If the food from your pantry is not stored or packaged properly, you will end up with wasted food. Besides being a waste of time and money, your family could go hungry. Since we live in uncertain times, a good survival pantry is a must, not only for preppers, but for every American. You should attend to your food storage as if the lives of your loved ones depends on it. You need to know how to keep your pantry in good conditions. The food needs to last so that you can make good use of it when needed.
In case of a disaster food and water are essential for survival and preppers know it well. It’s alarming that 55% of Americans have less than a 3 day supply of food in their homes. If you think about what this will lead to WSHTF, you will value your pantry even more. I won’t stress again about the importance of food and water during a disaster, as this is common sense. We all know that these items will help you to survive in the end.
In order to understand how to properly store food, we need to understand what the issues we have to deal with are. In most cases there are a few situations that can ruin the food from the pantry. And all without the person even being aware of. Besides storing your food in good condition you also have to make sure it’s safe and it will be there when you need it.
These are the basic aspects you have to consider, when storing food in your pantry:
Moisture and air
A lot of preppers are storing dried grains in large quantities, because grains are cheap. If stored in proper conditions they will have a self-life of over 30 years. Before you store anything dried you should determine the moisture content of that food item. If you don’t have the information on the general moisture of the grains, you can purchase a grain digital moisture meter. These are commonly used by farmers to know the moisture content in their grains. It is recommended to store grains that do not have a moisture content of more than 10%. Anything that is above 10% will not store properly and it’s risky to can it. The situation is different for beans, as they should have less than 10% moisture to be properly canned.
If your food has a high content of moisture, it will provide a perfect environment for bacteria and mold development, but also for insect infestation. A method for preventing moisture buildup in your grain containers is to add some oxygen absorbers to your cans or buckets. Besides acting like a drying agent they will also stop the oil from foods going rancid and prevent the growth of fungi. Some preppers use dessicants to remove moisture but the oxygen absorbers can be just as effective.
If your food is exposed to oxygen it begins to break down and nutrients degrade rapidly. Fungi and microorganisms need an oxygenated environment to thrive. Leaving behind an environment without oxygen will make it impossible for bacteria and fungi to occur. Spoiled food is a serious health risk and you should discard it. You want to keep a good health during a crisis and avoid food poisoning.
You should always store your canned goods in pantry, that is protected from sunlight. If your foods are exposed to sunlight they will heat up and will deteriorate faster. The heat formed inside the cans allows the air in the headspace to expand. It will break open the seal, allowing microorganisms to contaminate the food. Some containers, depending on their food content, may even explode. Besides contaminating the other items from your pantry, you will also have to do a lot of cleanup. In foods that contain fats or oil, sunlight may accelerate rancidity.
Heat is the enemy of every pantry as it lowers the self-life of your foods. In order to combat this enemy you should always put your food on shelves or pallets, rather than placing the containers directly on the floor. You should also leave space around the canisters and jars so there is good ventilation. Even better, you can have a small fan installed (with proper filters) that provides the needed ventilation. If you lower the heat from your pantry and provide good ventilation you will prevent sweating inside the cans. This will also prevent cans from rusting. The temperature inside your pantry should be anywhere between 40°F and 60°F. If the temperature goes above 60°F the food will experience deterioration in nutrition. The higher the temperature, the faster the food will spoil.
Insects and Rodents
When it comes to insects things become a little tricky because even if your grains are sealed inside containers, you still have to protect it against insect eggs and the insects that were already in your grains. Insect will thrive in an environment that has a 40% to 80% humidity level and temperatures above 70°F (most will not reproduce below this temperature). Many of the insects that are a threat for your pantry will not survive below 50°F. To get rid of insects from your grains you can either use oxygen absorbers or freeze the grains. Freezing the grains will kill the live insects but it will not kill their eggs. It’s imperative to freeze the grains again, 30 days later, to make sure all insect eggs are gone.
Some people prefer to heat the grains in the oven to kill the insects, but this method is harder to master as you might cook the grains. If you bake a ½ inch thick layer of grains in the oven at 150°F for about 15 minutes you will get rid of the insects, but you could also damage the grains. You can also buy grains pre-cleaned but you can never be too sure, you should still check them. You can fan the grains and check for any contaminants. Mice and other rodents are attracted by smell and food particles that may still be on the outside of your containers or on the floor of your pantry. This is why it’s important to clean your pantry and your containers. Wash the containers with soap and spray them with water before storing them in the pantry.
Nutritionists and health expert say that laziness is the real killer when it comes to your health issues, but laziness can also become an enemy for your pantry. When you have a good equipped pantry and you’ve managed to stockpile everything you needed you get a feeling of achievement and feel good about yourself. And you have all the right to feel this way, considering the amount of effort you’ve put into it. However, after some time, this feeling becomes comfortable enough, that you start to forget about things you should be doing. Things like checking the temperature in your pantry, cleaning the pantry, rotating the food, checking and discarding compromised food items, etc.
This is why you need a “buddy system” for your pantry. This is also something I’ve talked about in a previous article. The buddy system is something you can put in place with your family members. If you have kids you can do it together or ask them to do it, once they get the hang of it. It will make them more responsible and it will keep your pantry safe. The buddy system will be a schedule for you and your buddy to make sure you both do the pantry related chores.
It’s a good system because work is divided among family members. It’s a safety measure for checking your pantry (you can also check if the other person did a good job) and it doesn’t become something redundant. The work doesn’t end once you’ve equipped the pantry. You will have to carry on, since you need to be sure your pantry it’s well maintained.
When I’m talking about protection measures, I’m not talking about guarding your pantry 24/7 with a gun in your hand. It’s more about how you secure your pantry. About sleeping well at night, without having to worry about someone raiding it. The basic protection measures you could put in place for your pantry are simple enough: you can design your pantry so that it’s out of sight, build your pantry outside your house if possible and do it in a hidden location, make it inaccessible to outsiders and install a good door and a sturdy locking mechanism. You can protect your pantry, depending on the possibilities offered by your propriety. You should always keep in mind that only you and your loved ones should know about it and its content.
Have a backup plan
Another aspect that is neglected by most of the preppers when it comes to their pantry is not having a plan B. I’m not talking here about having a method of producing your own food or becoming self-sufficient. No, it’s about having a safe measure for your current pantry. We all think about protecting what is ours at any cost, but we might not always be able to do it. Personally, I think it’s not worth dying for a few canned goods. This is why instead of having a pantry, it’s better to have two and put in place the “pantry decoy method”.
The pantry decoy method is all about deceiving the home invaders. It’s about putting just a few of your supplies in plain sight or try to ”hide” them without too much effort, while the rest of your supplies are well hidden. I’ve talked about this in a previous article (How to survive martial law), basically you have to give up a few of your supplies and put up a show so that the raiders are convinced they’ve captured all your supplies. This is a method that can save your life and your supplies.
If you follow these simple rules your pantry will be in good conditions at any given moment. During a disaster, you can benefit from the food you’ve struggled to stockpile.
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