Nothing brings a man down like fear of hunger and it’s something we all think about, regardless how full our pantry is. We can’t really help it and it’s a genetic memory that was seeded in us throughout human history. Since food was often scarce and starvation was always a problem, food storage was one of the first skills humans learned. Food storage allows us to survive for longer periods of time and give us a comfort feeling that enables us to concentrate on developing other skills.
Every major civilization was built on a surplus of food and food storage allowed people to come together and create kingdoms. Food was a reason of war and only those who managed to store food for the winter were able to see another spring.
Even in our modern times, food storage can make the difference between life and death. Being able to create your own long-term food supply is an essential skill for preppers, survivalists and off-gridders. If you have peace of mind knowing that your pantry is full, you can face anything life throws at you, even an apocalyptic disaster.
Food storage shouldn’t be complicated and you can do it on any kind of budget. All you need is the right knowledge and the will to do it.
How to start with food storage
Just like with everything in life you should start small and grow over time. It doesn’t matter if you buy a few bags of rice or some extra cans of vegetables and fruits. You should start doing it today and avoid being part of the 45% of Americans that don’t have a food and water stockpile that lasts for more than 3 days. Decide on the best space to store your food and start filling it up. Start with a large cardboard box and in time, expand that into an organized pantry. Start your food storage by adding a few extra cans into you shopping cart as part as your shopping routine and you won’t even notice the difference on your grocery bill. Almost all supermarkets have modern foods that store really well and you can find a large variety of foods at good prices. Keep some permanent markers at hand and develop the habit of writing the day you bought every item. You can write the date on the top of the can or on the side of the bag or box. This will help you with the cycling of the foods.
Food storage doesn’t work without cycling through your goods
You don’t buy the food and stash it to forget about it, you buy it to use it under various circumstances (disaster, temporary shortage, unemployment, etc.). Not to mention that food storage is also about saving money and once your pantry is full, this process will cost you nothing. In order to cycle through your food you need to eat from the oldest of your stored goods and replace what you used. In order to keep your stocks fresh and complete just follow the rule: “First in, first out”. You have to keep track of your dried food and cycle through them annually. To manage your food stores you can go digital and use downloadable time sheets or if you want something that will still be available when your computer is fried, you can use a calendar and a notebook. Tip: Print out calendar sheets for as many years in advance as you need and you will be set for when there will be no electricity.
Food Storage – Dry Storage
Grains and beans are the first stored foods on every list and you need to buy your food already dry and prepared for storage. When it comes to storing dried foods, keeping your goods dry is a challenge for some. It becomes a problem especially if you don’t have a storage space inside your home. Most people think that a garage is a perfect location for food storage, but dampness, insects and rodents are threats that can ruin your food in minutes. Keeping your pantry safe requires some work and the following article will teach you more about food storage and safety measures.
Recommended reading: Essential tips to keep your pantry safe
You can also store bulk grains, beans or legumes, but you will need to invest in clean, metal food grade cans with lids and some dessicants and oxygen absorbers to remove moisture. Double bag your food stores and secure the lids to the cans. You can also use plastic containers to store smaller amounts of foods (up to 10 pounds). Almost anything can be dried and you can store vegetables, fruits and meats if you follow the basic rules. Molds and yeast are less likely to occur in dry foods and spoilage will not become a problem for your food storage. You can make dried foods in the comfort of your home, all you need is a food dehydrator and ideas on how to use it.
Recommended article: How to dehydrate foods (including a few recipes)
Food storage – Canning and Blanching
These are two food storage methods of the old ways and you probably remember how your grandparents used them. These two methods can be used to improve your food storage and it will also provide the food diversity that will be appreciated during long-term survival. Canning involves sealing cooked food while hot to kill all bacteria that might spoil your food. Canned foods are stored at room temperature away from sunlight. There are many books on canning and I won’t go into details about it. Just keep in mind that with a little bit of practice, meats, fruits and vegetables can be canned and stored for several years. Jams, jellies and pickles are a family hobby for some and a tradition developed over many years. Once you consume the foods you can reuse the canning jars for a new batch, nothing goes to waste.
Blanching is a technique that works best in combination with freezing. It involves submerging the food in boiling water (to begin the cooking process) and then remove it from the hot water and submerge it in cold water to stop the changes. Bagging and freezing is done immediately to preserve the fresh nature and aroma of the food. Blanching is usually done for vegetables and it makes cooking easier.
Food Storage – Smoking
Smoking food is a method used for cooking and flavoring, but it’s also used for long-term food storage if the food is properly packed. This method is commonly used for meat and fish, but there are some that also use it for vegetables. The method works because the intense heat from burning materials (like wood) kills bacteria and other food microorganism. The process is rather simple and it involves hanging the meat above a fire that is fueled by hardwood. The temperature is kept between 43°F to 159° F (43°C to 71°C) degrees and the smoking duration depends on the type and amount of meat that you are using. For long-term storage you can use a vacuum sealing system to preserve the smoked goods.
Food storage using preservatives – Pickling, Brining and Salting
Natural and artificial preservatives have been used for food conservation for hundreds of years. While many prefer to use artificial preservatives like powdered or liquid chemicals, I think that we should focus on natural preservatives like vinegar, salt and spices. When the modern world will be no more and the industry will be just a distant memory you will still be able to rely on natural preservatives to conserve your food.
Food storage – Pickling
This method was used in ancient times for food preservation and it’s still used today by many homesteaders. The method involves using the combination of salt and vinegar to preserve fruits, vegetables and meat.
Food storage – Brining
This preservation method is similar to marinating and it is usually used for meat and poultry. For the method to work, you will need to soak the food in brine for six to twelve hours to prevent the growth of food microbes. The soaking duration can vary depending on the size of the meat. The brine is a solution made of salt, sugar and cold water.
Food storage – Salting
This food preservation technique works because the salt sucks all the moisture of the meat, which consequently prevents the growth of bacteria and other microbes. It is a method used especially in the cold regions. Make sure you do not keep the meat in open air after salting it and cover it with a lid or plastic. As you can imagine, foods preserved using this method will taste quite salty and it’s not for everyone.
Food Storage – Using oil and Honey
These are ancient preservation techniques that are not quite common. Nonetheless, these techniques are very effective and every serious prepper should know about them. Covering meat, fruits and vegetables with honey or oil prevents the growth of bacteria. Honey has sugar and osmotic value that can secrete moisture from the food. In a similar way, oil kills pathogens and blocks the flow of oxygen. Even if the microbes are present, they would die due to lack of oxygen.
Related reading: Honey, the ultimate survival food and medicine
Food Storage – MREs (meals ready to eat)
This is a food storage option that many prefer because it saves them from all the trouble and work that the other methods involve. If you have money to spend and you want to stock up on pre-made meals, this is the solution for you. These prepared survival rations are stackable, they will last for a long time and you have everything you might need. The downside of this food storage method is that MREs are not very appetizing and they cost a lot. If you want to stock up on emergency meal, look for online outlets and take advantage of the sale periods (the coming Black Friday is proper time to stock up).
Food storage for the long term
When you get to a year’s worth of stored food you will notice that your food storage project takes up quite some space. The space needed for food storage will increase and it’s affected by the following factors: number of family members, planed food storage period (1 year, 2 years and so on) and budget. At some point in time, you will need to have a dedicated storage space for this project and it is best if you are able to plan it in advance. You will need to keep pay attention to the following guidelines when planning your food storage space:
- The food storage space needs to be dry so that you don’t have to worry about mold and rot
- The food storage area needs to have a constant temperature, especially if you have a lot of home-canned foods
- The food storage space should be kept safe from rodents and other pests. There are many natural methods to keep pests at bay so make sure you look into this before using chemicals in your pantry.
- The food storage space needs to be easily accessible and conveniently located. You must be able to get to it in time and it must be secured from looters.
There are many options when it comes to building a food storage space and you must consider the one appropriate for your environment and of course, for your budget.
Having a food stash in these uncertain times makes good sense, especially if you think about the fact that more than half of the Americans don’t have enough food to last a weak. It doesn’t matter if you live on a remote homestead or an apartment in the big city, you should always have food stashed away. It will be your best insurance policy against going hungry when a disaster strikes and it will give you the strength to push forward. You should never be put in a position to fight for food and planning your food storage should start today!
Stay Safe and God Bless!
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