The Ultimate Prepper Food Storage Guide

Emergency Food Supply List featured image

One of the most important steps in getting prepared is getting enough food stored away for emergencies.

The average person wishing to be prepared may stash away a few cans of beans and some other “prepper food” and call it good.

However, as a prepper you know that a few cans are not nearly enough to see you through a crisis. Therefore you will want to have a plan to not only get you through a few days but potentially weeks, months, or even years.

Food storage can easily start costing a bunch of money and eating up a ton of space if done improperly. So before you start stockpiling food for the end of the world sit down and write out a basic food storage plan.

Your food storage plan should consider things such as:

  • All Potential Locations
  • Short Term Emergencies
  • Long Term Emergencies
  • How to properly store food
  • Ideas of where to store your food

Emergency Food Storage Plan

When you first start prepping you will go through a few phases of food storage.

Namely two. Short term and long term food storage

Short term storage and long term storage.

Short Term (2 weeks – 6 months)

Short term foods make up the bulk of your food supply and are what you hear most people talk about. Dried goods, canned goods, MRE’s, dehydrated foods, etc.

Ideally, this food source should sustain you for up to 6 months if not a year. But I think having a few month’s supply worth of emergency food is realistic for beginning preppers.

Acquiring these kinds of food should be relatively easy so there’s no reason why everyone shouldn’t be doing this.

What Foods Should You Store For The Short Term

Best Dry Foods To Stock Upon

Whole grains in bowls. Best dry foods to stock up on

When first starting out prepping, one of the best types of foods to start stockpiling is dried goods. Dried goods can be stored for long periods of time, and the foods I am going to recommend all have a decent calorie count.

Rice – One of the first foods any experienced prepper will tell you to stock up on is rice. Rice has a high-calorie content and is relatively cheap. Assuming you have other food to eat with your rice, the average person will eat about a ½ cup of rice per day.

There are roughly 2.5 cups of rice per pound. When storing food you should aim for at least a month if possible. The average family of four would go through roughly 1 pound of rice per day.

If you buy one 50lb bag of rice and store it correctly, you have essentially stocked enough emergency food for one month.

Beans – Beans are another great source of calories and other cheap food to buy in bulk. Beans can also be mixed with your rice to provide a better and tastier meal. You should buy whatever kind of dried beans you and your family will eat.

Oatmeal – Oatmeal may not be for everyone, but it is a decent breakfast food and can easily be stored like rice and beans. Oatmeal is another food that can be bought in bulk at an affordable price.

What Canned Goods Should I stock up on

Beyond storing dried foods, which are mostly carbs, you should also consider storing various canned goods as well. Canned meats and vegetables will give you the fats and proteins you need to get through a survival situation.

Quick Tip: Buy a few extra canned goods when going grocery shopping as a quick way to build up your stockpile

Best Canned Meats To Stockpile

Canned meats are a great way to ensure you meet your daily protein requirements. They are also a great way to spice up boring foods like rice and beans, as well.

Vienna sausages – Vienna sausages are a great high protein food. On top of that they are super cheap, usually can pick them up for 50 cents or less.

Most canned meats including Vienna sausages have about a 3 year shelf life but if stored in a cool dark place can last even longer.

Vienna sausages can be eaten straight out of the can or added to various dishes including, eggs, pasta, or rice and beans.

Spam and canned ham – Another great survival food is Spam or canned ham. While the 2 are not exactly the same I am choosing to lump them together. Both have a shelf life of at least 3 years, but Spam has a rumored shelf life of much longer.

Both of these canned goods can be eaten by themselves or added to various dishes. I personally really enjoy Spam in mac and cheese. It also makes for a great omelet filler.

Canned Fish – Most fish are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3’s have been shown to help with neurological issues as well as cardiovascular issues.

On top of that, fish is rich in protein and is a staple of many preppers. It’s not really hard to see why. Tuna, Mackerel, and Sardines are all excellent choices for canned fish.

Canned chicken – Canned chicken also offers you another great meal, as well as a great source of protein. Canned chicken usually goes best, mixed in something like rice.

It should be noted you can also buy chunks of pre-cooked white chicken breast as well. The pouches have a stated shelf life of at least 3 years.

Canned Fruits and Vegetables

While protein and carbs will carry you a long way, your body also has other dietary requirements. This is where your canned fruits and vegetables come in.

Here you can pretty much pick whatever you like. Just be sure to stock fruits and vegetables you will actually eat.

Other Great Prepping Foods

Peanut Butter – Peanut butter is a survival staple if I have ever seen one. Peanut butter is chocked full of fats and protein, just what your body needs to make it through a survival situation.

On top of that peanut butter is a great bait if you plan on trapping your own food at any point. I would start by stocking a few large jars of it.

Honey – If there is one food that never spoils, that food would be honey. Honey has an infinite shelf life and can have a plethora of uses.

While honey can be consumed, it also makes a great antiseptic, can be used to treat a sore throat or cold, and can be used as a natural sweetener.

Stocking up on a few large jars of honey is a great idea. Although pure honey can be a bit on the expensive side, well worth it in the long run.

Canned Soups – The last food product I am going to recommend is canned soup. Canned soup can help liven up some of your more boring dishes.

Along with that canned soups such as tomato soup or even canned chicken broth can have health benefits. It is a good idea to stock up on a few different soups. Just make sure it is something you and your family will actually eat.

Best Beverages to Store For Survival

During a crisis, you will undoubtedly be drinking a lot of water. While drinking a lot of water isn’t bad for you in the least, variety can be a big morale booster.

In our daily lives, we’re used to having sports drinks, sodas, coffee, and tea. That shouldn’t change just because of a crisis. However, drinking stuff other than water should be kept to a minimum.

Sports drink mixes – Having a stock of sports drink mixes is actually really good for you. Sports drinks can help replenish a lot of stuff our bodies lose when we exert ourselves.

One of the primary things we need to refuel is electrolytes. Sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade, do an excellent job at replenishing electrolytes.

You may also choose to stock up on things like Whey protein powder, to make sure you are getting enough protein.

Coffee, tea, and cocoa – These three are more comfort items than anything else. However both coffee and tea have their merits in aiding our overall health.

Coffee is a natural diuretic, and teas have a plethora of healthy properties. Green tea in particular is a great thing to stock up on and has a ton of great health benefits.

Some of the benefits include improved brain function, antioxidants, and a natural fat burner. Green tea also has a modest 25 milligrams of caffeine.

Caffeine is a great brain booster in small doses, and those small doses will also help to curve withdrawal symptoms as well.

Hot cocoa may be more of a morale booster than anything, it is great on cold days, and is a great way to get warmed up. Plus who doesn’t like hot chocolate?

Powdered milk – Powdered milk may not be the greatest or most exciting drink mix on this list, it does have some uses. Most of its uses are in baking and cooking so it’s great to stock up on when you can’t store regular milk.

If you mix some cocoa with it, you can have chocolate milk which is definitely more exciting, and kids love it!

Long Term (6 months+)

New tomatoes in the garden

When it comes to your long-term food storage plan this is where it starts to get more complicated. Long term food storage requires the use of various strategies such as gardening and homesteading.

When first starting out you don’t need to have long-term food storage in place right away but you should start to make plans for it if you want to be prepared for more than just a few months.


The first strategy you might consider for long term food preps is a garden. Gardens are great. Not only for supplemental food storage but for your overall health as well.

A garden has the unique property of being useful from the very moment you start it. Not only are you getting fresh food you grew yourself. But you also can start adding to your short term food supply by preserving your harvest through methods such as dehydration and canning.

One thing I will mention about gardening is that it’s not easy. You can’t just buy a bunch of seeds and tuck them away for a rainy day.

Quick Tip: Start learning to garden today. Do not wait until something happens to learn.

Gardening is a skill that must be practiced and mastered if you hope to produce enough food to sustain your and your family during a crisis.

I recently started gardening a few years ago. My first harvest was a whole bunch of basil, a few zucchinis, a handful of green beans, and a few tomatoes.

Far from enough food to feed me for a few weeks let alone months. Beyond even getting simple things to grow you need to know what your growing seasons are like, what diseases you might face, how to handle various pests, etc.

If your long term plans involve a garden, it is best to start now and get the kinks worked out so you know what to expect and how to handle problems when they arise.

Raising Your Own Food (Homesteading)

Another option for a long term food plan is to get into homesteading. For most people who become preppers, homesteading is the natural progression.

Homesteading can include gardening, raising your own food such as chickens, rabbits, pigs, etc.

The simplest way to start homesteading is by getting a few backyard chickens. Chickens can produce a large number of eggs and meat. They’ll even reproduce giving you a pretty sustainable option for food long term.

Be sure that if you are considering raising your own food you put in the practice before you are forced to rely on it.

Another option when it comes to homesteading is supplementing your food supply with fruit and nut trees.

However, it can take a few years for these trees to start producing. So you will want to get them started sooner than later.

How To Properly Store Food For The Long Term

Grains and beans stored in jars for food storage.

In order to make sure your short term food supply is there when you need it. You need to make sure you are storing your food properly for long time storage.

As you never know when you may need your supply. It could be a few weeks from now or several years.

For this reason you should do a few things:

  • Store your food in food-grade containers lined with mylar bags.
  • Can any food you grow yourself
  • Practice FIFO (First in first out)

What You Need To Know about food storage

The first thing you need to know about food is all food has a shelf life. Some foods have a longer shelf life than others but they all have one. Dried beans, rice, oats, and pasta all have a shelf life, even though they are dried foods.

Canned foods also technically have a shelf life, but provided nothing happened in the canning process and the seal of the can has not been compromised canned foods can store for extremely long periods of time.

The best way to store dry goods is in food grade buckets with mylar bags.

What Are Mylar Bags

Mylar is simply a brand name for a special type of stretched polyester film called biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate (BoPET for short) try saying that a few times.

You may already be familiar with Mylar as it used for a number of things including: solar filters, space blankets, and protective plastic insulators.

Mylar is extremely light, flexible, and thin. However, it is also very strong and durable, which is why it has so many other applications outside of food storage.

Why Use Mylar Bags

Because Mylar acts as an excellent barrier against moisture, light, gas, and aromas it makes for an ideal way to store food. It also has high tensile strength making it durable and suitable for storing food long term.

The tensile strength on Mylar bags is so strong it’s even capable of supporting a partial vacuum. A primary issue with food-grade plastic buckets is that they are porous and allow air to leak into them.

Without a mylar bag simply storing food with oxygen absorbers in these containers can create a partial vacuum that can compromise the integrity of the bucket. This can lead to deformation of the bucket or even allowing the bucket to collapse in on itself if you stack the containers.

Thankfully, mylar is quite capable of supporting a partial vacuum allowing you to store food with oxygen absorbers no problem. These food grade buckets also suck at protecting against light.

Too much light or the leakage of aromas can attract unwanted problems such as bacterial growth or pests. Both of these would be bad for your food supply. Nothing worse than discovering a mouse has helped itself to all your hard work.

What is an Oxygen Absorber

I touched on oxygen absorbers for a minute, now it is time to discuss what exactly they are. The first thing to know about oxygen absorbers is that they do exactly what their name suggests. They absorb oxygen out of the air.

Contrary to popular belief the air we breathe is not purely oxygen. In fact not even half the air we breathe is oxygen. By volume the air we breathe is actually roughly 79% nitrogen, 20% oxygen, and 1% argon, carbon dioxide, and other gases.

Oxygen absorbers or O2 absorbers as you may also see them called remove the oxygen portion of the air in a sealed environment to create a nitrogen rich environment. Having a nitrogen rich environment protects dried foods from insects as well as preserving food quality.

How Do Oxygen Absorbers Work

Oxygen absorbers perform their magic through chemical reaction. O2 absorbers contain an iron powder that when mixed with oxygen causes the iron to oxidize or rust. This same chemical reaction can be seen in hand and foot warmers.

Once all of the iron powder is oxidized, the oxygen absorber is “loaded” and the absorber will stop absorbing oxygen. After the absorber stops the remaining air should be mostly nitrogen, providing a great environment to keep food fresh.

How To Store Food In Mylar Bags

Choosing a size for your mylar bags

In order to start using Mylar bags for food storage effectively the first thing you need to do is get the right bags. Mylar bags come in a variety of sizes and thicknesses.

To keep things easy I recommend you pick 2 sizes and stick with those. Pick a small size like a 1 gallon bag. These will be for smaller food items that you don’t necessarily need to store in bulk.

You should also pick a large size, something like a 5 gallon bag should be adequate. These will be used to store the majority of your bulk foods like rice, oats, and beans. 5 gallon bags also fit perfectly in a 5 gallon food grade bucket which you will need.

Mylar bags also come in different thicknesses. Mylar thickness typically ranges from 3.5 mil up to 7 mil. The higher the thickness the better it is at keeping out moisture, air, and light.

Usually thicker bags come with a higher price tag, but it is worth it. Some of the 3.5 mil bags will allow light to shine through, even in a plastic bucket light can still seep through. My recommendation is to go with a higher thickness because what is the point of putting your food in mylar bags if light is still able to shine through?

Thicker bags will have a better light, aroma, air, and moisture barrier then the thinner cheaper bags. However the choice is ultimately up to you. If you have a dark, dry place to store your food the thinner bags should be fine.

Foods you should store in mylar bags

Foods you should store in mylar bags include pretty much anything that is dried, has very little moisture, or foods where the moisture can be removed.

Examples of food you can store in mylar bags include:

  • whole wheat
  • rice
  • flour
  • pasta
  • dried milk
  • oats
  • dehydrated foods and vegetables.

You may also choose to store pure honey in mylar as well because it has natural ingredients that prohibit the growth of bacteria.

What you need to know about Oxygen Absorbers

In order to create an optimal environment for long-term food storage, you have to use oxygen absorbers. However, there are a few things you should be aware of when using them.

One of the most important things you need to know about oxygen absorbers is that they immediately start working the minute they are exposed to oxygen. Because of this you need to limit the amount of time they are exposed. A good rule of thumb is to take out only what you will use within 15 minutes and seal the rest in a mason jar.

Whatever you do, do not store them in a freezer bag, as they will absorb the residual oxygen in the bag and become useless.

One other thing you need to be aware of is, most reputable vendors will include a pink pill. This is an indicator that will change to blue if the oxygen absorbers have been exposed. When you get your oxygen absorbers, if the pill is blue, you should just go ahead and throw them away because they’re ruined and unusable.

Another way of testing to see if an O2 absorber is any good is to pick one up and hold it. It should feel slightly warm, as well as soft and powdery. If the absorber has become too hot or hard it likely means that the absorber has been exposed to the air for too long and likely isn’t usable anymore. Toss it.

How Many Oxygen Absorbers Do You Need

In order to determine how many oxygen absorbers you need, there are a few different variables you need to consider. These variables include the size of the storage containers, container type, and what kinds of foods you are storing.

There are complex mathematical formulas you can follow to find the exact amount you need, but for simplicity’s sake, I am going to just include a table with the general rule of thumb for each variable.

When you start shopping for oxygen absorbers you will notice they come in a variety of sizes and are rated in cubic centimeters or CC for short.

O2 absorbers typically come in:

  • 50 cc
  • 100 cc
  • 300 cc
  • 500 cc
  • 1000 cc
  • 1500 cc
  • 2000 cc
SizeAmount of O2 Absorbers for wheat/flour/grains/riceAmount of O2 absorbers for pasta/beans
No. 10 Can (.82 gallon)200 CC400 CC
1 Gallon500CC1000 CC
5 Gallon2000 CC4000 CC

How To Fill and See Your Mylar Bag

Now that you know what mylar and oxygen absorbers are and why you should use them it is time to move on to actually storing your food!

There are a few ways you can choose to fill your mylar bags. You may choose to transfer your food from its store packaging into a large measuring cup and fill them that way. You may also scoop your food from the packaging into the mylar bag, or last but not least you can skip both of those options and just pour in your food from its packaging directly into the mylar bag.

I should warn you though, that this can make quite the mess. But how you choose to fill your bags with food is totally up to you. Do whatever you are comfortable with! Also I should mention that if you are filling 5 gallon mylar bags, you should go ahead and put the bag into your 5 gallon bucket and then fill the bag.

Once you have your bags filled with food you will need to leave a little headroom to seal the bag. Drop in your oxygen absorbers and prepare to seal your mylar bag. In order to seal the bag you will need a heat source.

To heat seal the bag you have a few options, the first being a heat sealer made for sealing mylar bags. These are often expensive but well worth the money. Your next options are more budget friendly; you can choose to use a hair straightening iron or a regular clothes iron.

You will likely need to set your iron on it’s highest setting in order to properly seal your bag. Before you actually start trying to seal your bags you may want to take an empty bag, cut it into strips, and practice sealing the bag. If you set the temperature too high on your iron it is possible to destroy the strength of the bag. So practice until you are comfortable sealing the bag.

Applying the correct amount of heat will ensure your bag has a good seal. If your bag has a poor seal your food will not last decades and the effort will have been for nothing. So you absolutely must get this part right.

Organizing Your Food Storage

Just like when you are bagging meat from the grocery store to put in your freezer, you will also want to know what is stored in your mylar bags without having to open them to find out. The best way to accomplish this is by writing on the bag. A sharpie will write just fine on mylar.

Along with labeling the contents of the bag you should also date the bag so you know when the food was stored. This is important as different foods have a different shelf life. For instance white rice stored properly can last 25 plus years while various beans may only last up to 10 years. You should know this, so your food doesn’t go to waste. A solid food rotation plan really shines here.

Wrapping Up

One of the most important aspects when it comes to being prepared is to have an adequate supply of food. Ideally, your food storage plan should be divided up into buckets. Short term food and a plan for long term food.

Short term food should include items like dried goods, canned goods, and MRE’s. Your long term food plan should account for renewable food sources such as homesteading and gardening.

You should also consider stocking food at all of your potential locations. A bug out location doesn’t help if there are no supplies when you need them.

Creating a stockpile of food isn’t hard but does require a little bit of planning and forethought.

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