Once your short term food storage goals are met (or close to it), the next item of preparedness in the food category is to work on storing some long term food storage. These foods are items that will sustain life and store for a long time. This is where your buckets of wheat and rice and beans come into play in your food storage plan. If packed properly, the long term storage items should store for 10-30 years or more, so we’re not talking about jars of peanut butter or cans of soup here. These are primarily your staples: grains, legumes, sugars, honey, powdered milk.
For some shelf life information for long term storage foods, check the data from a study done by BYU here: Shelf Life of Long Term Storage Foods. If you’ve been wanting to know how long certain items store, this is a good publication to find most of what you’ll be storing for long term foods. I will say that the vacuum packed yeast stores longer than the yeast that is just sold in packets or jars, and if it’s kept in the freezer it will last an extremely long time. I have a whole door shelf in my stand up freezer dedicated to yeast. Also their information on cooking oils is a conservative estimate. I regularly use 4 year old oil and don’t have a problem with it. (For more information, read my post on storing oils.)
Depending on what you eat regularly, some of the items in your short term storage will be the same as in your long term storage. A couple of ours are baking soda, yeast, and rice. I know the rice will store 30+ years, but we use it and rotate new rice in. You can continually rotate them into your short term supply, or you can stock some of the long term foods just for long term. I put those boxes where I won’t need to be getting to them frequently, like in the very corners of the food storage room where I can’t get without moving a bunch of other things.
There has been the guideline that you should aim for a year’s supply of food and I believe this used to be what was taught by the LDS Church, but their newest food storage guidelines “encourage you to store as much as circumstances will allow.” Store as little or as much as your circumstances will allow. Does this mean storing more than a year’s supply? Sure, if you have the means to do it. If you don’t, just store what you can. Anything is better than nothing.
Do make sure to package your long term food storage for long term storage if you intend to store it and not just use it. I like the #10 cans because they pack easily in boxes and I can lift them ;). I also have long term storage in buckets which is also a good choice. In one house, I packed quite a lot in the mylar bags because they could fit under the beds in the rolling storage bins where the cans couldn’t, but later had some rodent problems with the bags–they are not mouse proof! We kept some of the bags in metal barrels in our carport and they did fine as the barrel was rodent proof. So if you’re looking to use the mylar bags of food for long term storage, just be aware that the mice can chew through them and take some precautions to prevent the loss of your food.
Get some oxygen absorbers (sold at many preparedness retailers as well as the LDS canneries) and use 1 per can or mylar pouch or 3-5 per bucket (approximately 1 per gallon of bucket volume). These go a long way toward keeping your stored foods fresh, and contrary to popular belief will not keep your grains or legumes from sprouting.
Whole grains store longer than processed grains, so for longer storage get wheat berries instead of flour, oat groats instead of oatmeal, etc. Of course if you have no way to process your wheat or oats once they’re opened, you’ll want to store some flour and oatmeal as well.
That about covers long term storage basics. If you’ve got some short term foods stored, look into getting some longer term storage started. You’ll be glad to have it when you need it, and if you never do, just think of it as insurance and if you do end up feeding some to the chickens or pigs, it’s okay. It’s like the homeowner’s or auto insurance policy that you pay on every month and hope to never have to actually use. Except this insurance may keep you alive some day.