Shelf Life of Freeze Dried and Dehydrated Food
There are many factors that can affect the storable life of your freeze dried and dehydrated bulk food. Please take the time to read this information page if you are not aware of how foods are packed and how they should be stored.
It is important to keep in mind that not only do colder temperatures affect shelf life of food products, temperature fluctuations affect shelf life too. Keeping your food stored at a constant temperature will help you achieve the maximum shelf life. As you can see from the below chart, it is not that hard to obtain 10+ years on your food storage. Finding a cool, dry location, such as a basement or root cellar is perhaps your best insurance on maximizing the shelf life on your stored foods.
(See also the product chart below )
Foods that will be prepared and consumed rapidly don't need any special storage requirements. Such foods can be stored at room temperatures with no appreciatable loss of quality or nutrition. The above chart demonstrates that bulk food can be stored in warm areas for several years.
We are often asked about food storage in a garage, shed or outside. This is certainly possible, it's just not the best choice. Higher temperatures will shorten shelf life, lowering the nutritional quality, but the food remains edible even in a lower nutritional condition in most cases. Cans should be protected from moisture and humidity, while buckets and pouches will be unaffected. Higher temperatures simply means a shorter shelf life, but this is still far, far longer then "supermarket food" and their packaging, which is just a few months to 2 or 3 years for canned food.
Don't believe the Hollywood versions of 'survivors' of the "Apocalypse" eating store-bought food (cans or packaged food, also known as wet-pack food) scrounged from abandoned stores or hoarded away decades later. This narrative is completely false and while it might make for an entertaining movie, it would also kill the remaining population that dared eat it.
Supermarket food of all types will have long spoiled, or rotted away, even inside the cans due to bacteria or acidity. Even the cans themselves are not intended for long-term storage. Packaged store-bought food in boxes or plastic containers or wrapping will be utterly ruined and unfit to eat. Oxygen, mold and bacteria will have long ago ruined any possibility of eating such food. Eating any of these foods will probably kill you. Starvation will then finish the job.
The reality is any survival shelters stocked with supermarket food must be constantly rotated and replenished (monthly) to ensure nothing is ruined or spoiled. But it is a very short-term "preparedness plan" in reality, which is why we have never recommended this. Canned wet-pack food will last a few years at best (2 - 5 years, please review Still Tasty for the actual facts on wet-pack food shelf life), but beyond that it would be extremely risky to dare eat it.
The facts are there is no such thing as canned wet-pack food lasting decades. We see a lot of people making this mistake, stockpiling canned food for hard times years or even decades ahead. They are wasting their money (unless they can eat it fast enough). The only way you can acheive this type of food security is by storing foods specifically processed for long shelf life and stored in airtight containers in a cool location. Only dry food, dehydrated or freeze dried food offers this longevity.
Airtight containers (with oxygen absorbers) will prevent oxygen, bacteria, mold and mildew from reaching the food. See our Food Storage Basics article. Containers must be oxygen-impermeable (no oxygen transmission through osmosis), which is why we always recommend Mylar bag liners in our buckets of food, or the mylar food pouches we carry or hard-sided cans, and everything with an oxygen absorber sealed inside.
Real food security means doing the job right, the first time and not wasting time, effort and money on something that doesn't work. Hollywood versions of 'reality' are often serious misrepresentations of just what it means to deal with critical food shortages.
Many products, such as dry beans, grains, and flours contain an average amount of 10% moisture. Although it is not necessary (and very difficult) to remove all moisture from these kinds of dry foods, it is important that any food stored be stored as dry as possible. Excess moisture can ruin your food stored. Our suppliers package up these products using only dry, high-quality food and seal them in airtight containers (cans or buckets) with oxygen absorbers. We do sell bagged (loose-packed) beans, flour and grains, which if intended for long-term storage, need to be repackaged into airtight containers (we also recommend using oxygen absorbers and if in buckets, mylar bags).
Oxygen can be removed from the food storage container, resulting in the food lasting much longer than normal. Oxygen, naturally found in air will oxidize many food compounds. There are a couple of techniques used to remove oxygen from food containers:
An air tight seal on the food storage container is a must. All of our food is packed in air tight, sealable food grade cans or buckets with gasket lids (except for items ordered in bags or boxes) with an appropriately sized oxygen absorber.
Some foods are available in Mylar pouches which are airtight if left unopened. Maximum shelf life is achieved best with either cans or buckets. Boxed or bagged items can be consumed immediately or repackaged into food grade airtight containers. We recommend buckets with gasket lids and / or heavy Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers for boxed or bagged products.
To ensure maximum shelf life, store your food storage in a cool, dark location out of direct sunlight. Avoid direct contact with concrete floors by elevating your cans or buckets off the floor with pallets or wood boards. High humidity evironments will affect opened containers, but will have no affect on factory sealed air-tight containers.
Barometric pressure can dent or - in the case of severe barometric pressure changes (altitude, hurricanes, etc.) - severely dent buckets. This is usually a "good sign", since it indicates a tight seal on the gasket lid. Generally bucket dents only occur with people who live at very low elevations near sea level. The lower in elevation you are, the more atmospheric pressure there is, consequently the buckets can dent. If these are SP buckets (the food is in a sealed mylar bag inside) and you want to remove the dents, you can crack the lid open and allow in some air, but this is not always necessary or generally recommended.
Dents can be ignored unless they are problematic and threaten the integrity of the bucket. In the case of severe dents the lids can be removed on SP buckets (products with mylar bags) and the sides pushed out and the lid replaced. Do not do this on RB (ribbed) buckets as they do not have a mylar bag inside (unless you replace the oxygen absorber after pushing out the dent). We always recommend the SP buckets over the RB buckets since the mylar bag provides an extra layer of protection. Customers are responsible for making periodic inspections of their food storage and ensuring proper storage conditions.
Below is a chart to help you determine the shelf life of food stored in air tight containers at an optimum temperature of 60 degrees (cooler, colder temperatures are best). All of the following products will store proportionally longer at cooler temperatures if kept at lower storage temperatures. Higher storage temperatures will decrease shelf life. Shelf life of 30+ years is perfectly feasible for many products with proper storage conditions and temperatures!
Shelf life beyond these figures decrease in nutritional quality and taste. All foods should be checked prior to consumption for staleness, bad odor, or obvious signs of deterioration. The above table represents average shelf life for these products and is not a guarantee.
Freeze drying is the most effective way to remove water from food. Freeze-drying (also known as lyophilization or cryodesiccation) is a dehydration process typically used to preserve food and make it more convenient for transport and storage.
Freeze-drying works by freezing the food and then reducing the surrounding pressure in a vaccuum and adding just enough heat to allow the frozen water in the food to sublime directly from the solid phase to the gas phase.
If freeze-dried food is then sealed (in osmosis proof containers or mylar pouches) to prevent the reabsorption of moisture, the food may be stored at room temperature without refrigeration, and be protected against spoilage for many years. Preservation is possible because the greatly reduced water content inhibits the action of microorganisms and enzymes that would normally spoil or degrade the food.
Key advantages of freeze-dried products:
Must Read: Important Mountain House press release regarding Wise Foods (revealing information), and also, Mountain House products exceed 30 year shelf life.
2. Alpine Aire Gourmet Reserve cans and pouches including Natural High have always been very conservative estimate on shelf life. Properly stored, this can be expected to be much longer.
3. Mainstay Food Rations are not freeze dried products - they are specially formulated rations designed to survive temperature extremes that would destroy typical foods. These can be stored in a boat, car, camper, etc., where there are temperature fluxuations that would ruin MRE's.
Some important links relative to 3rd party lab testing, packaging properties, and their results
We offer a selection of 100% real meat products packed in cans. These are slow pressure cooked in their own juices and hermetically sealed in cans. Currently Survival Cave and Rainy Day offer the best in long term storable meats. Shelf life is based on storage conditions of 65º F. You can extend shelf life even further with cooler storage temperatures.
Rainy Day Signature Meats shelf life: 3 - 5+ years.
Shelf life of MRE's
MRE's remain in high demand - and for their intended usage, they can definitely serve a purpose in your food storage program. We recommend these for shorter durations or wherever you need ready to eat meals without any preperation (cooking). These can be passed out as needed for emergency disasters and eaten immediately. Keep them stored in a cool location to maximize their shelf life. Temperature plays the biggest role in the duration of shelf life and will greatly affect the taste and quality of MRE's as well.
More on Shelf Life
Predicting actual shelf life of dehydrated foods is not an exact science, however there have been many studies done. In addition to the above average shelf life of food stored at a constant 70 degrees, you can dramatically increase your life expectancy by lowering the constant temperature. It is possible to double, triple or even quadruple the shelf life by lowering the temperature proportionally.
Some products, such as seeds, can even be frozen for dramatically increased shelf life. The basic rule of thumb is to store your food storage in as low of temperature as possible to increase its shelf life and to retain nutritional value.
A new study by the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Science at Brigham Young University tested several varieties of dehydrated stored foods in #10 cans. They have learned that shelf life is considerably longer than previously thought. Here are their findings:
We recommend our Food Calculator as a resource for determining how much food is required per person. You can utilize this tool to identify Grains, Legumes, Fats, Oils, Sugar, Milk, Vegetables, Water and Cooking Essentials.