Day 11 – National Preparedness Month Challenge – Long Term Food Storage, Part 1-What and Why
As mentioned in a previous post , I have been interested in all aspects of emergency preparedness since about 1998. This area – Long Term Food Storage– has been the most helpful, even comforting, for my family. When my husband was completing college, and again when we started our first business, we used this “stash” as an economic buffer. I think it might even be fair to say that without my Long Term Food Storage we might not have made it – at least not without help! It kept us from being hungry and discouraged, and don’t things always seem harder when you’re hungry and discouraged?
There are several ways to store food for your family. The refrigerator or freezer are good for short term food storage and according to this handy storage time chart the guidelines of 1 to 12 months for freezer storage are for quality only. Frozen foods remain safe indefinitely. The USDA provides Fact Sheets for just about any thing you might want to store in the freezer, even eggs.
We use our big chest freezer for storing meat, cheese and as overflow for the small one in the kitchen. Using the freezer is an important part of our storage plan as is home canning. Check back on Day 18 for – Home Canning and Day 15 for 3-Month Pantry Supply ideas
We also have allotted money in our budget and space in our house for long term food storage items – those basic necessities that will store for 10 years or more. Some can last for 30 years or more when properly packaged and stored in a cool, dry place.
Since it would be cost prohibitive to purchase a year supply of food all at once, it is best to gradually build a supply of long term food storage. Important items to store are: grains, white rice, beans and sugars. Salts, fats, dairy and leavening agents.
According to Provident Living.org
The estimated shelf life for many products has increased to 30 years or more (see chart below for new estimates of shelf life).
|FOOD||NEW “LIFE-SUSTAINING” SHELF-LIFE ESTIMATES (IN YEARS)|
|Non-fat powdered milk||20|
Notice that this chart says “life-sustaining” shelf life. As long as you spent the money on this food you better use it! We use powdered milk for cooking in our house so we are sure to rotate it into our daily meals. Make sure that every item you bring into your long term food storage is marked with the purchase or canning date so you can practice first-in-first-out inventory rotation.
The Bare Bone Basics of Long Term Food Storage
When storing food long term it is best to pay attention to some guiding principles. The first three key principles for successful long-term food storage are variety, balance, and moderation. Variety means that in times of need it is best to have on hand the seven macronutrients, without which the human body cannot stay in top peak and health for long.
These macronutrients you should be focusing on are carbs (the good ones), fats (there are diets that focus heavily on fats, which can keep hunger at bay even more effectively than carbohydrates), minerals, vitamins, proteins (you can’t go without these as the body needs them to restore damaged muscle fibers and keep muscles in top shape too – the heart is an organ made of muscle also), fiber, and water.
Many beginner preppers tend to overlook the importance of storing enough water to meet their and their families’ needs when things go downhill. Without food, people can live up to 40 days (some were able to survive even longer than that), but without water, in 3 to 4 days you’ll have to deal with organ failure and death.
Variety also helps you not going crazy when food is scarce, such as a diet comprised only of oatmeal and apple for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You don’t want meal fatigue to kick in.
Balance is another key principle of long-term food storage. As there’s no food that you can munch on indefinitely and get all the nutrients your body needs from it, you’ll need to store enough food and from different types of food groups to hit a balance when creating a meal plan. A good starting point to achieve balance is the food pyramid.
However, recent research suggests that the government’s food pyramid is far from accurate and might lead to ugly long-term health consequences if followed to a tee.
For instance, recent studies suggest that fats are not as bad as government researchers used to think and that low-fat foods may do more harm than good despite the good intentions that led to their creation. And the same goes for eggs, which have been demonized for years.
On the other hand, heavily relying on grains to get one’s daily intake of carbs is also wrong, as starch can up significantly the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and even breast cancers. It is also believed that it might dumb down us.
When I was a kid, there was a saying going around that “Too much bread makes you dumber.” The hypothesis seems to have been confirmed by many health advocates in recent years, including celebrity neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter in his NY best-selling book “The Grain Brain” (I highly recommend reading it to those of you who would like to take a deeper dive into the issue).
So, the jury is still out on what makes for a balanced diet so everyone should do their research before creating that emergency food stash.
Moderation. When food is scarce, you should approach your stored food with a moderation mindset. It is highly counterproductive to start binge eating or wasting food just like in the good ol’ days. However, food disorders like emotional eating can be avoided when focusing on foods that are good for your body not just your taste buds.
When stockpiling food, just steer clear of junk food and foods with additives that lack nutrients but are jam-packed with empty calories. The last thing you’ll need in an emergency situation is a stash of unhealthy food that you’ll burn through like there’s no tomorrow and that will leave you wanting for more.
The goal is long-term survival here not instant gratification so look to instill this mindset in your loved ones before SHTF to avoid lots of preventable trouble.
Best Containers for Long-Term Food Storage
#10 cans are great for storing dry food that is low in moisture and oil content. They can keep the food cool, bug- and rodent-free, and away from sunlight. A #10 can can fit 4 lbs of white flour, 5.5 lbs of wheat, 5 lbs of beans and so on.
Honey is one of the things you should not store in anything metallic as it changes color and taste and turns inedible after several years. For the rest, just keep the cans away from humidity as you don’t want rust to spoil your precious food.
These are the most expensive option but in some cases, they’re worth every penny. If paired with good oxygen absorbers and put in food grade buckets, they can store non-perishables for decades. Mylar bags are great for storing beans, rice, and flour.
The drawback of mylar bags is that they are not as rodent-proof and air-tight long term as #10 cans. That’s why you’ll need the oxygen absorbers and a bucket.
Food-Grade Plastic Buckets
These are great for storing dry, non-perishable foods long term as it can help keep critters at bay.
They are also great for packing with food in their original or not so original packaging (see how I store flour here).
These are great for storing canned food, but dry food and oxygen absorbers can last some time in a glass mason jar. However, jars are not as cost-effective as buckets and #10 cans, unless for some reason you’re drowning in them.
The pros of glass jars are that they are clear and you can see what’s in them, they are reusable, and they don’t let rodents and humidity in as easily. However, do keep them away from sunlight and make sure that they won’t shatter if stored improperly. Earthquakes may spell the demise of glass jars too.
The humble plastic bottle can be the most reliable container for long-term food storage. PET bottles are cheap (or basically free), watertight, clear, lightweight, and reusable. They can withstand up to 200 lbs of pressure, which means that they’re much better policy insurance in case of an earthquake or crazy storm than glass jars and plastic buckets.
To make sure that the food is safe for the long haul in plastic bottles, though, make sure that you disinfect them first. Use a solution of 1 tablespoon bleach (without added fragrances) and 1 quart of water (boiled or distilled if the tap water in your area is iffy).
Wash the bottles with the solution (bleach should kill off all the nasties) and rinse thoroughly. Let the bottles air dry completely before loading them with food.
Also, if you plan on storing food that is prone to bugs, like flour, beans, or rice, in plastic bottles, pre-treat the food first by freezing it for up to 2 weeks to get rid of any bugs and larvae. For extra caution add an oxygen absorber into each bottle and you’re all set for the super long haul.
Today’s Challenge – Learn the principles of Long Term Food Storage
GOOD: Review the pamphlet Food Storage in the Home from Utah State University and learn about how to package and optimally store your food.
BETTER: Learn about packaging for long term food storage. Acquire food storage containers, such as food-grade plastic pails with gamma seal lids. These are excellent for whole grains, nonperishable foods and emergency supplies such as matches, candles and lanterns. As you purchase survival foods and bulk items, store them properly to avoid waste.
BEST: Review your long term food storage area. Is it in one place or spread through out the house? Are the moisture and temperature conditions optimal for storage?
Tomorrow’s challenge: Long Term Food Storage – Part 2, Inventory it – Plan it – Execute it
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Frequently Asked Questions
What food is best for long term storage?
There are numerous foods that go well in long term storage plans. Out of the most common ones, we would like to remind you of the following:
- Dried beans, lentils, or peas
- Protein bars, granola bars, or fruit bars
- Canned soups, fruit, and vegetables
- Peanut butter and jelly
- Coffee, tea, and hot chocolate
- Powdered drink mixes
- Nuts and dried fruits
- Beef jerky
- Instant soup mixes
- Baking essentials (such as baking soda, salt, and yeast)
- Pickled vegetables
- Dried milk
- Trail mix
- Comfort food
How do you store fat long term?
Fats and oils come in so many varieties — some of which are very healthy but are not very shelf-stable, and others that are healthy but not as well known. Nut oils such as peanut, almond, walnut, and macadamia oils give a rich flavor to salad dressings but are not especially good for cooking and are too fragile to store long term.
Seed oils such as flax, sesame, sunflower, and avocado have an even shorter shelf life and must be refrigerated. Some very tasty and healthy fats for cooking and similar to tallow and lard, are duck and goose fat. Tallow and lard can be rendered at home but since most of us don’t usually eat duck or goose, these fats can be purchased
What food never expires?
There are ten common foods that never (or almost never) expire, and we recommend them the most if this is your main concern:
- White rice
- Soy sauce
- Dried beans
- Pure maple syrup
- Powdered milk
- Hard liquor
Whichever foods you plan on storing will go well with some of these ten items that don’t expire. You can search recipes here on our website regarding what ingredients go well and what meals you can prepare using them.