Shelf Life for Your Emergency Food Storage

When I started my food storage, I just started grabbing extra cans of everything I used when they went on sale. I was really proud of myself and then I started to learn more. Having canned foods is not enough. It goes well with the philosophy of “having something is better than having nothing,” but there was more I could be doing.

Educating yourself on food storage shelf life is important. Emergency preparedness covers a huge variety of emergencies.  If an emergency, like an earthquake, hurricane, war, etc., arises then you will not have the luxury of running to the store to supplement what you already have. Some of your food could be expired and you may not have realized it. Be educated on how long items last and what you will need to sustain your family during an emergency.


The duration of shelf life is determined by temperature, moisture and oxygen. When temperature is below 75 degrees F (optimal is 50-60 degrees F) then the food will be edible longer. Increased temperatures destroy food and its nutritional value by breaking down the vitamins and proteins. Moisture creates conditions for growth micro-organisms which cause a chemical reaction that can make us sick. (That’s why there is dried food.) Oxygen can deteriorate food by providing conditions that enhances growth of micro-organisms which grow and break down the foods components. This is why oxygen absorbers are placed in dried-food containers. Taste and nutritional quality decreases over the length of time the food is stored.


Canned foods and mixes will have dates stamped on them, ex. “Best if used by…” or “Expiration date.” These dates give you guidelines for how long the recommended food life is. After this date, the original taste and quality of the food decreases; micro-organisms start to break down the food components, making the food start to go bad. The 'wet' foods and those packaged without oxygen absorbers will have a shortened shelf life. With canned meats, jam, packaged mixes you will have about a year. Acidic foods like canned fruits will give you a 1-2 year shelf life. Soups, gravies and non-acidic food will have a 2-3 year shelf. Sugars and white rice are good for two years; pastas and uncooked cereals are good for about a year, but brown rice is only good for 6 months. This is why it is so important to rotate your food storage; you need to use all the items before they go bad. Be aware of what you put in your 72 hour kits; crackers and other similar prepackaged items are only good for 6 months.

Remember, the dates are only a “guide.” Be aware of how the food looks and smells. If a can is swollen, leaking, badly dented, or rusted then toss it out.  If the color has changed dramatically or the food gives off a bad odor, toss it.


Freeze dried and dehydrated foods packaged in sealed containers with oxygen absorbers last for 25+ years (items that Augason Farms carries). Freeze dried foods keep their original size, whereas, dehydrated foods will shrink in size, but both are great food storage items. Prepackaged items in #10 cans with an oxygen absorber last from 10 to 30 years. Freeze dried and dehydrated fruits and vegetables are great foods to stock up on. They are delicious snacks right out of the cans or easily added to a variety of recipes calling for fruits and vegetables, which means they are easy to rotate through. Once they are opened, they are exposed to oxygen, so they’ll need to be used within about a year (along with most items packaged in #10 cans). Adding freeze dried and dehydrated foods to your 72 hour kits are a great idea because you won’t have worry about switching out your kit out as often.


Remember, shelf life refers to how long your food will remain good for. When making a choice on what to store in your food storage, take the shelf life into consideration. Make sure you have a good balance of freeze dried and dehydrated foods and that you have a plan in place for rotating your food storage. Also, remember to keep the food storage supply in a cool, dry place to pro-long the shelf life.

Posted Jan 21, 2016
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