When you plan for long-term emergency food storage, it is important to ensure that a variety of foods are included. Proper nutrition is still necessary in the event of an emergency situation. Foods should be stored carefully to ensure the longest possible shelf life. With a combination of canned foods, dried foods and bulk staples, it is possible to ensure an ongoing food supply that will last for years.
Canned goods, such as meats, vegetables and soups, are all valuable additions to a long-term food storage plan. Food in cans stays viable for approximately one year. In order to ensure that canned foods are always ready in the event of an emergency, purchase cans with the newest dates, and keep older cans toward the front of the stacks, replenishing with fresher items as needed. A bulging can indicates that the food inside has begun to decompose, and the contents are no longer safe to eat.
Properly stored, dried food can last much longer than canned food. Freeze-dried food, in particular, can last up to 25 years if kept in a cool, dark environment. Due to the removal of all water, freeze-dried food shrinks to a very small size and can be stored in a fraction of the space required for other foods. Other, conventionally dried foods, such as dried fruit, dried berries or meat jerky, typically must be consumed within six months. Conventionally dried foods also must be stored in a cool and dark space to avoid early spoilage.
According to the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences Cooperative Extension Service's Consumer's Guide to Preparing an Emergency Food Supply, bulk staples such as wheat, corn, beans and salt can sustain life for years if stored correctly. These supplies can be bought in large quantities at bulk discounts, which reduces expense. Dried milk can be purchased in bulk and stored for up to two years in an airtight container.