For me food storage includes water, OTC (over the counter) and prescription medications, vitamin and mineral supplements, as well as, cleaning and hygiene items.
The best way to avoid these horrors is to plan in advance.
Your food storage area needs to have:
- Cool (45-70 degrees) area
- Even temperature area. Temperatures should not change more than 10 degrees in a 28-30 hour timeframe.
- Dry area, not even humid
- Low to No light area
- As insect and rodent free/proof as possible. This is on top of the container having this property too.
- Be organized with everything within easy reach and easy to identify.
- Some foods need to be refrigerated or at temperatures of refrigeration levels only. Some should not be that cold, like sweet potatoes. Check for food storage information on these specific foods. (See Shelf Life Information on Lots of Things for details on specific items at http://www.scribd.com/doc/42690147/Shelf-Life-Information-on-Lots-of-Things)
- Should be airtight and sealed tightly. This will keep out moisture as well as insects.
- Dating: Write the date in permanent marker where it is easily seen. Discard or compost when unused past this date.
- Many foods, herbs, spices and medications should be in containers of no, to low light transmission quality.
- Some foods may need oxygen packets, others may need to be in glass jars with tightly sealed lids. (See Shelf Life Information on Lots of Things for details on specific items at http://www.scribd.com/doc/42690147/Shelf-Life-Information-on-Lots-of-Things and the Resources tab for details.)
William H. Johnsen, Depression-era realist/impressionist painter
If your storage area meets all of the above requirements read on for the common food storage mistakes @ http://www.scribd.com/doc/42251869/Food-Storage-Mistakes-Yikes
Failing to rotate and just stockpiling.
The excuse: “I always cook from scratch with fresh items”. My reply: “What is stopping you from substituting 1 to 2 ingredients from your food stores when you make soups, stews, casseroles and goulashes?” I got “well others might not notice it but I will”. This person has a decision to make; they can either run the risk of going to their food stores in a time of need and find out that it is spoiled; makes them sick or worse tastes OK but has no nutritional value –OR- they can be smart and use their food stores for a few ingredients in soups, stews, casseroles and goulashes to facilitate rotation and use.
- Be sure to date all stored food. (Manufacturers tend to hide the date codes in small letters and in out of the way places on their products which can make finding the expiration date rather difficult.) Once you do find the expiration or best used by date, use a large permanent marker to put this date in plain sight on the package.
- Create a simple rotation method. I use colored sticky dots with the date (month/year) on the dot and have two shelving units. Green is “use now” and Red is “use later”. Green and Red items are stored on their own shelving unit. Always put the newest item to the very back or bottom and the oldest to the very front or top.
- Use a Lazy Susan on shelves that hold small items.
- Use shallow organizer shelving in tall, deep shelves to add layers for stacking smaller or shorter items.
- Wire or plastic baskets to hold odd shaped or bulky items.
- Stackable bins
- Place similar food items together to make it easier to remember where that type of food item is stored.
- Keep like food items together will make them easier to find. This works great in the frig and freezer too.
Purchasing a “Survival Food” kit
You know, those kinds that are good for X number of people for X number of months or years. There are two major drawbacks to these:
- Meal in a Packet. Low variety of meals and are generally all of one type of food preservation method; freeze dried, dehydrated or canned. You are better off storing individual ingredients in various preservation methods and making your own meals.
- These meals tend to have a higher quantity of alternate protein sources, of which many people are either allergic to or have a horrid dislike for that make them physically ill.
Purchasing large quantities of flour or rice
Flour has a very poor shelf life, no matter how you store it. This is because to process the grain to make flour you release the oil contained in the grain. This oil is what goes rancid and draws the insects and rodents.
- You can get a little more shelf life for flour by vacuum sealing and then freezing, but not much more.
- The un-processed, un-ground gain has a shelf life of 30+ years. You just need a gain mill, preferably hand operated.
- If you purchase grain or rice in bulk, re-package it into smaller quantities. Use air tight containers and or vacuum seal it.
Lack of Variety
Only storing a few staples or too many “meal in a packet” foods is not enough to keep the average person psychologically well (a major ding to your survival ability quotient), on top of this it is NOT a nutritionally sufficient variety for a healthy body.
- Purchase single ingredients in various preservation methods. For example potatoes (or just about any vegetable) can be freeze dried, dehydrated or canned; whole, French fried, steak fried, cubed, sliced, diced or riced (your own instant potatoes). Fruits can be canned, freeze dried or dehydrated; in jams, jellies and preserves.
- Purchase more than one kind of grains, beans and lentils; nuts, vegetables, fruit and meat; in various preservation methods.
- Don’t forget salt, pepper, spices, herbs and condiments.
- Many items like: sour cream, butter, mayo, cream, milk, mustard, ketchup, peanut butter, chocolate, flavored drink mixes, Jell-O (try to find the unflavored and uncolored gelatin to make your own flavors (this can be used as a substitute for eggs in many recipes) and the like come in powdered form for long term storage.
Forgetting the staples to make sufficient meals
Things like: Cooking oil, shortening, baking powder, soda, yeast, and powdered eggs, herbs, spices and other condiments. Think of all the items that require refrigeration, are imported like cinnamon, or are too costly or time consuming to make yourself, like vinegar.
Forgetting Vitamins, Minerals, Food Supplements & other Medications
Vitamin C is especially important, children’s vitamins and items like calcium and Glucosamine and the like.
Many of us forget things like pain and fever relievers, swelling reducers, cold and flu treatments, laxatives, anti-diarrhea or fungus medications and the like. Never forget any prescription or hard to find medications either. Ask your pharmacist and physician for the optimum storage requirements and shelf life.
Discounting Water Needs
Way too many people in urban and suburban areas do not realize that if there is some kind of city wide power failure they will almost immediately lose water and natural gas, as well as phone (land line and often cellular) service to their home. If you have you own water well and it has an electric pump, you are SOL unless you have a backup power source or a manual pump too.
- Water needs to be rotated too. So make sure you can maneuver your water containers. Look for ones that have wheels and or handles and come with gravity spigots.
- Water is bulky and heavy to store, one gallon weights about 8 pounds.
- Four items affect water needs: Age, weight, health and physical activity. (If dogs and cats are fed dry food, they will need more water than if fed wet pet food.)
- The average human needs one quart of water for every 50 pounds of body weight. If you include hygiene needs, that is about 1 gallon of water per person per day.
- Water has a tendency to absorb the flavor of the container it is store in, so it needs to be rotated just like the other food items in storage.
- You can reduce water needs by stocking up on wet wipes, Clorox wipes and waterless anti-bacterial washing gel.
Forgetting “Comfort” or “Psychological” Foods
In order to avoid a solid whack to your survivability quotient we cannot forget things like Jell-O, pudding, cakes, brownies, cobblers, candies and of course chocolate. A few freeze dried, dehydrated, canned or MRE meals, for when you are just too tired psychologically or physically unable, will go a long way to keeping your survivability quotient high during tough times. Add a good assortment of flavored drink mixes too.
MRE’s are not recommended as the prime source of food for long term food storage as they are:
- Are “Meals in a packet” thus lacking in variety
- They are loaded with high calories of mostly synthetic origin. If people over eat these meals for an extended period, they tend to get either the “trots” or painfully constipated. Not to mention that they are wasting the calories by consuming more than the body needs or can utilize in one sitting.
- They are “What You See Is What You Get”. With no rehydration, this means that the portion size is much smaller than we Americans are used to, both psychologically and physically. Our minds won’t grasp that we have eaten enough and neither will our stomachs.
Not Having a Purchasing Plan or “putting all your eggs in one basket”
It is not wise to go out and purchase say a 3 month supply of sugar, then the salt, then the wheat, etc. It is much wiser and cost efficient to purchase smaller quantities of various items during each purchasing trip. This not only facilitates rotating your food stores, it helps to insure variety.
Failure to Think Multi-Functional
I have run across way to many people that stock up on laundry soap, dish soap, body soap, toothpaste and a multitude of cleaning products. You can save money and storage space if you only stock up on basic essentials that allow you to make all of the other items yourself.
- Baking Soda, Washing Soda, Borax, Olive Oil, Vinegar and some old time bar soaps (Fels Naphta, Ivory soap, Sunlight bar soap, Kirk’s Hardwater Castile, Zote, Lever 2000, Pure and Natural, Kirk's or Dr. Bonner's Castile Soap) will allow you to make just about everything listed and then some.
- If you purchase food grade liner bags, either plastic or Mylar, you can turn a non-food grade plastic or metal trash can into a food storage can.
- Place smaller quantities of food in food appropriate containers and then place them in another non-food grade container. As long as these outer containers are water and air tight you are OK.
There you have it, the most common mistakes people make in their long term food storage. Check out the links at the end of this “letter” for additional detail and some tips on keeping refrigerated and frozen foods tastier and healthier for longer periods of time.