Salt: Why It Is Essential and How to Store It Right

Salt should be a basic staple in every prepper’s pantry. Today salt is inexpensive and easy to obtain. Tomorrow this valuable resource may become a rare commodity and you may be very glad you had the wisdom to stock up on salt when it was cheap and readily available.

Why Should I Store Salt?

The ideal food storage will contain all of the basic dietary ingredients necessary to maintain health. Salt is an essential element for your very survival. Take a moment and imagine what your diet would be like without any salt. Have you included salt in your basic food storage? We have listed a few important reasons why salt should make it to your list of food storage basics.

Health Benefits

Salt is important to human health. We can’t live without some salt. According to Harvard Medical School,  sodium helps to maintain a proper fluid balance, transmit nerve impulses, and helps our muscles to function. Too little sodium will cause the body to retain fluid in an effort to conserve sodium. Sodium deficiencies may result in fatigue, dizziness, confusion, seizures, headaches, irritability, weakness, and vomiting just to name a few of the unpleasant effects. We all need a little bit of salt to be healthy.

Flavor Enhancement

Salt does an amazing job of enhancing the flavor of foods. In moderation, salt will enhance sweetness and suppresses bitterness. Almost every food can benefit from a pinch or so of salt. It is possible to make a loaf of bread out of only ground wheat and water. Quite frankly, I think it tastes bland and flavorless. But add a teaspoon of salt to that dough and suddenly it becomes a mouth-watering, delightful treat.

Food Preservation

Salt can preserve food and creates an environment where bacteria, fungi (yeast, mold), and other dangerous organisms cannot survive. It absorbs the moisture and dries out the food. Salt is used to cure meat and preserve it. The salt draws out the moisture and creates an environment where microbes will not multiply and spoil the meat. Salt is a necessary ingredient to preserve foods by fermentation.

How Much Salt Should I Store in My Food Storage?

Salt storage amounts vary greatly among so-called-experts. Many food storage calculators recommend 3 pounds per person per year. That seems like a dangerously low amount to me so I did some investigating and my personal recommendation is 10 pounds per person per year. Consider the following:

  • The American Heart Association recommends that an adult needs a minimum of 500mg (about 1/10 teaspoon) per day with a maximum allowance of 1,500 mg (1/4 teaspoon) per day. The average American eats closer to 3,400 mg (2/3 teaspoon) every day.
  • A study by Brigham Young University recommends storing 8 pounds per person per year.
  • The Nutrition Facts on containers of salt list the recommended serving size as 1/4 teaspoon and state that amount is 25% of the Daily Value. There are roughly 70-80 teaspoons in one pound of salt, depending on the variety of salt. If we allow for 1 teaspoon of salt per day, we would need to store about 5 pounds for 1 year.

If I am using my food storage in a survival type situation, I will be using a significant amount of salt in baking, cooking, and preserving. I think that the 8 pounds per person per year proposed by BYU is a reasonable estimate for calculating the amount of salt to include in long term storage. A Reader’s Digest article entitled Over 60 Ways to Use Salt may motivate you to increase the amount of salt you store.

In our personal storage, we have chosen to store a base of 10 pounds per person. Salt is too important to chance running out. I store a variety of salts to ensure all of our needs are met and most of them have an indefinite shelf life. Salt is also a great barter item and could be quite valuable to exchange for other items that you may need.

How Long Will Salt Last in Long Term Storage?

Pure salt without additives will never go bad. Sodium chloride (NaCl) is a stable compound and will not lose potency or flavor over time. Salt is a natural preservative and if stored appropriately for long term storage in a cool, dry location you can expect an indefinite shelf life. Pure forms of salt such as sea salt, Pink Himalayan salt, and canning salt will last virtually forever if stored correctly. Some salts such as iodized salt have a short shelf life due to additives.

Salt is hygroscopic which means it attracts water from the environment and stores it. Salt will turn clumpy when stored in the kitchen due to the steam and will absorb odors which may affect the taste. Protect salt by storing in an airtight container.

The iodized salt pictured below was purchased in 2001 and had been stored on a shelf in a cool, dry basement in the original cardboard box for 18 years. The box showed no evidence of water damage or any sign that there was a problem with the cardboard cylinders of salt tucked inside. When we opened the case, the salt containers felt cool and slightly damp to the touch. Notice that some of the containers actually had beads of water formed on the outside. The salt inside the containers was damp and had obviously absorbed water.

This is a good example of the hygroscopic nature of salt and a reminder to store salt in airtight containers. It is interesting that the cardboard box showed no evidence of water damage while the contents were definitely suffering from water damage.

Will Salt Lose Its Flavor in Storage?

Pure salt is a stable compound of sodium chloride and will not lose flavor or degrade when stored properly. Salts that are combined with herbs and seasonings such as seasoned salt will lose flavor over time due to the plant products degrading, not the salt.

What Is the Best Method for Long Term Storage of Salt?

Salt should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark location. Salt can be purchased in bulk and repackaged for long term storage in smaller containers. Oxygen absorbers are not recommended when packaging salt for long term storage.

We store a variety of salts using a few different methods for long term storage. I frequently buy pink Himalayan salt in bulk to get the best price. I store the salt in quart size canning jars with plastic lids in a dark storage room which creates a perfect environment for the salt. Alternatively, we purchase pink Himalayan salt in 5-pound plastic containers. The plastic does a great job of protecting the salt from moisture and the salt will store indefinitely when stored in an airtight plastic container.

Bulk salt can be stored directly in small plastic buckets as shown in the middle photo. That little 2-gallon bucket of table salt weighs 25 pounds. We prefer to store the various salts in the original containers inside of a 5-gallon plastic bucket to protect the salt from the environment. Salt is used in small quantities so this is much more convenient than storing it in bulk. Be sure to label each bucket so you remember which kinds of salt are inside of the bucket.

What Are the Best Varieties of Salt for Food Storage?

The best varieties for long term storage are the pure forms of salt without additives. However, it is a good idea to include some of the other varieties in your short term food storage. The varieties of salt that you should include in your food storage depend on your personal preferences and what you intend to use the salt for. We store a variety of salts in order to be able to meet the unique needs of our family. The common types of salts are listed below along with important information to help you make an informed decision.

Table Salt

Table salt is an all-purpose granulated salt. It is typically mined from underground salt deposits and is heavily processed to eliminate minerals. An anti-caking ingredient (i.e. sodium aluminosilicate, magnesium carbonate, calcium silicate) is added to prevent clumping and keep the salt free-flowing.

Uses: General purpose culinary salt.

Shelf Life: Table salt has an indefinite shelf life according to Morton. WinCo Foods officially recommends a 5-year shelf life but admits that it is probably good indefinitely (according to Kathy on 3/4/2019).

Note: Do not use in canning and pickling as it will turn the liquid cloudy.

Iodized Salt

Iodized salt is table salt that has potassium iodide added as well as the anti-caking ingredient. A small amount of dextrose (sugar) is also added to prevent the iodine from turning yellow. Iodine is a critical nutrient in the human diet and a deficiency can result in a variety of health issues.

When you eat a good healthy diet, you are probably getting enough iodine without using iodized salt. Iodine rich food sources include; cheese, milk, eggs, yogurt, ocean seafood, soy milk, seaweed, lima beans, and potatoes. Iodine deficiency has serious health consequences. If you are living off of your food storage, you may have a difficult time making sure that you get all of the iodine you need from your diet. Be sure to store a few pounds of iodized salt to protect you and your family from iodine deficiency.

Uses: General purpose culinary salt and iodine supplement.

Shelf Life: According to Morton, iodized table salt has a 5-year shelf life due to the potassium iodide.

Note: Do not use in canning and pickling as it will turn the liquid cloudy.

Pink Himalayan Salt

Pink Himalayan salt is my favorite salt. It is available to be purchased in crystal sizes of coarse (2-3mm), fine (0-1mm), and extra fine (0-0.5mm). I purchase Himalayan salt in bulk and store it in quart canning jars. It can also be purchased in 5-pound plastic storage containers that are a great way to protect it from moisture while in storage.

Pink Himalayan salt contains up to 98 percent sodium chloride and the balance consists of trace minerals including potassium, magnesium, calcium, copper, and iron. It is the minerals that give the salt its beautiful pink color. It also naturally contains iodine, but not as much as iodized table salt. The pink crystals contain less sodium per teaspoon but have a saltier flavor than table salt so you can use less. Salt blocks made from this pink salt are popular as serving dishes, cutting boards, and cooking surfaces.

Uses: General purpose culinary salt and mineral supplement.

Shelf Life: Pink Himalayan salt is a pure form of salt and has an indefinite storage life.

Real Salt

Real Salt is an unrefined mineral salt harvested from an ancient ocean in Utah. It has a unique blend of minerals that give it a slightly sweet flavor. It is available in fine, coarse, kosher and powdered salt.

Uses: General purpose culinary salt, mineral supplement, health, and beauty.

Shelf Life: Real salt has an indefinite storage life.

Celtic Salt

Celtic salt is a pristine ocean sea salt. It is 33% lower in sodium than table salt and is rich in calcium and magnesium, but also contains potassium, selenium, copper, iron, zinc, manganese and chromium. It is available in fine ground, semi-coarse (finishing salt), and coarse (whole crystal). Celtic and fleur de sel does contain moisture so it is a great candidate for short term storage, but I would not store it long term.

Uses: General purpose culinary salt, mineral supplement, health, and beauty.

Shelf Life: A high moisture content may reduce the actual storage life of Celtic salt. Theoretically, it should store indefinitely.

Canning and Pickling Salt

Canning and pickling salt is pure sodium chloride or granulated salt that is free from iodine, additives and anti-caking ingredients. Canning Salt is the best choice for food preservation because it will not turn liquid cloudy or darken pickles. It has fine granules that dissolve easily and produce a clear brine.

Uses: General purpose culinary and food preservation salt.

Shelf Life: Canning and pickling salt has an indefinite storage life. Protect it from moisture to prevent salt from clumping.

Kosher Salt

Kosher salt is a coarse and flaky salt that was originally developed to prepare kosher meats. Some brands are free from iodine, additives and anti-caking ingredients, but not all. Kosher salt has large size granules that dissolve slowly. Some Kosher salt has been rolled into flakes to help it dissolve faster.

Brands of kosher salt vary. Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt has no additives. Morton Coarse Kosher Salt has the anti-caking agent, yellow prussiate of soda (aka sodium ferrocyanide), added but will not cause cloudiness when used in canning.

Uses: General purpose culinary salt, canning, pickling and curing or preseasoning meats.

Shelf Life: Pure Kosher salt has an indefinite storage life.

Powdered Salt

Powdered salt can be purchased in that form or made by grinding kosher or sea salt in a coffee grinder. I like to grind pink Himalayan salt into powder for our popcorn as pictured below. Granulated salt does not produce a nice fine powdered salt like grinding the larger crystals does. Add herbs or spices like chili powder to create flavored salts.

Uses: Applications where salt should dissolve quickly. It is a popular salt to sprinkle on popcorn.

Shelf Life: Powdered salt will store indefinitely if there are no additives.

Sea Salt

Sea salt naturally contains minerals that add flavor to food in addition to the sodium chloride. It may cause discoloration of the food, but also provides a good source of minerals. Sea salt may be purchased in a variety of forms, including iodized. Morton salt uses a yellow prussiate of soda as an anticaking agent.

Uses: General purpose culinary salt and mineral supplement.

Shelf Life: Pure sea salt will store indefinitely. Iodized sea salt has a shelf life of only 5 years.

Curing Salt

Curing salt is used to preserve meat and fish by killing microbes and preventing food-borne illnesses. The actual ingredients in curing salt depend upon the variety and brand you select. Curing salt may contain salt, sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite, propylene glycol, and/or sugar.

The purpose of the salt is to draw out the moisture and create an inhospitable environment for bacteria and fungus. The added nitrite helps to prevent botulism in meat. The pink curing salt gives the cured meat the traditional red or pink tinge.

Curing salt is not a good substitute for regular salt in cooking due to the added preservatives. Store curing salt if you intend to cure meat as part of your preparedness plan. You can use a combination of curing with sea salt and smoking to preserve meat without the chemicals in the curing salt.

Uses: Curing and preservation of meat and fish.

Shelf Life: Varies depending on the ingredients. If the curing salt contains salt and sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite it has an indefinite shelf life. If it contains other fat stabilizers, propylene glycol, artificial flavors or other ingredients, go by the expiration date printed on the bottle. Dispose of curing salt if it smells rancid.

Rock Salt (Ice Cream Salt)

Large chunky crystals used to freeze homemade ice cream or quickly lower the temperature of beverages or watermelons chilling in a tub of ice water. The salt reduces the temperature of the water.

Uses: Freezing ice cream, chilling drinks, etc. Not intended for human consumption. It has not been processed to food-grade standards and may contain calcium sulfate, sand, clay, and other trace residues.

Shelf Life: Ice cream salt will store indefinitely.

Epsom Salt

Don’t be fooled by the name. Epsom salt is not sodium chloride but is magnesium sulfate. That is a completely different substance. However, it is still a valuable addition to your food stores. Epsom is taken internally to relieve constipation or as a magnesium supplement. A popular use for Epsom salt is to add it to bath water and soak in it to relieve aches and pains.

Uses: Health, beauty, garden, and magnesium supplement.

Shelf Life: Epsom salt has an indefinite shelf life.

Solar Salt

Solar salt is not food grade and is used mainly in water softeners. It is produced by evaporating seawater in large ponds. It has not been purified and contains the remains of aquatic life. It should not be used in food products.

Uses: Water softening

Shelf Life: Solar salt has an indefinite shelf life if stored in a cool, dry area free from drafts.

Halite – Rock Salt – Safe-T-Salt

Halite is a salt that is used to melt snow and ice on walkways, driveways, and roads. It will melt ice down to 5°F. It frequently has other chemicals added to improve the product’s performance. It is not food grade and is not safe to eat.

Uses: Melt snow and ice

Shelf Life: Additives may reduce the shelf life of ice melt to about 2 years.

Salt Substitutes

Salt substitutes are made from various kinds of metals salts (such as potassium chloride), and are used as a substitute for the standard sodium chloride salt. They should not be used in food preservation or cooking as heat alters the flavor and may cause the food to taste bad.

Uses: Salt substitute

Shelf Life: Salt substitute expiration dates are printed on the package.

Enhance Your Food Storage with Salt

Basic long term food storage is in desperate need of a little bit of salt to improve the flavor of basic staples. Bread without salt is highly disappointing, but add a spoonful of salt to the dough and you have a delicious treat that your family will devour and leave them begging for more. Everything needs a little salt; meat, fish, sauces, baked goods, vegetables, cereals, even chocolate fondue benefits from a pinch of salt.

What do you use salt for? What are the best types of salt for you personally to store for your family? How might your needs change if you are in a survival situation where you need to cook from scratch and preserve your own fruits and vegetables? We personally store the following salts and amounts in our storage:

  • Long term storage includes a minimum of a total of 10 pounds of salt per person that includes; pink Himalayan salt, canning and pickling salt, kosher salt, and sea salt. We also store Epsom salt for health and garden purposes so we do not include it in these calculations.
  • Short term storage includes a few containers of iodized table salt in addition to the salts above.

Salt is relatively inexpensive and easy to store. It is an essential part of your food storage and might be a great barter item. Stock up on the varieties salt you need and package them appropriately for long term storage today so you won’t have to live without it when disaster strikes.

You may be interested in some of these great posts on storing food for emergencies. 

Thanks for being part of the solution!

Jonathan and Kylene Jones


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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