Emergency Food Supply: What Food to Store?

Emergency Food Supply: Week 26

What Kind of Food to Store

There are two kinds of food storage. Think about the time frame and the type of emergency you are planning for when you start your food storage pantry.

First, there is short-term food storage; food that is in constant rotation. You eat regularly and you replace it every week, every month, or seasonally when you process the harvest.

The second kind of food is specifically designed for long-term food storage (1-25 years). These foods are specially processed (canned, freeze-dried, dehydrated, vacuum-sealed), and may even be stored in airtight containers that can withstand a flood. These products are typically sold by specialty companies like Thrive, the Ready Store, Legacy Food Storage, Wise Food Storage, etc*. You can, of course, eat food from your long-term food store at any time.

One common mistake people make when thinking about food storage is to purchase a bunch of costly packaged food and think they’re done. It’s not really that easy.

  1. Long-term storage food often comes in an unfamiliar form. Freeze-dried cheese doesn’t look or act like fresh cheese. When you open that can, you’ve now got something you don’t know how to use or how to cook. The taste isn’t familiar. Chances are you won’t use it.
  2. Quantities are very large. A #10 can is quite large. For some products, it could take a person a year to use it up. And once you open the can and expose the food inside to air, it won’t last a year. You could end up throwing away a large amount of your food and food dollars.
  3. Food preparation may require tools that you don’t have. A properly packaged 5-gallon bucket of wheat berries has a shelf life of 30-50 years but if you want flour you need to be able to grind them, and then you need to be prepared to cook with flour that behaves differently than store-bought flour.

A good rule of thumb should be this: if you have never used it (or don’t really like it), it should NOT be part of your food storage plan!

For most people, your emergency food pantry should be based on the food that you have in short-term rotation rather than specialty food from an emergency company. It’s less costly. It’s easier to find. You know you like it and you know how to use it. What you may not know (yet) is how to store it properly to prolong its shelf life. (Transition Longfellow hosted a book group reading Sharon Astyk’s book, “Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage and Preservation.” The book is out of print but can easily be found online.)

If you do choose to buy long-term emergency food from a company that caters to “preppers,” begin to incorporate those foods into your daily life in slow rotation. Become familiar with how to prepare the foods in ways you and your family enjoy.

Your Task This Week

Decide if you want to use primarily short-term or long-term food in your 3-month pantry. Research some of the companies listed above (and Google to see other companies) so you have a sense of costs and quantities. You may want to include some of both kinds of food in your emergency food plan.

This email series is brought to you by neighborhood volunteers at Transition Longfellow. It is designed to help you become more prepared for extreme weather emergencies. Transition Longfellow does not endorse or recommend any of the products mentioned in this email series. Neither Transition Longfellow nor Transition Twin Cities receives any compensation for products mentioned on their websites. Products are mentioned for illustration purposes only.