The 10 Best Tips for DIY Long Term Food Storage |
Food & Water

The 10 Best Tips for DIY Long Term Food Storage

Do you know just how important DIY long term food storage really is? Imagine this. You wake one morning at some point in the not too distant future and everything seems to be just perfect. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the sounds of happiness fill your home.

But then you switch on the morning news and your world comes crashing down as a disaster is developing at that very moment. This particular disaster is on a global scale and is coming for you and your family.

That’s when you start to consider it. Just how prepared am I?

Although this scenario may never come to fruition, we know that the question regarding disasters isn’t if they will happen, but when they will. In light of this, just how prepared are you really? Have you ever considered the possibility of needing DIY long term food storage?

Text area which says "The 10 Best Tips for DIY Long Term Food Storage," followed by a photo of a ready to eat meal in a Mylar Bag next to an orange plastic fork

While most of us will consider keeping our bug out bags at the ready, fully stocked and ready to go, how about long-term survival? What if the event that strikes will affect your way of life for years, decades even, instead of just mere days?

The chances of such a disaster are always on the increase, the evidence shown nightly on news channels around the world.

But preparation for such an event can happen now, today, as you read through this article. This information is for those looking at preparing for more long-term survival, rather than short term, and the need to learn DIY long term food storage.

Keeping you and your family supplied with sufficient food that lasts for decades may seem a little far-fetched. But with proper preparation, set-up and good old-fashioned know-how, you’ll be stacking your shelves in no time.

Can’t I just race to my local supermarket?

While many people keep a few days’ worth of food in their refrigerators and pantries, many would struggle to see out a week in the event of a disaster. This invokes fear and before you know it, panic buying strips the shelves of every fresh food grocer in the country.

The reality is that people panic for all sorts of reasons. With supermarkets only stocking limited supplies, panicked buyers will strip shelves bare by the time you get there. To stand the best chance for surviving as long as possible, you and your family must act now to learn all you can about DIY long term food storage.

This guide will help prepare you with enough long-term food storage to sufficiently feed those you love for a long time to come. It doesn’t take much and before you know it, you too, will be ready to face any disaster.

Why doesn’t food last longer than a few weeks?

Photo of spoiled apples in a wicker basket

With canned food aside, most of the foods that you buy from your local supermarket has very limited shelf life. Even though the food is safe to eat at time of purchase, its packaging will make short work of the storage capabilities of its contents.

The most important element on the planet that keeps you alive is also the main culprit with reducing the shelf life of food. Oxygen might keep you alive, but it also keeps the bacteria that want to invade your pantry alive.

It penetrates every poorly sealed package, bringing with it a stream of hungry nasties, ready to use your food as a breeding ground.

Sealing out the oxygen will prevent the bacteria already in your food from multiplying. This will guarantee to extend the shelf life of your food from a week or two to literally decades.

But sealing bags of food takes a little more than simply twisting it and tying a knot in the end. Quality products are readily available to help you create a self-sufficient storage warehouse in your own home. There are items you can use almost immediately and with very few instructions, combined with DIY long term food storage.

But oxygen isn’t the only culprit when it comes to spoiling our food. Light, particularly sunlight, will have a detrimental effect on your food, raising its core temperature to levels perfect for bacteria to grow.

That’s why a lot of food labels warn you to store food in a cool, dark space, away from sunlight.

Is it only light and oxygen that ruins food?

While oxygen and light cause food to spoil much faster when exposed to them, there is a third element that works hard to lessen your food’s shelf life. The third culprit for reducing the shelf life of food is moisture.

Remember that food label: Store in a cool dry place out of direct light? You’re probably thinking that you don’t tend to stand in your pantry with a garden hose, so the chances of the food getting wet are slim.

But water comes in various forms, one of them being a gas. High humidity is air with high moisture content. Don’t think there’s water in the air right now?

Take a can of soda out from your refrigerator and sit it on the bench. See the condensation forming? That’s water vapor turning back into liquid form on the surface of the can.

The very moisture you’re trying to avoid is already all around you. The best method for avoiding it is to seal your food in an airtight container that will keep the moisture out.

The bottom line for storing food safely and extend its shelf life for as long as possible is to prevent it getting warm, keeping it dry and removing the oxygen bacteria need to survive. Learning the tricks with DIY long term food storage will help you with this.

Can’t I just buy pre-made long term food products?

With modern technology putting everything at our fingertips these days, we can buy pantry loads of prepacked food with very little effort. Great quality food is ready and waiting on thousands of websites, just waiting for us to purchase it.

But while the food might be sitting there ready to go, you should consider the alternatives.

Firstly, the costs. Just like buying take-out is expensive, so is purchasing loads of ready to eat meals when compared to the cost of preparing the food yourself.

Divided by the number of ready to eat meals, the costs are cheap, but not as cheap as they could be when you prepare them yourself.

Photo of a pre-made long-term food product

Secondly, and probably more important to me personally, is the quality. Pre-packaged foods go through a process from base ingredients to final preparation.

Each point of the process takes the food to yet another location. Do you really know everything that goes into the food, the processes it endures and whether the final product will actually survive through its proposed shelf life?

For me, the main benefit of creating my own food via DIY long term food storage is that I know what is in my food, the process it goes through and that the final seal is working. The best long-term food storage items are definitely the ones made by me.

Thirdly, and still quite important, is the variety. Yes, you may survive on things like chewable tablets that have a shelf life of 25 years, or some food bars with a 5-year shelf life.

But I like proper tasteful meals made with the same ingredients we use in our kitchen today. A lot of quality ingredients go into most survival food available, but for me, seem to lack something special.

How are food’s shelf-lives increased?

Preserving food is not new, the processes used since time began. While we may have started as hunter gatherers, humans learnt very quickly to prepare for famine by saving food.

Freshly picked fruits and berries, as well as meat, has a very limited shelf-life. Imagine our ancestors without modern conveniences. They stored their food in freshly-dug holes and bags made from animal skins.

Drying food out is one of the first methods used to extend the shelf-life of many foods. Both sun-drying and air-drying are methods still used today and still proven to be extremely popular.

Salting and smoking methods further improve the drying process, in a method called curing. Pickling uses the acidity of vinegar to create an environment unsuitable for bacteria to survive.

Many other forms of food preservation exist, some extending shelf-life by a little, some by a lot. These include-

Photo of preserved vegetables in several jars

  • Cooling
  • Freezing
  • Boiling
  • Heating
  • Sugaring
  • Lye
  • Canning
  • Jellying
  • Jugging
  • Burial
  • Confit
  • Fermentation

All of the above examples somehow eliminate the 3 main culprits to create an environment unsuitable for bacteria. Removing air, moisture and an environment warm enough for them to grow, ensure they can’t survive.

But while these methods have proven very reliable throughout history, many of them are not the kind of methods we need for extending shelf-life of food for much longer. For that, we need some new ideas from DIY long term food storage.

What sorts of food can I store with DIY long term food storage?

There are two categories of food in your pantry right now. Ready-to-eat food and the things you use to create food. Most processed ready-to-eat meals have very limited shelf lives and don’t contain many nutritional ingredients. The raw materials you need to bake a cake, make pasta and enhance flavors of foods are what we call staples.

The staples are what will provide you everything you need to create healthy, nutritious meals just as you would today. There is more information about which foods to store and how to prepare them in our article Long Term Food Storage. Here are but a few examples for you.

Photo of grains of rice

  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Honey
  • Rice
  • Whole Grains
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Cocoa
  • Powdered Milk

Check out our other article for more ideas for which foods to choose.

The best suggestions for DIY long term food storage

There are many suggestions and ideas to consider when choosing to store foods for an apocalyptic event. You’ll want the transition to self-sufficiency to be as smooth as possible, with a few alterations from your current way of life as possible.

If you can ensure that your family still sit down for regular meals and serve them near to what you are serving now for years to come, then you’ll have succeeded.

This article isn’t so much about which particular foods to store, but on how to store particular items to increase their shelf-life for years to come through DIY long term food storage.

Although there are many options for storing food to consider, everything falls under three distinct categories.

  • What to store
  • How to store
  • Where to store

Whilst there is another article for helping you decide what foods to store, the most important question is how to store it. Without the proper tools and know-how, your food might only last a few months without proper preparation and that won’t be enough.

Tip #1: Plan to survive with long term food storage

The best place to start is to decide on surviving in the first place. Without a plan in place, your future in the event of a catastrophe will be very short-lived unless you have a workable and feasible plan in place.

Calculate who will live off your food supply, how long you plan to survive for and how well you will live off the food.

How much variety will you need? Are there specific nutritional needs for you or your family? Ask yourself the questions before making a single purchase.

Tip #2: Prepare your list

Because your food storage will be in place for many years to come, you don’t want to get 10 years down the track and find you’ve forgotten something important. Planning will help you to make sure all of your needs are met in the event of a disaster.

Rather than just throwing a whole pile of food in buckets and hoping for the best, a carefully planned shopping list will serve you much better.

Consider the nutritional needs of each person and calculate the daily requirements. Knowing how much food each person will need is a great way to help you choose an effective plan for fulfilling those needs.

Tip #3: Dried foods store better for longer

Using one of the earliest forms of extending shelf-life of food, dry as much food as you can. Removing the moisture from the foods will eliminate the first of its enemies.

There are various methods to use for drying food, from a dedicated food dehydrator, to your oven or even hanging your food from a rafter on the porch.

Creating jerky is one of the best methods for extending the shelf-life of meats. Dried fruit is also extremely worthwhile, the dried chips great for snacking on. The foods retain their flavors and nutritional benefits.

Tip #4: Mylar Bags are a good first step for storage

Probably one of the best storage solutions when it comes to food. Some Mylar bags serve three purposes with their packaging and design. They have a foil liner that will block out light, another one of food’s enemies. But not only do they block light, the foil lining also reflects it, reducing the heat absorption of the food inside.

Photo of a Mylar bag

Last and definitely not least, Mylar bags are air-tight, sealing the food within and denying the bacteria oxygen to survive. By removing light, heat and oxygen, these bags should be high on your list for storage options. There are various sizes and thicknesses available, but I suggest 4.1 mil

While some Mylar bags will already contain oxygen absorbers, you will need them before sealing your bag with an iron or hair straightener. Oxygen absorbers do as the name suggests, removing the oxygen to create a vacuum inside.

Once you have effectively sealed your bags, make sure the seal is in place. The last thing you want is for a tiny hole to remain and your food slowly spoiling while you think it’s set for the next 20 years.

Tip #5: Have to protect against pests

Sealing your food inside a Mylar bag is a great step towards keeping out heat, oxygen and moisture, but do you really think they’ll fair well against the sharp teeth of rats?

Rodents will make very short work of your emergency supplies, rendering them useless as soon as they pierce the bag’s lining. What you need is another layer of protection.

Food-safe rated plastic storage buckets make excellent containers for your food. Not only can you store dozens of pre-packaged Mylar bags inside them, but there are Mylar bags specially designed to fit inside 5-gallon buckets, making them the perfect solution for things like whole grains.

Gamma seal lids are what you’ll need to make sure the buckets are completely airtight. If you’ve purchased buckets without the proper lids, purchase gamma seal lids separately.

Tip #6: When you want something stronger than plastic

If you want something stronger than plastic buckets, or something larger to store several buckets in, use 55-gallon drums to create stronger and larger food caches.

They are fantastic for storing food containers and you might even pick them up for free. Just make sure to find out what they contained in them prior, to make sure they are safe. Beware of the weight as you might need a trolley jack to move them once filled.

Cans are one of the few foods from supermarkets that will keep for years. They are extremely versatile, hardy and can contain everything from fruit, coffee, tea, soups and stews. Store them in dry places as they are prone to rust which will eat through the metal.

Tip #7: Identify the foods from the outside

While you may store all your containers in the same place and simply write their contents on the buckets with a marker, a great idea is to color-code the gamma seal lids. You may not use colors for specific foods, but by color-coding things like grains, enhancers, beverages etc, accessing each will be much simpler.

You’ll need a permanent marker to identify the specific foods inside each container, using something that won’t rub off or fade over time. Use more permanent methods like an engraver that won’t wear off.

Apart from labeling the foods contained in each, make sure you also highlight the expiry of certain foods with limited shelf-life. If one bucket contains food that will last for 5 years instead of the bucket next to it lasting 25 years, you’ll need to know what to use first.

Tip #8: Where are you going to keep your food?

Keep your food containers out of light, out of the weather and off the ground. Every place is going to have both its advantages and disadvantages so consider your own options available.

If you plan to keep the containers in a shed, make sure it’s weather-proof and easily accessible. If keeping the containers in a cellar, how will it fare in the event of a flood?

An attic may be too warm during summer months. Consider your own options and the elements that may influence them throughout their life.

Tip #9: Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket

Things happen; that’s life. While some events are good, some are not so good. Consider accidents and things that might happen in the future. If you store your food in the shed and your shed catches fire, what will you use to feed your family?

Spread the food supply into a number of locations, not just a single place. That way if disaster ever strikes a little closer to home, you won’t be left with nothing.

There’s plenty of options, from storing the containers around your home, sheds, other locations nearby and even in a purpose-built cellar.

Tip #10: Rotate as needed and always start from the beginning

While keeping food stores safely aside in case of an extreme event, don’t be afraid to use what’s there. Remind yourself of the shelf-life of certain foods and replace the ones nearing their expiry life. Use it yourself or donate the food if necessary, as long as you stay on top of the dates.

If possible, store the food cache in order of expiry so you’ll always know where to start replacing it. It will save time sorting through it later, making the food easily accessible.

Plan to live forever with DIY long term food storage

With so much chaos in the world today, it’s not hard to see how easily everything that our civilization needs to survive, could vanish in an instant.

Preparing for the possibilities now will mean the difference between surviving for a few days and living a long and healthy life for years to come.

Do you know which are the best foods for long term food storage? Check out this article: The 14 Best Foods for Long Term Food Storage