To get started with the basic building blocks of food storage, these are the top 10 foods I recommend. If these aren’t a good fit for your family, for whatever reason, stock up on the alternatives that you’re currently using. Be aware of the enemies of food storage, and always try to store your food in the most optimal conditions possible.
Once ground, wheat is the building block for varieties of bread, tortillas, flatbread, pizza crust, and more. I’ve stocked up on hard red wheat for hearty breads, general purpose hard white wheat, and soft white wheat for pastries.
On its’ own, it’s a side dish. Mixed with herbs and a vegetable or two, it’s a simple main dish. It’s a great meal-stretcher when topped with, or served alongside, main dishes such as a stir fry. Note: brown rice contains oils that will eventually become rancid. If you can keep it stored at very chilly temperatures, say below 60 degrees, it will be fresher, longer. Otherwise, plan on a shelf life of about a year or so.
Without electricity, fresh milk will go bad in hours. Fresh will be difficult to come by in an emergency situation unless you own a cow or a goat. Dried milk provides not only milk to drink, but milk to use as an ingredient in other dishes. Also, look for shelf-stable milk that comes in cardboard cartons. It’s a very good option to dried milk.
Stock up on table salt at your local Costco. It’s inexpensive and has multiple uses. I’ve purchased boxes of Kosher salt, along with the regular iodized table salt.
Buy canned beans and dry beans in different varieties. They’re versatile, economical, and a good source of fiber. Canned beans are already cooked and only need to be drained and rinsed before eating. Dried beans can be ground into a powder and added to everything from cookies to soups.
Canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, tomato puree, etc. Watch for them on sale and then grab a few dozen cans. Learn how to can and dehydrate tomatoes. They’re the basis for salsas, soups, stews, and sauces. I’ll bet you’ve eaten something made from tomatoes in the past 48 hours!
Other canned veggies and fruit
These will help provide important nutrients and variety to your recipes and have a very long shelf life. If you can’t stomach canned veggies, try dehydrating your own or purchasing freeze-dried.
High in protein, yummy on warm, freshly made bread! Add some honey, and you have a winner! Keep a new, sealed jar in emergency kits for a quick dose of protein when you might need it most.
Without oil, you’re pretty much stuck with boiling your meat and veggies. The problem is that oil goes rancid very quickly. Most oils have a shelf life of only a year. Some food storage experts recommend packing vegetable shortening in canning jars and using a Food Saver jar sealer to vacuum out all the air/oxygen. Stored this way, shortening can stay fresh for years as long as it’s stored in a cool location. When using it, just measure out what you need for a recipe, melt it, and have oil. While many of us have moved away from using vegetable oil, this is probably the best option for having a supply of oil on hand long term.
Another meal stretcher and a kid-pleasing dish any day of the week. My own kids have been known to dip bow-tie pasta in ranch dressing. I really, really like the egg noodles from Ready Reserve Foods, which are actually dehydrated. As they cook, they expand and become thick, hearty noodles, much like the homemade noodles my mom used to make.
Sugar and honey
Okay, that makes eleven, but I’ve known women who were ready to kill when deprived of sugar for too long! Both honey and sugar will last indefinitely.
NOTE: This article was originally published on September 3, 2009. My blog had launched only 4 months prior! This list continues to be what I recommend for basic food storage, so I wanted to publish it again with additional information.