Emergency Food Storage: How to Store Food for the Long Term

In the realm of emergency preparedness, the science of long-term food storage is an essential study. Ensuring that your food supplies are secure, plentiful, and capable of lasting for an extended period can significantly enhance your survival prospects during a catastrophic event.

Today we are going to discuss the science behind long-term food storage and also offer practical strategies to effectively store food for extended periods of time.

To commence, we must understand the threats to food storage. AKA, our enemies to food storage ;).


...and pests/bugs are the primary antagonists in our quest for long-term food storage.

source: Food Safety Education, USDA

Let's dive deeper....

Oxygen and Moisture

Exposure to oxygen leads to the oxidation of food, which accelerates its spoilage. The issue of oxygen is particularly pertinent to food items containing fats and oils, leading to rancidity (source).

Likewise, moisture provides a favorable environment for bacterial growth, thereby expediting food spoilage.

To combat the issues of oxygen and moisture, we can utilize vacuum sealing, the use of oxygen absorbers, or by employing desiccants.

Vacuum sealers are a common tool in this respect.

Light and Temperature

Direct exposure to light can lead to the degradation of certain nutrients in food, particularly vitamins A, D, and E, and certain B-vitamins (source). Therefore, your long-term food storage strategy should incorporate storage in dark, opaque containers when possible. Darkness is your friend here. Weird to say, I know, but it is.

A stable, cool environment is crucial for long-term food storage. The USDA recommends a storage temperature of below 85°F (29°C). An increase of 10°F can effectively halve the storage life of many food items. And that is going to make your strategy ineffective


Finally, pests, including rodents and insects, pose a threat to food supplies. Traps and general insect measures are key. But more importantly, the use of durable, pest-resistant containers can help prevent pest invasions.

What Foods to Store

Foods ideal for long-term storage are typically those with low moisture content and those that are appropriately preserved. These include grains, beans, dehydrated or freeze-dried fruits and vegetables, powdered milk, and canned goods (source). For optimal nutrition, consider a variety of foods to provide carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Food Rotation

Long-term food storage is not a "store it and forget it" operation. In fact, it requires active management. Regular rotation of your food supplies ensures that nothing goes to waste due to spoilage. Use the "first in, first out" (FIFO) method to ensure older items are used first (source).

Mastering the science of long-term food storage requires an understanding of the factors contributing to food spoilage, the selection of suitable food types, and the implementation of effective storage strategies.

By adhering to these principles, you can ensure the longevity and safety of your food supply, significantly enhancing your emergency preparedness capabilities. Remember, as with all emergency preparation items, continual learning and adaptation are key.