When Should I Eat My Long-Term Food Storage?

In recent years, the importance of long-term food storage has become increasingly relevant due to natural disasters, pandemics, and other emergencies.

Having a well-stocked pantry or storage area can be a lifesaver when the unexpected occurs.

However, the question often arises: when should you use your long-term food reserves, and what types of emergencies warrant dipping into your stockpile?

Understanding the right circumstances to consume your stored food is crucial to making the most of your emergency preparedness efforts.

It ensures that you remain well-nourished during times of need while preventing unnecessary depletion of your supplies.

Let’s explore the different types of situations that might warrant using your long-term food storage and we will provide some guidelines on when it’s appropriate to do so.

Understanding Long-Term Food Storage

Purpose and Benefits

Long-term food storage is designed to provide a reliable source of nutrition during emergencies or situations when access to fresh food becomes limited.

Proper long-term food storage ensures you have a stockpile of food that can last for months to years.

The main benefits include having a source of sustenance during crises, ensuring stability in one’s food supply, and practicing efficient food rotation methods, such as “first in, first out” (FIFO).

Common Types of Long-Term Food

There are various types of long-term food that can be stored for emergencies.

Some common options include:

  • Canned goods
  • Dehydrated milk
  • Freeze-dried fruits and vegetables
  • Rice, pasta, and grains
  • MREs (Meals Ready-to-Eat)
  • Mountain House cans and Augason pails
  • WiseFood Storage

It’s recommended to store what you eat regularly and consume your stock by rotating through it in a systematic manner, such as FIFO, instead of waiting for an extreme emergency to use your long-term food storage.

To maintain an efficient food storage system, replenish consumed items as soon as possible to avoid running out when needed.

When deciding whether to consume your long-term food storage, consider factors like the availability of fresh food, the practicality of accessing grocery stores, and the current state of emergency.

Make sure to check expiration dates and eat older items first. Rotate your stock, prioritize perishable items, and focus on creating nutritious, balanced meals.

When to Use Your Stockpile

In this section, we will discuss when it is appropriate to utilize your long-term food storage during emergencies such as natural disasters, pandemics and quarantines, economic crises, and supply chain disruptions.

Natural Disasters

the landslide of a rural road on the background an off-road car after an earthquake

Natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods can result in significant damage to infrastructure and may limit access to grocery stores or other sources of food.

In these situations, using your stockpile can be essential for your survival and well-being.

Make sure to rotate your stored food by following the FIFO (First-In, First-Out) principle and restocking consumed items as soon as possible after the disaster.

Pandemics and Quarantines

During legitimate pandemics and quarantines, going out to purchase food can be risky, and/or restricted, and the availability of certain products might be limited.

Disease isn’t the only concern as other people, regardless of disease, can become issues as well.

Utilize your stockpile in these situations, but continue to plan meals and maintain a balanced diet.

Whenever safe and possible, replenish your stockpile and maintain a rotating system.

Economic Crises and Supply Chain Disruptions

Economic crises and supply chain disruptions can lead to shortages and price increases for various food items.

In these circumstances, rely on your stockpile and consider using alternative sources like local farm markets and smaller stores to replenish what has been consumed.

Remain vigilant and continue to monitor the situation, adapting your food consumption and purchasing habits as needed.

Remember, the key strategy is to store what you eat and eat what you store, rotating your stockpile to ensure freshness and balanced meals.

In times of crisis, using your stockpile wisely can help you stay nourished and maintain a sense of normalcy.

Managing and Rotating Your Stockpile

Macro expiration date on canned food isolated on white background

When considering when to eat your long-term food storage, managing and rotating your stockpile effectively is essential.

This approach ensures your food remains fresh, nutritious, and safe to consume.

Expiration Dates and Shelf Life

Always check the expiration dates on your food items, as the oldest might not necessarily expire first.

It’s crucial to monitor the shelf life of your stocked goods to avoid consuming spoiled foods.

For instance, marking the month and year on each can lid can help you keep track of your stock’s age and freshness.

Rotation Strategies for Maintaining Freshness

As mentioned before, implementing a “First In, First Out” (FIFO) strategy can be beneficial in maintaining the freshness of your long-term food stockpile.

This approach involves consuming the oldest items first and restocking them as needed, similar to what grocery stores do.

It may be worth having two separate stocks of food: one for medium-term storage with canned goods and dehydrated milk, and another for long-term storage with items like mylar bags, MREs, and commercially canned food.

Using a rotational method can also help you maintain a more natural order of consumption and achieve better nutritional balance in your meals.

Planning meals helps you avoid eating unbalanced or unhealthy combinations of items based solely on expiration dates.

Some folks suggest only reaching for your long-term food storage when grocery store runs become a challenge.

Remember to store what you eat and eat what you store to minimize food waste in case of emergency.

Inventory your supplies periodically, monitor expiration dates, and maintain separate stocks for different purposes.

By following these strategies, you can ensure your long-term food storage stays fresh and safe for consumption.


In today’s uncertain times, it’s essential to have a plan for your long-term food storage and understand when to use it during emergencies.

Rotating stock is a critical aspect of this plan, as it helps to ensure that you’re consuming and replacing your supplies as needed.

Implementing the FIFO (First In, First Out) method, just like stores do, is a practical approach to achieving this.

Simultaneously maintaining medium-term and long-term storage, segregated according to their shelf-life, comes highly recommended by experienced preppers.

Further, always store food you consume regularly and eat what you store, taking into consideration expiration dates, even if they may not always be accurate.

Rotating through your stock involves planning meals and balancing nutrition while using these stored supplies effectively.

To ensure safety, replenish your stocks as you continue to have access to stores in a sanitary and non-crowded manner, incorporating smaller shops and local farm markets into your rotation.

Ultimately, knowing when to eat your long-term food storage and when to use your stockpile depends on the nature of the current situation and your personal resources.

Assess factors such as access to stores, store availability, and the degree of hazard the emergency poses.

With careful planning, stock rotation, and mindful consumption, you can maintain a well-balanced stockpile to navigate through challenging times.


With over 17 years of federal law enforcement, training, and physical security experience, Cody focuses his time nowadays on both consulting and training. He regularly advises individuals, groups, multinational corporations, schools, houses of worship, and NGOs on security threats while conducting customized training as needed.

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