Store Emergency Food Safely with These Tips

Recent natural disasters, like tornadoes in the Midwest and wildfires in the West, highlight the importance of being prepared for emergency situations. For starters, you need to make sure you have enough food and water to last a few days (Ready.gov recommends at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food).

You can’t store all of those extra provisions in the garage and forget about them, though. Here's how to properly store your canned goods, dehydrated food, and other emergency food essentials.

The basics of emergency food storage 

To make sure your emergency food lasts as long as possible, follow these basic best practices for long term food storage:

  • Choose a cool, dark place that doesn’t receive direct sunlight.

  • Find a spot in your home with a consistently cool temperature.

  • Humidity causes food to spoil faster, so don’t store food in humid areas like the bathroom or near a dryer vent.

  • Avoid the garage and attic — temperatures tend to fluctuate greatly in these spaces.

Some possibilities for emergency food storage locations include the basement, closets, utility rooms, and under the bed.

How to store dehydrated foods like jerky and dried fruit

Dehydrating food removes moisture, which keeps it fresh for longer. To prolong the life of dehydrated fruits, veggies, and meats, use these tips:

  • Store food in a cool, dry place.

  • Keep all food sealed in an airtight container until you’re ready to eat it. If you open and close a package, push all of the air out before resealing.

  • Since plastic containers can be permeable to air, opt for mason jars or vacuum sealed Food-Saver bags for storage.

  • For long term storage, consider using food grade oxygen and moisture absorber packs.

Even if you purchase store-bought dehydrated foods, you can often prolong the shelf life by transferring the food to a different storage container.

How long do canned foods last?

It’s best to eat canned foods within 1 year of purchase, but if that’s not possible, follow these guidelines:

  • Canned meats, seafood, and low-acid canned foods (like vegetables and soup) should be used within 3 years of the expiration date on the can.

  • High-acid canned foods like fruit, pickles, and tomatoes are best when used within 2 years of the expiration date.

In most cases, these foods are still safe to eat after the expiration date has passed, as long as the cans aren’t damaged, and the food doesn’t show any signs of spoilage. They may have lost some nutrients and color, however. 

How long do freeze-dried foods last?

When you want emergency food that lasts for a long time, freeze-dried meals are a solid choice. Just look at our Backpacker’s Pantry meals — most can be safely stored for up to 10 years! 

There are some exceptions, such as our Organic Blueberry Walnut Oats & Quinoa, which has a “best by” date of 3 years from the manufacturing date. Because the walnuts are high in fat and protein, they will spoil quicker.

Whether you buy emergency meals from Backpacker’s Pantry or elsewhere, you should always check the dates on your emergency kit foods and replace items as needed. Checking expiration dates regularly will also give you a chance to use those foods on your camping, backpacking, and other outdoor adventures before they go bad.

Backpackers Pantry provides a vast assortment of delicious freeze-dried meals for climbers, explorers, anglers, hunters, hikers, backpackers and anyone else who spends time outdoors. Browse our nutritious, gourmet food for the trail.