When addressing solutions for long-term food storage, it’s best to understand a few basic principles. The longer food is stored, the more its taste and nutritional quality declines, depending on the type of food and its quality when packaged. Shelf life generally depends on four main criteria. We’ll look at these below.
Foods stored at 50°F to 60°F will last longer than foods stored at higher temperatures. Heat significantly degrades a food’s nutritional value. Proteins break down; vitamins and other nutrients will be lost. It goes without saying that the taste, smell, and appearance of many kinds of food will also degrade. Store foods in cool, dry places, in containers which will keep their temperature stable.
Freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, when properly packaged, retain their life-sustaining calories even if stored past their designated expiration date, and will, in an emergency, at the very least prevent starvation. Excess moisture encourages the growth of microorganisms, as well as contributing to the chemical breakdown of foods. This deterioration can not only destroy a food’s nutritional value, but it can in many cases cause sickness, and in some cases even death. Ensure your food containers are air-tight for best results.
Exposure to the Air
Exposure to air means exposure to microorganisms, bacteria, and other contaminants—and oxygen can deteriorate food by itself. For that reason, use packaged oxygen absorbing materials when storing food, and again: use air-tight containers.
Light exposure causes the deterioration of vitamins, proteins, and can cause fats and oils to go rancid. Keep food stored in opaque containers, or in low light—or better, complete darkness—for the longest shelf life.
Your Best Bets
Most freeze-dried and dehydrated foods have a shelf life of in excess of twenty-five years. In addition, the freeze-drying process naturally retains more of a food’s nutritional value, and generally tastes better than dehydrated foods.
When considering dry or dehydrated foods such as rice, beans, and pasta, there is little change in nutritional value or taste over time, but bear in mind they will require water to cook or process to the point where they’re suitable for consumption—and the longer they’re stored, the more water they will generally need.
Your best bet is to have both freeze-dried and dry/dehydrated food on hand for long-term situations.
You’ll always want to store more than you think you’ll need, and it would be wise to learn some methods of processing foraged food or hunted game for long-term storage, as well. No matter how much food you have set aside, in certain scenarios you will eventually run out.
To your survival,