4 Fats: How and Why to Include Them in Your Food Storage Plan

Take a minute and reflect on what you have in your food storage. There are probably areas of strengths and weaknesses, things that have been overlooked and items that have been stored in abundance. I have found that as I teach classes on self-reliance, one of the most often overlooked items is good fats, yet fats are one of the items we most-likely use every day and would be helpful for cooking and calories in a survival situation.

Storing oils and fats for longer term requires some knowledge and planning. Various oils have different shelf stability and all fats need optimal conditions to ensure the longest shelf life possible. Improper storage can result in a financial loss and leave us high and dry in a time of need unless we know how to prevent rancidity.

In this post, we will go over four dietary fats and the best ways to ensure that they will keep for at least one year, but usually for two years. So let’s take a look at some oils/fats and how we can safely increase our stash of this essential preparedness commodity.

NOTE: All oils and fats should be stored in a cool, dark place, away from sunlight. Many oils come in dark containers to help increase shelf life by decreasing rapid rancidity. All oils will eventually become rancid but there are steps that can be taken to maintain optimal freshness. Rancidity releases free radicals that can damage your body over time.

1. Olive Oil

I chose olive oil for this list because it is full of healthy, monounsaturated fats, which help reduce bad cholesterol and lowers risk of heart disease and stroke. Since this is an oil often used in my meal preparations and medicinal remedies we use a lot of it so I rotate quickly to the next bottle we have stored away. More about rotation at the end of the article.

olive oil pour

As long as it’s stored away from heat and light, an unopened bottle of good quality olive oil will be fine for up to two years *from the date it was bottled. (Caveat later) Once the bottle is opened, it should be kept cool, tightly capped and used within a couple of months.

When shopping for oil, take a look at the expiration date to make sure it has not been sitting on the shelf for a long time. If the date bottled was 6 months ago then if properly stored, this bottle should last for more than 1.5 years in your storage area.

This applies only if the oil meets the criteria listed below and lists the harvest date. It is a good idea to choose the bottle from the back of the shelf. It has probably been sitting in a darker area than the ones on the front of the shelf.

When I bring a bottle of oil home, I write the expiration date on the bottle or on the label with a colored permanent marker. This is one way of making it easier to glance and check which bottle is the oldest in my storage.

The newest bottle or container is placed in the back, making it easier to grab the oldest bottle first. It pays to take the time to place the newest bottle in the back of the shelf. This all assumes that you begin with a good quality extra virgin olive oil.

olive oil olives

Real or Fake?

The trick now is finding a good quality olive oil! Over the past decade, there has been an ongoing investigation into adulterated olive oil aka “fake olive oil,” and it was found that deception on the olive oil chain was ”pervasive” in olive growing European countries.

The olive oil was being mixed with inferior seed and soybean oils or even with olive oil that had been mixed with lower-grade olive oil that had been chemically refined or had been sitting in storage tanks for who knows how long.

Here are a few tips from Larry Olmsted, author of Real Food Fake Food to help us identify the real stuff. I found this list to be a very helpful guide in choosing the best quality olive oils.

  • Never buy a bottle that doesn’t say “Extra Virgin on the label: The phrase alone isn’t a guarantee, but without it, “you’re always going to get a low-quality product. Don’t bother with anything labeled “virgin,” “light,” “pure” or just “olive oil”.
  • Look for a “Harvest Date” and an estate or mill name: Basically, the more specifics, the better. Typically only the better oils will have a ‘pressed on’ or ‘harvest date’. If a label calls out the name of the producer or estate, or the variety of olive used, it’s very likely genuine.
  • *Ignore the “Best By” and “ Bottled On” dates: The “best by” date is arbitrary and lacks any legal standard, and “bottled on” doesn’t mean much. “It could’ve been in a tank for a year before it was bottled.
  • Look for a “Third Party Certification Seal”: In particular, the European Union’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Italy’s DOP, or the “COOC Certified Extra Virgin” seal from the California Olive Oil Council for California-made oils.
  • If You See EVOO Made in Australia or Chili, BUY IT: It’s going to be fresh and legit. Australia has the most stringent standards and a highly advanced testing system, and neither Chili or Australia mixes in carryover oil from the previous harvest.
  • Don’t Fall for Fancy Packaging and a High Price Tag: Cheap is a red flag, but expensive doesn’t automatically mean quality, either. Case in point: Browsing a high-end kitchenware store in New York City’s Time Warner Center, Olmsted spotted a handsome bottle of extra-virgin olive oil for $30 that was long past its “use by” date. “It was probably already an artificially long date to begin with. This was olive oil that should’ve been thrown out,” he says.
  • Trust Your Senses: Fake olive oil might taste greasy, rancid, flavorless, or just not pleasant. Good olive oil—real olive oil—should smell and taste green, bright, peppery, earthy, grassy, or any combination thereof. If it tastes good and smells good, it’s probably not rancid.

I was glad to learn about the high quality of oil from Australia and Chili because the Aldi’s in our area carries one from Australia.

Do NOT store oil over your stove, for the obvious reasons. The heat and steam from the cooking will make it spoil more quickly. Oil does not like humidity either. Keep opened oil tightly capped and refrigerated.

olive oil

It is usually better to purchase smaller bottles because you want to use them up in a reasonable time after opening. Using a large bottle might take more time to use up thus making it more likely to become rancid.

2. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is at the top of my list because of its taste, versatility, shelf life and health benefits. Some people don’t like the taste of coconut but many of the coconut oils have a more subtle taste that does not taste of coconut at all.

It is cholesterol-free, is a medium chain “good fat” that serves as a nutritious, tasty substitute in cooking, and is delicious on bread, vegetables, and adds a healthy fat to popcorn. I also use it in making anything stir-fried.

coconut oil fat

It’s a luscious oil for skin care, hair care, and massage. Many people use fractionated coconut oil as the carrier oil for essential oils. Fractionated coconut oil is in a liquid state all of the time. It will not harm you if ingested but it is the extra virgin coconut oil that we want to have in our food storage rotation. Oils labeled “virgin” or “extra virgin” are typically unrefined, meaning they haven’t been exposed to chemicals and heat. They are usually cold-pressed.

Shelf Stable: A quality coconut oil will last up to 3 years without going rancid if stored correctly. Different coconut oils vary in shelf life, and you can safely assume that every coconut oil lasts at least a year, but a few years is the most common scenario, especially for extra virgin cold, pressed high-quality coconut oil.

The more processed it is, the shorter the shelf life. I have used coconut oil that was 26 months old and it was fresh tasting without a hint of rancidity. It was raw extra virgin, cold pressed and organic. Surprisingly it was slightly less expensive than an inferior coconut oil sitting on the same shelf. It pays to shop around and know what to look for on the label.

A Few Other Uses:

Coconut oil makes outstanding tasting scrambled eggs and works well in a cast iron frying pan over an open fire or the stovetop. I sometimes season my cast iron pans with coconut oil since it is stable oil that doesn’t break down easily at high temperatures like other oils might do. Since it is mainly a saturated fat, it is able to withstand higher temperatures, making it one of the best oils for cooking.

It doesn’t go rancid as easily and has amazing nutritional properties.

coconut oil

I wanted to make a health food snack similar to the KIND bars. So I experimented until I found the best ratio of dates, nuts, and seeds. At first, the bars just crumbled. The taste was great but it had to be eaten with a spoon.

On the next batch, I added coconut oil. On the 4th try, I finally got it right so that the bars could be sliced. I just increased the amount of coconut oil then froze the bars. Heavenly! Can I eat more of these tasty morsels and boost memory and mental capacity? I’m not sure yet but we’re sure enjoying the experiment!

kind bar
My Homemade KIND Bar (No fillers like oatmeal or crispy rice )

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil :

  • Supporting Hormones – Getting the wrong kinds of fats can cause disruption of the sex hormones. This, in turn, raises the chances of developing certain cancers such as breast, uterine, ovary and prostate tumors. Coconut oil contains specific fats that support the body’s natural hormone production. It’s a bit more complex than that but you get the idea.
  • Every cell in our body must have adequate magnesium to function properly with the brain and the heart having the highest concentration. There is strong evidence that coconut oil increases the absorption of both calcium and magnesium.
  • Studies show MCTs (Medium Chain Triglycerides in the coconut oil) may contribute to focus and mental performance. That is why I use it in smoothies, just a tablespoon in a bit over a quart of green smoothie.
  • Its antimicrobial properties make it great for fighting irritation and infection in the gut from Candida overgrowth which is becoming more prevalent in the U.S., probably caused by the increased amount of sugar consumption.
  • Of course, the hottest topic for coconut oil now is the benefits it offers to Alzheimer’s patients or just to people with slight cognitive decline, sometimes in the form of MCT oil. As I mentioned it has also been shown to boost memory, even in those who exhibit pre-Alzheimer symptoms. See “Coconut Oil As an Alzheimer’s Treatment – Dr. Mary Newport” on YouTube. On a later, longer video Dr. Newport adds recommendations to include MCT oil containing only the medium chain triglycerides.
  • Some evidence shows that the beneficial fats in coconut oil can help with depression and anxiety.

It is helpful to learn to use coconut oil in various ways so that if you have ever had to rely on your storage completely you are comfortable using it in recipes, as medicine, and for body care. This holds true for any oil you choose to store.

This is an item that, because of its scores of uses is worth adding to your preparedness food pantry. 

coconut hairy oil

Coconut oil may at first seem expensive but over time I have watched the price drop slightly as the competition increases. Because of its versatility and its use as a nutritional and medical support, I justify coconut oil in our food/ health budget and for storage preps.

Store in its original container, in a cool dark area. It will become liquid at room temperature of about 70°.

3. Butter

For a food prepper, the main question about oils might be how to include butter in your food storage. It is possible but you may have to get creative.

It freezes well but in a crisis situation, you may find that you are without power. So while you might still want to keep some in your freezer you’ll need a better plan for longer-term storage.

butter
Raw Hand Churned Butter – The true color is a deeper yellow than it appears.

Butter Powder: Keep in mind that there are no butter powders, that I have found, that reconstitute into a nice solid form of butter like we are used to using. Most people do agree that these various powdered brands have a nice buttery taste, are easily sprinkled on popcorn or other foods to enhance flavor and can be used to drizzle butter over vegetables.

In a food shortage or grid down situation, the taste of butter on otherwise bland oatmeal might be the very thing that makes foods palatable for you and your loved ones. Since it can be used “as is” without reconstitution it could be a lightweight addition to enhance bug-out or foraged foods along the way.

There are a few things you should consider before making an expensive powdered butter purchase.

  • If you don’t plan to use it before an emergency happens you may be wasting your money since the shelf life is only 5 years if stored under ideal conditions. As with any food or other prep it is best not to wait until an emergency situation to learn how to use a product. Your family might be the ones who say “Yuck” because it’s new to them or perhaps the cook doesn’t yet know how to best use or reconstitute the product.
  • I’d suggest a purchase of one can to use experimentally to test how well it is received by your household and to give the chef time to make adjustments in how it differs from using regular butter.
  • The fat content is far lower than regular butter which can become a challenge when you are trying to maintain an adequate caloric intake using emergency long-term foods.
  • It can’t be used for frying because (according to the reviews) it will stick to the pan and burn easily.
  • It would mainly be used as a flavor enhancer and although you can use more butter powder to make it thicker it never becomes the consistency of butter. Some have described the consistency as “pudding-like”.
  • Thrive website says that it can be used for baking and they provide a couple of recipes. A few reviewers said they made baked goods using the butter powder. Others made the attempt and were not pleased with the results. So to get a real answer that works for your needs you may have to buy one can to try it out for yourself.
  • Butter Buds are made from corn sugar (maltodextrin), not real butter as are butter powders listed below and it is a chemical alphabet soup.

There are many brands on the market from companies like Augason Farms, Honeyville, Emergency Essential, Thrive, Hoosier Hill Farm, Bob’s Red Mill, Future Essentials Kosher, etc. Here are a few comparisons of butter powders and review comments.

butter on bread

As of June 2018, prices range from about $25 to $36 for approximately 2.25 pounds depending on where purchased. Here are three of the more well-known brands. A quick scan of the net will offer you many more brand options.

Thrive: 37.4 ounces ~ #10 can container. 4.1 out of 5 stars.

The reviews ranged from “Yuck” to “Absolutely Fabulous”. Several reviewers suggested adding a little vegetable oil to enhance creaminess and make it more versatile. I have not tried this product but many reviewers had positive things to say about it. It is generally more expensive than the following two brands.

They make it a point to advertise that there are NO GMOs: no bioengineered ingredients and NO artificial colors or flavors. They claim that Thrive Butter Powder can be used to replace regular butter in recipes and there were a few reviewers that had used it that way.

Many said, as they did for all of the brands, that the ratio of butter powder to water needed to have less water to make the butter into a thicker consistency. Thrive is the most expensive brand in this lineup.

Chocolate Chip cookies made with butter powder as seen on the Thrive ad.

Honeyville: One can, 2.25 lbs. ( 36 oz.) ~ 4.1 out of 5 stars

Their web page says, “Easy-to-use butter powder that can be used to replace natural butter in any recipe as an ingredient. No refrigeration required makes this versatile for any trip, jar meal or preparedness situation”.

One reviewer found a solution to the concern that most reviewers of all these brands had. How to make powdered butter more solid or at least into a better-whipped butter consistency.

butter in flour

She followed the recipe on the #10 can to reconstitute the butter powder, (1 cup butter powder and ¼ cup warm water) then since coconut oil solidifies at about 70° F, she used 2 tablespoons of melted coconut oil and a dash of sea salt, mixed it well and chilled it in the refrigerator (yes, I do know that this might not be possible in a grid down situation). She said the result was a delicious tasting whipped butter that was better and anything available in the grocery market.

Personally, I had written powdered butter off as a poor choice for our family years ago after giving it a brief try, but now after reading of her experience, I think I’ll give it another chance. I imagine this method could be used with other brands. Make sure to check reconstitution ratios for the brand you decide to use as they may be different than Honeyville’s proportions.

Augason Farms: One can 2.25 lbs ( 36 oz.) 20% discount on first order. 4.1 out of 5 stars.

Auguson Farms reviews were similar to the reviews for the other brands of butter powder. One gentleman said, ”dehydrated food can be pretty dull. Thank goodness that Augason Farms knew that and made dehydrated butter to make bland emergency food taste great”.

That, in a nutshell, seems to be why most people purchase butter powder; first as a flavor enhancer in emergency conditions and then to experiment to find what works for them in baking and sauces.

This can be ordered through Walmart.com and is usually cheaper than if ordered straight from Auguson Farms. It will be shipped to one of the nearest Walmart stores near you for pick up. This is true for many, if not all of Augason Farms emergency food storage products.

If you are considering a purchase of this product through Amazon.com, please look closely at the price. I saw the exact same 2.25 lb. can ( 1 can) of Augason Farms butter powder for $56.95 plus shipping and another of the same product for about $25.00 both at Amazon. The prices on Amazon were all over the place. Walmart.com had one good price.

home canned butter
Home Canned Butter

Every agricultural extension service nixes the idea of home canned butter. “It cannot be done safely at home”, they shout and I follow their recommendations at every canning, home storage class I teach, so I won’t advise or suggest that you should can butter.

However, after much research, I will share with you that this is something I have been doing for about ten years for our personal consumption. Although many butter canning folks can butter merely by boiling the butter and pouring it into sterilized canning jars, I take the precaution of actually using the pressure canning method for my piece of mind.

My reasoning is that canned butter can be purchased commercially (Red Feather from New Zealand) so if I follow strict procedure I can do it, too.

If this isn’t something you want to try then Red Feather brand may be an option, although it is a bit pricey at about $7.37 for one 12 oz. can or $88.50 for 12 cans! CampingSurvival.com sells this product for $7.15 per can with a reduced price ( $6.49) if buying a dozen cans and an even deeper reduction to $6.29 per can for a case of 24 cans.

Ghee is another butter product that can be stored.

Home Canned Butter
Home Canned Butter

Red Feather Canned Butter: Ingredients: Pasteurized Cream and Salt – that’s it. No preservatives, food colorings or chemicals, just naturally made wholesome butter. The date on the cans is the manufacture date, butter is good for 2 to 4 years depending on storage conditions, and if kept in a dry cold place it can last even longer.

Wijsman Canned Butter: This brand of canned butter from the Netherland has been around since 1846. They export to tropical areas where butter doesn’t keep well. This company and one of their subsidiaries, Castle Brand, ship in bulk, so if you are a member of a co-op this might be a group order option. It comes in two sizes of tins.

They have different types of butter available in their assortment: unsalted lactic butter, salted lactic butter, unsalted sweet cream butter and salted sweet cream butter. Bulk shipping cost from the Netherland might make this a non-viable option unless your co-op is large.

4. Lard

Why does it get such a bad rap? Industrially-produced lard, including much of the lard sold in supermarkets, is rendered from a mixture of high and low-quality fat sourced from throughout the pig.

Commercial lard is often hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated to improve its shelf stability at room temperature. When lard or any fat is partially hydrogenated it becomes a trans-fat, meaning, in short, it is now bad for you and plays havoc on the fats in your blood. It can clog arteries.

However, if you make your own lard by rendering pig fat it is only a saturated fat because it will not go through the process of forcing hydrogen into the fat by using nickel as the catalyst to change the chemical structure from a liquid to a solid.

lard render white

Fats help carry, absorb, utilize and store the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) in your bloodstream. Fats also help regulate your body temperature and regulate a wide range of the body’s functions. The type and quality of the fats we consume make a huge difference in health. Of course, even good fats should be used in moderation.

Our brain is about 60% fat. I am sad when I see mothers giving their babies low-fat foods. This is the time when good fats are so important for their developing brain.

In fact, there are quite a good number of large-scale studies that show animal fats like lard have a positive impact on health and that individuals who consume them have a lower risk of heart disease compared to those who do not consume them. This probably goes against all you have heard. Perhaps I will tackle this subject in a later post. Just remember, “moderation” is a wise choice.

So you can see the importance of good fats in a survival diet! Health and caloric intake!

So, to me, lard, as long as you render it yourself or buy it from a butcher shop or market where partial hydrogenation is not used, is a good fat to use and store. The caution would be to “not make a pig of yourself” when it comes to lard or fat consumption in general.

Lard makes wonderful, flaky pie crusts, biscuits, and other baked goods. The Amish communities used lard for their for sale baked goods but because the public complained that they didn’t want to buy products containing lard many of the Amish now use a Crisco-like partially hydrogenated substance that actually is artery clogging.

lard render canned

RENDERING is the process of slowly heating chunks of animal fat until it melts. In the end, there will be small crispy pieces of fat left in the pan — in the south we call those bits “cracklings”. They need to be strained out before canning.

They can be used to flavor biscuits, cornbread, and red-eye or cream gravy. Rendering any fat is actually an easy, though smelly process and is best done outside if possible. If you raise a pig or two and have never rendered fat you might want to give it a try.

A local butcher will probably sell fat to you as well. If you know of someone who is butchering, ask if they are going to use the fat and if not they will probably give it to you. Canned lard is a good bartering item to have on hand.

Check out this Backdoor Survival article on how to go about rendering lard. Canned lard will keep for at least one year if canned correctly and stored in a cool place out of sunlight. If you want to try it out before canning some for your family you can find lard in plastic containers in the cooler section of some grocery markets. So try it first and see what works for you before investing your time and effort in preserving it yourself.

render lard white can

Can pork (lard) or beef fat (tallow) it be preserved?

My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother all canned lard. None had clogged arteries and my 97-year-old mama takes no medication and has no heart disease, just sayin’. Sometimes the old ways need to be studied and understood, both the bad and the good, so we can glean from the wisdom that helped them survive during hard times when people needed to be more self-sufficient.

Final Thoughts

There are many other fats that might be stored but I have already stretched the time we have together today! I would be interested to know what fats you store and the methods you use so we can all learn more together, so please add your comments, both successes, and failures, to the conversation.

Blessings, Donna


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One of the most often overlooked items in food storage for preppers is good fats, yet fats are one of the items we most-likely use every day and would be helpful for cooking and calories in a survival situation. Here are our top recommendations for the best fats to store for emergencies!

  1. I have been storing both Kirkland Olive Oil, “Refined Olive Oil & 15% Extra Vrgin Olive Oil”, 2 – three liter bottles together. I have usually found it to have the longest eat-by-date of the olive oils at Cosco. Also, I have been storing Tropical Plantation – Organic Refined Coconut Oil – one gal plastic bucket.
    I keep both of them in the basement, cool and dark. I have bottles for the O oil that I fill up as needed in the kitchen and a plastic tub with a lid that I keep Coconut oil in the kitchen.
    Maybe I need some help identifying rancid? I am not very good at being studious at rotating stock but I don’t think I have ever had a rancid product? Any advise on how to determine the eat-ability of a product after a SHTF event? When we might not be a taste conscious or picky as we are today?

    1. Jim,
      That’s a hard question because we rely on our taste and smell when it comes to rancidity. One suggestion would be to ask a friend or family member to taste it for you. It should taste pleasant. Olive oils are made from various types of olives so depending on the olive type, the soil where the tree is planted and even the region of the world, you could have oil that tastes either sweet and fruity, peppery, woody etc. Rancid oils can sometimes have the aroma of motor oil and/or have a very greasy feel in your mouth, some can become very bitter. Other than using your senses you must rely on the date on the bottle. One way to extend the life of an opened bottle of oil is to pour up a small jar of the oil (say 1/2 c. to 1 c. depending on frequency of use) then put it into the fridge and pour the rest into other small jars and put them in the freezer. As you use the one in the fridge just pull out one from the freezer and rotate to the fridge. It will be a soft-solid consistency in the fridge and easy to dip. I know this is not the long-term storage answer that you might be looking for but if you are diligent in rotating you won’t have a problem. You seem to be doing the right things as far as temperature goes, but even at the best temps olive oil has an expiration and cannot be kept very long-term. Here’s another recommendation for you. Storing large bottles will most likely cause rancidity if they take a long time to use. Rancid oil is actually dangerous to your health and can become carcinogenic. Without the use of your senses you will have to rely on others or try to improve your rotating skills and follow the recommendations in the article. I appreciate your comments because I imagine there are other readers that have the same challenge. We just don’t want to find ourselves with bad oils when we most need them. I hope this has helped. Thanks for your comments Jim.

  2. What an interesting an informative article! Who knew there were so many wonderful fat options? I learned so much. I especially appreciated details on what to look for when purchasing olive oil.

  3. Wow! I learned so much! Like Carrie above, I loved the details about olive oils and how to make good purchasing choices. Love your perspective of mother, grandmother, and great grandmother who have lived what you are teaching. Thanks much!

    1. What we learn from generations before us often point us in meaningful directions. I’m so glad you took the time to read & comment Peggy. Happy you enjoyed the read.

  4. Thanks for reading the article and taking the time to comment Carrie. I appreciate the kinds words. We all learn from each other!

  5. Hi Donna,
    Thanks for an informative article. Cold you share your processing procedure? How long do you pressure process and at what pressure?
    Thanks, Diane

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