Food storage of any kind is huge. A little extra food can get you through a tough time financially, or even when the power in your town goes out for a short period of time and you have no way to buy groceries. Food is our life blood, we have to have it to survive and without it we will end in certain death. A lot of you might be thinking, "WOW, thats pretty heavy", but it is the truth. Let's get even deeper into what happens in the event the End Of The World As We Know It, otherwise known as EOTWAWKI, comes along. How are you going to survive for long periods of time without trips to the grocery store. Your typical grocery store only has enough food to last a couple of days at best and even when order is restored, its going to take a week or so to get the shelves stocked back up. A stockpile of food can ease your mind in a situation such as this. Throughout the rest of this blog we will be going over the best options for food storage and how to store them.
Lets start with a note to caution. Lets say you get into a survival situation and need your food to survive. You do not want to disrupt your normal diet to an extreme, so its important to store what you would eat on a regular basis and continually rotate it out with foods you keep in your kitchen. Food storage is best used and replaced. When you do your weekly or biweekly grocery shopping get whats on your list and few extra things. You don't have to break the bank to store food. If you use a can of this or a can of that from your food store, replace it with two cans just to continue building upon your food store.
So you may be asking, well what types of food should I be storing. Its simple, store what you would normally eat only do it in a different way. Lets go over the different types of food storage that work best.
Freeze dried foods are the best food storage option to keep nutritious foods around the longest. It is also the most expense, unless you have an in with a really good freeze dried foods supplier like, oh I don't know, Precision Firearms.
MRE's or Meals Ready to Eat. These are also great food storage items because they are light and can be packed easily. They are relatively inexpensive if picked up in bulk from military surplus dealers, but will not store as long as freeze dried foods. Reference the chart for approximate shelf life of MRE's.
Bulk dried goods is one of the cheapest and quickest options to building up your food supply. The only downside to this is weight, be careful storing to much of your food this way. If for some reason you have to pack up and leave your current location, how are you going to pack all that food out of there. The plus side to this method is that when packaged right, you can store dried goods up to 25 years.
Canned and packaged goods are the next best thing to bulk dried goods. It is about the same price to build your food storage this way as bulk dried goods and just about as fast. Again be cautious here because you never know when you might have to pack up and leave. The shelf life of a can is marked very sparingly. Usually manufacturers only give you a couple of years. If stored correctly they can last much longer than this. Be careful here as well depending upon the temperatures at which you store your canned goods they could simply lose their nutritional value before actually spoiling and going bad. This would be like having a full stomach but starving to death because there are no nutrients in the food for your body to use. What we mean here by packaged foods is along the lines of ramen or the little Knorr noodle and rice packets, and of course, our favorite, the Bear Creek powdered soup mixes. These things are good and we use them regularly when camping. In fact on Frequent hunting trips, Chris Walden used to put a big pot of this on the fire and add seasoned and grilled venison steak. You want to talk about good. Lets stay focused here! These packaged foods have very long shelf lives depending on the brand you buy and of course the temperatures at which you store them. If you remove them from their original packaging and put them in your own vacuum bags they will last much longer and even more so in the freezer.
Next we are going to talk about how to store each and every one of these types of food. We will start with Freeze Dried foods. Freeze dried foods require no special attention outside of keeping them in a cool dry place. Do not store them in your uninsulated, non air conditioned garage in the middle of the summer. If packaged correctly they will last upwards of 25 years. You must pay special attention to the companies you are buying freeze dried foods from. Some freeze dried food manufacturers only have a shelf life of barely 15 years.
MREs again require no special attention on your part other than keeping them out of direct sunlight and storing them in a cool dry place. MREs shelf lives are a bit tricky, the longest shelf life available would be 5 years if stored at the perfect, dry, dark, 60 degrees farenhiet. Reference this table below for more MRE shelf life information.
Bulk dried goods are a little more tricky than the above. They require a little more special attention. As with any other food, you must store your dried goods in a cool, dry place. The trick to a long shelf life with storing these types of food is packaging. When you buy a 25lb. bag of parboiled rice from your local Sam's Club, it will not last much longer than 6 months in its original packaging. Instead if you take that same 25lb. of parboiled rice and re-package it in a food grade bucket with some type of oxygen remover, sealed tightly, that same 25lb. bag of parboiled rice will last upwards of 25 years. There is a method to the madness of oxygen removal. Some people will tell you to buy oxygen absorbers from your local hardware store or use nitrogen to remove the oxygen. There are a few problems, oxygen absorbers can get expensive and several are required for each bucket, depending on the size of the bucket being used. Nitrogen, in my experience, does not work well. It is heavier than oxygen but requires much more concentration to get all the oxygen out of the bucket, therefore leaving room for error when packaging food this way. The cheapest and best working, in my opinion, is dry ice. Dry ice is nothing more than super frozen carbon dioxide, which is heavier than oxygen once sublimated.
Keeping in line with our prepping on a budget mentality, food grade buckets are the next important part of storing your bulk dried goods. They can be expensive when purchased new from say Home Depot or Lowes. Instead, you can get this very important component for free! That's right, free. All you have to do is go to your local grocery store, bakery, Donut shop or food processing plant if you have one in your area, and ask the kind people if they have any food grade buckets they are going to throw away. Sometimes you hit the jackpot and walk out with more buckets than you could ever use, or so it seems. Sometimes you do not get so lucky. Make sure to get the lids with them, the bucket with no lid is worthless.
Now Lids, that is almost a another topic all on its own. Some say screw on, some say clamp on, some say press on. I say, what ever you can get your hands on for free/cheap is the best. If you use the press on (which is the majority of what you will get for free from your grocery stores and what not) just use a little GLAD Press 'N' Seal. You know, the thick Saran Wrap stuff that has a kind of adhesive on one side, that stuff works very well.
Since you have all the components needed to re-package bulk dried goods, we can start. Its really simple so be careful, you may miss something. Take your FREE, dirty food grade buckets you got from the grocery store bakery and throw them, lids and all in the dishwasher. Make sure to turn the heated dry off on your dishwasher, you do not want to melt the lids or buckets. After they are squeaky clean, make sure to dry them complete. Air dry over night is the best method. Now, being careful not to touch the dry ice with your bare hands or any other bare part of your body, take a small piece and wrap it in a paper towel. You do not want to have any of the food product touching the dry ice. It does not take much here. A golf ball sized piece is more than enough dry ice to push all the oxygen out of a 5 gallon bucket. Once you have wrapped your dry ice in a paper towel, place it in the bottom of the bucket and fill with your food. Here comes the complicated part, not really, lay your piece of press 'n' seal down over the opening of the bucket and press it all the way around to make a nice tight seal, leaving one small opening somewhere on the rim for air to escape as the dry ice sublimates. I will usually lay the lid of the bucket down gently on the press 'n' seal. Now here comes the science. As the dry ice melts, otherwise known as sublimation, it is turning the carbon dioxide back into a gas from the solid form, because carbon dioxide is heavier than oxygen it pushes it all up and out of the bucket, therefore completely filling the bucket with carbon dioxide. This process takes quite a while, even with a small piece of dry ice. I usually let the bucket go overnight this way. When the bottom of the bucket is no longer cold to the touch, the dry ice is gone. You can now snap the lid onto the bucket. That's it, you're done. You now have a bucket of food that, when stored under the correct conditions, will last upwards of 25 years.
Canned goods are something of a secret, not really, but DO NOT, under any circumstances, store canned goods anywhere other than a cool, dry place out off direct sunlight. If you haven't figured it out yet, food does not like to be stored incorrectly. Canned goods, as mentioned above, are not the lightest food storage option so be careful how much you rely on them in your food storage plan.
Some important things to take away here. First thing you need to do is put together your food storage plan. You want to start small and slowly work your way up to one or more years worth of food storage for each person in your family. Start with one to two weeks worth of food. Decide which type or types of food would be best for your family. In my opinion, the most important thing to take away from this blog is: Try to store food that you eat on a regular basis. The closer you can get to your normal diet, the better.
Peace through Precision and God Bless,