Food Storage Recommendations has been selling emergency and outdoor foods since 1995. With 29 years of experience, we offer you the most important recommendations, summed up as follows:

Rotation of Emergency Food Storage Products

The first food in should be the first food out (date all food containers). The reason for this is that, when discussing the usefulness of food products, there are really two shelf lives to be considered: 1) the nutritional life, and 2) the palatability life.

Ensure Maximum Shelf Life of Your Food Storage

It is necessary to store all food products properly to ensure maximum shelf life. Store the product in a cool area, avoiding long-term storage above 75° F, and be careful not to puncture or damage the packaging (pouches, cans). Under these conditions, the products will maintain their shelf life for product quality, flavor, and nutritional value.

For example, if you've stored your food in a garage that has a temperature of 90 degrees F, you should expect a shelf life approximately half of that obtained at room temperature (70-75° F); this in turn is less than half the storage life that you could get if you kept them in your refrigerator at 40° F. Optimal storage temperature for all stored foods is 40-60°F (refer to each manufacturer recommendation).

Ideally, the storage location for canned items (freeze-dried/dehydrated) should have a relative humidity level of 15% or less. When this is not possible, you'll want to minimize moisture as much as possible.

MREs are a bit more sturdy and durable - the MRE pouches are designed to withstand rough handling conditions. They are easy to store in a pantry, basement, closet, etc. The lower the temperature the better, but above freezing. Freezing is NOT recommended (freezing MREs can cause pouches to become brittle and may damage the pouch seam seals, which can cause spoilage of the contents).

All containers should be kept off the floor and out of direct contact from exterior walls to reduce the chances of condensation brought on by temperature differences between the container and the surface it's resting against. Stay alert to any moisture retention in the cardboard case boxes.

Will the Food Go Bad Beyond the Best By Date?

Long term storage foods do not become unsafe when stored longer than the recommended "best by date" but their nutrient quality fades and their flavor, color, and texture diminishes. In general, the most susceptible ingredients to aging are products with dairy items, shellfish, brown rice, and tree nuts.

Note: MREs do not have an expiration date. Their shelf life is based on storage temperature.

How Long will the Food Last After Opening?

For best results and taste, Mountain House recommend using the contents of their freeze dried foods within 1 to 2 weeks (longer for certain items) after opening, while others indicate that most of their product can be used up to 1 year after opening. For MREs, please do not open the pouch until you are ready to eat!

Most importantly, all manufacturers recommend that you treat any leftover food as you would fresh food. Safely store unused product between uses (i.e., use plastic can lids, tightly seal the resealable pouches, or place unused food in other sealed containers, vacuum sealed, or zip-lock bags and keep in a cool, dry location).

More Information: MREs & Freeze Dried/Dehydrated Foods

Ideas for Food Storage Locations

The best place to store foods is in a cool, dark, dry area. Here are some suggestions:

  • Below ground (in a root cellar), in basements, or cellars where the temperature is cooler, or at least consistent. But remember—humidity and condensation can be extremely detrimental in the long term storage of canned food items.
  • An interior closet, or a well-insulated pantry close to the kitchen (but away from heat sources).
  • Under stairs, in the linen or broom closet.
  • Under the bed or under furniture. Consider storing your food in food-grade containers (shaped like a sweater box) that will easily slide under the average bed.
  • Set aside a whole room for food storage. Install shelves or cabinets (buy or build your own) to store your food.