Incorporating Meat Into Your Food Storage

Meats are something that many people to do not tackle early on in their food storage adventures because they can seem intimidating. There are many different ways that you can add meats into your food storage plan to add a little bulk, protein, and variety to your meals. We love that by storing meats, you can continue to make many of your favorite recipes even in the case of an emergency where you can only live exclusively on your food storage.

Incorporating Meats into Your Food Storage

Meats are generally not included in basic Long Term Food Storage Calculators. It is expected that you will get your protein from legumes. However, if you can add some form of meat into your storage it opens up a lot more possibilities for making “normal” meals, can add dense calories/protein, and can help with avoiding flavor fatigue. Here are a few tips on storing meats:

  • Buy smaller amounts to start until you are sure you like using that variety, preservation method, etc.
  • Consider the shelf life on items and store accordingly
  • Practice using the foods to make sure they will make good substitutes in your meals when it comes time to use them
  • When choosing a preservation method, it helps to think through water necessities (for rehydration), power needs (if you are freezing meats), and space constraints.

In general it’s a good idea to store meats in a variety of ways to take advantage of the pros and minimize the cons of each method. Keep reading for summaries of each type of meat preservation you may want to consider.

Canning Meats for Home Storage

Canning your own meats is fantastic, but is also a little intimidating for a beginner. We recently did a Canning 101 post to help make things easier for those just getting started. We also made specific tutorial videos for canning chicken and canning ground beef.

Pros of Canned Meats
- Can be inexpensive after you have all the tools
- Purchase meats on sale and preserve them
- Complete control over varieties and flavors you store
- Delicious and EASY to use
- No water necessary when preparing meals

Cons of Canned Meats
- Short shelf life (1-2 years)
- Takes lots of time to preserve
- Can be intimidating, risk of not preserving properly
- Some meats may look/taste different than regular cooked foods

If you don’t want to can your own foods you can also purchase a variety of canned meats from the grocery store which can be another great option for getting meat into your storage.

Freezing Meats for Home Storage

Freezing is a very common method for preserving meat. It is best accomplished using a vacuum sealer to avoid freezer burn. Many people choose to count freezer foods in their 3 month supply and plan to hurry and cook or preserve it should the power go out.

Pros of Freezer Meats
- Can take advantage of sale prices
- Easy to do, does not take a lot of time
- Easy to incorporate the foods into regular recipes

Cons of Freezer Meats
- Freezers are affected by power loss
- Limited amount of space available
- Shorter shelf life (6 months – 1 year)

Dehydrating Meats for Home Storage

Dehydrating can be done at home with a Food Dehydrator whereas Freeze-Drying needs to be done in a commercial facility. Dehydrated meats are basically just jerkey. You can dehydrate meats yourself to make all kinds of different jerkeys. You can also purchase jerkey at the store.

Pros of Dehydrated Meats
- Long shelf life if preserved properly
- Inexpensive after equipment is purchased
- Wide variety of foods you can make

Cons of Dehydrated Meats
- Not good for young children
- Can be difficult and time consuming to dehydrate yourself
- Not useful for using in recipes as a substitution for regular meats

Freeze-Dried Meats for Home Storage

Purchasing freeze-dried meats is probably the easiest method for getting meats into your storage and you can be confident that they will last a long time. However, it is also the most expensive of the methods we’ve discussed.

Pros of Freeze-Dried Meats
- 20-25 year shelf life
- Easy to store in large quantities
- Easy to substitute into regular recipes
- Commercially purchased so safety is not a concern

Cons of Freeze-Dried Meats
- Must have water storage to rehydrate
- Expensive price-per pound of meat
- They don’t work in ALL meat recipes (i.e. chicken on a grill)

  • NancyB

    I can venison cut up in chunks like stew meat. I add boiling beef broth and pressure can it in pints. Maybe I’m just used to it, but I think it tastes better than beef. If I can it in chunks for stews and soups and make venison chili as well from ground meat, I have “convenience” food ready to make dinner. I think it is a mistake to put all of your meat supply in a freezer – too many opportunities for the power to go out and ruin all your meat.
    I usually start canning meat this time of year so that my freezer has space for this year’s venison and pork. Deer season starts in November so I need to start moving to jars to make more room. We very rarely buy beef. Only buy chicken and fish. I haven’t found chicken at cheap enough prices to can it myself.
    Maybe one of the challenges this year could be going through the process of finding recipes and making out menus for 7 days of pantry only meals (21 meals) based on what you have on hand. It can be an eye opener if you haven’t stored a variety of foods to get through it.

  • Food Frugalista

    I prefer to can my chicken, but that’s just me. It seems like it the cheapest way for a decent shelf life. Plus, if you rotate your storage and continually can new batches you should theoretically have a year supply of meat all the time.