Rice is boring. Rice is just a filler, right? A basic grain with barely any flavor.
White unseasoned rice is nearly tasteless – (rice cakes – need I say more?)…
But today I’m going to convince you rice is one of the most amazing (nearly perfect) long term storage foods.
When first building your food storage supply, you must decide what you’re going to store in bulk and how you’re going to store it.
The truth of the matter is building a long term food supply is hard.
For one, most foods spoil quickly. Even foods stuffed full of preservatives will eventually spoil.
And second, finding enough storage space for a large stockpile can be difficult.
However, rice kills both those birds with one delicious, healthy, cheap stone. Leaving rice out of your pantry is a mistake for both everyday users and survival situations.
Even if you hate rice, the fact is, it’s still one of the best survival foods known to man.
But storing rice properly for the long haul can still be troublesome. I’ve seen my fair share of rice gone bad – I still get the nightmares about maggots in my basmati bags… It’s not pretty and it’s a real bummer.
Note: the following video has some language, skip if that sort of stuff offends you...
Luckily, rice storage is straightforward if you know what you’re doing. And there are only a few things to remember before filling your emergency stockpile with 50-pound bags of rice.
And by the end of this article, you’ll know how to do it right. Because it would be a damn shame to stock up on a bunch of rice only to find it’s gone bad before you ate it (or worse, full of maggots.)
Why Store Rice In Bulk?
But first, let me answer this question: “why store rice at all?” Why not focus on other dried grains like wheat?
The honest answer is you should stock up on both but rice is the perfect food for storage and the perfect food for emergencies. Simple as that.
It’s why rice is so popular around the world and has been for centuries. It’s used as a base cuisine in uncountable cultures: Spain, Mexico, China, Japan, Hawaii, India, Chile…the list goes on and on.
Because rice is packed full of carbs.
Making rice metabolically similar to potatoes, pasta, and white bread. These dense carbs make it an excellent source of energy and filling at the same time.
Rice compliments most proteins as well (like those found in beans and nuts). So they can be used to create a “complete protein” meal – which is the best kind!
They provide energy on a long-term basis, keep you full, and do not result in “crashing.” In other words: complete proteins “stick to your ribs.” So the term eating “rice and beans” definitely has real merit, especially as a survival food.
But beyond being healthy, there are monetary benefits to storing it too. Rice is one of the most cost-effective foods for survival storage.
Rice is one of the cheapest calories to buy in bulk.
It packs a lot of calories in a small compact space since it swells to three times its size when cooked.
You can easily find up to fifty-pound bags of rice at grocery stores or bulk markets at reasonable prices.
Of course, different varieties of rice have different prices. But generally speaking a pound of plain white rice costs between $.50 – $1.00.
A pound of rice equates to approximately 10.5 servings. So a fifty-pound bag of rice buys you 252 servings for (at most) $30!
I have a 50-pound bag of white rice in my pantry right now. Its label says it has 252 servings and each serving has about 160 calories.
So if you multiple 252 by 160 you get over 40,000 calories in a single 50-pound bag!
That’s only $0.00075 per calorie.
Or another way to look at it is a moderately active adult male needs about 2500 calories per day in calorie replacement. It would only cost $1.875 for an equivalent amount of rice to replace those 2500 calories.
The bottom line is rice is an excellent bang for your buck when looking to stock up on a lot of calories on a budget.
And using rice as a primary source of calories saves you from having to use up other more expensive food items as quickly. Rice adds a high-calorie filling to your meals so your expensive portions of protein don’t have to be as large.
Allergen Free Grain
And as if all this wasn’t enough, rice is also considered an allergen free grain.
So you rarely have to worry about allergic reactions, or feeding to someone who might have allergies. It can be eaten without any fear of anaphylaxis!
Now, onto the main event…
Saving Dried Rice For Storage
Here is another plus to storing rice – if done correctly, it will remain edible for decades.
But there are a few rules and precautions you must take into account to achieve these long term results. And there are 3 main ways for rice to go bad; rodents, bugs, and mold.
Let’s cover each of these issues next.
Preventing Critters From Destroying Your Rice Storage
Rodents and small animals are always on the search for a free meal. Rats, mice, squirrels, ferrets, weasels, raccoons, etc. are all expert scavagers looking for vulnerable stockpiles.
Rodents, in particular, are excellent at gnawing. They have large, sharp, continuously growing incisors. These chisel-like teeth are perfectly designed to chew through weak storage containers. And once they’re in, they will feast. Not only will eventually consume all of your grains, they tend to crap where they eat.
So even if you only lose some of your rice inventory due to rodent consumption, no one wants to eat and cook food that’s had rats wallowing in it. Yuck.
But fortunately, there are two preventative measures you can take against this nasty fate.
First, do everything you can to prevent rodents and small critters from gaining entry into your storage location. Traps, poison, metal strips, cats or dogs are all valid ways to control and prevent these nasty critters from making your storage location there new home.
The second way to protect your rice stockpile is to put the rice into secondary hard containers. Containers hard enough even these expert chewers can’t penetrate.
We’ll discuss your storage container options in more detail shortly, but this second line of defense helps protect your food even if rodents gain entry into your storage room.
Doing both helps to ensure you’re rice storage doesn’t become critter food.
Preventing Bugs From Destroying Your Rice Storage
First of all, you must seal your rice from bugs and insects. Bugs like to crawl into the grains and lay their tiny eggs. Eggs you won’t notice until it’s far, far too late.
So late, in fact, you may have even eaten some bug eggs in the past without knowing it. And there’s nothing more terrifying than digging into your basmati only to find it squirming.
There are only two times critter eggs can find their way into your rice; either before you buy it or after. That’s it, it’s either one or the other.
Let’s start with eggs that may be hiding in your bag of rice the day you bring it home from the store. Because sometimes they’re already there when you buy it. Gross but true.
The good new is there’s a simple way to prevent any bug eggs buried in your newly purchased rice from hatching into maggots. Simply place your rice in a deep freezer for a week before placing it into long-term storage containers. Low freezing temperatures will kill any eggs hiding in your rice at the time of purchase.
Now, to prevent bugs from entering into your rice after it’s in storage is to use air tight containers.
We’ll go into more detail shortly about which containers are best but for now, just know tight strong lids will prevent new bugs from making a nest in your rice.
Preventing Mold From Destroying Your Rice Storage
Next up is mold. Mold will turn your dry edible rice into fuzzy green mush. Obviously, you want to avoid this fate.
Now to combat mold growth in the first place you only need to know a couple of simple facts.
Mold requires these 4 items to grow:
- Organic material (such as a food source)
So by removing any one of these essential items, you’ll prevent mold and in turn prevent rice spoilage.
1 – Remove Organic Material
Now we can’t remove the first item in the list. The organic material is the food your storing. So yeah, you can prevent mold by not storing any food but that’s opposite of our goal here.
2 & 3 – Remove Warmth and Control Moisture
The next two items (warmth and moisture) tend to go together. Think tropical environments. Mold does well in rain forests but not so well in deserts or frozen tundras.
So you can take advantage of this information. The rice you buy is in dried grain form so there’s normally very little moisture in the rice the day you bring it home.
However, if your rice gets wet while sitting on a basement floor or in a room where temperatures and humidity remain high for long periods of time, the rice will absorb this moisture and likely grow mold.
So the way to prevent this outcome is to control the temperature and humidity levels of the room you plan to store your rice.
There are a variety of ways to achieve this outcome.
For small amounts of rice, you could just put it in a freezer. But this has two problems. First, if you want to store a lot of rice you likely won’t have enough freezer space to hold it all. And if the power goes out in a disaster, your freezer stops freezing.
So a better solution is to use a basement or root cellar. Underground locations stay cooler all year long than above ground ones. However, if you’re going to use a basement or underground storage cellar, NEVER leave your bags of rice directly on the floor.
The floor of a basement is the first place to get wet in a flood since they are the low points of your home. If your rice gets wet in a flood (or even a leaky pipe) you can kiss your hard earned rice stash goodbye.
Another option is to control the humidity the storage room by using a dehumidifier. These units are designed to remove moisture from the air, turn that moisture into water that you direct to a drain. Low humidity is a nice feature to add to any food stockpile location, especially if you live in areas that tend to remain humid year around (like Flordia or Southern California).
But even if it only gets humid seasonally in your local, a quality dehumidifier is a nice insurance policy for your emergency stockpile.
However, dehumidifiers (like freezers) take energy to operate. So if you’re not running it on an off-grid alternative energy source (such as solar or even biogas) then if disaster strikes and power goes out for the long term, you’ll no longer be able to control your stockpile’s humidity levels.
If this is your situation, you’ll want to move on to the next option for mold prevention; oxygen removal.
4 – Oxygen Removal
Another best practice to prevent spoilage is to remove the 4th item in the “mold requires” list; oxygen.
In order to pull this one off you need to completely seal the rice from outside air – otherwise, know as “air tight” packaging. Then you add a few oxygen absorbers to the container before you seal it up. The oxygen absorbers then as you can probably guess “absorb the oxygen”.
The more effective, affordable and surefire way to get an air tight seal is to use Mylar bags. Mylar is a material originally designed for use in space but has amazing properties that are perfect for long-term food storage.
Here’s how to calculate the right amount of oxygen absorbers you should add.
If this is done right, your rice will no longer be exposed to any oxygen and since mold cannot grow without it, your rice becomes safe from spoilage.
Ok, so those are the main ways to prevent mold from spoiling, so now let’s take a more detailed look at your bulk storage container options.
Containers For Rice Storage
This one’s fairly straightforward – the easiest and simplest airtight storage container for rice (or any dried grain) are food grade plastic buckets with lids.
You can get these of these at reasonable prices (usually under $15 each), they are hard thick plastic so you don’t have to worry about rodents chewing through them. Each bucket can hold about 5 gallons of rice and they can be stacked up to save space.
And even if you happen to accidentally leave one on the floor in a few inches of water, the plastic is able to keep the contents of the container dry. So basically these buckets are hard to beat for your long term rice storage needs.
However, maybe you’re not looking to store “that much” rice yet. Well, there’s a convenient rice storage option for smaller stockpiles and one that helps dispense the rice as well.
Or, if you want to save some serious dollars, you could go with used milk jugs or soda bottles to store dried rice. But these are softer plastics rodents can chew through given enough time.
Here’s a good video putting the food grade bucket storage plan altogether (food grade buckets, mylar bags, and oxygen absorbers).
One note of caution: Pre-cooked, instant rice should never be kept in your survival food pantry. It will spoil.
So dried rice is the only viable option for long-term storage.
But dried rice kept in ideal conditions will last almost indefinitely – this is a quality very few foods have.
Brown Rice Is An Exception
There is only one exception to the “indefinitely” rule.
Yes, basmati rice, jasmine rice, arborio rice, and wild rice all fine for emergency storage. But not brown rice.
Brown rice (which is regarded as “healthier”) has higher oil content than other strains of rice.
Because of this small difference, it tends to spoil in a pantry sooner. In as little as 4-6 months.
And will go bad even in a freezer after about 12-18 months.
So the shortened shelf life means survivalists should leave the brown rice out of their long term emergency food stockpile.
Saving Cooked Rice
Some people cook a lot of rice at once and then save it for use throughout the week. Pre-cooking is an easy way to mix up your meals and add a healthy side but unfortunately cooked rice doesn’t last very long.
If cooked rice is left out on a countertop, cooked rice will last for about 2-3 hours before it starts to go bad.
Storing in a refrigerator extends the shelf life to 4-6 days. And keeping cooked rice in the freezer will keep it fresh for about six months.
Keeping cooked rice stored in a sealed container helps prolong it’s shelf life too. But generally, it’s almost always best to cook your rice per serving to avoid waste.
And luckily there are few foods easier to prepare than rice!
How to Cook Rice
Another fabulous characteristic of rice is how simple it is to cook. Many people use electric rice cookers.
These cook the rice perfectly and eliminate excess moisture without any human input. They are very convenient machines and 100% unnecessary.
All you ever need to cook rice is a pot and some water.
Here is the magic equation: 1 cup of rice = 2 cups of water
Wash the rice until the water runs clear, add it to your pot, add the required amount of water and put it on a stove to cook. Add a few drops of olive oil, salt or a small dollop of butter for extra flavor. Stir occasionally.
After the rice grains have swelled up, taste a small sample to check if the rice is ready. Once soft, simply strain any excess water and the rice is ready to serve! It’s that easy.
As I mentioned earlier rice is an incredible addition to almost any dish. But eating rice on its own can result in nutrition deficiencies.
Rice is straight up carbs and it can be unhealthy to overdo carbs in your diet.
So, whenever you can, try to eat rice in combination with other foods. Foods that work well with rice are proteins like eggs, meat, tofu or beans.
The trouble is if you’re storing rice for an emergency/apocalypse situation, finding a lot of other storable emergency foods to pair with your rice can be difficult…
Believe it or not, people make this step harder than it needs to be.
I combine rice with all sorts of delicious foods when I’m camping or backpacking. So here are 7 of my favorite rice survival recipes. Some are dried foods, some are canned but all have been tried and tested in the backcountry, without a kitchen.
Just because you’re eating survival food in an emergency doesn’t mean you have to eat tasteless/joyless food.
1 – Beans and Rice
A self-explanatory meal, and one that is sure to fill you up and provide lasting energy. Rice and beans is a staple side in most Central American countries for this reason.
No matter whether they’re refried beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, pinto beans or kidney beans. Simply open up a can of beans, heat it and mix them into your rice.
One of the most classic camp meals ever devised.
2 – Tangy Chicken Rice
Mix rice with unsweetened lemonade powder mix, canned tuna, oregano/basil, one chicken bullion cube, and dried peas.
The result is an explosion of flavor that packs an energy punch and is full of nutritious vitamins.
3 – Backpacking Curry
Combine dried rice, dried veggies, dried chicken, curry powder, chili powder and water into a small pot.
Simmer all the ingredients together for about five minutes, then add some powdered milk and simmer for 42 seconds. 42 exactly.
Backpacking curry is a flavorful meal, and all the ingredients are stockpile friendly.
4 – Mediterranean Rice and Chicken
Mix cooked rice with pine nuts, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, olive oil, one chicken bouillon cube, salt/pepper and dried or powdered garlic.
Garnish it with dried Parmesan. Gourmet olay!
5 – Beef and Veggie Rice
Mix rice with diced beef jerky, dried tomatoes, canned peas, canned corn, black pepper/salt, and oregano.
Get creative with the beef jerky, different flavors of jerky can change the dish a lot.
6 – Southwest Chicken Rice
Mix rice with a healthy number of salsa packets, dehydrated veggies, dried Parmesan cheese, and one chicken bouillon cube.
7 – Rice and Fish
If you like sushi or poke, then you know how well rice goes with fish. And it doesn’t have to be raw! Cook it if you like.
But rice and fish go together like peanut butter and jelly.
I mention fish as an ingredient because fish are always plentiful. In mountain streams, lakes small and large, far and wide, rivers and streams, creeks, ponds, even in some puddles. You get the idea. Catch some.
So as you can tell, there are infinite ways cook rice, and a million different rice recipes to experiment.
These are just a few of my favorites, all ingredients you can store right alongside your rice.
Adding Fresh Protein and Produce To Your Rice Dishes
Always cook with what you have got on hand. All the ingredients listed in the recipes above are things that might be laying around a survival pantry. But if you have access to fresh ingredients, obviously you should use those first.
Even after a disaster where you’ve dipped into your stash doesn’t mean you can’t access some fresh produce or proteins. Raising fish, gardens, backyard chickens provide fresh ingredients for your rice meals. Eggs, chicken meat, fish, avocados, or wild mushrooms do wonders for survival recipes.
Even just one fresh ingredient can make a huge difference in your survival cooking efforts.
The Final Word
Every serious survival pantry needs to include lots of rice.
Even if you’re skeptical about “prepping”, it’s still a good idea to keep an extra few bulk bags of rice lying around your home. You never know when a local disaster might strike. Just make sure you store it properly!
Few foods are as well suited for long term survival storage as rice.
Rice is cheap; it fills you up, it can keep almost indefinitely under the right circumstances.
It expands three full times its size when cooked; it’s easy to prepare, is full of calories. Rice is incredible.
That’s why NATO distributes it to nations disaster relief areas. It’s no wonder ships, and airplanes keep rice aboard in cases of emergency (and if they don’t, they should!)
It’s no wonder human beings have been using rice across different continents for most of our history.
Rice makes a case for itself. Get some.