HOW-TO: Long Term Food Storage

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

In the modern world of toilet paper shortages, grocery store shelves being empty, and ships being kept offshore unable to deliver goods, we can no longer count on food being something you’ll always have access to. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to have food stored in a shelf-stable manner for times that the supply chain goes down, natural disasters strike, or civil unrest erupts anew.

The easiest and best way to do this is with beans and rice. While this may seem like nothing but carbs, beans and rice together form a complex protein that will nourish you and can easily be built upon with meat that is hunted, mushrooms and greens that can be gathered, or items from a garden. Also, since both can be effectively dried and with some supplies can be stored easily they make the ideal candidates. With proper and careful preparation these will remain shelf stable for up to 25 years without

Step 1: Select Your Foods

I like to fill equal amounts of rice and mix up the beans. The rice can be anything that you like or can find in bulk at a reasonable price. A good place to check is any Asian markets near you. They often have excellent deals on 50lb bags of rice. For beans I like to have an assortment so that there’s no risk of getting bored eating the same thing over and over and over. Also, if nothing happens for 25 years that merits breaking into your stash you can rotate a bucket at a time so you don’t have to worry about things going past their “best by” date. I store red beans, black beans, chickpeas, lentils, black eyed peas, and pinto beans.

Step 2: Food-Grade 5 Gallon Buckets

One mistake people like to make is storing both food and water in containers that are too heavy to carry when full. a 5 gallon bucket full of beans or rice is still light enough to be relatively mobile but holds enough food to make it worthwhile. Make sure to get food-grade plastic buckets and not just the normal work buckets at the hardware store. Most large hardware stores carry food safe buckets with lids. There’s both cheap snap-on lids and more expensive screw-on lids. I prefer the screw-on lids so that I can easily get in and out of the buckets without a tool.

Step 3: Mylar Bags

This is the layer that seals the food and protects it from the outside air that contains bacteria and moisture which will cause dried foods to eventually rot. Made of thick plastic, it’s perfect to insert into your bucket and then fill with your beans and rice. They make versions specifically fitted for 5 gallon buckets that also have a ziplock-style seal at the top. Even so, they should always be sealed completely shut with a straightening iron or regular iron with a layer of wax paper protecting the plastic. The better the seal the longer the food will last.

Step 4: Oxygen Absorbers

The last component necessary to keeping everything shelf stable is oxygen absorbers. You’ll probably recognize these as the things you pull out of new pairs of shoes, and that’s for a reason. They absorb the oxygen around them and keep things fresh. Stuffing these in your mylar bags with your dried food will suck all the oxygen out of the bag and keep them in a nitrogen rich environment which allows them to stay stable for much, much longer. This is how you get to 25 years! Make sure to use enough depending on what sized container you’re using and how much dried food you’re planning on storing. After putting your food and oxygen absorbers int your bags, seal them with your iron, screw on the lids to your plastic buckets, and stack your buckets in a cool, dry area.

These will be a lifesaver if things fall apart. They could also help your community if supply chains go down for an extended period of time. Remember, you can’t count on anyone but yourself. You never know when you will be the first responder!

Stay prepared, stay alive.

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