Food storage has three major components:
What to store, where to keep it and how long to hold it. The first thing to consider is what kinds of food will you and your family eat? You can start with a short term, say three days. Select items that your family likes to eat and that can be stored without needing refrigeration. Select small containers that can be consumed in one meal, that come with easy open lids (be sure to have a manual can opener in your stash), and do not need to be heated. Items like tuna, chicken or peanut butter will store well and can be eaten on the go, if necessary. Be sure to check the “best if used by” dates on cans or packages. This will give you an idea of how long to hold items and when to begin to rotate them. For longer term storage, assuming that you will be sheltering in place, break your food storage down into different types of ingredients, like baking components, canned or freeze-dried goods (vegetables, protein sources like meat, beans and eggs, as well as fruit and soups), seasonings, and starches. Date items when acquired and store them with the oldest items out front for easy access.
As you shop each week get extra cans of the food you eat, like tomato sauce, green beans, fruit or soup. Do the same with dried beans, canned tuna, and starches, etc. This way you can begin to accumulate the items you like. It will not take long to realize what a benefit this is for non-emergency times. Not everyone is so organized that they plan a week’s menu in advance. If you have extra items on hand, you can be creative and spontaneous. Remember to include replacements for the items you eat each week in your shopping list. You can include non-food items like paper towels, toilet paper, toothpaste and soap into this longer term storage plan as well. With extra items on hand, you can watch for sales and save money as well.
Variety will be key
Variety will be key as you accumulate extra food items. Mix in some frozen things for short term storage (most frozen foods will keep three months). They will taste different from canned items and will need to be processed and eaten quickly should there be a long term electric grid failure.
Setting up a storage place
Setting up a storage place to keep your extras will be necessary when kitchen cabinets and pantry spaces are full. When selecting a space, keep in mind that the best temperature for food is generally 40º to 50º F. Higher temperatures will shorten the shelf life (the time food is at optimal nutritional value) and locations with temperature swings are worse. The space you choose should be dry. High humidity will cause cans to rust and mold to grow in flours and cereals. Good air flow will reduce the moisture impact. Round cans allow better air flow than rectangular ones. Store foods in a dark place to combat the effects of light. Cardboard boxes added protection to items stored in glass jars.
The presence of oxygen can be a problem for some dry foods. It causes oils to go rancid and allows insects, fungi and aerobic bacteria a place to grow. Food purchased for long term storage is processed to exclude oxygen. Items you buy in bulk will need to be repackaged with oxygen absorbers (see July, 2013 – Every Needful Thing). Stored grains are often contaminated with insects. Canning jars and mylar bags are good oxygen barriers. Dry foods, nuts and crackers that can go rancid should be rotated more often.
Protect your storage space from rodents. They can squeeze through the smallest spaces.
September 2013, Every Needful Thing Billie A. Nicholson