This is going to fly in the face of a lot of what you’ve likely read or heard with regards to food storage but here goes: You don’t need to invest a ton of money into buying special “long-term” foods. Seriously, you really don’t. In fact, for many people doing so is just a bad idea all the way around.
A common question is some variation of, “What foods store the longest?” There are some foods, such as dried rice, honey, salt, and sugar, which will last essentially forever as long as they are protected from critters and the elements. They’ve found jars of honey, still perfectly preserved, sitting next to mummies several thousands of years old. That said, kinda hard to survive on just rice and honey.
Here’s the thing, folks. Shelf life, while important, falls far behind a few other considerations when choosing what to store. First and foremost is taste and personal preference. It makes absolutely ZERO sense to store food you don’t like to eat. I don’t care if you found it at an incredible price. If you don’t want to eat it now, you aren’t going to want to eat it later. Choose food items that you enjoy. Honestly, there is such a variety out there today, it would be foolish to do otherwise.
Many of the foods we eat regularly also happen to have long shelf lives. The aforementioned rice is a great example. Dried beans and canned goods are also commonly found in kitchens and pantries from coast to coast. These types of foods will last a long time and you’re already accustomed to eating them. Add a few extra bags or cans to your cart each time you go shopping and build up the supply slowly.
Second, choose foods that agree with you. We all have things we dearly love to eat but we pay for later, right? I mean, I love bananas but even just a few bites of one will give me stomach pains. If you’re considering adding a new food to your storage plan, try it first. Make sure it doesn’t give you indigestion. Disaster recovery is stressful enough without adding tummy troubles to the mix.
Another thing to keep in mind is that many, though certainly not all, of these special “long-term” foods require water to prepare. Water might be in limited supply, depending upon the nature of the disaster. Do you really want to be forced to choose between drinking the water and using it to prepare the only food you have on hand? If you’re going to invest in these long-term foods, plan ahead and be sure to store extra water as well.
Many long-term foods aren’t the healthiest things on the planet, either. Frequently they are loaded with sodium, which not only isn’t very good for you but will make you thirsty, causing you to consume more water. Now, I will freely admit I’m far from the healthiest eater on the planet so don’t take this as a pot meet kettle situation. But, you need to go into a food storage plan with both eyes wide open. If you’re going to rely upon these long-term foods as a primary source of sustenance, you’re going to suffer from some nutritional deficiencies unless you also stock up on vitamins and such.
A lot of these products are also fairly expensive. For the cost of one case (12 units) of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), I could feed my family of five for several days. The food would be healthier, too.
Here’s one of my big issues with these special long-term storage foods. A proper food storage plan will incorporate regular rotation. Meaning, you use the food and replenish it as you go along. However, these long-term foods don’t encourage that practice. In fact, the whole point is that you can buy a few cases and they’ll be good for 25 years or more, right? This, to my mind, is the lazy man’s way to preparedness.
Now, with all of that said, I’m not suggesting you abandon any plans of buying these products. They have their place in some scenarios. You just need to determine for yourself if the long-term food option is right for you. What I suggest to most people is to concentrate their food storage plan on the things they already eat regularly but also have a stable shelf life, such as rice, dried beans, dried pasta, and canned goods. Then, add some long-term storage foods as a backup.