Monday, March 27, 2017

How to Store Your Food

Once you start getting a stock of food, the problem quickly becomes where to store it. Many modern pantries are not built with an emphasis on food storage. Most newer homes don't come with root cellars or basements, at least in my area. If you have one, consider yourself BLESSED!

One of the easiest things is to get a large shelf and put it in the garage, but let me warn you...this is not the best!  Garage temperatures swing wildly and heat is destructive to most foods.  The lifespan of your stored goods will be dramatically lowered if stored in the heat of a garage. Cool temperatures are better, and even better are steady, cooler temperatures, like inside your home.

Some people convert unused closets.

Some folks store extra food under beds.

You can pair up a library with food storage: 

Wherever you can find room is a good place for food! 

Remember to rotate your stock on all stored foods and eat what your stock.  Only honey lasts forever....wheat can be stored about 30 years if kept correctly. There are a few other long lived foods, but not a lot. Most canned foods last 3-5 years, though can last longer if stored in optimal conditions. Know the lifespans of your products.  Use a Sharpie to write the purchased date on your items to help you rotate them easier.  You MUST actually use your food storage.  Consider your pantry your first grocery store.  When you run out of ketchup, go to your pantry and get the next bottle.  Next time you go to the grocery store, buy an extra, date it, and put it in the back of the shelf.  The best way to build your food storage is to just buy two or three of whatever you are going to buy anyway. 

Purchased canned foods can easily be rotated using a FIFO (first in, first out) storage rack.  Making sure you move the older of your stock to the front when putting away groceries is essential!   When you are storing bulk food, look into using mylar bags and oxygen absorbers or Foodsaver bags to divide them into usable portions.  No need to open a 50 pound bag of oats all at once when you have repackaged it into 5 pound bags! You won't have to be stressed about eating it quickly enough, OR get sick of mush in the morning! 

Personally, I don't buy large amounts of canned foods from the store since I make my own home canned goods.  These are best stored without stacking, but there are storage options available. I would not consider stack canned food without these. You can lose your seal, or have a false seal and your hard work will be wasted.

We'll discuss home canning more next time.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Food Storage Basics Part One: What To Stock

There are a few basic rules to keep in mind when it comes to food storage. Today we will focus on this one:

1. Store what you actually eat

If you stock foods your family detests, they won't want to eat it, even in an emergency situation.  A case of canned creamed spinach might not be the best investment.  Try to have variety in your stored foods so you can make complete meals that your family will consider edible.

Meats, such as tuna, shredded beef and pork, chunked chicken, etc. are easy to find.  Oh, did you know that you can get Costco's wonderful food, even if you live far from a warehouse? Just search Kirkland Signature at Amazon!  I highly recommend their tuna. It tastes SO much better than run-of-the-mill brands.  Peanut butter, almond butter and other nuts provide both protein and fats, though the shelf life is variable.  Eggs are a wonderful protein, but are tricky to preserve.   (Time to get chickens!)

Meals in a can are especially helpful.  Think along the lines of beef stews, soups, chili with meat, etc. Nothing is easier than opening a can, warming it and eating.  Plan to keep some crackers of various kinds on hand to complement this type of meal.  Shelf life varies, but even stale crackers can be welcome when times are hard.

Canned fruit and veggies, and boxed side dishes like rice-a-roni and mac & cheese can round out a meal nutritionally and can bring a familiar and welcome comfort element.  Nutritionally they are not the best choice.  Homemade side dishes and fresh fruits and veggies are much better, but not always practical.  Try to have many options available in both types of storage.

Freeze dried foods have a long shelf life and can also be used to add variety.  I have tried Thrive dried fruit and they are tasty indeed.  If you are interested in learning more, click here and message the consultant I use.  She knows her freeze dried food!

Plan on including lots of shelf stable carbs to your storage.  Rice, beans and pasta are great bases for meals, are inexpensive and store well.  They are much cheaper than boxed side dishes, which should be used rather sparingly due to cost and less than ideal ingredients.   Oatmeal, cream of wheat, and grits make good breakfasts and even treats.

Don't forget about "morale" foods!  Being in an emergency situation, long term power outage, or sustained time of unemployment is a hardship.  A little bit of morale boosting tucked away on your shelves can do a world of good.  After Halloween, Christmas, Easter and other holidays, candy often goes on clearance.  That's a great time to stock up on some treats.  If you have a Foodsaver or other bag sealing device, put it to use! Chocolate, lollipops, hard candy, even marshmallows can be preserved.  Trailmix, nuts, dried fruits and veggies can all be stored with your Foodsaver.

Also, have a supply of salt, pepper, and the spices you often use when cooking.  I get my spices from Azure Standard.  They are so fresh and fragrant (and inexpensive, too!)  Sugar, yeast, flour, oils, ketchup, mustard and other staples also need their place in your pantry.

Of course we've already discussed water storage, but think, too, of storing drink powders. Flavored mixes can also include electrolytes which can be essential. Some folks also store dried milk, but we find it unpalatable.  I would do without it, even for long-term storage purposes.  Hot cocoa, apple cider and other drink mixes help bring variety in liquid form, too.

Don't forget your garden as a "pantry".  Gardening skills will make a very big difference in a bad situation.  Also, pair gardening skills with canning skills and equipment and you are golden!  You can preserve your harvest and may even have extra to share with others.

Much of my pantry is made up of items I canned myself.  We will discuss canning in other posts, but for now, watch garage sales and thrift stores for canning jars. Consider asking for them on Craig's List, Freecycle, local buy and sell pages and in your circle of friends.  Lots of folks have them and will never use them.  Collect all you can, as a canner's motto is "One can never have too many jars." Watch also for canning pots, lids, tools and even pressure canners.  These will be important to adding to your pantry the fruits of the earth.  So much food goes to waste in our nation.  Be someone who helps prevent that!

Next time, we will discuss ideas for storing your food supply.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

On The Matter of Food

Ah, food.  We love it. We crave it. We NEED it! If it were to run low, we would quickly panic.

Famines happen all over the world. They are caused by crop failure, foul weather, general political instability and oftentimes war.  According to the World Food Program, right now 1 in 9 people in this world are undernourished.  Famine isn't likely to happen in America any time soon, but food shortages are surprisingly common, even here.

Look at what happens every time a winter storm is predicted:

Bread. Milk. Eggs. Water. Always gone. Why?

People have been spoiled by generations of plenty.  Americans haven't had to provide food for themselves since the around the 1930's.  Supermarkets began springing up, providing an easy way to gather all your supplies in one trip. Gardens became much less needful. After World War II, when gardens and backyard chickens were encouraged, most shopping was done in supermarkets rather than neighborhood shops or your own backyard.  In not too many years, home delivery of staples was a thing of the past.  Having a garden or chickens became a sign of poverty, rather than a sign of prosperity.

Now people are dependent on their grocery stores.  When bad weather threatens, people panic and buy staples because they don't have them on hand already.  People who are "late" to the panic party are left with second quality food (opened packages, dented cans) or nothing at all.  When was the last time you saw someone with a full pantry of real food?

Could you feed your family for a week with ONLY the food in your house at this very moment? What about a month?  Venezuela has been struggling greatly for over three years.  There is no good news on the horizon for them. The famous Irish famine lasted seven years. Remember the Biblical account of Joseph and the famine in the Middle East? Can you imagine seven years of famine? 

Our next few discussions will center on food: what to stock, how to stock it and how to use it.