Prepping 101: Food Storage – Beyond Cat Litter Buckets & Totes

You can’t walk into a big box store without seeing cat litter buckets filled with survival food. Likewise, Efoods Direct has spent a fortune for online advertising, selling one week to years’ worth of survival food in these green totes.

Food is the one thing you don’t have to tell anyone to prep for when it comes to long term survival. Everyone knows you have to eat. But the misconceptions come when you compare the differences between “homesteading” and “prepping.” A traditional healthy American home keeps a good-sized pantry of food historically, though this practice has fallen away in recent times of plenty. A homestead-style pantry contains either home or store-canned food, along with some basic grains and rice and flour. Homesteading isn’t prepping for the breakdown of society. Neither is planning for one month of Mylar packet survival meals, or even one year of meals. As I said in the first installment of this series, you really have to decide to be one of the crazies, then do the best you can.

We are not talking about hurricanes, blizzards or even the worst storms that the HAARP controllers can dream up. We are talking about the end of life as we know it and a complete return to self-sufficiency. Until this past century, a fundamental part of human existance was the act of either making food or working at a trade that provided finances to buy food. Even new clothes were something of a luxury into the 1950s. Fortunately, I’m not trying to sell you prepping supplies or e-books or anything else. Anyone who tells you that they have a solid answer to long-term survival on your own is a fool, and probably a charlatan. At the end of the day, prepping means getting the best possible head start on life to come, which could settle down to a version of life as we know it now, or it could send us back to the stone age. Who knows? The important thing is to understand best practices when it comes to putting away food for at least the start of your new life, in advance, then GET GOING.

The Efoods tote is filled with some great sounding food, in very small portions, and things like drink mixes and puddings that are really just powdered sugar. They also have bags of rice and beans, which you could and should be storing in quantities a lot greater than these. You wouldn’t even buy a package of rice at the supermarket as small as the one they give you.

Bulk vs. Weight vs. Cost vs. Time

Food costs have skyrocketed in the last decade. Unless you have a lot of disposable income, prepping is mostly going to be a series of adding a little bit to your existing shopping list, augmented here and there by large purchases of actual “survival food.” The problem with survival food is that it carries a heavy premium on price. We’ll get to that, but if you want to start right away, and you don’t have a mouse or insect problem in your house, these simple foods at Walmart will go a lot further than a can of freeze-dried gourmet prepper food in a cat litter bucket.

  • 20 lb. Pinto Beans ~ $20 each
  • 20 lb. Rice ~ $10 each
  • 24oz. Mashed Potatoes ~ $3 each
  • 6.4oz. Tuna Vacpacks ~ $2 each
  • 64oz Instant Dry Nonfat Milk ~ $13 each
  • 10lb. Sugar
  • 25lb. Corn flour ~ $10 each
  • 5lb. All Purpose Flour ~$3 each
  • 3lb. Pasta Elbows ~ $3 each
  • 6oz Canned Chicken ~$3 each

The Wise buckets actually have a ton of food in them and seem to be a decent buy if you want pre-prepared meals, but like all prepared food, beware that the ingredients may not be as simple as you would expect.

The only one of these that you don’t always see on the shelves is the dried milk. I ordered mine from the online Walmart store, and it lets you buy 12 at at time. I consider dried milk to be one of two major food sources that you can make easily without a lot of outside inputs. Eggs is the other, and we’ll get to that.

As what I have found to be something of a rule, food is always going to be a trade-off between these things:

  • Bulk – Depending on where you live, there may not be a ton of space to store your survival food. Also, if you plan to “bug out,” carrying your survival stash will be limited to your vehicle and whatever trailer you can have at the ready You don’t want to store your stash in your bug-out location, because there is no guarantee that you’ll have enough warning to be able to get there. You also should be aware that even the most robust survival food packaging is no substitute for storing your food in a stable temperature. Heat breaks down the cellular structure of most foods. If you expect to get long-term shelf life, plan to keep your survival food in a temperature controlled environment.

Walmart online will ship you 12 boxes of dry milk, 64 ounces each, with no shipping charge. It is the best buy in dry milk.
  • Weight – This is where survival food diverts from Walmart staples quite a bit. Early in my research for prepping supplies, I found Honeyville Grain. Honeyville packages freeze-dried ingredients in #10 cans and sells them by the case. This is vastly superior to those ridiculous mylar bags called “survival food” that you see everywhere from online sportsman stores to your local big box. A #10 can of freeze-dried green beans is physically the same approximate quantity as a #10 can of canned green beans from Costco. But at 6.5oz in food weight, it is exponentially lighter, which matters if you plan to transport your survival food at some point.
  • Cost – Live like a king for a month or like a pauper for a year? That is the question when it comes to what food you buy. Food is expensive these days, and there is no special price on high-priced items like meat and cheese just because you want to freeze-dry it for crazy preppers. My choice is to completely forgo meat and focus instead on dried milk, dried eggs and dried vegetable protein (TVP). Milk, as explained above, you can get cheapest from Walmart online. The eggs and TVP I get from Honeyville (no they are not a sponsor). The food value of a case of 6 #10 cans of dried whole eggs, or TVP, will provide food for a long time, and supplemented with some dried veggies and seasonings, won’t be horrid to eat with beans and rice. The same goes for dried milk. Smoothies made from milk, flavored drink mix or sugar and some freeze-dried fruit ain’t such a terrible way to survive Armageddon. Rice and beans can keep you alive for a long time. At a buck or less a pound, they are a no-brainer.

Part of your prepper food should be some professionally freeze-dried ingredients, like these eggs from Honeyville Grains. The equivalent of 80 large eggs, this can adds up to under $3 per dozen.
  • Time – The time factor is intertwined with cost, because we can’t all afford to replace our survival food every two years, since the world may or may not end by then. Freeze-dried veggie foods like the ones from Honeyville say that they will store successfully for 10-15 years. Dried eggs claim 3 years. This is under ideal, temperature-controlled conditions but not using refrigeration. A bag of flour, if you buy it today, will have an expiration date two years from when it was made. Likewise most other low cost staples. What is the actual expiration date under those same ideal conditions? My guess is that most will go at least double that, or even more with the storage tips we’ll cover below. Canned foods keep indefinitely. I have read that cans from the Civil War that were hand-soldered closed, when opened more than a century later contained still edible food. Our modern cans, properly stored, should keep food for a decade without a lot of degradation. Just beware that drying your own food in a food dehydrator isn’t the same as commercial freeze-drying. Freeze-drying has become an advanced science perfected by few, and they supply the food manufacturing industry with dried food ingredients worldwide. All the freeze-dried foods in the US consumer market are coming out of Utah. The Mormons have been on top of this game for a long time, and because like us they don’t know what is coming when, the longer the storage life the better, which is how they have gotten it up to over 10 years under ideal conditions.

How long should I plan to be without an infrastructure of purchasable food? Er… that question always seems to come up, even after you answer it, as I already did. Store as much food as you can fit and afford. We will eventually get to long term plans, like seeds and gardening, but to plan specifically for society to repair itself is probably a mistake. All any of us can really do is plan for a certain block of time. You don’t have to use all of your survival food in a linear fashion. Once you get to the gardening and bartering, your ongoing stash will be a backup and supplement to what you can get otherwise.

Rock stars began most of their careers living on Raman noodles. Post collapse, partying like a rock star will take on a whole new meaning.

Vacuum-packed tuna contains the same amount as a can, at half the weight and space. Even freeze-dried can’t compete with that, and for two bucks?

Freeze-Dried Prepper Food vs. Walmart Staples

If you are prepping on a budget, you can’t afford to go out and buy $1,000 worth of freeze dried food. However, you can grab an extra bag of beans and rice every week at Walmart, and as I said in the previous article, make sure you have plenty of water. But even if you have a healthy prepping budget, there has to be a balance to the food that you decide to store. We have some actual reviews of “prepper food” planned as part of this series, but if you are getting started now, please take some time to review how much food you actually get in those cat litter buckets and green tubs full of mylar packets containing small amounts of freeze dried food.

Twenty-pound bags of rice are in every supermarket, but how many do you think will be left two hours after a crisis?Walmart also carries 20-pound bags of pinto beans for twenty bucks.

If you are going to buy freeze-dried, I would stick to #10 cans at Honeyville. Walmart online is now selling a brand called Auguson Farms in #10 cans as well, and it may very well be the same company making the food cans, but at Honeyville I think you at least have a good deal of accountability. Honeyville also seems to stick to the actual food costs of real life as much as possible. For example, a #10 can of whole eggs, the equivalent of 80 large eggs, is $18.19 at Honeyville. That comes out to $2.75 a dozen.

You aren’t going to escape the inflated food costs we are all finding at the supermarket. That is why I am a strong proponent of beans, rice, pasta, milk, eggs and other foods that you can find at the supermarket at “normal” everyday prices. None of these things get smaller or much lighter than their normal purchased state, so you might as well get them from the store. The nice thing about Honeyville is that you can get some very exclusive dried commercial food ingredients at reasonable prices as well. For instance, did you know that dried cream cheese, sour cream and peanut butter are used every day in all of the junk food we eat? You can’t make everything out of pure corn syrup and artificial flavorings, so it turns out that we do eat some actual real food. Dried sour cream is a lot lighter and ships a lot cheaper from the farm to the food factory than wet sour cream. Honeyville has sourced these real actual foods for long-term storage to pack in #10 cans. The only thing I don’t suggest you get at Honeyville is dried milk. They sell a 1.75lb can for $13, and Walmart online sells a 64-oz. box for the same price. You have to add the cost of a bucket to the Walmart milk though, as well as a couple oxygen absorbers, as I’ll explain below.

Canned meats are far more practical and affordable than freeze-dried.

Meats are really more of the same story. In the supermarket, meat has become very expensive, and just as expensive in freeze-dried. As a comparison, Honeyville stocks a #10 can of freeze-dried ham for $47, on sale right now for $40. It has 27 servings of 3/4  cup each, rehydrated. Compare that to about $24 with shipping for three one-pound hams on Amazon, and similar prices in your local supermarket. The freeze-dried ham is lighter to travel, but for on pure cost, the comparison would be similar, at about 3.5.oz of cooked ham per serving. With the canned hams, you don’t have to deal with any reydrated food taste, and most would prefer it. The same goes for canned chicken and tuna and salmon. If weight isn’t a factor, you don’t save any space with dehydrated, and the costs will be similar per serving. Walmart online has 12oz corned beef cans for $4.88, and your local store usually has a huge rack of them at the same price as well.

Flour is another one of those foods that can’t be shrunk or lightened, so buy a bunch of it for long-term storage.

Plastic Buckets

Once you spend money on food, the worst thing you want to find should Armageddon finally happen is that insects and rodents ate up all of your stuff. There are big proponents of Mylar bags to store prepper food, whether it be freeze-dried or everyday ingredients, but I have found that the absolutely cheapest way to protect food from pests and water damage is with plastic buckets. The best buy I have found on new clean buckets is on eBay. This seller has six-gallon buckets priced at $20 for five, plus $30 shipping. Ten buckets, with a shipping discount, comes out to $90. I have purchased them in 10-packs, and though the shipper is a little slow, they get to you. You can also buy them in complete skids if you contact the seller directly. You can get buckets on Amazon as well, but beware of used buckets. They almost always have smells.

Note that these eBay buckets are six-gallon, not five-gallon like you find at Home Depot. This is what I have found fits in one six-gallon bucket:

Simple supermarket staples like these three-pound boxes of pasta at Walmart will keep you alive a lot longer than Mylar bags with tiny ounces of freeze-dried foods. They just have to be stored properly.
  • 35 lbs of flour
  • 40 lbs of granulated sugar
  • 40 lbs of beans
  • 40 lbs of rice
  • 10 3lb boxes of pasta
  • 10 24oz boxes of instant potatoes
  • 4 64oz boxes of Walmart dried milk (20 gallons of milk total)

Don’t dump the contents directly into the plastic buckets if you want to be able to split it up long after the expiration date has passed easily. I use HDPE plastic wastepaper basket liners for each box of pasta or bag of flour. Two thousand four-gallon liners are $20. I also put in each bucket two 2000cc oxygen absorbers. Oxygen is the enemy of food, and taking it out of your buckets will increase your storage life. And make sure you get at least one bung wrench if you don’t want to have to cut your buckets to open them. When you close the bucket lids, they may not be opened for 10 years, so don’t be dainty and gently use a hammer.

The expiration dates on most supermarket products is two years, though that number was created purely for political reasons.

This is a picture of yeast that I tested after finding it was three years out of date in my pantry. In less than five minutes, it exploded next to my Kitchenaid as you see here. Expiration dates don’t mean nothing, but they aren’t valid in their current state either.

Expiration Dates

As I’ve mentioned above, supermarket food has an automatic two-year expiration date applied to everything. Honeyville’s #10 cans keep 10-15 years under cool, dry conditions. That leads me to believe that in a survival situation, a six-gallon bucket of flour with oxygen absorbers will be just fine 10 years down the road. Curious about this, I recently tested my theory on a two-pound vacuum package of dry yeast that had sat in my pantry for five years. Yeast is an active culture, so if anything is going to be dead after the expiration date, it will be yeast. At three years out of expiration, my yeast performed like new and made great bread. I expanded another six tablespoons of it for the picture here to demonstrate.

As you will hopefully see in my future article on medicines, the government has set expiration dates arbitrarily, based on political lobbyists within the regulatory agencies. They have almost no relation to the actual expiration of things, and when the government does its own long-term storage, it often ignores the very dates it mandated for us. Anything that will store for several years will ultimately store indefinitely, but it may not come out at the same quality. Mayonnaise stored for several years in unopened jars will first turn darker color then begin to separate, but it doesn’t actually spoil. Canned food, as I mentioned above, lasts indefinitely.

If you have children, rather than make them eat oatmeal for breakfast, get some giant family bags of cereals. They have a bunch of calories for an era when you won’t have to worry about obesity.

You would be amazed at the stuff that Honeyville has dug up and canned for long term storage. Food ingredients often ship dried to save on fuel costs, and you can buy a lot of them for your long-term plans.

Home Canning

The history of canning dates back to Napoleon, who offered a reward for a method to preserve food headed for the battlefields. In 1809, Nicholas Appert claimed the 12,000 franc reward and started a process that has been reinvented time and again into what we see on our current supermarket shelves. Duplicating these inventions at home is not a simple thing, and if you expect to create food that will last for years, this is not a light hobby. Ultimately, canning is science, and you have to go learn the science if you expect good results. Don’t waste your time on any canner other than the All American Pressure Cooker. It has a metal-to-metal fit and has become the standard of the canning world.

Successfully home-canned foods are fabulous, but the problem is that most people can in glass jars. Glass is fine if you never intend to have to leave your home. But if you are going to can at home, a more practical approach is to purchase a can sealer and steel cans. As with supermarket canned food, some foods require a can that has a plastic liner, and cans of all types can be bought from lots of places online if you Google around. If you are canning wet foods that will require refrigeration after they are opened, think small cans, not #10 cans.

A case of textured vegetable protein is about $70, compared to over $200 for a case of the same amount of freeze dried meat. Home canned meat that you find on sale is a good alternative.

If you are going to dry your own foods and can them for safe keeping, #10 cans are fine, but again, they aren’t going to keep as long as freeze dried. A #10 can sealer is about $900. As a one-time expense, it will save you a ton of money down the road because you can make hearty meals for your family in cans as you find sale prices on meats and other ingredients. The alternative to steel cans are “retort” pouches, similar to military MREs, that require their own very expensive vacuum sealers. Good luck with that, but Google around if you are interested.

Food Rotation

Just how many smoothies, casseroles, breads, rice and beans can you eat in a year? Hopefully about half of your survival store. This is why I don’t consider rotation a big option. At the end of the day, we are buying an insurance policy similar to term life insurance. If ten years passes and we don’t need it, oh well. It was not terribly expensive peace of mind for ten years while the world waffled through historically unprecedented instability. In the last in this series of articles, I plan to suggest a lot of inexpensive things that will make your survival experience a little easier to tolerate, and one of those things is for sure to have a good library of cookbooks. That said, Honeyville and others selling prepper food are big proponents, of course, of eating your food throughout the year and then replacing it. Powdered eggs have a claimed three-year shelf life, so it might be a decent idea for them, but I would then keep twice what you want to store on hand. You may be a meticulous record keeper, and you may be up for actually eating your storage stash every ten years, but for most of us, a term life insurance policy is fine. just make sure to store it properly.

Recently, I found this commercial brand of powdered potatoes that has been condensed. Five pounds fits into a #10 can. It has great reviews! Even a 27oz. box of Idahoan from Walmart at 3 bucks is a much better buy than “prepper” food.

This is also the place to talk about storing “organic” food. A lot of people who are awake enough to know that America is in big trouble also know that our food is also in big trouble. Those of us who can afford it eat food which has not been genetically modified, often which is labeled as “organic.” I put quotes around that word because decades ago our Federal Government took complete control over what can be labeled organic in America. This has allowed the supermarkets to charge a premium for food that has not been injected with growth hormones or farmed with herbicides and synthetic fertilizer and that is somewhat free from genetic manipulation. I am not going to get into the details here of what truly is organic and what is not, but like other things government, there is more disinformation than information coming from the top.

Nonetheless, you can live and thrive off of the generic food on the shelves at Walmart just as well as you can from expensive organics. Even if you have, say, $20,000 to spend on your prepper food, wouldn’t you rather have twice as much food for the same price? That isn’t to say that you can get organic dried cheddar cheese. You can’t. But stretching your dollars to the most cans and buckets, if you have the storage space, is probably a best bet for all of us. We will get to seeds and farming in this series down the road, and this advice will not be true for seeds, but for food that will get eaten and forgotten, don’t worry about the perceived quality. Bulk, weight, cost and time should be the only factors that you consider. Do your own research. There is more out there. I recently found and ordered #10 cans of over five pounds each dried weight of potato flakes, which is even better than the Walmart boxes. Most importantly, GET GOING!

You can shake things up with corn flour, or for the gluten free among us. Some Walmarts carry a 25-pound bag of corn flour even.

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  • SEOhioPrepper April 2, 2016, 9:12 am

    If I buy a larger sized package of rice, flour or beans, any kind of dry goods, I always break them down into smaller bags and double bag the smaller bags. Sometimes, you cannot tell if there is any insect larva or eggs that have gotten into the dry goods. If they do hatch, then they might infest only one or two of the smaller bags. That prevents the infestation of a whole 20 or 25 pound bag of flour or rice, ruining the whole large bag. It’s much easier on the wallet needing to toss out a one pound bag of flour instead of 25 pounds.

    • Paul Helinski April 2, 2016, 8:51 pm

      All you have to do is freeze them and the eggs will die. Larva will easily eat through your plastic bag solution. Please see the other articles here on mylar bags, buckets, and cans.

  • Bohica66 December 5, 2015, 12:40 am

    I found that I could get food grade buckets with seals in the lids from local grocery stores and walmart that had a bakery. They are about 4 gallons and contained icing. The bakeries would call when they got a bunch and I believe I was paying a buck each. Bleach and water and a little elbow grease and they were like new. We divided our rice, pasta, dehydrated potato flakes, etc. into smaller mylar bags added co2 absorbers and sealed with a cheap hair straightener. Overnight the bags would look like they were vacuum pack, all the o2 would be gone. While the mylar bags and asorbers add a little more money, we felt it was beneficial to only open a smaller bag than the whole bucket, that way we could keep variety in our diet and not get burned out on the same thing. We mark what is in each bucket with a sharpy. We also went to a dollar store and stocked up on gauze, surgical tape, hydrogen peroxide, iodine (when we could get it) tampons and kotex (for wounds and gunshot trauma) boxes of kitchen matches, povidone iodine solution 10%, alcohol, salves, new toothbrushes and toothpaste, put it in buckets and inventoried what was in each bucket. We bought a cheapo plastic trash can and filled it with toilet paper and taped the lid on. Still a lot to do, looking for a surgical kit that is quality and freeze dried meat or TVP, and a few other things.

  • N.T. White November 29, 2015, 4:04 am

    Yes: TVP, canned meat, tuna, beans, box beans n rice, and canned egg are great. But look at the sodium content. You will not fit into your gear, let alone the waist buck of your bug-bag after a month. Every time one comes across packets of lemon juice at a truck stop, coffee house, hell even a shit bar or needle exchange van stuff your pockets. Lemon juice is a natural diarrhetic, get you to piss out that water you’re holding, keep that blood pressure down, and help cover up the the taste of those idiot iodine water purification tabs we all still carry.

  • oleg November 2, 2015, 12:29 am

    looks like shipping costs just kill price for dry potato cans TRUE webstaurant store…

  • Greg August 24, 2015, 10:44 am

    Don’t rely to much on the freeze dried foods. Most of them have so much salt, you will die from high blood pressure before you run out of food. Talked to one of the companies that makes these and was told it is because these are for extreme conditions where you will sweat a lot. B.S. In most survival situations, you will be very inactive. We are not talking about wild Hollywood survival movies, I’m talking real life. Most people will “bunker down” . Stockpile 5 pounds of salt if you are that active. You will spend much less and be much healthier in the long run.

  • Darlene July 16, 2015, 10:41 am

    It’s rare that an article on emergency food storage is so detailed, very nice! I’m making my own food storage for the first time this year, so the advices will definitely be of help to me!

  • Sheila January 20, 2015, 12:32 pm

    OK I know this may be a stupid question, but do you pour the contents of boxes or bags, e.g.. pasta and flour, into 4 gl. plastic bags to make for a better fit in buckets? Thanks for the great article and ideas.

    • Administrator January 20, 2015, 12:33 pm

      yes it suggests trash can liners

  • DaleC January 10, 2015, 9:43 pm

    I am curious why you would store and carry 40 lbs of sugar. It has little to no value as dietary fuel and the calories it provides are more efficiently provided by other food items.

  • roger mason January 4, 2015, 2:53 pm

    well meaning, but you know zero about nutrition. put aside brown rice (not white),
    whole wheat berries, whole barley, a large variety of dried beans. then some canned
    animal products for variety. also condiments. it is very hard to make flour, so just
    boil the grains and beans. fruit has almost no nutrition.
    potatoes have almost no nutrition. flour oxidizes and white flour has no nutrition.
    white pasta has no nutrition and whole grain pasta oxidizes. sugar is stupid.
    milk is a poison, not a food.
    make whole grains and dried beans your staple. stay healthy.

    • mara mai January 27, 2017, 6:54 am

      Brown rice will spoil because of the oil under the husk. It will become rancid. The nutritional value is higher but it must be used within about 6 months.

  • chris January 2, 2015, 8:09 am

    if you add bay leaves into your flour it will keep the weevil out of your flour. i put 3 leaves in a 5 gallon bucket and had no problems with the little buggers.

  • Scrap dawg December 31, 2014, 5:43 pm

    Try emergency essentials highest shipping charge is 12.00 even if ya buy a ton god bless hormel spam the stuff of life if ya dug deep enough probably a can in the Pharos tomb

  • PrepperDaddy December 31, 2014, 11:08 am

    A couple of comments. I can foods, lots of food. Last count I had over a 1000 pounds of meat in in jars. I much prefer glass over metal. I assume your concern with jars is that they will break if you need to pack up and leave? I place all my jars in white plastic buckets that I get free from my local bakery. A 5 gallon bucket will hold 10 quarts and the 3 gallon 15 pints. Fill empty space with styrofoam peanuts and store. The buckets stack very nicely, are easy to move and since they are sealed, the lids don’t rust. Give me glass, BPA free jars anytime over metal cans.

    Second, for those of you buying dried eggs for making omelets or scrambled eggs, make sure you get the OvaEasy egg Crystals. The eggs shown in this article are fine for adding to recipes, but trust me you do not want to cook and eat them.

  • Keith December 31, 2014, 5:34 am

    Finding “proper” storage locations is essential. If you don’t have a basement I recommend that you do what I do, use the crawl space under your home.

    Items that are temperature stable like rice, oats, dried beans, etc. can be stored toward the outer edge of the foundation.

    Items that need to be kept at a cool temperature can be place towards the middle of the crawl space. In this location your items should not freeze or get too hot.

    One very important item that everyone needs to consider is will you eat what you have stored. If you can get a case of freeze dried green peas for a real bargain but you don’t particulary like green peas then they really aren’t much of a bargain. Plus, buying foods that you will enjoy will help with everyones overall morale, which will lessen tensions in an otherwise high stress situation.

    If you have room, you should also buy some “comfort” foods. Coffee, tea, dry coffee creamer, chocolate syrup (to mix in the dry milk), Kool-Ade, powdered drink mixes, hard candies, M&Ms, canned nuts, etc. can make a “survival” situation much more tolerable. Just because you’re living through a SHTF situation is no reason to forgo some of the little comforts that will help you and those with you to bear up better.

    If you are wondering about long term storage of canned meats there is a lot out there that stores for a long time. According to Hormel (I sent them an e-mail and they responded), SPAM (all varieties), canned tamales, chili w/beans and any other Hormel meat products will keep indefinitely. The same holds true for the Kirkland brand of canned meats from Costco. Walmart sells one pound canned hams that have a 10 year expiration date. Tuna is also good for long term storage. I prefer the tuna in spring water over the tuna in oil. Sardines are also good for your protein needs and store well. Jerky is also a product that keeps for a long time. Unfortunately, to get the best storage life you will need to repackage it in a vaccum sealed bag (I use a Food Saver system) and include an oxygen absorber and a moisture absorber.

    Another great source of protein is peanut butter. An unopened jar will keep almost forever. Honey will also keep for decades to centuries. Honey found in a Pharo’s tomb was perfectly edible thousands of years after it was placed in the tomb. I recommend buying the small jars or bottles. After opening a large jar, thereby introducing air, will cause the honey to start crystallizing and thickening. If this happens just heat the honey and it will go back into a pourable liquid.

    I hope this helps some of you!

  • PF Flyer June 1, 2014, 3:22 pm

    Re: Augason Farms.
    Didn’t know they were a Wal-Mart brand.
    We recently opened a #10 can of Pancake mix. Was supposed to have an oxygen absorber. Could not find one. Tasted good. Yet that may be more of the thought you alluded to of quality control. Thanks for the tips.

  • ambidextrous1 April 23, 2014, 3:41 pm

    Kenneth: Two words: Rocket Stove. And after you’ve done that, two more words: Kelly Kettle.
    You are right about the need for hot water, especially if you’re storing a lot of freeze-dried foods.
    I use a rocket stove, and store twigs & larger bits of wood in 30 gallon wheeled trash cans. The
    rocket stove will also burn charcoal or fuel pellets, but those aren’t free.

  • ambidextrous1 April 23, 2014, 3:40 pm

    Kenneth: Two words: Rocket Stove. And after you’ve done that, two more words: Kelly Kettle.
    You are right about the need for hot water, especially if you’re storing a lot of freeze-dried foods.
    I use a rocket stove, and store twigs & larger bits of wood in 30 gallon wheeled trash cans. The
    rocket stove will also burn charcoal or fuel pellets, but those aren’t free.

  • Kenneth March 29, 2014, 2:59 am

    I am looking into easy cooking prep such as just add hot water. I think that it will save fuel since I live in a apartment and I have limited space. I do not know off how long I would have to cook rice and beans ( which I think are great ) but how much fuel would I need for a day, week or month and how would I store it? Input would be appreciated

    I think I might be worth mentioning the big bags of cheaper cereal, the Kroger store brand we bought this week is best by Jan 7, 2015 and I think they are worth buying since it is easy to prep for breakfast and if you have to, you can eat it dry.

    GOD Bless you and your families


  • Don March 28, 2014, 11:09 pm

    What a great common sense piece on food….First I’ve read that follows what I have figured out…Thanks for the tip on Honeyville eggs. I use Wal-mart , Cosco and LDS. Just recently found that non-members can purchase long term foods at their store house. LDS after all are the original be-prepared folks. Their dry milk is the best I’ve found. Thanks again for a great piece for all of us not just beginners.

  • Martin March 27, 2014, 3:27 pm

    I just keep, wash, and clean all the cat litter, soap and 5 gal. pails I can get and line them with heavy plastic outdoor trash bags for later storage. Buy at costco, use up, then use over.

  • carl March 26, 2014, 9:31 pm

    great read

  • carl March 26, 2014, 8:56 pm

    great reed

  • Ron March 26, 2014, 9:10 am

    Great info!
    Can I get this series directly sent to my email address?

    • Administrator March 26, 2014, 9:18 am

      That is why there is a subscribe link. You probably also got a pop up.

      • J. Owens Smith March 28, 2014, 11:32 pm

        How can I find your previous articles on this subject,ie, preparing? Thank you. JOS

        • Administrator March 29, 2014, 8:25 pm

          Just use the search on the homepage

  • Geroge58 March 26, 2014, 2:38 am

    An easy way to insure that bugs (and oxygen) don’t ruin your stash of dried grains is CO2 or dry ice. Simply place a tablespoon or two of dry ice at the bottom of your storage container, fill with dried grains or meal and place the lid on loosely. After about 2 to 3 hours the dry ice will have evaporated and pushed the air (and oxygen) out of the container. Don’t open the container, just seal closed and label.

    Without oxygen your food will not go rancid and CO2 is toxic to bugs and mold.

    Don’t seal your containers too soon or the expanding gas from the dry ice will create a “dry ice bomb”!

    I have not yet been able to detect a change in taste from CO2 stored food, though I would love to know if others have tasted a change.

  • Daphne March 25, 2014, 2:59 pm

    Great practical information with clear directions to allow one to get started while still trying to read and learn more.

  • Gene March 25, 2014, 12:45 am

    Very good article, lookin forward to reading more on this subject from this author.

  • Gene March 24, 2014, 11:51 pm

    I get my freeze dried meats and vegies (which will be the hardest thing to get in a crisis) from

    I have known him for over 30 years and he has always been very fair. Check them out if you want high quality stuff that will last for decades.

  • freddy March 24, 2014, 10:07 pm

    to quote the compleat prepper: don’t buy gold, buy bullets. then you can get all the gold you need.

    same for food, water, fuel ???

    • Administrator March 25, 2014, 5:02 pm

      Hey everyone, say hi to Freddy, the moron who is going to be the greasy spot on the street in front of one of your houses.

  • Moosehunter March 24, 2014, 8:15 pm

    I’m a thinkin the #1 thing should be my old scattergun and 22 rifle and lots of ammo, at least in my neck of the woods, squirrels , rabbits , deer , and the need to protect your family & stash from all those (used to be friendly neighbors) , as they won’t be so friendly when they are starving . Its called survival. Just Sayin !

  • Muhjesbude March 24, 2014, 2:45 pm

    Finally, a good article on practical prepping. You knew you’d get it here.

    The only problem is it’s all wrong. Food is not the number one prepper item.

    It is lipstick.

    You want to look good when you kiss your ass goodbye.

  • Mike Deaton March 24, 2014, 2:14 pm

    Very good article except for the bucket item. Why would I want to PAY anyone for my buckets when you can go to just about any restaurant and get FREE, or almost free. I have been getting 5-7 gallon Food Grade buckets, with lids. I have about 30 buckets and I think I may have paid $10 for all of them. Granted, some of them may have had 7 gallons of pickles or cake icing but a little soap and bleach and you are good to go. I am storing Pinto Beans and Rice in them now. Two of them I used to make a homemade water filtration system using two Big Burkey filters. Those things filter anything.

    • Elkhunter March 24, 2014, 5:27 pm

      Don’t forget heritage crops. Adobe Milling has anasazi beans that are far superior to traditional bean types. They have been cultivated for a thousand years and most importantly cook in no time compared to pinto or black beans. I use them regularly, and even though a little more expensive, they are far tastier and easy to deal with.

      • Administrator March 24, 2014, 6:19 pm

        Heirloom crops will be a subject on our followup with seeds and gardening. I had never heard of these so ordered some to to try and plant as well. Thanks for the tip.

        • Elkhunter March 24, 2014, 9:40 pm

          I understand but cannot confirm that these beans were found in the Mesa Verde ruins. They are now grown in Dove Creek Colorado, the self named bean capitol of the U.S. I spend time in this area and can confirm that these are the best tasting beans I have ever found.

  • victorj19 March 24, 2014, 1:38 pm

    There is a simple way to kill the eggs in grains, heat. Since I can, I already had the supplies on hand. Simply place the food in a canning jar and cap with a lid and ring. Preheat the oven to 175, leave the lids just a little loose, place the jars in the oven racks and cook for 20 minutes. If you don’t want to buy canning jars, there’s a major brand of spaghetti sauce that comes in mason jars. Save the jars and buy a box of rings and lids from Walmart.

    Remove jars from oven. If you have more jars place them in the oven. If you wish store the grain in the jars, tighten the lids and allow the jars to cool. If not, allow the jars to cool a bit and transfer the grain to the container of your choice. I saved the gallon jugs from Arizona brand ice tea. These are really heavy duty, reseal well and I can check the contents on occasion. These are infinitely better than milk jugs. Over the years, I’ve have stored water in them. If you snag the empty boxes they come in from a store, you can stack the boxes. I’ve been considering sealin the caps on the jugs with some silicone caulk just for peace of mind.

  • Ed March 24, 2014, 12:25 pm

    Great article, eye opener for the unlearned. My family canned as a ritual for years, I broke beans as a kid,until my fingers were raw. Loved the food, hated the work, but even as a kid saw the sense in it.
    Married a spoiled girl, refuses to can, and I am stuck flying this kite myself. Planning a garden this year with emphasis on canning. Wish me luck, my food storage to now has been freezer based, and although I can last a long time with that, the first thing to go will be electricity.
    Might look into home made smokehouse construction this year, good way to preserve meat.
    Lastly, I opened a box off the pantry shelf a few years ago. Some type of grain, don’t remember. The box had been there about a year, and when opened was full of weevils. Box was sealed, so no doubt of their origin.

  • Kathy March 24, 2014, 12:18 pm

    You can buy and preserve your own beef, pork, or chicken. Find someone that locally raises grass-fed beef and buy a 1/2; or buy a hog, or whatever you prefer. You can have the lock plant cut the meat so that you have very little cutting to do when putting the meat into the jars for canning/pressure cooking. It is really tasty and you know what’s in it. Meat and some salt. & It will keep for ages.
    Also using the 5 and 6 gallon buckets, consider using the gamma seal lids. They work well and are really easy to remove and replace.
    Also here is another place to purchase the buckets and lids.

    • Kathy March 24, 2014, 12:26 pm

      By the way, these are food grade buckets.

  • Berferd March 24, 2014, 11:59 am

    Forgot to add to the previus post; If you think that a plastic bucket will stop rodents, you may be horribly surprised. I’ve cleaned out storage areas where they have set up nests inside the buckets they gnawed into. The mylar packets insider helped create the nest material.
    The easiest way to kill any bugs, in any of their four stages, is to freeze whatever you bring home. A couple days to a week, depending on the thickness of the package, in a real freezer (not the fridge) will kill any of the weevil and moths that come unwelcomed from the store.
    When the Mormons dry pack foods at the canneries the Church has set up for them, they are able to access professional equipment to obtain the equivalent of a commercial product. The commercial way is to first freeze, then pack in a nitrogen atmosphere – which precludes oxygen wreaking its havoc. A very simple and complete oxygen reducer.
    Another option for bug prevention is diatomaceous earth. It’s edible by people, but not bugs.
    The old beans issue was also raised; they will get old, but remain perfecty fine for food. They just take a lot longer for the outer layers to cook, but if they are cooked in a pressure cooker, they will be indistinguishable from new beans. They can also be cooked with a bit of acid added to aid the softening, which brings to mind the unmentioned need to have vinegar. It has many uses, culinary, medicinal, and sanitation. Still looking for a way to store it other than in a glass bottle with a Tattler lid . . . .

    • Administrator March 24, 2014, 12:19 pm

      If you are storing it where rats have that much unimpeded access you already aren’t going to have any edible food left. Rats can get through just about everything except steel and cement, but the little bastards always seem to find a way inside the steel and cement regardless.

      • Muhjesbude March 24, 2014, 3:38 pm

        I was just going to comment on that before you beat me to the draw, lol! A neighbor down the road had a nice stock of food in sealed plastic buckets in a sub basement in his barn and the rats–maybe only field mice–most likely the ones on the endangered DNR’s endagered species list– got in and actually chawed right through the buckets over the winter. AND!, he had a nice AK back up stored in the room and the nasty little Taliban suckers actually chewed up the stock varnish to a noticeable ugliness!

        If you’re storing long term in an area you don’t often approach, you have to leave a rat poison or traps, But if you use the consumable poison boxes make sure your dogs and animals can’t get at it. And i would fumigate the area with a good potent lasting Raid canister before i closed the door to the storage room.

        Also knew someone who stored her rice and seeds in the larger metal ammo cans. Of course, that was enough years ago where they were still so cheap they were almost free.

        Also, mostly in rural areas, don’t forget your bent and dent discount stores. Some of them have bulk items now in grains at ridiculously cheap prices. And the one i use in my state sells 2 buck protein bars for 25 cents, Peanuts and peanut butter jars for 50 cents, most not even expired yet, and all kinds of good bang for the buck stuff.

        If you are close to an Amish community, they also deal in bulk grains, etc.

        But the other thing is, don’t waste too much time on grains. Pasta is better nutritionally for the survival dollar comparison, And meat is something most of us could ‘live’ without. so you really don’t need that much of it if price is a concern for your stash.

        The all around cheapest, easy to find, and most nutritious bare minimum daily ration is a bowl of oatmeal type cereal for breakfast, A glass of powdered milk and serving of Ramen for lunch, and a can of sardines and a bowl of rice and/or beans for dinner. Enhanced or varied with peanut butter and jelly crackers, soup, anything extra. If you bought in bulk this averages around a buck or so per day. If you don’t have to be very physically active you can last a long time on that, and be fairly filled every day once you get used to it. Plus you’ll lose some weight and feel better, as you ‘survive’ along! Good multiple vitamins and mineral tablets and fiber tablets need to be there also.

        Last but far from least, is the mandatory libation from the gods. Moonshine.
        Now if you can make your own, that’s even better but since that’s for the more advanced prepper, what most do is buy a bottle of Everclear or whatever 180 proof sippin-shine from the local liquer store. It’s more cost per bottle than Vodka, but it has twice the kick so it evens out in the short run.

        AND, you can use it just like rubbing alcohol for disinfectant, Mouthwash, but you get to swallow it!
        Lamp or heating fuel, great Molotov Cocktails if you add a little oil or liquid soap, AND! You can even power your car or Moped with it for a while in an emergency!!! And, while all your friends who laughed at you
        when they were buying gold and silver, will give you all that gold and silver, in trade, for a few shots of shine, when it gets right down to it.

        • Administrator March 24, 2014, 4:30 pm

          They were probably RUS’s. They come out of the fire swamp sometimes.

          • Mujesbude March 24, 2014, 6:22 pm


  • Berferd March 24, 2014, 11:29 am

    As mentioned, Auguson Farms (yet another Utah based company) is sold by WalMart, and other chains are picking it up as well.
    They have a milk product, Morning Moos. Unlike standard powered milk, after it is reconstituted, it is as close to grocery-store milk in taste and texture as you can wish for. It is a bit pricey, but is available in #10 cans and will last. It’s also available in 6 gallon buckets and 50# bags.

  • Elkhunter March 24, 2014, 11:07 am

    Since Walmart is a big part of the economic problem in this country, I do not spend a dime there. That said, I agree with the author that grocery stores and buying staples is the best place to start. I was looking for truly long term canned meat and found Survival Cave. Check out their site for an explanation. Also check out Bob’s Old Red Mill. I have used his grains for years and the quality is top notch. The company also sells buckets and oxy absorbers and has some good info for long term storage. Lastly, as stated in the article, Mormons are a great resource for information on this topic. Just Google Mormon food storage and you will find a lot of useful info and even some online businesses that sell to the public.

    • Ron April 6, 2014, 2:30 pm

      Gawd, I detest “Walmart haters”. Talk about assigning a simplistic blame for a complex problem. People like you are constantly adding 1 + 1 and coming up with 42. It’s just too bad *you* are choosing not to patronize Walmart, the corporation will surely go bankrupt now. Please reconsider your boycott before Sam Walton returns from the dead to wreak vengeance upon us all.

  • Scott March 24, 2014, 10:46 am

    Very nice article and great job on the information provided. Keep up the good work guys. I would add that looking back in history, and in modern times, dried/canned goods save lives. That’s no small statement. We have the luxury in the US to go down the road and get our Ben and Jerry’s whenever we want. It is foolish to rely on that system with your life as it is so easily removed. As your article points out, it’s also easily avoided as an issue at all. Just do it.

  • joseph March 24, 2014, 10:20 am

    This is a refreshing thought toward moving back to common sense in emergency ford selection and storage. Keep an eye on what the Mormons have learned. Their knowledge base wherever you can. Special measures have to be taken for long term storage of all grain and legume products because within them are the eggs of fruit and seed bring insects laid during the crops’ maturation before harvest. These eggs lie dormant and will hatch 6-12 months down the road, they will EAT their way out of the endosperm of the bean or seed or from extruded semolina-food product (pasta) and you will discover your pantry overrun with little bugs (weevils)
    Mormon food providers have means of preventing these eggs from retaining viability. My Mormon friend TELL me but they don’t know HOW they do it. Nevertheless, be aware some long term grain and legume products (including some fresh dried spice inflorescence) will produce hatched weevils at the end of their storage period.

    • Administrator March 24, 2014, 10:31 am

      Oxy absorbers help that as well. It will be interesting to open a pail of walmart beans a year down the road and see if there are any issues. A lot of flour and pasta has flour moths eggs in it these days, especially from certain supermarket chains. The good thing about plastic buckets is that nothing gets out either, and if it is alive, it better not need oxygen.

      • Kathy March 24, 2014, 12:22 pm

        Put your bags of grain, etc. into the freezer for a while until cold well through before you put it into your buckets. If there were any insect eggs, etc. that should keep anything from hatching that might have already been there.

        • Jim December 31, 2014, 11:42 am

          Agreed, we have been doing that for years and it works. No more moths in the cupboard.

  • Johnny March 24, 2014, 9:52 am

    I like Costco much better that Walmart for this stuff. Good prices and much better quality. Their canned chicken is excellent! They also sell buckets of freeze-dried food stuff from their website.

  • Chuck Hurst March 24, 2014, 9:22 am

    Great read. I’ve been doing this for years. I exchange bi-yearly the canned meat, flour, beans etc. with the food bank. The oxygen absorbent will extend that significantly. 20# beans or rice will feed 2 people “sustaining rations” 40 days. in the AZ (heat quickens rancidity, which won’t hurt you, but tastes awful) area I keep the carbohydrates in a little freezer so they won’t get rancid. The Oxygen absorbers should help there too.

  • Kevin March 24, 2014, 8:54 am

    I have been worrying about having some food put by for a while now – the main issue being choices & storage practicality as well as variety etc. this article is a great start on how to think about food choices / sourcing of foods etc. Your comment on term insurance (why buy if it ends up not being used?) is the perfect rationale for doing Something!
    Great approach without the dreadful hype and fear mongering (or lengthy hand-drawn animated BS stories about how FEMA is going to come take a few buckets of food from those who prepped)

    I appreciate the responsible approach to the topic.

  • Jim March 24, 2014, 7:44 am

    Great article looking forward to reading more, I just started to prep and buy extra food , I feel better already


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