Long Term Food Storage: The Basics
Have you wondered how you can effectively store food, and what foods are the best to store? it is always a good idea to have an extra stash of food around, in case of any prolonged period of time when there is no power, or some type of natural disaster that limits your options as far as food supplies are concerned. Luckily, with the advent of mega-supermarkets, families across north America have take to buying in bulk and already have the resources available for long term food storage. Most foods can be stored effectively for months, even years, depending on the type of food, how it is stored and how it is preserved.
What types of food can I store?
Most foods can be kept for long periods of time as long as it is preserved properly. The usual foods that are kept in an “emergency supply” are: water; cereals or grains, cooking oil, dried milk, spices, chocolate (or other “non-perishable” comfort foods)dried beans (including lentils), canned fish, canned meats, canned and jarred fruits and vegetables (or frozen/freeze-dried/dehydrated fruits and vegetables.) As long as most foods are preserved properly, they can be kept for emergencies.
Where should I store it?
The general rule is to keep these foods stored somewhere that is cool and dark. Warm temperatures and sunlight will ruin your food supply. Some people choose to have an area in their basement where they keep stored foods; others simply keep their stored foods in their pantries.
Storage rooms in basements are typically cool and dark and work nicely for food storage. There are a couple of things to take not of if this is your preferred storage area. First, make sure that your food is properly sealed to prevent the dampness of your basement from seeping in – nothing ruins stored food quicker than moisture. Second, if your food is out of sight, it will be out of mind – stored food has to be rotated regularly so your family does not end up with spoiled supplies.
Pantries and deep freezes are present in most households and are also a great place to store extra food. Cereals, grains, canned and jarred goods, etc., can be kept in the pantry; meats can be kept for up to six months in a deepfreeze.
How should I store it?
There are several methods of preparing food for storage and different ways to preserve it.
Freezing: Fruits, vegetables, and meats can be stored with this method. Simply be sure to protect food in good quality freezer bags or containers to prevent freezer burn as this will ruin the quality and taste of the food. Frozen food can be kept for about 6 months. Warning: Just remember that frozen food will spoil in the case of a power outage and is not the most recommended method for emergency food supplies and cannot be used for canned, jarred or dry goods.
Dehydration: Dehydrating foods is relatively quick and simple. It is the oldest method of preserving food but is not the best method for preserving taste or quality. You can use your oven to dry foods out and store them moisture-proof containers.The easiest foods to dry at home are lean meat, and (blanched and cooled) fruits and vegetables.
Jarring / Canning: This method of preserving food is a very popular one due to its ability to keep the taste of foods intact. Water, meats, fish, oils, vegetables and fruit can all be jarred and canned. If you are a DIY kind of person, jarring and canning can be easily learned. If not, mega-supermarkets allow us to buy the majority of canned goods in bulk.
Other: Grains, cereals and beans can be bought and immediately stored in airtight, moisture-proof containers (1/2 Gallon minimum is a great size to use) as long as your food is vacuum-packed.
*After any of these processes are completed, make sure to label your items with the names of the items and the dates packaged.
How do I use my food supply?
Rotation of your emergency food supply is extremely important and practical. You do not want all of that food to go to waste, which is why it is important to buy and store in bulk and then rotate your stored food in with your weekly fresh assortment of meats, spices, fruits and veggies, dairy, etc. If the food is not used on a regular basis, it will spoil and be useless to your family, and a huge waste of time and money.
Grains, cereals, flour, sugar, spices, etc: 6-12 months
Dried beans: 2-4 years
Frozen foods: 6-12 months
Canned and jarred foods: These can last years but it is recommended to rotate them every 6-12 months if possible.
Dehydrated food: 2-3 years
Pasta: 1-2 years
It is recommended that you rotate everything on a constant schedule and keep bringing in new foods on a regular basis.