Growing your own shelf-stable food is always the most inexpensive and healthy option. But when you cannot grow or raise all the food you need, long-term food items must be purchased as a part of a family’s overall preparedness plan.
Although grocery store items may not have as long as shelf life as tastier versions of military MRE style meals do, supplementing your preps with such low-cost items is a great way to bolster food stores and save money at the same time. Keeping a food stores inventory with “best if used by” dates listed will ensure that you rotate your supply and do not lose money by wasting food.
Several factors play a key role in how long grocery store items will remain edible. Product moisture content should be considered before tossing any food storage item into the cart. According to USDA nutritional guidelines, grains, flours and dry beans have a 10 percent moisture content, making the items viable for shelf stable storage, particularly if removed from their original containers and stored in a food grade bucket with oxygen absorber packets. Buying generic versions of these products or hitting a big sale can allow shoppers to stock up on a large amount of staples quickly. Climate and temperature will also play a big part in how long a grocery store item can remain shelf stable.
Here are 11 of the best foods for long-term storage:
1. Soft grains such as rye, hard winter wheat, all-purpose flour, oat groats, hard spring wheat, barley, durum, soft red winter wheat, soft white wheat, and rye have been known to keep for nearly 10 years when stored without oxygen absorbers.
2. Beans are also another shelf stable item which can be purchased during supermarket sales to beef up your long-term survival food inventory. Conventional wisdom says that when cans of beans are purchased from a grocery and kept sealed and away from outside oxygen they can also last for about 10 years. Some examples of store bought beans which have successfully been stored for extended periods of time include pinto, adzuki, lima, mung, black turtle, kidney, blackeye and garbanzo beans.
3. Pastas and mixes, often the type of items shoppers will find in “10 for $10 deals” at supermarkets, can also reportedly be eaten safely five to eight years after purchased. White rice, cornmeal, baking soda and various forms of hard pasta have been kept for up to eight years after purchased.
4. Coconut oil is believed to last longer than any other type of oil on supermarket shelves. It has a multitude of uses in both cooking and in home health remedies and can last for more than two years after sliding down the grocery counter. We purchased organic olive oil in a metal container with a very thick and secure plastic lid and kept it for two years and had no problems when using it to cook. We bought the oil and a multitude of mixes at a local bulk food store, also a great place to score shelf stable storage items – locally raised honey in particular. Like coconut oil, honey possess many healing properties and can be stored for many years. Bulk food stores often sell honey in mason jars that are an aid in keeping food-rotting oxygen at bay.
5. Apple cider vinegar is yet another grocery store shelf stable all-star. In addition to being used for cooking and household cleaning needs (preventing the spread of disease is extremely important during a long-term disaster) it also is believed to possess antibiotic properties.
6. Powdered milk can also save money and allow bulk buying for those without a cow or goat to garner milk from once food disappears from store shelves after a disaster. If stored in a cool dry place, supermarket powdered milk is believed to remain safe to consume for up to 10 years. Placing the powdered milk in a food grade bucket with oxygen absorbers may extend the shelf life even further.
7. Canned meat, tuna, vegetables and fruits may be good up to five years when stored in a cool dry place. When open, inspect the food carefully for any signs of discoloration or spoiling before eating. To make the bargain canned goods last even longer, open the cans after buying them on sale at a generic discounter like Aldis, and dehydrate the contents. Once dehydrated, they will last basically indefinitely. Vacuum seal bags or mason jars are ideal ways to store dehydrated can goods.
8. Peanut butter, especially when purchased in a #10 can type packaging from a bulk food store or generic supplier, can last up to five years. Oil in the peanut butter will eventually appear on the top and indicate that it is time to eat or pitch the popular bread spread.
9. Tea and coffee also typically have a two- to five-year shelf life when stored in a cool dark place and in secure packaging. To extend the life of tea bags, put them in a vacuum sealed bag before storing in the pantry, basement or garage.
10. Ramen noodles are not exactly delicious, but they are cheap and will keep for at least five years when stored away from light and humidity. Tossing in reconstituted vegetables or fresh vegetables from the garden will make eating package after package of Ramen noodles at lost more tasty and enjoyable.
11. Herbs and spices will most often last up to five years, or longer, when stored in a kitchen cabinet. Choose a cabinet away from the heat of the stove and windows to enhance storage time. Many spices and herbs are active ingredients in home remedies, something to consider when determining how to spend the emergency preparedness budget dollars. Simple recipes which have been used for many decades by the Amish, Mennonite, and Mormon communities often utilize herbs and spices to treat the common cold, dehydration, diarrhea and a host of other routine ailments.
What would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments below.