than whether it is GMO or not. The effects of this herbicide may compromise our immune systems more quickly than GMO’s, and the GMO crops will almost always be saturated with glyphosate. Until these stored food companies attest to no glyphosate and no GMO’s the option I am now pursuing is to grow organic and preserve as much as I can. I dehydrate to reduce storage requirements and am really curious about whether freeze drying will protect nutrients as well as dehydrating does.
Great post, Laurie. Will be particularly interested in reading of your experience with your freeze dryer. Have been debating purchasing one, but of course expense and trying to figure out where I would put it are top considerations. Please keep us updated! thanks.
I just got notice it was shipping today! I’m sure the bulk of my drying will take place during harvest season, but of course we want to give it a try once it arrives. One of the other things I’m particularly interested in is freeze drying meat, and most of the long storage meals are meatless, and commercial freeze dried meat is very pricey.
Oh – and as for size, it’s about the same as a small fridge, so not huge, but not tiny.
Agree with you about FD meat and that is also one of my interests in getting the machine. Also the ability to FD entire meals, take advantage of sales, bulk purchases, garden produce, etc. and also because you can if necessary eat the FD food without rehydrating. And like anything else, when you do your own you know what’s in it!
I know the machine itself isn’t big, but I am concerned about the space to allow for the pump and the bucket for draining the water. In addition, the unit is rather heavy at 100 pounds, but of course if it is well built as everyone says that would make sense. The fan is supposed to be a bit noisy, but from what I’ve read and videos I’ve watched it doesn’t sound any louder than my dehydrator.
One thing I’ve learned with my other appliances: if they are not convenient to use they don’t get used as much. I have no room in my kitchen for this, so I would have to put it in the garage which is a level down. While not convenient it is certainly doable, but would want to make sure it was worth the expense.
Have fun experimenting and learning and keep us up to date! Thanks.
I hear you. I completely reorganized my pantry and cupboards last year so I could get to the stuff I need more easily. One good thing about it is that it should be a “set it and forget it” option while it’s running, not something that would need to be checked regularly. Still waiting to get word of a delivery time. 🙂
It would be great if you could follow-up with strategies you use for rotating your stored food items. This is one thing that has been holding me back – how to keep track of items and revolve through them.
Great information, and I’m glad you included fats, sweeteners and salt!
I am not as organized as I probably should be, but I do make a point of going through my storage areas a couple of times per year to check dates and see what needs to be used up. The freezers are defrosted and cleaned annually, in spring before it’s time to fill them again for the season.
It seems as though long gone are the days of canning. I love seeing this advice because I remember my mother canning back when I was a kid. We often don’t think of these emergency situation but should. Having a home generator can really alleviate a lot of power issues and is worth the investment!
Thankfully I live in a community where the art of canning is not forgotten, although we do have a generator, too – just in case.
I liked the info on the kraut. I’ve preserved kraut for over 40 years. Scary when I think about it being that long. A little over 30 years ago my Mom gave me the following recipe for kraut: I use quart jars. Start by shredding your cabbage, then stuff in the jar until it is half full, pack it down tight and add a tsp. of salt. Continue filling the jar and pack it down, add 1tsp. salt, fill the jar with boiling water. Use a knife to make sure the air is out. Now clean off you rim and place your canning lid on. Set on a shelf for 6 weeks and you have your kraut.
I’ve seen that technique, but do have some concerns with it. Any time you stick a metal object into a glass jar, you risk nicks that can later cause jar failure. The salt may not be evenly distributed in the brine. Adding boiling water might dilute the naturally occurring acidity of just the cabbage juice fermenting, leading to unsafe storage conditions. All that said, if you’re comfortable with it and it works for you… just don’t tell the FDA.