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Food Storage in Times of Emergency

INTRODUCTION

It seems like every week a new natural disaster or crisis has occurred. In 2011 alone, natural disasters caused more than $52 billion of destruction. Hurricanes overtook the east coast, six tornado outbreaks as well as major flooding battered the Midwest, and drought plagued the Southwest. There were also a record amount of wildfires in the Southeast, major blizzards in the Northwest and experts say that it is only going to get worse. As you can see it is only a matter of time before a flood, hurricane, blizzard, drought, or other natural disaster occurs in your area. It is more prudent now than ever to store food and water so you can avoid a disastrous situation during a crisis.

Many estimates nowadays state that the average American family only has three days’ worth of food on hand. However, it wasn’t always this way. Humans throughout history have been storing food for tough times because they knew that food was not guaranteed tomorrow and famine was a constant threat. Even up until the mid 20th century many American families grew and stored their own food. This self-sufficiency helped many families make it through the Great Depression with as little distress as possible.

With the huge technological advancements and increase in living standards over the last century, many people cannot fathom going to a grocery store and seeing it empty of food. However, there are so many different factors in today’s global food production and distribution that can be compromised, leaving millions without access to food. If only one aspect is compromised, the entire food distribution system can come tumbling down overnight. This event doesn’t even have to be a farfetched, “end of the world” type of event. A disruption of the oil supply, loss of water sources for growing food, global increase in the price of food staples, nuclear power plant disasters, or droughts and floods could all compromise your access to food.

What many people don’t realize is that food shortages and famine is rife throughout human history. There are a number of famines going on right now throughout the world. Just because food is easily accessible today does not mean that the same will be for tomorrow.

Additionally, if a disaster does occur, you cannot rely on the federal government to save you when a natural disaster or event happens that sends our food supply in chaos. Everyone witnessed what happened during Hurricane Katrina to people that rely too much on the government. You have to be responsible and rely on yourself, family and friends when adverse conditions arise. This is why food storage is important for any sensible person.

Even without any major disasters occurring, food prices are constantly rising. The FDA estimates that food prices will increase 2.5% to 3.5% in 2012. Food is becoming scarcer across the globe. So even if a disaster does not occur it is wise to buy and store food at the lower purchase prices today while they are still available.

Food Storage Is Simple

Many people do not start a food storage system because they feel overwhelmed by the food choices, the different food storage methods and the overall logistics of storing food that will sustain your family for long periods of time. Thankfully, it is actually not too complicated to set up a long term food storage system once you have the right mindset and plan.

You will learn through this article how to buy and store inexpensive, nutritious food for up to 10 years or more. Storing your own food is cheaper, healthier and less wasteful than buying prepackaged survival food or freeze dried food. You can store your own food for much cheaper than storing freeze dried food, plus it’s fairly easy to do.

This article will show the average person that has no food storage experience how to take easy to find supplies and food that they can store for emergency situations. This article is designed to be a source that you can utilize in order to create a food storage system that will sustain you and your family for the duration of the emergency that you believe you might have to face in the future.

THE RIGHT TYPES OF FOOD TO STORE

One of the most important considerations when preparing food for long term storage is the type of food that you select to store. Selecting the right types of food will ensure that you have quality food available in an emergency that will not spoil rapidly. It’s also important that the food selected is shelf stable and does not need to be refrigerated or frozen. This article is written with the assumption that the electrical grid will be compromised during the emergency that will require you to eat your stored food. As such, none of the food storage techniques in this article will require electricity to maintain.

Most of the foods that you should store are grains, dried beans and other staples. Grains and beans will make up the bulk of your food storage as they are cheap, easy to store and nutritious. Most of the protein sources that you will store will be canned or dried. Fats should be selected from sources that are shelf stable for a year or more. The chart below lists the common types of foods that comprise most food storage setups and their approximate storage life, if packaged properly and stored at 70°F.

Approximate Storage Life of Sealed Foods at 70°F

Food Group Types of Food Storage Life
Beans Pinto beans, Soy beans, Kidney Beans, Small Red Beans 8-10 years
Hard Grains Buckwheat, Corn, Hard red wheat, Hard White Wheat 10-12 years
Soft Grains Barley, Rolled Oats, Quinoa, Rye 8 years
Flour All Purpose Flour, White Flour, Whole Wheat Flour 2-3 years
Rice White Rice 10 years
Spices Salt, Black Pepper, Paprika, Cayenne Pepper, etc. 1-2 years
Sweetener Honey, Sugar Indefinitely
Fats Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Crisco 1-3 Years

As you can see in the chart many different types of food can be stored for long periods of time if stored properly. All of the storage life times for the grains and beans are based on the foods being stored in sealed Mylar bags and buckets, which will be discussed later in this article. If left in the original packaging most of the storage life for the items above would be one to two years.

Carbohydrates

Because of their low price and ease of storage, carbohydrates will probably make the bulk of your food storage system. Carbohydrates have four calories per gram and are utilized by the body for energy. Most carbohydrate sources will also provide fiber, which is important for the digestive system to function properly. B vitamins can also be obtained from many carbohydrate sources. Some carbohydrate sources will also contain sources of protein, although they will not be as functional for the body as an animal based protein.

Carbohydrates consumed from grains are an important source of energy for the body, as the energy will be released slowly in the form of glucose, preventing a “roller coaster” effect on blood sugar levels. For this reason sugar and honey should be consumed sparingly as they more drastically affect blood sugar levels, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar and a subsequent crash. This is not something that you want to occur in your daily life, let alone during a disaster. Accordingly sugar, honey and other sweeteners will have a smaller role in typical food storage systems.

Most carbohydrates in food storage will consist of grains, although beans and sugar or honey also store well and provide carbohydrates. Grains are great for food storage as they are inexpensive when purchased in bulk and store for long periods of time in food storage buckets.

Using the Mylar bag storage method outlined later in this article, many grains can store for up to 10 years in a lower temperature environment.

Rice will probably be the primary grain in your food storage. Rice is a very versatile food and pairs well with many different foods. Brown rice is nutritionally better than white rice, however the additional oils in the brown rice makes it susceptible to spoiling much quicker than white rice. I would definitely recommend that you store white rice over brown rice. White rice is also cheaper and easier to find in bulk.

Pasta is another carbohydrate source that is easy to store for long term in Mylar bags. It’s very nutritious and easily combined with other food sources like canned vegetables or meat. Remember to store canned pasta sauce as well.

Fruits and vegetables are also important sources of carbohydrates. Although they are not an essential element of a food storage plan, if you decide to store fruit or vegetables they will provide fiber and nutrients that are hard to acquire from grains.

Unfortunately fruits and vegetables are probably the hardest food sources to store. They will either have to be dehydrated or canned in order to store them for a longer time period. Even if they are dehydrated they will not last too long and need to be consumed and rotated frequently. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with moisture so you will not be able to use the same food storage method as used with grains.

When buying canned vegetables the dark green variety will have the most nutritional value. Collard green, spinach and kale will supply you with almost the entire RDA of vitamin A and contain vitamin C as well. Canned carrots are another good vegetable to store as they also provide high amounts of nutrients, especially vitamin A. Carrots also contain moderate amounts of carbohydrates so they can be utilized as an additional energy source.

Protein

Protein is one of the harder sources of food to store but is just as important as carbohydrates for survival. Like carbohydrates, a gram of protein contains four calories. Protein is a very important nutrient as it is the most abundant molecule in the body after water. The body uses protein to repair damaged muscles and also for growth.

Protein cannot be stored as easily as grains since many protein sources contain high amounts of moisture. Most of your protein will be in the form of canned meats, either that you purchase from the store canned or meats that you can yourself. Canned fish and beef are good protein sources that you should store and pair well with grains such as rice. Meats stored in cans should last several years, and even past the expiration date. Even though the taste will diminish it will still be a viable source of nutrition.

Another potential method of storing protein is by drying out meat and creating jerky, although homemade jerky will typically only last several months or so in vacuum sealed packages. Store bought sources of jerky will last a year or more because of the preservatives added to the meat, although it will be excessively expensive to store large amounts. Although beef jerky is not practical for storing in large amounts at home, beef jerky is a great source of protein if you are on the move. So it would be a good idea to store some jerky if you feel that you might have to evacuate in an emergency. Otherwise the bulk of your protein storage should be in canned meats.

Protein powder is also an option for your food storage system. Protein powder is cheap and can be found in many stores as a bodybuilding supplement. It is easily mixed with water, although it only provides protein, not fats or moisture as with canned meats. Powdered protein is typically manufactured from a dairy based source; however you can also purchase egg protein powder as well. It will only last one or two years so it will need to be consumed and rotated out of your food storage on a frequent basis.

Also keep in mind that some of the grains that you store are sources of proteins as well. Beans contain a large amount of protein, but they do not contain all of the amino acids to be considered a complete source of protein. However, when beans are consumed with rice it becomes a complete protein.

Fats

One of the most over looked sources of food for storage is fats. This is unfortunate because it is one of the most important food sources and also very calorically dense with nine calories per gram. Fats are used in the body for energy and also play an important role in maintaining healthy skin and organs. Additionally, fats provide vitamins that are not easily obtained from carbohydrates or protein. Fats will also enhance meals prepared from your stored foods as much of the food will be bland without it.

The biggest concern with storing fats and why many people lack sufficient fat sources in their food storage is the fact that many fats can go rancid quickly. Although this is true of many polyunsaturated fats, like vegetable oils, peanut oils, and other cooking oils, it is not true of all sources of fats. Coconut oil is a great fat to store for long term. Because coconut oil is composed almost completely of saturated fat it is solid at room temperature, very shelf stable and resistant to rancidity. Coconut oil also has a high smoke point so it is great for cooking various foods. Coconut oil can be purchased in grocery stores in smaller amounts or online in large containers. Coconut oil will store two or more years at room temperature.

Like coconut oil, animal fats are very stable and will resist rancidity. Properly stored lard or shortening should last several years. Animal fats are a good addition to any food storage system.

Olive oil is another good fat to store although rancidity is a concern with this type of fat. To prevent rancidity it’s a good idea to buy the oil that is packaged in tin cans or glass bottles, and store the oil in a cool environment that is not exposed to light. Olive oil can last a year or more if stored this way.

Peanut butter is a great fat source that also provides protein. Peanut butter goes together with many foods and also is good eaten on its own. It’s also packed with tons of calories and is shelf stable for several years inside the original jar. Peanut butter is a perfect survival food.

Fats can also be obtained from nuts, however they do not store well due to high moisture content. Nuts will only last 6 months or so in the original packaging so they will have to be rotated out frequently.

Spices and Other Cooking Ingredients

The foods that you will store will be live sustaining, however they will be very plain in meals on their own. You should store and rotate through your daily cooking a variety of spices that will be added to the meals for your food. Garlic powder, salt, chili powder, pepper, hot sauces, and other spices and condiments should be stored in order to make the food more palatable. You should also have a supply of baking powder and other cooking supplies on hand if you are storing foods that require them to prepare.

Thankfully these foods store well even in their original packaging. Salt for example will basically store indefinitely if properly packaged. The spices mentioned will last a long time as well, though their flavor will decrease over time.

Summary

  • Store the right balance of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates
  • The bulk of your food storage will be grains and beans
  • Liquid cooking oils do not store well, rotate them frequently
  • Store enough food to get you through the emergency that you’re planning for
  • High moisture foods like meats or fruits will need to be stored in cans or dehydrated

PLANNING YOUR FOOD STORAGE SYSTEM

Before you start buying food for your food storage system there are a number of steps that you should take. You need to calculate exactly many people you are planning on storing food for and also the estimated duration of the emergency.

How Much Food Should I Store?

You should start by asking yourself what type of emergency you are preparing for. If you’re just preparing for a temporary natural disaster such as a hurricane, canned foods and one large water storage container should suffice. If you’re preparing for a possible economic collapse or a WWIII type event you might plan on storing months of food so you can make it through the potential rioting and chaos that will ensue.

I would recommend that you spend some time on this before you start buying any food for your food storage system. To start you need to sit down at the computer or at a table with a pencil and paper and write down every emergency that you think you and your family may face. What emergencies do you think may occur? Make a list of these potential scenarios on your paper.

After you have written down these possible scenarios you need to also write down how long the emergency may last in which food and water may be scarce or unavailable. For example a natural disaster may be from 2-7 days with limited access to food and water. However a global economic collapse with civil strife may require you to endure months with limited access to food and water.

Now that you have a list of potential scenarios you can see the range of emergencies that you need to plan for. If you feel the emergency with the longest duration on your list is very likely you can use this as a basis for your food storage system. If you feel the scenarios with shorter spans are much more likely than the scenarios with longer spans you can pick an emergency duration that’s somewhere in the middle. You need to do is pick an emergency duration in days. I have picked three months for my emergency duration for my food storage system. So my food storage will sustain my family and myself for three months without any additional food. Many people that I have talked to have years of emergency food storage. You may only decide to have one or two weeks. The decision is up to you.

After you have picked an emergency duration in days remember that you need to also decide exactly who you’re preparing for. If you’re a parent with children still at home they would automatically be added to the list of the people that you are preparing for. However if you are caring for other family members they may need to be added to the list as well. So in the second step you need to have a list of how many adults and children you are planning to support with your food storage.

Calories are the third factor in food storage planning. I have planned my food storage system around 2400 calories per day for each person over 11. This may be overkill, but if my emergency duration estimate is off we can reduce the calories per day and stretch out the food in an emergency scenario.

Many freeze dried food storage systems that I have seen estimate as low as 800-1000 calories per day per person. This is simply not enough. Adults burn more than this in a day even though the majority of us are sedentary. You will very likely be doing physical labor or moving around frequently in an emergency situation and you would probably quickly become tired and lethargic at only 1000 calories per day. At 2400 calories per day I have given myself a margin of error in both my estimates for emergency duration and the amount of people I have to support. Both of those estimates could easily be off. An additional note is that children under 11 generally will not need 2400 calories per day. At the end of the section you will see a chart that will allow you to calculate the estimated calories required by children under 11.

Once you know how many people you need to support, for how many days, and the amount of calories each person will require each day you can use these numbers as the basis of your food storage calculations. From this you can decide how much food you need to store.

For instance my food storage system has to support myself, my wife and my two children (both over 11 years old) for a 90 day emergency duration. So that’s (4) people x (90) days x (2400) calories per person. In order for me to have enough food I would need 864,000 calories of stored food. That may sound like a huge amount but keep in mind that a 50 pound bag of rice has around 80,000 calories and only costs about $20.

When planning your food storage system, I would recommend at a bare minimum you strive to have two weeks’ worth of food and water. After you have reached that goal, you can work on having a month’s worth of food and water and continue building your food storage until you reach the point that you are satisfied that you are prepared for possible emergencies.

A very basic plan for food storage would be one 50 pound bag of white rice divided into two five gallon buckets (guide later in the manual), and one 50 pound bag of dried beans stored in the same fashion. Then have around 15 pounds of canned meats, 5 pounds of stable fats and canned vegetables to go along with the rice and beans so you can create complete meals. That would provide around 200,000 calories. This plan is enough to sustain a four person family for about a month at about 1600 calories per person, per day in an extended crisis. This would put you well above the average person in preparedness.

The chart shown below illustrates a sample food storage system for one adult person for a year. This chart shows the amount of food needed to feed an adult around 2400 calories per day over a year.

Year’s Supply of Food for One Adult

Food Source Amount of Calories Per Pound Food Type Suggested Amount for One Adult for One Year at 2400 calories per day (in lbs)
White Rice 1600 Carbohydrate 150
Wheat Flour 1600 Carbohydrate 150
Dried Pinto Beans 1600 Carbohydrate/Protein 60
Canned Meat 1120 Fat/Protein 100
Sugar 1600 Carbohydrate 25
Powdered Milk 1600 Carbohydrates/Protein 50
Coconut Oil 3780 Fat 10
Olive Oil 3600 Fat 10

Although one adult can go through a lot of food in one year, it is feasible to have a year’s worth of food stored inside your house as you can see from the chart. If you are preparing a food storage system for a family you can use the above chart as a base to determine how much food you need to store. Also keep in mind that you will need to store an appropriate amount of water as well, or have a water source that will continue providing water through a crisis like a well.

If you have a family with small children you can estimate the amount of food required based on these percentages of the adult chart.

Age % of the adult chart
3 and Under 50%
4-6 70%
7-10 90%
11+ 100%

With the information that you have gained in this section you should be able to plan your food storage system. In summary, before you start buying food you need to know (1) how many days you need your food storage to sustain you and others (2) how many people need to be sustained by your food storage system (3)how many calories each person requires per day. Then you can calculate how much food to buy based on the amount of calories per pound in the chart above.

Purchasing Your Food

I would highly recommend that you acquire a membership to a food warehouse club like Sam’s or Costco if you do not have one already. You will save two or three times when buying bulk rice or dried beans from a food warehouse than from a grocery store.

When buying canned foods I would recommend buying in bulk when they go on sale. Canned foods can be very expensive, especially meats. This is another of advantage of food storage; you can buy large amounts of food when it goes on sale and also have food stored for an emergency.

I would recommend using coupons if you aren’t already. Check the local grocery store sales flyers weekly to see what canned foods are on sale. You can also find various coupon clipping service websites online where you can buy copies of coupons that you can use at your local stores. When you find an item that you need at the best deal you can order several copies of the coupon and get the items in bulk.

If you have the land I would recommend learning how to grow your own food. It’s incredibly cheap to grow your own food. You can also grow food organically ensuring that you only eat high quality food. Additionally the ability to grow your own food may be necessary during a long term crisis in which you consume all of your stored food.

Summary

  • Calculate how much food you need before you start buying
  • You need to know how many days of stored food you need, how many people you are storing food for and how many calories each person needs
  • Once you have your total calorie needs to start buying food to reach that number
  • Purchase your food on sale or at food warehouse clubs

FOOD STORAGE IN MYLAR BAGS

One of the most popular ways to store food for long periods of time is by using the Mylar bag storage method. The Mylar bag storage method is popular because it is inexpensive to buy the supplies required and it is a skill that is relatively easy to acquire.

Also, the method will allow your food to be stored for long periods of time. Correctly using a plastic bucket, along with Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers, you can store many types of grain for up to a decade or more.

There are three components to storing food in buckets: five gallon buckets, Mylar bags, and oxygen absorbers. You will also need a standard household iron and some type of flat ironing surface to seal the Mylar bags. A large metal level works well as an ironing surface, although a wood board would probably work too. The Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers will probably be hard for you to find locally so you will most likely need to purchase those items online.

The process of storing food in buckets is relatively simple but each step must be taken carefully or you will compromise the integrity of your food storage.

Buckets

The most common bucket that is used in food storage is a five gallon HDPE plastic bucket. You can acquire these buckets used from bakeries or restaurants if you ask around. The buckets are used to ship syrups, frostings and other food ingredients. Typically the restaurants just throw them away after the food has been removed from the buckets so most will give you them for free.

It is not required for your buckets to be food grade since you will be using Mylar liners within the buckets, although a food grade bucket is preferred so you have the option of storing food directly in it at a later point. A bucket is not food grade if there has been any paint or non-food product stored in it previously, so find out what has been stored in the bucket if you are not buying new buckets. The HDPE plastic used to manufacture most plastic buckets is somewhat porous and will absorb chemicals if non-food items are stored in the buckets. These chemicals can then leach out into your food stored in the bucket at a later time. You can really only definitively know if the bucket is food grade if you either get the bucket used from a bakery or if you contact the manufacturer directly before buying new buckets.

When storing food in five gallon buckets the main purpose of the bucket is as a protective shell for the food. Its primary function is to keep out any bugs or pests that would want your food, and protect the thin Mylar bag inside. However, if the food storage location has rodents they can chew through the plastic and steal your food. Storing food in buckets is also useful as it makes the food easy to transport and store. The best containers to use for food storage are buckets that are airtight and do not allow any water or moisture to touch your food.

Mylar Bags

Mylar bags are the second main component of storing food in buckets. Mylar bags are light and oxygen proof metalized bags used for storing food and other items away from moisture and oxygen. They are constructed from a combination of layers, with Mylar being the top layer, a thin foil of aluminum in the middle, and additional plastic films added as layers. This construction method prevents the movement of water vapor, oxygen and other gasses through the Mylar barrier. Accordingly it makes a great way to store food as Mylar bags will give you the ability to take all of the oxygen out of the storage environment and keep nitrogen in. Mylar bags are also safe to come in contact with food if you purchase food grade Mylar bags.

Although Mylar bags are great for sealing food from oxygen and moisture they are not puncture resistant at all. This is why they are used in conjunction with a five gallon bucket so they have protection from tears.

When purchasing Mylar bags, you will need to make sure that they are designed for food storage and are at least 5 mil thick. You will also notice that these bags come in many different sizes. If you are planning on using one Mylar bag per bucket the 20”x30” size is the best option. There are also smaller bags if you want to package your food in smaller amounts.

It is very important that you use Mylar bags when storing food in buckets as the buckets are not airtight and your food will degrade if just placed directly inside them. Placing your food in the Mylar bags before going in the bucket will preserve the food for many years.

Oxygen Absorbers

After the Mylar bags have been placed in the buckets and the food added, oxygen absorbers are positioned within the bag before it is sealed. Oxygen absorbers are used to remove oxygen from the sealed Mylar bag, creating a nitrogen rich environment. This nitrogen rich environment will help preserve the quality of your food and also prevent insect infestation. If properly done, oxygen absorbers used in conjunction with sealed Mylar bags can reduce the oxygen level inside the Mylar bags down to .01% or less. This will significantly extend the shelf life of your food. More benefits of oxygen absorbers are the prevention of mold growth and elimination of the need for potentially harmful chemical additives like BHT for long term food storage.

Oxygen absorbers are comprised of iron powder packaged in small packets. The packets are specifically designed to allow oxygen to enter and be absorbed but not allow any iron powder to fall out contaminate your food. As such, oxygen absorbers are safe to come in contact with your food and can be placed directly on top of the food that you are storing.

When you are ready to start packing your food using oxygen absorbers there are some things that you want to keep in mind. Oxygen absorbers will activate immediately and start losing their effectiveness when they are taken out of the vacuumed sealed pouch. So you only want to open the package when you are ready to pack your food. Try to keep the oxygen absorbers exposed to the open air for 20 minutes or less.

Additionally, keep the oxygen absorbers spread out away from the other oxygen absorbers when you are packing your food. If the oxygen absorbers are touching, more heat will be generated and they will degrade faster.

To help preserve the oxygen absorbers’ effectiveness, you can temporarily keep the extra oxygen absorbers in small zip-loc bag while you are placing food and oxygen absorbers into the Mylar bags and sealing them. For long term storage you can put the extra oxygen absorbers inside a small airtight jar with a gasket, or vacuum seal them if you have a vacuum sealer.

Purchasing Oxygen Absorbers

You will notice when you look to purchase oxygen absorbers that they come in many different sizes. I would recommend purchasing the 500cc oxygen absorbers. For a typical five gallon bucket you will need to add four 500cc oxygen absorbers if you are storing grains, and five or six 500cc oxygen absorbers if you are storing food that has larger individual pieces like pasta or beans to account for the larger spaces for air. Take a look at the chart below to see the requirements for different sizes of oxygen absorbers. Also keep in mind that you cannot add too many oxygen absorbers so adding more cannot hurt.

Oxygen absorbers are a must for long-term food storage. Oxygen will quickly degrade food, so by removing as much oxygen as possible you will extend the life of your food many times.

Typical Amount of Oxygen Absorber Packets Needed for a 5 Gallon Bucket

Oxygen absorber size Packets needed for flour/grains Packets needed for beans/pasta
2000cc 1 2
1000cc 2 3
500cc 4 6
100cc 20 30

Summary

  • Use proper Mylar bags, at least 5 mils thick
  • Use oxygen absorbers to ensure that the oxygen is removed
  • Store Mylar bagged foods in buckets to prevent the bag from being punctured
  • Oxygen absorbers start working immediately once they are out of the package so work at a proper pace
  • Store left over oxygen absorbers in a small jar or vacuum seal them

Guide To Food Storage in Mylar Bags

This guide will take you through the steps of packing grains or beans in Mylar bags. For this guide you will need Mylar bags, buckets, lids, and oxygen absorbers. You will also need a standard household iron and a sealing surface such as a metal level or a piece of wood to seal the bags. A vacuum with a narrow attachment is also useful if you want to remove extra air from the bags before sealing them. I would recommend reading through this guide several times before you start storing your food so you can get familiar with every step.

1. Place the Mylar bags open end up into the five gallon buckets.

2. Add your food to the buckets, making sure that there is enough space left at the top of the buckets to fold down the Mylar bag and attach the lid to the bucket.

3. After your food is added to the bucket, place four to six 500cc oxygen absorbers per bucket (or the equivalent amount for the food type).

4. Now fold down the Mylar bag over the top of your level or other ironing surface that you are using.

5. Start to seal the bag using the iron, leaving an open space at the end that is about two inches wide. Push down the bag to expel the last bit of air. You can also vacuum out the some of the remaining air in the bag if you desire.

6. You can then seal the bag completely. After the bag is sealed leave the bag alone so the oxygen absorbers can remove the oxygen left within the sealed bag. Now add the oxygen absorbers to the other buckets of food and seal the Mylar bags.

The bag is now completely sealed.

7. After all of the Mylar bags have been sealed I like to add another seal to make sure that the bag is closed completely from the outside environment.

8. After several hours the bag should be pulled in tighter to the food. This way you know that the bags are sealed correctly.

9. Now you can fold the bag down and attach the lid. Remember to write on a label on the outside of the bucket stating the food and the packing date. After the lid is secured on the bucket you are ready to place the food in your food storage location.

FOOD SHELF LIFE FACTORS

When creating your food storage system there are some major factors that you should consider that can decrease the storage life of your foods. Although there are many different factors that will affect the storage life of your foods, such as the quality of the food when purchased or the types of food, the four factors that are listed below will be the ones that you should concentrate on.

Temperature

Temperature is the most important factor in any food storage system. USDA studies have shown that a drop of 10°F can increase the storage life of dried foods by as much as two times the original storage life. Conversely, an increase of 10°F will halve the storage life of your food. For example, if you are storing white rice, it will have a storage life of around 8-10 years at 70°F if properly packaged. Extrapolating the studies done by the FDA, that same rice could last up to 20 years if stored at 60°F and all other factors remain the same. Keep in mind that this is a guideline and will probably not be exact in many instances, but it does show you the importance of finding the coolest possible place to store your food.

Considering the importance of having a low temperature environment, storing your food in an attic space is one of the worst locations you can use as the temperature will quickly degrade your food. The best area would be an insect free basement if you have that available. Other than that, an air conditioned room or closet would work well as a storage space for your food.

Moisture Content of Your Food

Moisture is another major factor that you should consider when trying to maximize the storage life of your food. Obviously you want to keep your food as dry as possible. So you will want to store food that naturally has low moisture content. Dried beans and grains have a low average moisture content of about 10% according to the USDA. Food that has higher moisture content than these foods will not store well for the long periods of time.

Foods like fruits, vegetables or meats will typically store best canned. This way the foods can retain their moisture but are shielded from the outside environment to prevent spoilage. Another option is to dry your meats or fruits, but even this method will only increase the storage life to several months.

Oxygen

When food is exposed to oxygen, different compounds in the food react with the air which will in turn oxidize your food. This factor is why oxygen absorbers are used when packing food in Mylar bags. Removing the oxygen from the storage container will significantly increase the storage life of your food.

Another benefit of removing the oxygen is that many insects cannot survive in a low oxygen environment. Most of the food that you buy, especially the grains and beans, will contain insect eggs. Left in their original packaging, most of your rice, beans or flour will become infested with bugs after a period of time. Removing the oxygen from the environment will help prevent these eggs from maturing into adult insects and eating your food.

Storage Method and Containers

Another factor that is important is the container that your food will be stored in. Storage containers will keep moisture, light, air, and bugs from reaching and degrading your food. If you are using the bucket storage method the Mylar bag will prevent light, moisture and air from reaching your food. The plastic bucket will prevent bugs and small pests from accessing your food. It will also serve to a lesser extent from keeping moisture and air from affecting your food, although most buckets will not provide a hermetic seal.

The buckets will also prevent your Mylar bags from being punctured. Although the bags are very strong, they are not puncture resistant at all and can be compromised in that way. Buckets also provide a uniform approach to store your food and easily transport it if necessary.

As you can see from the description of these four factors, you can negate the affects they will have on your food storage by selecting the right types of food and using the correct storage methods outlined in this guide. The bucket storage method will deplete the oxygen in the storage container, and the plastic bucket will prevent smaller insects and pests from accessing your food. Additionally, selecting only from the foods in this guide will ensure that you will store foods that have low moisture content.

And although you probably have the least amount of control over the temperature in the food storage location, as long as the food is in an air-conditioned environment it should not play as large of a factor as the other issues. Even if your food is stored at a location that does not have air-conditioning, as long as you factor in the temperature for the environment when estimating the storage life of your food you can rotate out your food to maintain the integrity of your food storage system.

Summary

  • Moisture, oxygen, heat and improper storage methods will decrease the storage life of food
  • Only store the food types outlined in this guide
  • Following proper storage methods will ensure that your food lasts
  • Use proper Mylar bags and buckets when storing food
  • Store food in the lowest temperature environment available

COMMON FOOD STORAGE MISTAKES

This section will list some of the mistakes that people run into when implementing a food storage system. Recognizing these mistakes will help you to avoid them, saving yourself time and money.

Storing the wrong type of food

This is one of the top mistakes that people will make when first starting to store food. You need to store foods that have low moisture content to prevent spoilage. You will also need to purchase food that will store outside of the refrigerator/freezer if properly packaged. Keep in mind that unless you have a generator you will most likely not have electricity in an emergency event. Even with a generator, you will only be able to provide electricity for a refrigerator until you run out of fuel. Any food that is in your refrigerator or freezer will need to be consumed immediately after an emergency that compromises the electrical grid or it will go to waste.

You will also want to store a wide variety of food. Store at least one food source from each of the three food types: proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

Using the wrong type of Mylar

Do not fall into the trap of purchasing the cheaper Mylar that is less than 5 mils thick, thinking that you are getting a deal. This is one area where you do not want to try to save money as the Mylar is the only thing that’s preventing your food from being exposed to the air. Using cheap Mylar, the bag will lose its seal and the food will degrade after only a few years. You should purchase Mylar bags that are at least 5 mils thick for food storage. The resources section at the end of this guide provides links to suppliers that sell quality Mylar bags.

Not sealing the bags correctly

Another mistake that some people make is sealing the bags improperly. Again, the Mylar barrier is the only thing that is keeping moisture and air out, keeping your food edible for when you really need it. It is a good idea to test sealing on at least one or two bags before you start actually sealing food. Follow the pictures to make sure that you are doing it correctly. The test Mylar bag should be airtight after sealing. Failing to seal properly could compromise your entire food storage system.

Storing in hot areas

The best place for you to store your food is in a cool, dark area. This will greatly enhance the storage life of your food. The attic is one of the worst areas to store your food as it will get excessively hot during the summer and your food will rapidly degrade. Storing your food in the attic could make your food spoil up to four times faster than if the food was stored in an air-conditioned environment. Where you will keep your stored food is big factor for you to consider.

Storing in areas pests can access

Another reason why you should not store in your attic is that it may attract animals to your food storage. The five gallon buckets will keep out small bugs but a determined squirrel can chew through the plastic bucket and eat your food. No matter where you store your food you will need to periodically investigate to make sure that no bugs or animals are compromising your food storage.

Not rotating out food

Food rotation is very important in any food storage system. This is especially important with fats or certain canned foods that do not store as long as grains. Typically, you should eat the food that you store and periodically store more food as you go through the older food. Even if you are planning on just storing food for a bad day and do not plan on eating it unless an emergency occurs, you will need to periodically investigate your food and make sure that the food is fine.

Storing food that you don’t usually eat/cook with

This goes along with the previous mistake. Even if you are only planning on eating your stored food in an emergency you still should store food that you are used to eating and know how to prepare. An emergency is not the time when you want to figure out how to prepare food that you are not used to eating. Also obviously keep proper cooking supplies to cook your food in an emergency.

Not having the proper tools to prepare the food

This is a tip that many people overlook. For example, if you are storing wheat berries, you will also need a wheat grinder and the knowledge of how to use it. If you are storing white rice you will need ample water and a proper pot along with it in order to cook it. So remember that there are more aspects to storing food for an emergency than just the storage of the food itself. You will also need to have the tools and knowledge to prepare it.

Trying to store too much food at one time

Many people become overwhelmed when first starting to store food. Just contemplating the amount of food required to sustain a family for six months to a year is overwhelming. It is for this reason that you should first strive to store two weeks’ worth of food, and then a month and so on. This way you will have more of an introduction period to storing food. Also if you make mistakes they will be correctable since you are dealing with a manageable amount of food.

START NOW

In summary I would like to applaud you for taking the first step in being prepared for potential emergencies. You’re already one step further than most Americans. However this is just the initial step. I urge you to start using the guidelines in this manual to start storing food as soon as you can. Even if a major crisis does not happen in the next few years at least you have the ability and confidence to make it through one when it eventually happens. Think of your food storage as an insurance policy. You never want to have to experience an incident that will require you to use it; however it’s always there to support you in an emergency.

As stated earlier in the guide, if you are new to food storage I would recommend that you start slowly. There’s no need to jump right in and start storing hundreds of pounds of grains, useless you really want to. You can start a food storage system by simply buying one extra item of food of your typical purchases when you go to the grocery store. If you typically buy one bag of rice, buy two. Buy three cans of green beans if you typically would get two. This way you will ensure that you are buying food that your family typically eats so you can minimize waste. The worst thing for you to do is buy food for an emergency that goes to waste because your family does not like it. Buy food that your family will enjoy day to day and in a potential emergency. This will ensure that you will rotate your food frequently and your stock will always be as fresh as possible.

Also keep in mind that food storage is only one aspect of an emergency plan. Water storage is actually the most important aspect of an emergency plan. Having water during an emergency is critical, much more important than any other aspect since we can live only a few days without it. Thankfully water storage is cheap and relatively easy to implement so you can really start immediately on that.

If this manual is your first foray into emergency planning you have made a good decision in tackling food and water storage first. Getting water and food stored should be your priorities for an emergency plan. Once you have a month of food and water stored you will be better off than 99% of Americans. However these are just two aspects of a competent survival plan. I would recommend that you put together a survival kit for every member of your family as these kits are crucial in enabling you to be able to leave your home in an emergency and sustain you until you can get to a safer location.

In conclusion I want you to take action this week. You have taken the first step in reading this article. However, unless you start storing food you have really not taken any steps to becoming prepared for an emergency. Take the next step today so you can be prepared for any crisis.


Categories: Lifestyle


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