Long Term Food Storage Shelf Life
Having an emergency food supply is a wise and simple way to protect your family. In today’s uncertain times, there are many things that could happen to disrupt our daily routines and even prevent us from getting easy access to food for a while. Whether it’s a natural disaster or a man-made catastrophe, having a home food storage will help us weather the storm.
There are multiple ways to create an emergency food supply at home. You can purchase pre-packaged food storage from a retailer, or you can create your own food storage through canning, dehydrating, or freeze drying. You can save lots of money preserving food on your own, but each method has its own benefits and challenges; including how long the preserved food will last in storage. We take a look at how long preserved food can be stored before it needs to be eaten or replaced.
Freeze Dried Food
Freeze drying is a process where all the water is removed from a food at a very low temperature in a vacuum. While not a new technology, freeze drying is the newest way to preserve food at home. Long used by the military, NASA, and outdoor enthusiasts, freeze dried food can be eaten for up to 25 years after it was first preserved if properly stored. Some foods will last longer than others, but no other method safely preserves food longer than freeze drying.
- Dairy – Up to 25 years
- Meat – Up to 15 years
- Fruits and Vegetables – Up to 25 years
- Grains, Rice, and Pastas – Up to 25 years
Canning has been used by people worldwide as a way to preserve food for generations. Usually used to preserve garden produce, canning at home is something millions of Americans do each year. Canning is a process that preserves food through a heating process and sealing the food in airtight containers. In many instances a preservative may be used to extend the life of the food. Most canned foods, if stored properly, will last two to three years on the shelf, though some may last up to five. To avoid bacteria concerns, canned foods should be eaten or replaced regularly.
- Canned Foods – Up to 5 years, but generally 2-3 years
Dehydrating is another very common way to preserve food. While not as versatile as canning or freeze drying, there are certain foods you can make with a dehydrator that aren’t possible with other methods, such as fruit leather, jerky, or raisins. A dehydrator uses heat and air to remove moisture from food, which keeps bacteria from spoiling the food. While commercially dehydrated foods can be stored for 20 years, home dehydrated foods typically have a shelf life of only one or two years.
- Home Dehydrated Foods – Up to 2 years
- Commercially Dehydrated Foods – Up to 20 years
Extending the Shelf Life of Your Food Storage
To get the most out of your food preservation efforts, you need to store the food properly. For all preserved foods, we suggest sealing your food in an oxygen-proof container. Freeze dried and dehydrated foods can be stored in airtight bags, bottles, or in vacuum-sealed containers. For canned foods, heat-sealed and airtight jars tend to work best.
Aside from packaging, where you store your food is extremely important. While preserved foods don’t require refrigeration, lower, stable temperatures are better. Dry locations and cooler temperatures are the keys to longer shelf lives. For all kinds of preserved foods, it’s also best to store them in a dark place or in packaging that will block light.