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Storing Emergency Food Safely

Posted in Our Blog on May 5, 2024

While it is uncommon an emergency requiring an extended amount of food isn’t out of the question. The Red Cross suggests that we should have food to last our families 2 weeks. How? that is the number one question. Most of us don’t have much extra storage space and the idea of keeping 2 week’s worth of groceries that aren’t going to be used in the near future just seems absurd. After living through a few disasters including a major derecho several years ago my family absolutely knew we had to have food to last at least a few days if the power were to go out. Since then we have acquired a generator, but we still make sure we have necessities. Storing emergency food safely is so important and is something we should all add some extra thought to.

What should you keep?

Consider your own family and the unique needs that you may have. We are fortunate to not have to deal with any food allergies, but those can be easily forgotten in the planning stages of preparedness. Always remember that in an emergency often medical treatment can take longer, so you want to make sure there is no room for error in cases of allergies and dietary restrictions.

Air-tight containers are perfect for keeping things such as crackers and cookies, but be aware of expiration dates. We like to write those on the packaging with dry erase markers.

Canned goods are great options, but be extremely mindful of rust, dents and swelling of the cans. I like to use a permanent marker on the can tops and write the expiration date clearly so that it doesn’t wear off with time. Many canned goods are great long-term examples of food storage because they can last for years.

We like to rotate canned foods in our emergency stash every 6 months or so. Bring the oldest to the front to be used first and add newer long lasting dated cans to the back.

How long to keep?

  • Use Within 6 Months

Powdered milk — boxed

Dried Fruit

Dry Crisp Crackers

Potatoes (unless preserved in glass jars, but we will discuss those in another article)

  • Use Within 1 Year (or before indicated date on packaging)

Canned Meats & Soups

Canned Fruits & Vegetables

Ready to Eat Cereal

Peanut Butter

Jelly (another canning tip we will discuss later)

Candy & Nuts


  • Store Indefinitely 


Vegetable Oils

Baking Powder

Instant Coffee, Tea or Cocoa


White Rice


Dry Pasta


Obviously, these lists are quite small and can be used as tips and tricks to expand based on your own needs. We are also very mindful that food storage needs to be in a cool and dry place and preferably dark. We are fortunate to have a dark room in our basement that is more less our storage space and allows us to keep things especially home canning longer than if it were exposed to the elements including light and changing temperatures in our living space.

When there is an emergency we try to eat what is available in the fridge and freezer first to try and eliminate waste, but we limit how much we open those doors as you never know how long the power may be off for. This allows for the stored foods to be used at a little later time as we prepare and assess to see how long we may be without electricity. The “last resort” is usually the stored food in the dark room.  We have an awesome article about what to do when the fridge goes out during stormy weather that can provide helpful tips as well.

Needing Easier Options?

There are companies who offer options of emergency food storage that are very similar to military offerings when it comes to long term storage. A lot of them are stored in air tight buckets and offer rations for multiple weeks. Many of these claim they can be stored for up to 25 years **It’s best to store this emergency food supply in a dry, cool location—a dark area, if possible—at temperatures between 55°F and 70°F. Actual shelf life may vary based on individual storage conditions. Unopened product pouches included in this supply retain their shelf life after buckets have been opened according to

I like these options because they are easier sometimes to store and the buckets can be stacked on top of each other while still sealed to manage the space issues that so many of us have. They also calculate the needed calories based on the 2000 calorie per day recommendations.

Cooking During Emergencies

Being able to cook stored food is such an important factor. We utilize a gas grill with a burner so that we can properly warm canned goods when we have a power outage. There are other options as well such as a charcoal grill, camping stoves and even using logs in a fire pit. We just make sure that all of these options are in safe locations away from our home and garage. We are very fortunate to have these options but still have to purchase water because our well doesn’t work during an outage. Some locals in our area have town/city water and still have access to their cold water which is better than none at all and helps even more with the preparation of foods and of course having drinking water that is fresh.

In closing it is often better to be safe than sorry and if you suspect that your emergency food storage has been compromised it could be better to just start over or discard what you think is spoiled. Also when opening containers if something smells offensive or looks discolored it is best to discard and open something else.