Storing food has many benefits beyond preparing for TEOTWAWKI. These benefits range from financial savings to having a balanced diet throughout the year. You can take advantage of the sales that occur seasonally. See a previous post on Food Sales that tells you the best time of the year to purchase foods and other preps.
Storing food is a traditional skill that has been used for thousands of years in time of plenty to prepare for times of famine or when food is in short supply. Wheat found stored in vessels in the tombs of Egypt was still edible after 4,000 years. Our ancestors preserved and stored food so that they could survive from harvest to harvest. Every society in history and many animals have practiced the art of long term food storage. Maintaining a long term food storage provides safety and security in time of need as well as saving money.
Seven Factors that Affect Long Term Food Storage:
Temperature: The temperature at which food is stored is the most critical factor affecting shelf life. The United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, states that for every 10.8 degrees in temperature rise you decrease the shelf life of stored food by half. The best range for food storage is a constant temperature between 40-60 degrees. Avoid freezing temperatures.
Moisture: Make sure your grains and similar foods are completely dry. For long-term storage, foods should have a 10% or less moisture content.
Oxygen: Foods store best when oxygen free. Removing oxygen will prevent oxidation of compounds in foods. Ways to remove oxygen:
- Displacing oxygen – Purge air from product with an inert gas (nitrogen). Dry ice is often used giving off carbon dioxide gas, which displaces oxygen.
- Oxygen absorber – Air contains about 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen, leaving about 1% for the other gasses. If the oxygen is absorbed, what remains is 99% pure nitrogen in a partial vacuum.
Light: This form of energy can degrade the value of foods. Long term food storage should be kept in dark areas.
Container: Store foods in food-grade plastic, metal or glass containers indicating that the container does not contain chemicals that could be transferred to food and be harmful to your health. For best storage life, use containers with a hermetic (airtight) seal. Containers with airtight seals are:
- Metal cans like the #10 cans
- Glass jars (but are subject to breakage in earthquakes)
- Mylar bags, best if stored in plastic buckets.
- Plastic buckets have been used without Mylar bags in the past, but they breathe. See the following two posts for more information on storing grains in plastic buckets. Storing Grains for Long Term, Sealing Food in Five Gallon Buckets is an Important Skill for Preppers
The types of containers listed above, used with oxygen absorber packets, eliminate food-borne insects and help preserve nutritional quality and taste in long term food storage of dried foods.
Infestation: Your long term food storage must be protected from insects. If you have a known insect infestation you can treat it by putting the infested items in a deep freeze (0 degrees) for three to four days which will kill any live insects, larvae and eggs. If you do not have access to a freezer, you can spread your food out in bright sunlight and weevils will leave on their own. See the post Weevils in Your Food, How to Deal With It. for more information.
Best use dates: These are not an expiration date. This is the date at which the manufacturer says that the food will begin to lose taste and nutrition. Here is a post with further information Best Used By Dates On Canned Foods are Often Misunderstood.
I hope this helps you to preserve your long term food storage.