Long Term Food Storage: Creative Solutions to Build a Critical Asset

Long term food storage is a vital tool to help you conquer challenges that come your way in everyday life, as well as for emergency preparedness. This stockpile of life-sustaining long term storage foods should be built once you have a 3 month supply of foods that you eat everyday stashed in your pantry.

How do I build the perfect long term food storage plan for my family?

  1. Develop a plan that includes the number of people, unique dietary preferences, and takes into consideration minimum caloric needs.
  2. Prepare a cool, dry location to store your food supply.
  3. Search for reputable suppliers where you can purchase foods specifically packaged for long term storage at reasonable prices.
  4. Begin to implement your plan and consistently stock up on long term food supplies until you reach your goal.

We are going to begin by investigating important basic principles, looking at what the experts are recommending, and then taking a peek at how real people are using a bit of creativity to develop a long term food storage program that works for them.

Basic Caloric Requirements

USDA average caloric recommendations are 2000-2500 calories per day which is between 15-26 servings of food each day. We have been programmed to think that calories are bad. Calories are critical for energy and to maintain health. Let’s use the example of a 150 pound man. We have calculated to include physical activity and dietary thermogenesis. Generally the caloric requirements for a man to maintain a 150 pound weight is:

  • Inactive Male Adult – 2,360 calories
  • Average Male Adult – 2,722 calories
  • Active Male Adult – 3,176 calories

Depending on the scenario, a disaster may result in a normally inactive man having to significantly increase activity level resulting in a higher caloric requirement. When planning your basic longer term food storage, be sure to include enough supplies to meet the caloric requirements of each member of your family.

Minnesota Semi-Starvation Experiment

During World War II thousands of people died daily of starvation. The University of Minnesota conducted a clinical study to determine the physiological and psychological effects of severe and prolonged dietary restriction. They wanted to simulate a severe famine in a controlled laboratory environment and be able to assist famine victims.

36 Civilian Public Service male volunteers were selected to enable a detailed study of the physical and psychological effects of prolonged, famine-like semi-starvation on healthy men and their ability to recover from the experience. During the 24 week semi-starvation period, the caloric intake was cut to 1,560 calories a day consisting of a diet including; potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, bread and macaroni. The diet was rich in carbohydrates and poor in proteins. Subjects were required to walk 22 miles per week.

The results of the study clearly demonstrate that a male adult that consumes only 1,560 calories a day will have significant physical and psychological difficulties. They consistently found the following symptoms in test subjects;

  • Increased depression, hysteria and hypochondriasis
  • Severe emotional distress
  • Preoccupation with food
  • Social withdrawal
  • Decline in concentration, comprehension and judgement capabilities
  • Reduction in body temperature, respiration and heart rate
  • Edema in extremities
  • No energy
  • Always cold

One interesting thing noted is that all food was reported to be delicious with no evidence of diet fatigue. Many of the subjects would add water to the food to make it more like a soup to help make them feel full.

Calorie Calculations

One of the take home messages from this study is to make sure you factor basic caloric requirements into your basic food storage plan. Not all grains are equal when it comes to calculating calories. Wheat at 1520 calories per pound has less calories than white rice at 1650 calories per pound. It doesn’t look like a big deal until you multiply it out and see the difference

  • 300 lbs wheat = 456,000 calories = 1,249 calories a day for 1 year
  • 300 lbs white rice = 495,000 calories = 2,007 calories a day for 1 year
  • 300 lbs black beans = 461,400 calories = 1,264 calories a day for 1 year

Boxes of #10 cans can easily fit under a twin bed. We have found that 12 cases of 6 cans will fit nicely. That 72 cans of dry goods will come close but will probably not have quite enough calories to feed one person for an entire year without supplementation.  However, if it is used to supplement a 3 month supply of everyday foods stored in a pantry, or garden fresh fruits and vegetables, it would be perfect and bring the total caloric intake in line with basic requirements.

300 pounds of dry goods will provide minimal calories and are starvation rations. However, it demonstrates that almost a one year supply of long term food storage for one person can be stored under the very bed that they sleep in.


Vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are a critical to our overall health. The men in the Minnesota Semi-Starvation Experiment were suffering not only from a lack of calories, but from the basic nutrition required to maintain health.

Nutrient deficiency can result in; pain, mental confusion, heart irregularity and failure, weakness, diarrhea, neurological disorders, nervous and mental health disorders, convulsions, twitching, nausea and vomiting, slow infection and wound recovery, bleeding and more. It is important to plan your food supply to include essential nutrients.

We are mainly concerned about two categories of vitamins:

  • Water-soluble vitamins can only be stored in the body in small amounts. Deficiency symptoms may appear within a few weeks to several months. Examples are B complex (except B12) and Vitamin C.
  • Fat-soluble vitamins dissolve in fat and are stored in body fat, liver and other body parts. Deficiencies take longer to develop due to the storage in fat.

The goal of diversity in long term food storage is to ensure that vitamin and mineral deficiencies are avoided whenever possible. While the body contains 40 minerals, only 15 are an essential part of our diet.

Wheat, white rice, pasta, dried beans, oats and dry milk contain all of the essential vitamins and minerals with the exception of Vitamin A (Beta-carotene) and Vitamin C. This is why many long term food storage plans include a Vitamin C supplement. Canned, dried or fresh fruits and vegetables are important to supplement these basics.  Vitamin C is sensitive and is destroyed by light and heat. The supplements you take do not contain Vitamin C. They contain ascorbic acid which provides a similar benefit to the body.

Whenever possible, plan to supplement your basic food supply with garden-fresh fruits and vegetables to maximize nutrition. Plant an apple tree in your yard as part of your long term food storage plan. Store a variety of garden seeds, especially Swiss chard. It is amazing how much Swiss chard a 4 x 4 foot patch will produce throughout the growing season. It can take care of both your need for Vitamin C and Vitamin A when eaten fresh.

You can learn more about how to grow a survival garden in our post, Best Strategies for Growing a Reliable Survival Garden.

Long Term Food Storage Experts

Now that we have built a foundation of knowledge, let’s explore what some of the experts recommend for long term food storage.

The American Civil Defense Association (TACDA) Storage Recommendations

TACDA has been educating citizens about emergency preparedness since the early 1960s. The TACDA Academy recommends the following storage items and quantities:

Bulk quantities of wheat, corn, beans and salt are inexpensive and have nearly unlimited shelf life. If necessary, you could survive for years on small daily amounts of these staples. If these staples comprise your entire menu, you must eat all of them together (in proportional amounts) to stay healthy. Stock the following amounts per person per year:

  • Wheat–240 pounds
  • Corn–240 pounds
  • Iodized Salt–12 pounds
  • Soybeans–120 pounds
  • Vitamin C –180 grams (must be rotated yearly unless purchased in crystalline form)
  • Powdered Milk (nitrogen packed) for babies and infants– 240 pounds

The wheat, corn and beans should be stored in sealed cans or plastic buckets. The powdered milk should be stored in nitrogen-packed cans. We would suggest that you also add multi-vitamins and minerals to this basic supply.

Dr. Art Robinson, of the Oregon Institute of Medicine, reported that this ration would provide 120 grams protein with good amino acid balance, 45 grams of fat, and 2,700 calories of energy per day. … Dr. Robinson also suggests that the vitamin C be stored only in the form of crystalline ascorbic acid. Vitamin C in that form will store indefinitely.

If using this plan, you may wish to supplement further as follows:

  • Purchase the basic survival supply as suggested above, by FEMA.
  • Build up your everyday stock of canned goods by purchasing extra canned foods from the supermarket.
  • Add freeze-dried fruits, vegetables & meats as you can afford to do so.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Storage Recommendations

For many years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has encouraged members to have a supply of basic food, water, and financial reserves to sustain them through a personal crisis as well as larger-scale emergencies. They have become the standard for home food storage.

They recommend starting with a 3 month supply of foods that you eat every day. These supplies are regularly rotated. Once you have your 3 month supply it is time to build your long term food storage.

The long term food storage quantities recommended by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for one adult for one month are:

  • 25 lbs of grain (wheat, white rice, corn and other grains)
  • 5 lbs of dry beans

That calculates out to 300 lbs of grain and 60 lbs of beans for one year. These long term storage amounts are intended to create the foundation of your food storage and will help you stay alive. They are important because they can be stored for 30+ years and do not need to be rotated when packaged for long term storage.

In addition, they recommend:

You may also want to add other items to your longer-term storage such as sugar, nonfat dry milk, salt, baking soda, and cooking oil. To meet nutritional needs, also store foods containing vitamin C and other essential nutrients.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sells long term food storage items at a very reasonable price in an effort to encourage members and others to store food. You can visit a Home Storage Center for the best prices or the online store and have the products shipped to your home.

We visited with some church service missionaries at a preparedness fair. They explained that anyone is welcome to come and purchase products for their own home storage. You do not have to be a church member. It is interesting to note that food storage is important enough to them that they are donating their time to serve as missionaries to help other people build their food supply.

Brigham Young University (BYU) Food Storage Recommendations

In the report, An Approach to Longer-Term Food Storage, BYU recommends a basic food storage plan that should provide adequate calories (2000-2400) and protein for one adult for one year (stored in #10 cans).

  • 132 lbs of wheat – 24 cans
  • 65 lbs white rice – 12 cans
  • 29 lbs rolled oats – 12 cans
  • 21 lbs pasta – 6 cans
  • 62 lbs legumes – 12 cans
  • 49 lbs dry milk (15 year shelf life) – 12 cans
  • 70 lbs sugar – 12 cans
  • 6 lbs dried apple slices – 6 cans
  • 22 lbs potato flakes – 12 cans
  • 8 lbs dried carrots – 3 cans
  • 2 lbs dried onions – 1 can
  • 8 lbs salt
  • 1 lb baking soda
  • 4 lbs baking powder
  • 365 Vitamin C tablets (90 mg)

Along with those basic supplies, BYU recommends storing these items in shorter-term storage; 2 gallons cooking oil, 3 cans shortening, 6 pounds butter/margarine (stored in the freezer), 3 quarts mayonnaise/salad dressing, 6 pounds peanut butter, fruit drink mix (3 #10 cans), dried eggs (2 #10 cans), 2 pounds yeast along with other sweeteners. Storing other canned or dried fruits, vegetables, meats, etc. will increase the variety and nutritional value.

Learn more about these storage basics by visiting these posts:

Food Assets Recommendations Including Calculator

Food Assets is a food storage retailer that I know nothing about other than they have a pretty sweet basic food storage calculator. It is a nice tool to get a general idea of how much you may want to consider storing of each item. I thought it would be valuable to include the opinion of a food storage retailer as one of our expert opinions.

Food Assets recommend the following basic amounts for one adult for one year:

  • 375 lbs of grain
  • 75 lbs of beans/legumes
  • 75 pounds of dry milk
  • 65 pounds of sugars
  • 45 pounds of dried vegetables
  • 13 lbs fats and oils.
  • 1 lb baking powder
  • 1 lb baking soda
  • 1/2 lb yeast
  • 5 lbs salt
  • 1/2 gallon vinegar

Individual Long Term Food Storage Plans

The experts have given their opinions. Now it is time for you to take that information and tailor a long term storage plan for our own family. Let’s check out what ideas other people have.

Grandpa Ray’s Chunky Soup Plan

I thought that this was a brilliant twist to traditional food storage plans. Each person is unique and it is important that the storage plan fit the unique characteristics of the individual or family it is to feed.

Grandpa Ray leads a busy life. His day usually begins with breakfast from McDonald’s, lunch at the cafeteria at work, and a simple dinner or out to a restaurant. His cooking skills are limited and he likes it that way.

He loves rice and can’t imagine eating wheat, nor would he even know how to turn it into a loaf of fresh bread. He came up with a plan to store white rice and a variety of Chunky Soups. For years, he has been cooking rice in his rice pot and dumping a can of Chunky soup over the top of it. Not your typical plan, but let us take a closer look at it.

He would need to store at least 300 pounds of rice for a base of 2,007 calories a day. Campbell’s Chunky soups vary in calories from 240-400 calories each. It looks like he would need 730 cans of soup to execute this plan. By the way, this is not an ad for Campbell’s, I promise.

The shelf life of the soup is probably 5-8 years if stored well, so he would need to keep it rotated. It will not get too boring considering all the varieties of soup available. I would probably add canned (or dehydrated or freeze-dried) fruits, vitamin supplements, and chocolate powdered milk to this menu as it is missing calcium and Vitamin C.

It is important to develop a realistic plan. This is not the best diet, but a crisis is not a good time to make dietary changes. This plan is high in MSG, preservatives, and sodium. However, this is what Grandpa likes and eats which makes it the perfect plan for him.

I Hate Whole Wheat Plan

The Miller family hates wheat. They live off white bread and avoid whole grains like the plague. Meals are always simple and vegetables are usually consumed in the form of French fries. Fast food meals dominate their standard diet. Let us explore possible ways to design a storage plan to work with their lifestyle.

White flour has a shorter shelf life than wheat (only 10 years), but is a better option for the Millers than wheat berries. White rice, potato flakes, beans, oats, and spaghetti all have a 30-year shelf life and are good choices for longer-term storage. They might be a more realistic option for this family. Each one is easy to prepare and does not require a grinder or any special equipment.

The Millers might consider storing a larger supply of shorter-term storage items. Cases of SpaghettiOs, ravioli, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, canned fruits, or soups can store for several years. Add a few cans of powdered milk, and powdered or canned butter and that macaroni and cheese will be delightful. They probably should store a good supply of gummy bear vitamins.

Special Dietary Considerations

It is important to pay close attention to special diets when storing foods. Gluten allergies are common and will not go away just because our world is turned upside down. A basic diet for gluten sensitivity does not allow for wheat, barley, rye, or oats. However, they may still eat and store long term items such as; dried beans, white rice, corn, dried potatoes, powdered milk, along with dehydrated fruits and vegetables.

Do not let anything prevent you from having the foods you need stored away for an emergency. There is always a way if you look hard enough. You may not be able to store wheat, but very few people have allergies to white rice. A person with a special diet might consider storing a six month supply of everyday foods due to the specialized dietary requirements and the consequences of eating foods which cause serious health concerns.

Designing a long term food storage plan might require a little more thought and creativity, but it absolutely can be done. No one knows your dietary needs as you do.

Basic Food Security Under-the-Bed Plan

We mentioned earlier, that you have the ability to store almost enough food under a twin bed to feed the person sleeping in it for almost one year. The right foods will not require rotation until after the child is in college. Check out our post Hunger Insurance – Don’t Get Caught Without It! to learn more about the importance of food storage.

You can give a child the gift of food security with very little money and space. The space under one twin bed can store 12 cases of #10 cans (72 cans), an average of 360 pounds of grains and legumes which can have a shelf life of 30+ years. Storing this amount could potentially provide ¾ of a loaf of bread and 1 cup cooked beans every day for one year if only wheat and beans were stored. You still need another 60 pounds to meet the minimum requirements.

Another option to consider is to store a variety of grains and legumes that do not require a grinder; such as white rice, pasta, oats, and beans. White sugar and dehydrated or freeze-dried fruits and vegetables may also be a great addition to this stash.

Commercial Food Storage Plans

Buyers should beware of commercial food storage plans. Advertising may be misleading so be sure you understand exactly what you are getting. There are some great benefits to some of these plans such as long shelf life, a variety of freeze-dried foods, and simple preparation.

We noticed one bucket that boasted 3 servings a day for 30 days. Not 3 meals, 3 servings! Check out the calorie content and clearly understand what you are really purchasing. This bucket provides the necessary calories for a week, not a month. Unless you looked a little deeper, you may have been fooled into thinking you had a month’s supply.

A commercial food storage plan may be the perfect plan for you. They have a long shelf life, are easy to prepare, and can be stored without rotating for 20-25 years. Price is a huge consideration as it is significantly more expensive than storing a supply of basic grains and beans. Once you have the basics, they may be a great way to supplement a basic food storage plan of grains and beans. Make sure that you clearly understand what you are purchasing so you do not have a false sense of security.

Quality food storage packaged for long term storage can be purchased from Augason Farms or Valley Food Storage. We have been pleased with the products we have tried from both of these companies.

Jones Family Storage Plan

Our storage plan is unique to our family, just as yours should be. I cook almost everything from scratch and we consume a lot of whole grains and beans. I bake bread from scratch using a natural yeast fermentation process, also known as sourdough. I am sensitive to gluten and by fermenting the bread dough or batter overnight the gluten is digested. I am able to eat wheat without issues by preparing it this way.

We have fruit trees, berry bushes, a vegetable garden, and chickens. We spend time bottling, freezing, and dehydrating during the harvest. The eggs provide a consistent source of protein and fat. It is a lifestyle which is not possible, or even desirable, for some but we love it.

Food is stored in a cool basement on sturdy shelves which make rotation easy, organization possible, and quick assessment of needs simple. It is our own little store. When there is an incredible sale on an item, such as peanut butter or canned soup, we purchase a few cases.

We have a kitchen pantry that we take supplies from to cook every day. When the pantry gets low, we replenish from our basement stores. Newly purchased foods are always taken to the basement storage room and placed behind the older food. Our grocery budget is much smaller than most people would spend on food. Yet our plan allows us to eat well and have a healthy supply of food stored.

Jonathan tracks our basic needs on a spreadsheet based on a 3-week menu rotation. When canned green beans go on sale, we know exactly how many cans to purchase to meet our goal. Those will be consumed within the year, so theoretically we never waste expired foods.

Designing Your Personal Long Term Food Storage Plan

It is obvious that there are a lot of varying opinions about long term food storage. The only consistent opinion is that you absolutely should have a supply of food in your home that can see you through a crisis. Our world is a fragile place and it makes sense to do everything you can to be self-reliant.

What foods should I store in my long term food storage?

Good candidates for long term food storage will have a moisture content of less than 10%. When packaged in #10 cans and stored in a cool, dry location, these foods will store for 30 years; wheat, white rice, corn, sugar, pinto beans, rolled oats, pasta, potato flakes, apple slices, salt, baking soda, and cornstarch.

Dehydrated or freeze-dried foods properly prepared for long term food storage may store well for 20-25 years. If you have special dietary considerations, you may want to consider purchasing a freeze-dryer and preserving meals that are perfect for your diet. We highly recommend Harvest Right freeze dryers

Non-fat powdered milk has a shelf life of 15-20 years. Dry milk with high-fat content has a significantly shorter shelf life.

How much food should I store in my long term food storage?

Consider the number of people you are storing for and the available calories in the food you store. Make sure that you provide at least 2,500 calories per person for each day. Plan for 300-400 pounds of grain, 60-80 pounds of beans, 60 pounds of sugar, and 10 pounds of salt. Supplement these basics with a variety of dehydrated or freeze-dried fruits, vegetables, and meats.

Do I have to rotate my long term food storage?

You do not have to rotate your long term food supply. You can safely tuck it away and not worry about it for the next 25-30 years. It is important that you have it when you need it.

We regularly rotate our supply and make it part of our normal diet. Your plan should be as unique to your circumstances as our plan is to ours. That includes choosing whether or not to rotate.

Where do I start?

We have reviewed a variety of food storage strategies. The best plan is a combination of everyday foods complimented by a supply of longer-term storage. We have outlined some fun ideas for building your short term food supply at 3 Months Supply of Food: Amazing Peace of Mind. It is a great place to start. Remember the purpose of longer-term food storage is to sustain life during an extended crisis. A three month supply of everyday foods will get you safely through the majority of disasters without compromising your current diet.

Carefully consider the dietary needs and preferences of each member of your family. Make a list of the items you would like to include and calculate the number of pounds you need to reach your ultimate goal. Create a good place to store your precious food.

Purchase it all at once, if you have the resources to do so, without going into debt. If you are like the rest of us, consistently take money out of your budget each month to build your long term food supply. You will be amazed at what $20 or $50 or $100 a month can accomplish over time. Click here for our personal recommendations for the best suppliers of long term food storage.

We have created some great posts to help you along your journey. 

Action Plan

The Bible teaches the story of Joseph in Egypt. In response to Pharaoh’s dream, Joseph stored grain during years of plenty for a time of famine. It took 7 years to save the grain that he needed. Joseph was diligent and consistently prepared for a time he knew was coming.

As a result, Egypt flourished while surrounding nations were starving. Work to get your long term food storage in place so that your family will find peace and your preparation will see you safely through the really tough times.

We have developed an action plan at Action Plan – Food Storage. It will help organize your thoughts and begin designing your perfect plan.

Thanks for being part of the solution!


Kylene Jones is a blogger, content creator, published author, motivational speaker, homesteader, prepper, mother, and grandmother. She practices self-reliance, provident living, and emergency preparedness in her everyday life. She loves working with her husband, Jonathan, and is committed to helping our community be prepared to thrive during the challenges that lie in our future.

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