Food Storage

Food for thought is no substitute for the real thing. - Walt Kelly

The most important factor in food storage is the calorie content. Calories (energy) from food are needed most urgently and most regularly for health and living. Fortunately, anything edible will provide some amount of energy, but you can't live on just one food group alone. A variety of sources of products are needed to provide the nutrients for the body to properly use the energy in the food and to maintain good health. All foods lack one or more of the 40+ nutrients needed by the body; there is no one perfect food. Consequently, you need to eat and store a variety of different food items.

There are a number of medical conditions that are common among individuals living off of restricted diets, known as micro-nutritional disorders. Your belly may be full, but that doesn't make you healthy. For the most part, these are common in underdeveloped countries, refugee camps, and individuals who for other reasons do not have access to proper nutrition. In a SHTF scenario, that latter could be us without proper preparation.


Rotation of food storage results in fresher foods being available when needed. Food rotation will also allow the items you have choosen to store to become a part of your regular diet. Fresher foods regardless of how stored have better quality and nutritional value. Calories do not decrease with increased storage time. Protein quality in some foods does decrease slightly due to interaction of some amino acids with carbohydrates resulting in a "browning reaction." This is seen in enriched flour and nonfat dry milk that has been stored for long periods of time. This does not mean you can't use the product. Minerals are lost from stored food only by leaching or volatilization. Leaching involves liquid in some food storage items, such as canned items which could, over time, pass through the food and carry off some of the more soluble components. Leaching has no impact if the juices are eaten with the food that the juices come from. Volatilization deals with a food item turning into a vapor at relatively cold temperatures. At typical storage temperatures, iodine is the only mineral likely to volatilize, or vaporize, appreciably. For this reason, iodized salt should be stored as cool as possible and rotated regularly, so it doesn't lose its savor.

Put a date on everything! Whether you buy it from the store or you can it yourself, date it! Knowing when something was put away is essential to knowing when it needs to be consumed. Even if you can't determine when a store-bought product was canned, just writing the purchase date on the can will help.

Establish a method If you stock a pantry with canned goods, put new purchases in the back and withdraw older cans from the front. Sloped shelves can be constructed that let newer cans roll forward as the oldest cans are taken. Make your food storage easy to get to This may sound trivial, but when it comes to food storage: out of sight is definitely out of mind. And, when it's easier to drive down to the grocery store than to get to your stored food, guess where you'll head most of the time!

Estimate a rate of consumption keeping in mind that each year you will need to consume one half of anything with a two-year Food Shelf Life.

What Type of Food is Best for Storage?

Many people want to know which method is the best for storing their food, and depending on whom you ask, you will probably get a different answer. Each method has different advantages and disadvantages, depending on what your priorities are when it comes to food storage. We have outlined the basic methods, and how they affect your food storage. So you be the judge of the best method for you and your family, and start getting prepared!

Types of Food Storage

Mistakes of Food Storage

Storage Area

When considering where to put your food storage there are a few very important facts you need to remember. In order to keep your food fresh and nutritious, your storage area needs to be as cold and dark a place as possible. Light and heat can destroy not only the taste and texture of your food, but also the nutritional content. The storage area should be located where the average temperature can be kept above 32 degrees Fahrenheit and below 70 F. Remember that the cooler the storage area, the longer the retention of quality and nutrients. The optimal temperature for food storage is between 50 and 60 F. While storing your food in optimal conditions may seem like a bit of a challenge.

The storage area should be dry (less than 15 percent humidity), and adequately ventilated to prevent condensation of moisture on packaging material. Food should not be stored on the floor; the lowest shelf should be 2-3 feet off the floor. Date and rotate food every 6-12 months. Replace foods as used.

When designing and building a food-storage area, minimize areas where insects and rodents can hide. As practical, seal all cracks and crevices. Eliminate any openings that insects or rodents may use to gain entrance to the storage area.

Storage Containers

Food should only be stored in food-grade containers. Don't assume all plastic containers are food grade. If you're not sure, don't use it.

Generally, food storage comes in two different packages--#10 cans and plastic six-gallon buckets. The cans are easier to keep fresh and safe, since it's almost impossible for light, bugs, or rodents to get into a sealed metal can. As long as you can keep them cool, they will stay fresh for years. The six-gallon buckets are more of a risk, but precautions can be, and have been taken to ensure they keep your food storage fresh. Since they're made of plastic, bugs still aren't able to get in on their own, but it's possible for rodents to gnaw their way in. And they will, too, if they can smell your food. The food inside of well-packaged buckets is packaged in vacuum-sealed mylar bags. These are called " superpails." This process makes the bags airtight and allows no odor to escape. Even so, it's important to check your superpails and bags when they are delivered, and again every few months to make sure the packaging is intact.

Package dried foods in airtight, moisture-proof, insect-proof containers such as glass jars or plastic freezer boxes or bags. Metal cans with tight-fitting lids can be used if the dried food is first placed in a plastic bag. Package dried foods in small amounts because once the package is open, the food can absorb moisture from the air and quality will deteriorate.


Open the refrigerator as little as possible. Every time you open the refrigerator door, cold air escapes. Refrigerated items should be safe as long as the power is off no more than about 4-6 hours. A full freezer should keep foods safe for about two days; a half-full freezer, about one-day.


There are two main spoilage factors: Bacterial and Enzymatic.

  • Botulism is one of the most life-threatening bacteria in canned foods. Botulism toxin is mostly found in home-canned foods. The canned foods you buy from the store, for the most part, are canned under stringent guidelines and proper temperatures. This bacteria forms the spores that create toxins only in the absence of oxygen. These are mostly found in low-acid foods. To avoid being exposed to these bacteria it's very important that when you open any of your older canned foods, especially home-canned meats, to heat them or boil them for 10-20 minutes before eating them!
  • Enzymatic is the natural deterioration of foods. Enzymes, for example, are what make tomato's get ripe after picking. The enzymes keep working and eventually rot the tomato. These enzymes are relatively harmless and for the most part, their action can be slowed with cool temperatures.