Storing Bulk Dry and Dehydrated Foods for an Emergency


How cheap is storing bulk dry and dehydrated foods?

Dry foods are a fantastic emergency food to store away. Dry foods are foods that are generally sold in bulk (usually by the pound) and are typically grains or other foods that contain an extremely low moisture content. Examples of dry foods are rice, beans, or wheat berries.

Dry Foods: Dry foods are foods that are already mostly void of moisture in their normal state (usually by nature), such as most seed based foods. Examples of dry foods would be rice, beans, wheat berries, and pasta. Dry foods are by far the cheapest type of food to store for an emergency.

As an example, a twenty pound bag of enriched white rice can be purchased from Walmart for around $8.00.  If one serving of rice equals one uncooked cup then once that one serving of rice is cooked, it will produce 3 cups (or about 15.5 ounces) of ready to eat rice and would have cost you just 18 cents! Now if you properly store that rice in a Mylar bag with an oxygen absorber (both available cheaply online), and seal it in a five gallon bucket, that rice will last over 20 years before it goes bad.

Dehydrated Foods: Dehydrated foods are slightly different although an extremely long shelf life is also very possible. Dehydrated foods are foods that once contained higher moisture levels but have since had the moisture from the food extracted. This produces extremely shelf stable foods.

You can make your own dehydrated foods at home with a good food dehydrator or you can buy them already dehydrated and packaged. A great benefit of dehydrated foods is the variety of food that you can store away for extended periods. Milk, fruit, vegetables, and meat can all be made shelf stable by dehydrating.

Attributes of Dry and Dehydrated Food

  • Average Cost Per Ounce Prepared: $0.03/oz
  • Average Cost Per Ounce: $0.07/oz
  • Approximate Number of Days of Survival per $100: 67 Days
  • Approximate Cost Per Day of Survival: $1.50
  • Shelf Life: 4 – 20 Years (or more)
  • Typical Storage Temperature: Room temperature (65-72°F)
  • Ideal Storage Temperature: As cool as possible (but above freezing)

A Note About the Above Calculations: These numbers vary greatly as dehydrated foods can have a variety of moisture content levels which affect the shelf life (higher moisture = shorter shelf life). Typical professionally packaged dehydrated foods have a water content of 2%-3%. Also, because dehydrated foods can be home made or professionally produced, prices vary greatly.

Dehydrated water
You can even dehydrate water and achieve an infinite shelf life. Just add water!

Pro’s and Con’s of Using Dry and Dehydrated Foods as an Emergency Food Source

While dry and dehydrated foods can seem like the holy grail of emergency foods, like anything there are always draw backs. It’s important to consider the positives and potential negatives about choosing this type of food for your disaster preparations. This will help ensure that you make the right choice when purchasing food for your family.

Pro’s:

  • Can be very inexpensive to store large quantities of food if packaged at home.
  • A wide variety of food is available in dehydrated form.
  • An extremely long shelf life is possible.
  • Possible to store dairy and other perishables long term.
  • Dry foods require no processing prior to storing.

Con’s:

  • Most dry foods need to be cooked to be consumed.
  • Quality of dehydrated foods vary greatly.
  • Re-hydration prior to consumption can be necessary.
  • Very difficult to achieve a long shelf life for meat using this method.
  • High water requirements for cooking.
  • Professionally packaged dehydrated foods can be expensive.

Storing dry and dehydrated foods is a fantastic option if you are on a budget and don’t mind packaging the food for storage at home. Also, the shelf life of this type of emergency food is incredibly long. Properly stored rice can last well over 25 years at room temperature. These foods are also relatively light, making them a great option if you need food to keep in a pack to stay mobile.

Many preppers choose to focus on this type of food for their emergency supply because of how inexpensive it is and the incredibly long shelf life. Rotating through your food supply is not near as critical with dry and dehydrated foods since they can remain edible for such a long period of time. If you are bad at remembering to rotate through your emergency food, this may be the best option for you.

Disclaimer

We at SuperPrepper.com are not doctors or scientists. We are merely a group of passionate preppers sharing what we learn as we go. We do not guarantee that you will experience the same shelf life as displayed on this page. When in doubt, do not eat it! Always consult with a professional first.

 

Shelf Life of Dry Foods

Dry foods are foods that are generally sold as a dried grain in bulk. These foods are very inexpensive and relatively easy to package at home for long term storage. The most effective way to package these foods for long term storage is to seal the food in a Mylar bucket with an oxygen absorber, and place them in a five gallon bucket. This can all be accomplished realtively easy without the need to purchase any expensive food processing equipment.

Dry grains sold in bulk.
Dry foods have an incredibly long shelf life and are the absolute cheapest food to store away for an emergency. They can easily have a shelf life of 20 years or more.

Although moisture is not generally a concern for dry foods, the oil content of the food is. For example, white rice will generally stay fresh at least 30 years if sealed in a Mylar bag along with an oxygen absorber. However, brown rice will only last around 6 years. The reason for this is the oils that are present in brown rice that aren’t present in white rice.

Below are some examples of the typical shelf life you can expect for these popular types of dry foods when stored at room temperature (65-72°F). At the bottom of this article you will find a complete list of the shelf life expectancy for various dehydrated and dry foods.

Typical Shelf Life of Popular Dry Foods

TypeShelf LifeNotes
White Rice30 YearsProbably the most popular type of emergency food.
Brown Rice3 – 5 YearsThe shorter shelf life is due to the oil content of brown rice.
Beans25 YearsDoes not include soybeans.
Soy Beans10 – 15 YearsThe shorter shelf life due to the oil content of soy beans.
Flour10 YearsA baking necessity.
Pasta30 YearsRemoving all excess oxygen when storing is very important with pasta.
Quinoa8 YearsQuinoa is considered a “super food.” Highly nutritious.
Rolled Oats30 YearsAn incredibly shelf stable breakfast food.
Yeast3 – 5 YearsYeast can be grown at home in your refrigerator as a means to always have it on hand.
Wheat30 YearsMust be stored in full berry form.

Note: The above table details the typical shelf life one can expect with various popular types of dry foods. These are meant to be an estimate and are not exact. Shelf life can vary. This table assumes the dried foods are stores in sealed Mylar bags with all oxygen removed or absorbed via an oxygen absorber.

Shelf Life of Dehydrated Foods

Dehydrated foods can either be purchased already dehydrated and professionally packaged, or you can buy a good home dehydrator and do this process at home. Buying professionally processed dehydrated foods can be fairly expensive but some types of dehydrated foods just aren’t practical to dehydrate at home (such as milk).

Home made dehydrated food in mason jars for long term storage.
Various types of home made dehydrated fruits ready for storage.

These foods can last as little as six months or as much as twenty years depending on the type of food and how it is processed. The more moisture that can be removed from the food prior to storage, the longer it will generally last. Also if the food contains a lot of oils, it will greatly reduce the shelf life. Keep in mind that how well the food is dehydrated and packaged will make a big difference on its shelf life.

Below are some examples of the typical shelf life you can expect for these popular types of dehydrated foods when stored at room temperature (65-72°F). At the bottom of this article you will find a complete list of the shelf life expectancy for various dehydrated and dry foods.

Typical Shelf Life of Popular Dehydrated Foods

TypeShelf LifeNotes
Fruit5 YearsCan last up to 10-20 years if professionally dehydrated.
Vegetables20 YearsIncredibly shelf stable.
Milk20 YearsDifficult to dehydrate at home.
Eggs10 YearsDifficult to dehydrate at home.
Meat0.5 – 1 YearMeats are best stored in freeze dried form.

Note: The above table details the typical shelf life one can expect with various popular types of dehydrated foods. These are meant to be an estimate and are not exact. Shelf life can vary depending on the exact type of food and the process in which it is dehydrated and packaged.

Ideal Storage Conditions

The ideal storage conditions for dehydrated and dry foods are the same. Basically you want to keep moisture, light, and oxygen as low as possible as these things promote microbial growth (this is what makes your food “go bad”). You also want to keep the food relatively cool and at a stable temperature that doesn’t vary. Although it is not critical to keep this food at cooler than room temperature, it will help to ensure maximum shelf life and inhibit microbes. The expected shelf life numbers on this page all assume that the food is stored at room temperature (generally considered to be 65-72°F).

The generally accepted best way to keep moisture, light, and oxygen to a minimum when storing these foods is by packaging them in sealed Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers. This can be done at home, relatively inexpensively. It involves pouring the food into a metallic bag, placing an oxygen absorber inside, sucking out any excess air, and using a clothing iron to heat seal the bag closed. Then placing the bag inside a (usually 5 gallon) bucket for easy storage.

Store dry foods in a cool, dry, and dark area away from pests for maximum shelf life.
A dry food supply sealed inside Mylar bags, along with oxygen absorbers, in 5 gallon buckets. These buckets of dry food are stored in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. This is the perfect environment for maximum shelf life.
  • Moisture: Dry foods generally contain approximately 10% moisture, which is considered extremely low. It is not practical to get this moisture level any lower at home so just make sure not to introduce any additional moisture to these foods. Remember that air contains moisture, so remove any excess air during any packaging being performed at home. This can be done by using a vacuum to suck out the excess air prior to sealing.
  • Light: Ensure that the dry or dehydrated food is stored in an area with minimal light. A sealed five gallon bucket, for example, will let in very little light. Even better, if the food is stored in a metallic (or Mylar) bag, it will keep out almost all light. Storing the food in a dark room or closet is good practice.
  • Oxygen: Probably the biggest factor when it comes to preserving dry or dehydrated foods is to keep oxygen levels as low as possible. Microbial growth cannot occur without oxygen present. If you are packaging your food at home, the easiest and most cost efficient way to remove oxygen is by sealing your food in an airtight container and placing an oxygen absorber inside. The air we breath is approximately 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen and 1% other gases. The use of an appropriate sized oxygen absorber in an airtight packaging will reduce that to 99% nitrogen and 1% other gases. If properly sealed, an oxygen absorber will also leave the food in a partial vacuum. This drastically increases shelf life.
  • Temperature: Find an area of your home that has a fairly stable temperature. A room or closet near the middle of your home with no window is best as it generally stays fairly temperature stable. A cellar or wine cooler is even better. While the shelf life numbers listed on the page assume the food is stored at room temperature. A longer shelf life can be achieved by storing the food in cooler temperature.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that for dry foods “Each 5.6 C. (10.08F) drop in temperature doubles the storage life of the seeds.” This is likely to be true down to freezing. Below is a table to demonstrate how this rule applies dry foods and their shelf life.

Shelf Life in Relation to Storage Temperature of Dry Foods

TemperatureStorage Life
37.6 °F40 Years
48.4 °F30 Years
59.2 °F20 Years
70.0 °F10 Years
80.8 °F5 Years
91.6 °F2.5 Years
102.4 °F1.25 Years

Note: The above table does is not a representation of any specific type of dry food but merely demonstrates the relationship of storage temperature to the shelf life of dried or dehydrated foods in general.

A Complete List of Dried and Dehydrated Food Shelf Life

Here you will see a compiled list of the approximately shelf life you can expect from properly stored dried and dehydrated foods of different types. Please keep in mind that some of these are foods that can be sealed in Mylar bags and stored as-is while others need to be dehydrated first. A few of these require special processing considerations to achieve the listed shelf life. However, this should give you a good starting point in determining how long each specific type of food will last.

When storing any of these foods, please keep in mind the considerations listed in the above sections regarding maximizing the longevity of these stored foods. Always store foods in a cool, dry place and out of direct sunlight.

The Complete Dry and Dehydrated Food Shelf Life Database

The Complete Shelf Life List

Type of FoodExpected Shelf Life
Apples20+ Years
Adzuki Beans25+ Years
Alfalfa Seeds15+ Years
All Purpose Flour10-15 Years
Bakers Flour10-20 Years
Barley30 Years
Black Turtle Beans25 Years
Blackeye Beans25 Years
Broccoli25 Years
Brown Rice3-5 Years
Buckwheat20+ Years
Butter3-5 Years
Cabbage25 Years
Carrots25 Years
Celery25 Years
Cheese Powder10-15 Years
Cocoa Powder10-15 Years
Corn20 Years
Cornmeal20-25 Years
Cracked Wheat20 Years
Eggs10 Years
Flax10-12 Years
Fruit20+ Years
Garbanzo Beans25 Years
Garden Seeds3-5 Years
Germade30 Years
Gluten5-10 Years
Granola1 Year
Great Northern Beans25 Years
Groats30 Years
Hard Red Wheat30 Years
Hard White Wheat30 Years
HoneyIndefinitely
Hulled Oats30 Years
Kamut30 Years
Kidney Beans25 Years
Lentils25 Years
Lima Beans25 Years
Meat0.5-1 Year
Margarine Powder3-5 Years
Macaroni20+ Years
Milk20 Years
Millet25+ Years
Mixes (cakepancake
Noodles10-15 Years
Onions25 Years
Pasta30 Years
Pasta (whole wheat)10 Years
Peppers25 Years
Pink Beans25 Years
Pinto Beans25 Years
Popcorn30 Years
Potatoes (all types)20 Years
Powdered Eggs5-10 Years
Powdered Milk25 Years
Quinoa8 Years
Refried Beans25 Years
Rolled Oats30 Years
Rye30 Years
SaltIndefinitely
Small Red Beans25 Years
Soft Wheat30 Years
Soybeans10-15 Years
Spaghetti20+ Years
Spelt30 Years
Sprouting Seeds15+ Years
SugarIndefinitely
Triticale30 Years
TVP10-15 Years
Unbleached Flour10-15 Years
White Flour10-15 Years
White Rice30 Years
Whole Eggs5-10 Years
Whole Wheat Flour10-15 Years
Yeast3-5 Years

Note: The above table does is meant to provide you with a general idea of the shelf life of specific foods if stored properly. The numbers listed here are accurate to the best of our ability and knowledge however we cannot guarantee their accuracy or that you will achieve the same shelf life with your food. Always consult with an expert before storing or consuming food that has been stored for an extended period of time.

Conclusion

An exceptionally long shelf life can be achieved with dehydrated and dried foods at a very low cost, making them a favorite for those preparing for an emergency situation. The long shelf life makes it so you don’t need to worry about regularly rotating your food supply. This option is a true “store it and forget it” option for those wanting to be prepared. While it is always good to diversify and have multiple types of emergency food on hand (such as MREs, freeze dried, and canned foods), having dried foods as a bulk of your preparations is certainly understandable.

Make sure you learn to properly pack and seal dry foods in Mylar bags to ensure that you achieve an exceptionally long shelf life. Once the food is packed, store it in a five gallon bucket and hide it somewhere out of the way in your house. This will ensure you will be ready for any type of disaster for decades to come.

Other Options for Emergency Foods

Option 1: Canned Foods

Option 2: Dry and Dehydrated Foods

Option 3: Freeze Dried Foods

Option 4: MREs (Meals Ready to Eat)

John Walter

John Walter is an emergency preparedness consultant with eight years of experience and training in related fields. He is a passionate prepper living in the Sacramento area of California.

2 thoughts on “Storing Bulk Dry and Dehydrated Foods for an Emergency

  1. John, what’s your rule of thumb around how much water you have on hand? Obviously that’s the bottleneck with both freeze-dried and dehydrated. We eat a lot of dried beans/rice in our house, so that’s a good option, but when I start to think about the water and fuel requirements to cook a pound of beans …

    1. Yeah, I shoot for at least two gallons per person per day of survival. They say one gallon per person per day is the minimum for survival but I double that for cleaning and cooking. But honestly, I just prefer to store as much water as possible with a plan to replenish it. Partially for the reasons you stated. I use a rain catch system as my main replenishment plan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Content