Long term food storage refers to food supplies that will stay good for years at a time.
This makes them especially useful for survival and emergency preparedness, when you will need food that stays good without refrigeration and is fresh and ready to prepare when you need it (which could be a decade from now or longer).
Survivalism has surged in popularity in recent years, and with it, there are a huge range of options for long term food storage.
We’ve researched and ranked the best options, plus taken a look at the key features and benefits you should look for in a long term food storage solution for survival or emergency preparedness.
1. Mountain House Just in Case Classic Bucket
Mountain House Just in Case Classic Bucket is a top seller thanks to its generous 29 servings, thick, robust plastic pail for storage, and the ease of preparation.
With a longevity guarantee of 30 years, it’s built to last. At the same time, to prepare a meal, all you have to do is add water and a meal is ready to go in ten minutes.
The longevity, durability, and ease of use make Mountain House Just in Case Classic Bucket our top pick.
2. Augason Farms 30-Day Emergency Food Storage Supply
Augason Farms 30-Day Emergency Food Storage Supply comes in a thick plastic pail and contains 29 pounds of food: almost a pound of dried supplies per day.
It’s got supplies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so even if you have to break out the emergency supplies, you won’t be stuck with the same rice and bean meal at every meal.
The shelf life for this long term food storage is rated for 20 years, so you won’t have to swap it out any time soon.
3. Mountain House 3-Day Emergency Food Supply
Mountain House 3-Day Emergency Food Supply is perfect for people who aren’t ready to commit to a full month’s worth of emergency food, but still want to be prepared for a loss of power or a natural disaster.
This three-day supply kit can hold you over with nine total meals, and a shelf life of 30 years. The primary downside, aside from the small size, is the cardboard packaging.
Store this in a thick plastic container for optimal durability and pest resistance.
4. Northwest Fork Gluten-Free Emergency Food Supply
Preparing for emergencies and disasters is not easy if you’re gluten-free: many long term food storage products use wheat-based ingredients as mainstays.
Fortunately, Northwest Fork makes a 90-serving long term food storage solution that’s gluten free and has a shelf life of ten years or more.
With this product, you won’t get a durable plastic container, so be sure to provide your own to prevent rats and mice from getting at your food supply.
5. Wise Company Emergency Food Supply
Wise Company Emergency Food Supply is a smaller and lightweight long term food storage solution that nevertheless provides 60 servings of easily prepared food.
This is enough for one adult to eat for a month, or a family of four to eat for a week. The food is all entrees, so the meals are hearty, though it might get repetitive after a week or so.
6. Augason Farms Freeze Dried Fruit
Long term food storage doesn’t mean you need to skimp on healthy eating. Augason Farms makes an excellent long term food storage solution with freeze dried fruit.
This four gallon pail contains 199 servings of fruit, making it a great supplement to another long term food storage solution for your main meals.
It’s not enough to live on alone, of course, but if you want more variety and nutritional value in your emergency food supply, it’s a good addition.
7. Chef’s Banquet Food Storage
Chef’s Banquet Food Storage comes with 30 days worth of 2100 calories. These are stored in a thick, durable 6 gallon bucket, and in optimal storage conditions (i.e. a cool, dry place), the shelf life can be up to 20 years.
Meals for breakfast and dinner are easily prepared by adding water, and there’s pretty good variety, making Chef’s Banquet a solid pick.
8. Grizzly Gear Emergency Food Rations
Grizzly Gear Emergency Food Rations is a rugged and durable emergency food ration that comes in individual 3600 calorie bars.
These can be eaten without any water and they aren’t so dry that they provoke thirst. As such, they’re very popular with sailors and outdoorsmen who want a food storage solution that can take extreme temperatures.
One thing to note: the foil package is not going to be sufficient to deter rodents, so for longer term storage, get a plastic tub to keep these rations out of the reach of vermin.
9. Legacy Premium Food Storage
Legacy Premium Food Storage contains 29 pounds of disaster-ready food in individually wrapped packages stored inside a thick plastic tub.
The meal variety is not as good as some of the other long term food storage options, though the 25 year shelf life is pretty solid.
While it’s a solid pick, several other options on this list come out ahead, leaving it further down in the rankings.
10. The Survival Tabs
The Survival Tabs are designed for a specific niche: long term survival/emergency situations with varied and unreliable food supply, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
These chewable tabs deliver a modest dose of carbs and fat, plus all of the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
Essentially, it’s a multivitamin plus some fat and sugar. While The Survival Tabs don’t provide nearly enough calories to fit your daily needs, they can help in situations where your food supply is less than perfect.
This isn’t what everybody is looking for when it comes to long term food storage, but they serve their purpose well.
Who Should Buy Long Term Food Storage?
Long term food storage is great for all people looking to preserve their food over a long period of time. There are various types of food storage, all with their ups and downs. The best long term food storage option is freeze-drying, while the best for preserving quality is glass containers.
Plastic containers are the most popular but can leech chemicals into the food it’s storing.
How We Ranked
When ranking long term food storage, we first looked at the type of storage available. Freeze-dried options like Legacy Premium Food Storage allowed for up to 25 years of storage. However, it’s low variety of food options made it rank near the bottom of our list. Survivable Tabs made our list for providing a convenient option but ranked last for its low quality and taste.
Augason Farms provided an excellent long term food storage option, that was also very healthy. Its freeze-dried fruit can last for half a century and can provide a good dose of vitamins and minerals. However, it’s not enough to live off of which is why it didn’t make the top of your list. Northwest Fork made our top 5 by providing 90 days worth of gluten-free food that can last up ten years.
Mountain House 3-Day Emergency Food Supply was an excellent option but ranked lower because of its cardboard packaging and small serving size. Augason Farms 30-Day Emergency Food Storage Supply contains 29 pounds of high-quality foods that can last up to 20 years. It’s high quality, and meal versatility allowed it to rank second.
Mountain House Just in Case Classic Bucket took the top spot for its sturdy design and 30-year shelf life. Its ease of use and ability to make meals in less than 10 minutes with just water is what allowed it to be our #1 long term food storage on the market.
Economic instability and natural disasters have both prevented easy access to shelf-stable food in the past. Getting easy access to the basics you need to survive, like food, water, and fuel, is surprisingly dependent on a complex network of infrastructure.
It doesn’t take much to knock that infrastructure out—in 1979, for example, a political revolution in Iran caused a massive downturn in oil production worldwide (1).
The result was huge lines at gas stations and a panic to have gasoline ready. It’s not hard to imagine a similar disruption in food supplies, or electricity (which, of course, you need to keep normal food fresh).
Having a supply of food that does not require refrigeration, and can stay good for years at a time, is an easy insurance policy for emergency preparedness and being disaster-ready.
When stored properly, long term food storage can last for decades. All of top-rated long term food storage products have shelf lives of 20-30 years. This means that an investment now will last a very long time—you don’t have to swap out your emergency food storage supplies every few months or years like you would if you had to manage your own emergency food supply.
As long as you are keeping your long term food storage in a cool and dark place, you can buy food supplies and forget about them until you need them (which could be years from now). This compares quite favorably to constantly having to swap out food, check expiration dates, or rely on electricity to keep emergency food supplies in a freezer fresh.
Long term food storage products are formulated to deliver essential vitamins and minerals. While you could certainly make your own meals that are stable long-term using ingredients like dry white rice and lentils or other legumes, you’ll quickly realize that it’s difficult to make sure your home-prepped meals have the right balance of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
Long term food storage products typically involve some careful nutritional considerations when they are formulated, precisely to avoid the kind of nutritional deficiencies that occur when all you eat is rice and beans for a month.
While reliance on refined carbohydrates typically makes processed long term food storage products suboptimal compared to home-cooked meals from fresh ingredients, they do deliver all the essential nutrients you need to stay healthy.
The biggest threats to long term food storage are spoilage and pests. When it comes to spoilage, a high quality long term food storage solution should not spill, if it’s stored in proper conditions.
Long term food storage should be kept in a cool, dark, and dry place, and ideally, the storage location should have a stable temperature without large fluctuations from hot to cold.
The food itself can spoil, but the containment system (i.e. the vacuum sealed bags and plastic container) should help protect food from wild swings in temperature or moisture, but these fluctuations do likely take time off the ideal lifespan of your long term food storage.
In your basement, cellar, pantry, or other dark and stable temperature-controlled location for optimal longevity.
The other primary enemy to long term food storage are pests like insects, mice, rats, and other rodents. For protection against these threats, you’ll want to keep your long term food storage in a thick plastic container that can’t be easily chewed through.
That’s why you’ll find that many of the top long term food storage products come in thick plastic pails, even though the actual food is already vacuum-sealed in thick plastic or Mylar packaging.
Rats and mice can easily chew through thin plastic packaging and even metal foil without any problems. If your long term food storage does not already come in a strong plastic container, you’ll want to pick up a five gallon pail with a lid, or another thick plastic tub.
Even if your food is already vacuum-sealed, it’s still best to get a plastic container that’s waterproof or water-resistant, to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria on the packaging.
Can long term food storage methods improve the nutrient density of foods? Yes, some long term food storage methods, like pickling, can improve antioxidant profiles. Pickling can extend the shelf life of vegetables for six months or longer while preserving the antioxidants (which help fight free radicals). Pickling also helps to provide foods that improve your gut microbiome, which can improve nutrient absorption (2).
Is freeze-drying a good long term food storage option? If you freeze-dry your foods, you can extend their shelf-life to about 25 years. Though these foods still have an expiration date, freeze-dried foods give you many more options when it comes to long-term food preservation.
Can long term food storage help you save money? Yes, long term food storage can help you save money by buying in bulk. It can also help by limiting waste, allowing you to get the most out of the food you buy. By storing food, you can also reduce the frequency of your trips to the grocery store – saving money on gas and car wear and tear.
Are metal containers a good option for long term food storage? While there are a few types of metals that can be used as food storage containers, metal containers are a poor choice for food storage since they may contaminate the food stored within it. The metal can cause serious physical and chemical changes to the food stored inside the container, possibly making it unsafe for human consumption. Generally speaking, it’s considered safe to store food in steel containers, but other metal containers should be avoided at all costs.
What is the best freezer temperature for long term food storage? For the most part, the average freezer is set to 0-degrees Fahrenheit. By reducing the temperature of your freezer to -10-degrees Fahrenheit, you can improve the quality of food storage and make the food last much longer. As a rule of thumb, the colder your freezer is, the longer you can store food. For foods that need colder temperatures, like meat, there are heavy-duty freezers that can accommodate your needs.
What are the best emergency survival foods for long term food storage?Most foods that will last long-term are dry foods that can be stored in pantries or cabinets, including crackers, peanut butter, cereal, freeze-dried food, canned foods, nuts/seeds, and water. Make sure you have enough food in your home to last your family about three days in the case of an emergency, which is a recommendation by the American Red Cross.
What toxins are present in plastic long term food storage containers? Plastic containers can contain bioactive chemicals such as BPA, which have been proven to be toxic to children’s developing brains (3).
To avoid these toxins, its best to keep plastic storage containers in a cool, dry place away from sunlight.
What are the best environments for long-term food storage? The ideal location would be a pantry or a closet that is usually dark with low humidity and temperatures. If you’re only storing small amounts of food, a pantry would be the best storage option.
If you have a large collection of food that you plan to store long-term, you’ll likely need an entire room. This may be a basement, garage, or spare bedroom, but you want to make sure that the humidity, temperature, and access to direct sunlight are limited. No matter what, you want to avoid direct sunlight, flood risks, temperature variability, and humidity fluctuations when storing food for the long term.
What foods never expire and are good options for long term food storage? Though there are foods that never expire, they may begin to lose their quality and taste over time. Some foods that are excellent choices for long term food storage include sugar, salt, honey, rice, vinegar, syrup, and wine.
Are grains good for long term food storage? Grains do expire, but if they’re stored properly, they can have a shelf-life of a couple of years. Grains are best stored in airtight containers that are kept in cool and dry locations. Once opened, their shelf-life is significantly decreased.
If you wanted to extend the shelf-life of your grains, you could also store them in the refrigerator or freezer, though these preservation methods may affect the taste and quality in the long-term. There is no need to freeze or refrigerate grains unless you live in a hot and humid environment that can affect the quality of your grains.
What are the benefits of the long term food storage method of freeze-drying? When you freeze-dry food, you’re using a machine that’s capable of removing water from the food product. By removing the water from the food, you’re preventing the buildup of mold, fungus, or bacteria.
Freeze-drying food is perhaps the most effective method of preserving food for an extended period of time. Depending on the type of food you’re freeze-drying, the food can last up to 25 years. This is also the best way of preserving the nutritional value of the food at the same time.
Do super freezers work for long term food storage? Though the average freezer temperature in a typical household is about 0-degrees Fahrenheit, there are methods of freezing that can help you maintain food quality for a longer period of time.
In a study conducted in 2018, scientists were looking to discover whether particular freezing methods could preserve food quality over several months. When lamb products were placed in this deep freezing device at a temperature of -60 degrees Celsius, they were able to maintain their tenderness and quality for five months (4).
If you’re looking to preserve foods with a freezer for an extended period of time, you may need to invest in a freezer that’s capable of reaching an extremely low temperature that’s conducive to food preservation. There are many devices like this available on the market, but they sell for several thousand dollars each.
Does water expire when placed in long term food storage containers? When stored in a cool and dry place, water can practically last forever. The expiration date on bottled water is referencing the date at which the quality of the product may begin to dwindle, not the safety of the water itself.
How many months of food and water should I put in long term storage for emergencies? According to the American Red Cross, you only really need to store about three days of food and water in case of an emergency. However, severe emergencies like hurricanes, power outages, and tsunamis could leave you without direct access to new sources of food and water for several months.
The chances of you being trapped at home with no additional food and water for more than a week is extremely rare. In terms of how much food and water to stock for each person in your family, you should have about one gallon of water per person per day, and enough food to satisfy each person’s hunger for each day.
How do you best preserve food for long term storage? The most common long term food storage options include food saver machines, jars, and freeze-drying. Food saver machines tightly secure food in bags or small containers while also removing as much oxygen as possible. These containers will remain sealed until you decide to use them. Depending on the type of food, this type of machine can extend the shelf an extra two years.
Which type of food lasts the longest in long term food storage containers? Dry foods are more likely to last longer than other food products. If you’re planning to store food in jars, remember to tighten the lid as much as possible and store the jar in a cool and dry location. By then putting these jars in the freezer, you can extend the shelf-life an extra few months. Though freeze-drying is a bit more complicated, it can give your food a shelf-life of about 25 years, depending on the product you’re freezing. This is the most effective method of preserving food for long-term storage (5).
What is the most popular method for long term food storage? Plastic containers are the most popular method of storing food and beverages. However, plastic containers can contain chemicals that may alter or spoil your food. Thankfully, there are now plenty of plastic container options that are not produced with these harmful toxins (6).
No matter what type of container you choose to store your food in, the most important thing in terms of maintaining flavor is keeping the container secured tightly and in a cool and dry place.
Which long term food storage method is best for keeping flavor? The best long term food storage method for preserving flavor is glass or plastic containers. Glass is probably the best material when it comes to food storage containers because it does not contain chemicals that can interact with the food. It’s also incredibly easy to clean glass, making it that much more convenient.
Can long term food storage help you avoid preservatives? When consumed in large doses, preservatives can cause health issues (7).
Long term food storage can help you avoid preservatives often found in perishable and packaged frozen foods. Freeze drying foods is one long term food storage method that can keep foods safe to eat for up to 25 years without the use of preservatives or chemicals.
Long term food storage is a great way to stay prepared for emergencies, power outages, and economic disruption.
A high quality long term food storage solution will stay good for decades, as long as it is stored properly. Even if you aren’t anticipating a major natural or man-made disaster, having long term food storage can be handy in a pinch if you lose power for a few days or need to host someone else who’s been displaced because of a disaster or emergency.
To make sure that your long term food storage solution lasts as long as possible, you should store it in a cool, dark, dry, and temperature controlled space.
The shelf life of long term food storage will deteriorate significantly if it’s stored somewhere hot and humid, or if it is subject to wild temperature fluctuations.
Keeping long term food storage in a thick plastic container is important to ward off rats, mice, and insects.
These pests will make short work of any long term food storage if they get access to it—don’t count on vacuum sealed or foil-lined packaging to be a sufficient deterrent.
Hopefully, you won’t be in a situation where you need to use your long term food storage supplies, but it’s far better to have it but not need it versus the alternative.
For Body Nutrition’s #1 long term food storage recommendation, click here.