Storing Food Long Term: How much, where, and why?

And those are just a few of the questions people have about storing food long term! It’s a big topic and one that’s coming up more and more right now, for many reasons.

I want to get one big thing about storing food long term out of the way  – it’s not about hoarding, or panicking or cleaning out your local Costco. There’s no reason to do any of those things. Instead, think of storing food long term as ‘big grocery shopping’. You’re growing, preserving or purchasing foods you already consume, not setting up a warehouse of weird emergency food you won’t ever want to touch.

Storing food long term is a way to slowly build up a surplus of food so you aren’t as reliant on the global food chain or the local stores. Having a food stockpile means you’ll be able to eat even if you can’t get to the store (surprise blizzard!) or if there’s an emergency or even if you just don’t feel like going out. It also means you’ll be ready for the inevitable disruptions to the food supply chain. And it means you won’t contribute to panic buying when the those disruptions or emergency happen.

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What does it mean to store food long term?

Individual definitions will vary, but for most people, long term is at least 12 months and sometimes as long as 30 years. I personally think of my long term food storage as a 1-2 year supply and plan accordingly. I’m not an apocalypse prepper, so I’m not looking to store enough wheat for rest of my life. I just want enough shelf-stable staples on hand to ensure we can weather disruptions or blips. But the information I’ve put together applies to any food storage plan.

The elements of long term food storage

This post is intended as a launch point for the individual elements of storing food long term. It’s here to direct you to the in-depth posts I’ve already written -think of it as an expanded table of contents.

So what are these elements? Good question!

Choosing foods to store long term

Your food stockpile should meet YOUR needs, not anyone else’s. It’s important to pick foods you already eat and know how to prepare. Think of your food stockpile as an expanded pantry, not a cavern full of MRE’s or weird freeze-dried survival food.

How much food you put up depends on how much food you eat. And it depends on how much space you have to store it. And it also depends on your household food budget. All of those factors should be considered.

With that in mind, let’s dig in. These are in no particular order because they’re equally important. Remember that this post is here to guide you through the process and links to my other food storage content.

How much space do you need to store food?

This was actually the first food storage topic I tackled, as I was stepping up my home canning and preservation game. One of the first things I had to figure out was…how much food did I actually have room for?

While you can always squirrel food away, yes, I’m a firm believer that your food storage needs to be organized and easily accessible. And I also think cramming in more food than you can truly access and use is counterproductive. There’s a good chance food will either spoil or get damaged if you’re piling it up willy-nilly.

So here’s how much space common forms of food take up, including weights. I suggest starting with an audit of your available food storage space.

How much space do you need to store food?

How to plan your food stockpile

Once you have an idea how much space you have, it’s time to think about the actual food you want to store. Obviously some things aren’t suited to longer term storage but many things ARE. And while a specific food might not store well long term (like bread, for example), you can store the ingredients to bake lots of bread.

I want to stress again that the foods in YOUR stockpile should be foods you will eat and that you are used to cooking. It doesn’t matter what I or anyone else think about your food supply, we’re not going to be the ones eating it (unless you invite me to dinner!). You should consider what foods make up the bulk of your diet now and then decide which ones can be stored (or, as noted, if the ingredients can be stored). Do not feel like you must store rice and beans (the pumpkin spice latte of food stockpiling) if you simply cannot stand one or both. There are always alternatives!

Check out How to plan your food stockpile to get started.

And let me assure you, the goal is not for you to create your food supply overnight. No indeed. The best plan is to slowly and deliberately buy small, additional amounts and build up your supply. Baby steps!

Where to keep your food stockpile

There are plenty of places to store food, even if you live in a small space. But there ARE some important factors you should keep in mind as you make plans. Food storage does have some environmental needs- you don’t want to store your food in an area that’s too humid or too hot, for example. A

Take a look at Where to keep your food stockpile. It will help you identify areas of your home that are well-suited to the task – and the places you shouldn’t keep food!

What do you need for storing food long term?

Another important element of food storage is how to store food correctly. If you want food to last, it needs to be stored in the correct containers using best practices. There’s no point in buying food only to let it spoil or get infested with pests because it’s not stored well.

Long term food storage means repacking food, and often using things like oxygen absorbers. It’s not difficult to repackage and store food, but it does require investing in the right bags, bins, boxes and buckets.

Here’s what you need to store food long term, including recommendations for containers and Mylar bags.

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