You’re going to be dealing with two basic kinds of foods – perishable and non-perishable. Perishable foods are things that go bad such as milk, meat, fresh veggies, or anything you would normally store in a refrigerator. Non-perishable foods are dry goods, better known as the things you can store in your pantry and forget about for a long time. Your perishable foods are usually also the most nutritious.
That’s why you’ll want to preserve them as best you can. If you have to rely on whatever you can grow or gather seasonally, you’re going to have a long, unhealthy winter. Most modern preserved foods are actually good for quite awhile past their expiration date. That’s why it’s legal to sell bread and sweets at Hostess Outlets and other brands of “day old bread” stores. These will last for weeks, but not forever. If you’re planning for the long haul, you can safely stock up on flour, sugar, yeast, pancake and biscuit mix, dried beans, and all canned goods. These foods should stay edible for years.
Plastic is a wonderful thing for everyday use, but when it comes to long term food storage, it’s not your friend. You want metal, glass or crockery. First, plastic is porous. You may not be worried about flavors leaching in over time, if you store anything moist in plastic, those pores also give bacteria a place to flourish and live. Worse yet, plastic becomes brittle over time – especially the more you use it. If you must use plastic, only use it for dry goods.
That said, your best bet for storing dry goods is metal or crockery. Your grandmother probably had three big metal jars on her kitchen counter – a huge one for flour, a medium one for sugar, and a small one for either tea or coffee. Similar containers are your best option for long term storage.
Wet storage items need to go into glass for the sake of easy sterilization. Luckily, you’re going to want to stock up on glassware anyway for the sake of canning. This is the best way to ensure you’ll have vegetables and fruits over the winter. It’s also a good way to store fully cooked soups in case you have to eat on the run with no time to heat your food.