Prepper food storage mistakes

Prepper Food Storage Mistakes To Avoid

Food storage mistakes are more common than you may think, especially for the newbie prepper. While it is one of the first things that most preppers initially set up and acquire regarding their family preparedness, there are mistakes to avoid.

Acquiring food storage for preparedness is easy to do. It has a big impact on general preparedness, and it doesn’t cost too much money to get started. It can be done a little at a time, or, as quickly as you want.

However there are also a number of food storage mistakes and pitfalls to avoid.

Prepper Food Storage Mistakes

Here are a few to consider:

Buying food storage that you don’t regularly eat

When first setting out to fill a deep pantry for preparedness, it’s easy to go overboard and start acquiring foods that you might not normally eat. Instead, especially at first, just start buying more of what you do eat!

Exception: Regardless of whether or not you normally eat them, there are foods that I do advise acquiring. Dry goods that store well for long term such as rice, beans, and wheat. Why? Because they’re packed with calories, they will sustain life, and they are easy to store for many many years (if stored properly).

Not diversifying a variety of foods

In other words, buying too much of one thing or just a few things. Can you imagine just eating rice & beans day in and day out? Balance and variety are important. It’s great to have 5-gallon buckets filled with rice, beans, and wheat – because they can store for decades. However keep going with a wide variety of other foods too. Think about it in categories.

Also, diversify the types of processing & storage such as canned foods, dry goods, dehydrated, freeze dried, freezer, etc..

Getting started with food storage, but not following through

It’s easy to get excited about starting a new project or setting out on a new goal. But it’s harder to follow through to completion.

Keep on acquiring. Every time you’re at the grocery store, pick up some extra for your deep pantry. Keep filling those shelves. Not only will it set you up for preparedness, it will also save you money in the long run because food prices don’t go down over time…

Building up a food storage supply and letting it sit there

Although many foods will be safe to eat beyond their “Use-by Best-by” date, the best way to utilize your food inventory is to consume it!

Rotate your food storage by actually consuming and replacing. Consume the oldest first, and so on… Again, don’t forget to replace it!

Not making a food inventory

After awhile, you will not remember every little thing that you’ve acquired. It’s a great idea to inventory what you have in food storage. I don’t do it for everything – that would be way too much work. But I do have a record of my major dry-goods long-term storage, and my #10 cans of this and that… My goal was to have an idea of # CALORIES in my storage (equivalent survival days). This takes some math, but it’s doable. And important to know how much you really have. After awhile, you get the general sense about how long your food would last you…

We simply use an Excel spreadsheet. You might choose to simply write it on paper. You can be as detailed or general as you like. But it’s a good reference to have, especially while practicing good food rotation.

Buying too much freezer food

It sure is nice having a chest freezer filled with food. I have several. However, don’t let that be the majority of what you’ve stored!

Why? Because if the electricity goes out, you might lose what you have! You might be okay for 48 hours, but unless you have a generator and unless the power comes back on before you run out of fuel, you will be SOL.

Not labeling your foods with date of purchase

This only applies to certain things, but it’s worth mentioning. For example when I acquire (or DIY) a 5 gallon bucket filled with rice or wheat, I apply a strip of white artist tape and with a Sharpie write month/year. This way, later on I know which is oldest, and I’ll use that first! We also do this with some freezer food packaging.

Be aware of food shelf life

Some foods last ‘forever’ (almost). Spam anyone? Haha… I’m just suggesting that you become aware of expected shelf life – which may differ quite a bit from one to another. Here’s an example… There are many #10 canned foods that may last for 10 years, 20 years… depends on what it is. However just because it’s professionally packaged this way, doesn’t mean it will be good for decades. Powdered dairy products are significantly less, for example. Just check.

Overlooking the Spice!

Don’t forget about all the other stuff that makes food taste great!

Herbs, spices, condiments, etc.. They are pretty important too. We purchas a lot of our regular spices in bulk/quantity. Not only does it cost a lot less that way, but you can store it for long term too.

Buying too much of something that you haven’t eaten before

Something might sound like a good idea to have (for whatever your reason). However, if you have not eaten any, you better try a small quantity first.

For example, lets say you’re considering some particular dehydrated or freeze-dried food packaged in #10 cans for long term storage… You may or may not be surprised that when you open and consume it, you may or may not like it! You get the idea…

Poor food storage conditions

The enemies of long term food storage are heat, sunlight, poor containment, oxygen, humidity – unless you have a root cellar :-)

Of course it depends on what you’re storing, but generally you’re looking for cool, dark, and dry. Not all basements (if you have one) are dry, for example. Rusty cans?

Letting it all just sit there…

Time goes by faster than you may realize. Next thing you know – all those grocery store canned foods are 5 years old… Not saying they’re “bad” (typical best-by dates are ~2 years for many canned foods).

This can be avoided. Force yourself to consume foods from your storage. Consume the oldest first, and then replace it. Ideally you would be mostly buying foods that your normally eat anyway, right?

Let’s hear from you. What are some additional food storage mistakes to avoid?

[ Read: 1 Year Food Sorage ]


  1. Good post Ken. One thing I myself need to remember to do is to inspect food items for a visible and easy to read date. Some items have dates that are hard to read or hard to find or, in some cases, even illegible. I need to make certain to mark those items with the purchase date. I would also suggest preppers have a copy and/or read the tables in the military’s Shelf Life Extension Program report. I have tried different ways to mark OTC drugs for when to toss. My latest iteration is to mark all the containers in black marker the suggested expiration date and to have a card taped inside the door of the medicine cabinet listing known extended lives in years as well as a general most drugs are good for xx number of months past date. I came up with a number of months based on research or trial and error experience for OTC drugs where I couldn’t find information on their extended life. A final point regarding canning jars seals. I knew I was moving so I tried to use up all our canned items. When we moved, we only had about 4 dozen jars to move. All seals were checked prior to boxing, but during the move 4 unsealed. Be sure to use a storage method for canned goods that doesn’t require a lot of moving around prior to use.

  2. store what food you normally eat and rotate it out. the stories of people using 5+ yo beans, gees. if it’s something ya ain’t gonna eat once a week or month, don’t buy it. rotation is the key word.

    1. Yes and no,
      Lots of times i buy stuff to have a stash of food, but then the fresh veggies and meats get eaten before the canned stuff, doesn’t keep as long, so cases of cans will sit, the other thing is lots of times i will go and buy a bunch of stuff if i have extra cash, it goes in the stash, so i have a stash, then i end up getting by and eating fresh and the stash sits, my bad i know but it is what it is,

    2. Depends on how much you store Scout. I eat beans and rice at least once a week and many times more but there is no way I would go through my storage in a year doing that. Packaging for long term storage in my opinion is just that. Rice doesn’t change. Beans will get harder to cook but I either crock pot them or pressure cook them. My canned food is where I lack. I store canned vegetables but don’t really like them. In an emergency if I couldn’t get fresh in the pot they would go though

      1. Poorman,
        don’t forget that dried beans, peas and others can be planted and make more than you have on hand and it’s fresh. being self sustainable for years is my goal. i’m working on it. 62 now but if i can make it for another 20 or 30, i won’t care.

        1. All seeds have a shelf life, depending on how they are stored. For me, peas die (cannot germinate) before beans. I do not believe that peop.e should rely on 5 year old bags of dried beans, etc. Test what you have NOW.

  3. After being a prepper for years I have realized that my greatest weapon is my stored food. After the SHTF I will be in the unfortunate position of having to direct family/friends to do some types of hard work or some other unpleasant thing. I know that somebody will give me push back and refuse to do what I ask. I will simply reply “do what I ask or you will not eat”. If people are really hungry there is no such thing as that food has expired and I do not want to eat it, etc. Today, our country is well into a food production stoppage.

    1. No Joke,
      What you said actually has Biblical basis ;” He who does not work shall not eat”. I’m planning to do the same btw.

  4. If you buy lots of food in foil wrapped or plastic packages, keep those goods in a rodent proof container to prevent intrusion by rats or other vermin. If they do not eat it, they tend to urinate and defecate on it so best just to keep the rats and rodents out of the storage cache.

  5. DRY foods such as bulk rice, flour, salt, pasta, sugar, etc i repack into large wide mouth used 1 gallon pickle jars obtained through the restaurant supply store, after Repacking freeze them for a week or so to kill any critters and then remove and store in the house in a dark space. Rice as an example lasts much longer by using these jars versus leaving in a 50 lb sack (each one gallon jug hold about 8 pound of rice) I am only opening one jug at a time which keeps the rest fresher. I use this jugs for everything including dog/cat food. And they great thing the jars are free after use and being recycled by myself.

    1. Thanks for this! I never thought about using our pickle jars for storage. Awesome!

  6. I’ve been experimenting with foods I both eat and don’t normally eat… For decades.

    A random tidbit is I have had spaghetti-os eat through the cans regularly at about 3 years after best-by date. I don’t normally eat them, but it is something I picked because it seems like anyone that has children has spaghetti-os. Latest failed batch had a best-by date of November 2019.

    I also have been experimenting with storage conditions. Dry things don’t seem to mind being stored in an attic. Wet things (canned goods) are adversely affected by attic temperatures. Dry things that are buried will likely not stay dry after around 5 years even in a sealed bucket inside of a mylar bag. Seems to always pick up ambient moisture, probably because plastic is permeable. Place the same setup in a coated concrete vault and they seem to go at least 8 years.

    Why do I do this? Well, it’s kind of a fun experiment. But also so I know if I ever have to scavenge I know what to expect.

  7. Well, here I go…If there ever is a confiscation of goods event, and your nice tidy list of goods is found, they are likely going to expect you to show where every last bean is stored. Also, if all your carefully stored goods is located in one nice climate controlled room, they will just simply start loading there truck. I am not comfortable keeping all my eggs in one basket. And I do not keep a real list for these reasons. For a hurricane event or a bad growing season, all of these ideas are good. I am afraid, however, that what we are facing is more sinister than I can even imagine. And I am compelled to store things I would not normally eat. I don’t like canned chile, I prefer to make it fresh. Never the less, if ground beef is too expensive and I can not find tomatoes, I will be glad I have canned chile on my shelf (hopefully not expired). Hope I posted this in the right place.

  8. Vacuum seal.
    I do spices, rice, beans with oxygen absorption packs. No zip locks in my freezer or shelves. I even vacuum ammo.

    1. Thermason90 –

      There are experts here, I’m not one of them; but I seem to recall an issue with straight wall ammo being vacuumed, possible bullet dislodgment, I think. Cali? Dennis?

      1. Tmac, Thermason90,

        Wasn’t me that advised against vacuum sealing ammo…I have never tried it. I have heard of others saying it’s not a good idea. I do recommend storing ammo in a cool, fairly constant temperature, dry place. For me, that is inside my home.

        The reasoning behind avoiding pulling a vacuum on ammo is the premise that greatly reducing the pressure outside the cartridge might cause the air inside to push bullets or primers out as pressures try to equalize.

  9. Great article, with very practical advice.
    A few additions…
    1. Honey lasts practically forever, not just as a sweetener, but also as a humectant for dry hair and skin and as a clean wound sealer. Consider beekeeping. We collected 15 gallons from four mature hives this summer, in a short Alaska summer.

    2. Do not buy prepared mixes. Buy the individual ingredients for more versatility and space saving.

    3. Flavor test small portions before buying a case. I found the beef stroganoff that my husband bought a decade ago so gross that I will not eat it….unless required. It sits there, taking up space. Fake cheese, ditto. Some brands had much more flavorful dry veggies than others. If you have the power now to dehydrate fruits and veggies, your results will likely be superior for the three or so years you can store them.

    4. Dates are important for opened cans. Less so for long term deydrated cans that can last for decades.

    5. I date everything that I pressure can myself and use those by date.

    6. For short term storage, like less than a year, drop veggies, herbs in oil or vinegar or both to marinate. FULLY SUBMERGE.

    7. Lean to glass eggs to store for up to several years. I can vouch for mine through 9 months over several years. This is storing them in a solution of pickling lime and water in a covered container. This is how we eat eggs when the hens mot for 6 to 8 weeks and do not lay eggs, and then slow down the rest of the winter.

  10. i understand the “buy/store what you eat and rotate” but it seems unrealistic to be able to keep AND consume 3, 6, 9 month plus of food, especially beans and rice. you have to be eating that stuff for breakfast lunch and diner to make that feasible, imo. i certainly could be wrong or misunderstanding the instruction.

    1. There’s no hard rule in this regard. For example, I have lots of stored dry staple foods such as white rice, wheat, oats… of which most of it sits in 5-gallon buckets (within Mylar bags with O2 absorbers) – because it will store well for decades. For example, I don’t eat lots of rice, but, it’s a cheap and effective emergency food (with beans). So it doesn’t get rotated that much. There are other examples too. However, it’s always a good thing to strive for (store what you eat – and eat what you store) as you purchase extra foods.

  11. I buy boring LTS food with an eye to the trough of the GSM (2028 through 2032.) So am stacking up staples, especially rice. Right now, they’re still relatively cheap – except for powdered milk. Rice pudding is filling, as a breakfast or dessert, and can be flavored with all sorts of spices, citrus peels, and dried fruit for lots of variety. Just needs sugar, powdered milk, and salt – all staples in the stash. Same with using rice for risotto (yes, long-grain rice works there too) with a variety of bullion bases, and dried vegetables and meats. Rice baked into casseroles is a favorite. Other grains, beans and legumes of all sorts, pasta, dried potatoes, lots of spices and flavorings, jugs of oil in the freezer. Sauces with a high sugar or salt content seem to last forever – soy, teriyaki, bbq, syrup. The LTS pretty boring food is the foundation for survival. Good luck with gardening, gathering, hunting, fishing, and raising livestock will flesh it out. Like Ken says it’s calories. It’s also protein + fats + carbohydrates + multiple vitamins/minerals. The mistake would be in having too little of the boring stuff.

  12. Someone might have said this already, so apologies for any repetitions:
    1) Don’t forget bath soap or bar soap that can also double as hair shampoo
    2) Plain cooking salt with no additives (sea salt) for cooing, food preservation and wound/infection cleaning
    3) Try to buy things in bulk with as little packaging as possible (garbage collection won’t be operational, so you don’t want to drown in mountains of your own garbage)

  13. It’s winter, to cold to do much outside, so I’ve been working in the food locker. Cleaning up some older food storage I came across a bag of pinto beans. If there was ever a list on how not to store something, you could check every box with these beans. I have no idea how old these are but it’s over 10yrs.

    Cooked up 2cps in the pressure cooker, 30min at 10#, eatable but not that good, tough skins, hard beans. 2lb bag, not out much. Was gonna cook them and feed to the chickens. But I had an idea, would any sprout? Took a random 25 beans, placed on wet paper towel, placed in zip-loc. That was 11/29. Took a look today 12/2, all the plump beans have sprouted, all the small, nothing yet. 50% germination!

    Now I’m gonna save them and plant them this spring and see what they produce. Pretty sure their a hybrid, but we’ll see.

      1. Anony Mee
        Rabbit feed is approaching $.50lb. I have 8 does and 3 bucks eating 8oz a day. Almost $2 a day for feed plus their alfalfa, which I don’t have to pay for.

        Been looking for cheap alternatives for feed come spring. They eat almost anything green. So I’m gonna plant these and feed some of them to the rabbits. By Spring all the does will have litters, so there are gonna be about 100 rabbits to feed.

        The seed won’t go to waste.

      2. AM/SMG,.you tube video’s on growing out fodder for chickens and rabbits…wheat would work as well as sunflower seed. grass seed.. as long as untreated.

    1. SMG.pinto beans will produce string beans, in a half runner..Have a neighbor who used to plant them for string beans .. they were fine. she always had seed because someone was always giving them away.

  14. Reading through all the older posts on here has really made me humble…so much knowledge, and names I would love to reach out to…just sayin…
    Don’t forget backups. One is none, two is some, has remained a preppier saying for a reason.
    I did really well in food storage (see hand patting self on back). When you start prepping for Y2K, hopefully, you have learned something along the way.
    When Covid hit, I knew we were long over-due to a pandemic. I was somewhat prepared, but lacking at the same time. Medical was something that I touched on, but had holes here and there. Eye drops, ear drops. Things you don’t have happen but once a year are easy to over-look. If you have kids, ear aches may be common. You can never have enough garlic, and you can’t usually keep a years worth. If you have a bad year, you are in a bad way. It is one of the top antibiotics. Can it, check out the canning Diva, she cans it in wine, gotta love it! One mistake was planting some medicinal herbs, but not really understanding all the ways to use them, along with who should not use certain ones at all. Keep hard copies of everything you find useful. You won’t remember it all, no matter your age. Double check the knowledge of your sources against other sources. Prepping is not for simple thinking. The more you learn, the more complicated it becomes. Read about experiences in other countries where the economy has failed. Lone wolves, reconsider that stance. We can not stand guard 24/7.

  15. Whoops, late, tired, posted this the above in the wrong place. Ken, feel free to move it if you like, sorry!
    Food storage, canning jars… I thought I had more than enough. I use them for so many things, like dehydrated veggie mixes, etc, along with whole meals in a jar. Soup to nuts, you will need way more than you think and don’t forget to suck out the oxygen one way or another. Don’t buy one big pack, but try to find the ones where you can cut down a seam, leaving the next group protected…Good night friends.

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