Friday, 28 September 2012

home storage friday: long-term vs medium-term vs short-term food storage

Home Storage Friday is a bi-monthly series about food storage and wise, purposeful living. 

I believe that slowly building up stores of food, medication and money, enough for at least 3 months shows prudence, forethought and self-reliance. 

Having these resources will give you peace of mind and prepare your family for both good times and lean.

Hello friends! Warm welcome to the Little Acre that Could, and the first ‘Home Storage Friday’; a series of essays on family preparedness. I hope this series will help us be motivated to seriously think about starting anew, or to improve on our present food storage preps.

(prepper – a person who prepares for the curve balls that life can throw)

In the prepping world there is a term, SHTF. I may use this term occasionally, and I’m going to use James Talmage Stevens’ words for it; “Stuff Hits The Fan”... in other words, when our world ends as we know it.

I won’t ever profess to know everything there is to know about food storage. Your input is really encouraged. I hope that between my posts and your input we can make this series a helpful and interactive experience. Let’s get started!

Confused about food storage? Let's untangle it.

Last winter I was visiting a lot of prepper and family preparedness forums and I noticed that there seems to be an awful lot of confusion about short-term and long-term food storage - like what foods belong to which category. I’ve thought about it a lot! Eventually and finally I have come to a new way of thinking that has put it in the plainest of terms for me. I’ll share my idea and maybe like me you will start to see your pantry, and other parts of your home, in a whole new light.

First a secret; I’ve never had long-term storage. I used to believe I did, but nope. I have come to think I have misinterpreted that term for years.

While reading forums it became clear that I wasn’t alone. It also became clear that if I wanted to succeed at this food storage thing I would have to find a way to have it make sense to me.
The key, I found, was to classify food storage into three categories instead of the conventional two.

The 3 categories are...




Maybe, unbeknownst to me, this explanation has already been done, but I haven’t stumbled on it in my travels around the net. Therefore, I like to think of it as original. Of course there’s no such thing as an original thought, but a girl can dream.

Keep in mind that these 3 categories eventually blend into each other because in a store-what-you-eat, eat-what-you-store world medium-term and long-term food storage become short-term as things are constantly rotated .

It is another world because it’s a new way of thinking. When you choose to keep food storage in your home it is on your mind almost all the time ... almost. It has to be at first. How else will you remember to rotate your food, buy in bulk when you find a good deal and set time aside to vacuum pack food?
I’m told that it becomes second nature. I don’t mean to intimidate anyone. It isn’t hard, just different than main stream grocery thinking, which for most people is to buy enough food to last a couple days at a time or even worse, eat all evening meals out. The waste of time and money boggles my mind eventhough I am guilty of doing both at times, myself.

Short-term, medium-term and long-term food storage; what do they mean to me?
Short-term is the food that you use constantly, every day all day. It is prepackaged foods, prepared foods, cooking ingredients, fresh produce, breads and all the other sundry things that you normally eat between regular grocery runs.
Medium-term is any food that has a storage life of 2 years or less. That would include home canning, curing, salting and fermenting, root vegetables, canned fish, dried leathers (meat and others) and winter fruit storage.

I like to think of it as the types of food that our grandparents of generations ago would have kept in the root cellar for a winter. Of course, living in century 21 we have the advantage of using store-bought equivalents for everything that I’ve listed, if we choose to.
Long-term storage is the items that have a much longer shelf life. These are things such as wheat berries, salt, sugar, white rice, freeze-dried food, parboiled brown rice, sprouting seeds, beans, dehydrated produce (with 95% of the moisture removed) and non-fat, dry milk.

There is more, but I don’t think we need to list it all right now. Besides, I’m not sure I know about them all myself, yet! These foods are stored in dry packed #10 cans or Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers (except sugar and salt), and they will last 5, 10, 20, and 30 years - even more in some cases.
As an aside, did you know that wheat can be used for --- wait for it --- a pregnancy test? It’s true. Wheat berries were used in ancient Egypt a millennium ago as a pregnancy test. If a woman pees on wheat berries and they sprout she could be assured that she is expecting. That kind of information could be useful to know if the SHTF. Source

wheat berries
Did you notice that the long-term list includes only foods that are low in moisture? - less than 10%.That is what makes us able to store them for a very long time.
So, that’s the way I’ve been able to make sense of food storage. What do you think of this 3-way break down of food storage? Did it cause a shift in your thinking? Do you already think this way? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

You can leave a comment by clicking at the end of this article.

 linking to: frugal days, sustainable ways and the preparedness fair at prep utility vehicle 


  1. WOW! Great information. I think I am just a medium storer at the most. Too many dang mouths to feed around here. Great post, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Jana A new follower from Deborah Jean's Farm Girl Friday Blog Hop

  2. very nice Sue Keep 'er up
    Wendy Oickle

  3. Nice post. Thanks for the peak at the pantry! The stuff you consider short term storage, I consider 'in use'. I don't do long term storage myself, except for seeds, canning jars, lids and such. If it gets worse than the world my grandparents lived in, I don't think I want to live through it anyway, lol.

    1. Hey Wendy! I never (well hardly ever apparently) comment on someones comment,but I just had to tell you I had to laugh out loud over your last sentence! I've never heard that exact sentiment before but I think you might be on to something.

  4. This is all very interesting, Sue. I would say I am a medium storer. I MIGHT be good for three months if I was cut off from the store but I'd be eating a lot of the same stuff. Brown rice and rolled oats !!!! Keep us posted.

  5. actually you are getting the idea but you are not quite there yet. canned goods and home canned goods actually are long term if stored properly in cool and dark. dehydrated and then packed properly with oxygen absorbers and mylar or food appropriate containers could be long term but generally considered short to medium term. we have become indoctrinated and dependant upon those sell by/use by dates and those refined overprocessed stuff so much that we have forgotten how to grow, prepare, cook, store and plan what goes into a self reliant, self sustaining, and frugal lifestyle. you start by growing and buying and storing only the foods that you like and that you will eat. in a way it is kinda like planting a garden and only planting the stuff that you eat and know how to prepare. you also must determine how many people that you are preparing for and begin working with that. we are currently already in a depression and it is gonna get worse before it gets better. it might not get better. we may just have to become accustomed to what we are currently getting. part of preparing food and food storage is also knowing where you have water sources...and where you might also be able to fish or hunt. there is no end to the preparing.

    1. Actually, long-term is up to 30 years with little nutrition lost. Canned and home-canned are not long term storage with nutrition, consistency, and taste intact.

  6. I have to admit, I got the giggles over the wheat pregnancy test and the "SHTF" haha. I guess if it does there will be few things to do ;) haha

  7. Hmmm...I thought that short-term storage was just a couple of weeks' worth of food. But, it really does not matter much. That stuff we eat up, your short-term, I would just call all the food from the refrigerator/freezer that I had to throw out. That still irks me. Actually, some pre-packaged food would seem to be short term to me, not perishable. Hey, as long as we have food to eat, no matter the terms. As long as there is food to eat, it won't matter what we call it. Thanks for making me rethink.

    I probably have several months' food storage since I cannot afford the mylar/oc/food for long term. I have not canned at all this summer except for the dehydrated food in jars. Does that count? I would be down to oats and brown rice, as someone else said. I only have lots of those because of sales and coupons AND the fact I love both.

    Thankfully, I have no need any longer to pee on wheat. whew!

  8. You've certainly given me something to think about. I always have great intentions to preserve everything I possibly can from my garden, however, lack of time often gets in the way. I've done quite well this year, beets are done, now it's just the abundance of ripe tomatoes I have to deal with.....then again, with this wind and rain they may not be in good shape, several of the tomato trees have fallen over and sadly crushed my pepper plant. :( I plan to make a trip out to check on the garden between rain drops some time today.

    1. If you don't like the condition of your tomatoes, as in, don't want to make juice or can just the tomatoes - make salsa! Or maybe even chutney! Fermented creative! You can hide the fact that they are not "perfect" by turning them into something yummy but somewhat "hidden"!

  9. I am working on drastically reducing the amount of food we throw out.

  10. I really like your idea that there is a medium range storage. I've never thought about it quite that way before. Right now, I'd have to say that that is pretty much where we stand. Over the past couple of years, due to circumstances, we have pretty much been living off our long term food storage. I'm supplementing the long term stuff with things I'm putting up now.
    As you said, food storage pretty much is a way of life. It becomes second nature though and not a bad way to live! :o)

  11. Lovely full shelves! I have bookmarked an interesting site: from "Although the food had lost its fresh smell and appearance, the NFPA chemists detected no microbial growth and determined that the foods were as safe to eat as they had been when canned more than 100 years earlier." Some nutrients had reduced, others were still good.

    Thank you for sharing this at the 3rd Preparedness Fair! There's been a lot of upheaval the past couple of weeks so I just got here now. I hope you keep coming back to post! :)


    1. Thank you for the link, Natalia! It was interesting to read. It's too bad the article didn't say if the canned food was home canned in glas bottles or tin canned in factory.

      Or if being burried under 30 feet of silt and several feet of water slowed down the deterioration of the food. If that's what made it last 100 years, I may need to rethink where I build my next cannng cupboard!

      Thanks for contributing to the conversation.



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