Long-term food storage is a common-sense approach to ensuring that you and your family can survive a catastrophic event that significantly affects our food supply. But there’s more to it than just stacking cans in the attic. In fact, that may be the worst place to store any kind of food.
A lot can go wrong if you have food in storage for years and simply assume that everything will be okay when the day comes that you need to open those cans.
There are fundamentally six things you should consider with regards to any long-term food storage plan:
1. Consider nutrition.
There are some fundamental considerations you have to think about with regards to long-term food storage. The first is diversity. Storing 200 #10 cans of macaroni and 50 #10 cans of dry milk is not a nutritious solution. You have to think in terms of nutritional diversity. Many companies offer pre-packaged solutions for three months’ to one year’s worth of food. If you can’t afford a large package offering, look carefully at what they include so you can purchase a diversified collection of foods over a period of time.
You should also keep a running tally on what you have stored. You may think you have it all figured out, but you don’t want to find out the hard way that you have too much of one item and barely enough of something that may be more essential. A good way to make this assessment gets to the next point.
2. Eat what you store and store what you eat.
Failure to follow this simple suggestion may be the biggest fail for anyone stockpiling food supplies. While many products in hermetically sealed, #10 cans will survive for years and years, some in 5-gallon buckets aren’t as dependable. I opened a five-gallon bucket of sugar after six years and it was permeated with mildew.
You’ll also find great value in this practice of eating what you store. We’ve never bought a box of macaroni and cheese in the last 10 years when we figured out that a can of macaroni and a can of cheese powder was essentially the same ingredients.
Eating what you store also gives you experience with how to prepare these foods and combine them with available fresh ingredients to create a pattern of recipes you and your family will enjoy.
3. Watch out for heat.
The standard recommendation is to store your foods in a cool, dark place. That’s why an attic is a bad idea. Not only is it sometimes inaccessible on a regular basis, but the heat that can develop in an attic space will quickly compromise the shelf life of any stored food. A dedicated pantry is ideal and a basement is also an option. Darkness is not as critical as ambient temperature, because most long-term foods are hermetically sealed in cans, but direct sunlight at any time can raise temperatures.
4. Watch out for moisture, too.
If your basement is damp, that’s a problem. Even though cans are sealed to prevent moisture from affecting the contents, oxidation or rust from moisture can affect the integrity of any metallic item over time. Moisture can also permeate food even if it’s sealed. This was my experience with the five-gallon bucket of sugar. A bit of dampness in my basement was all it took to compromise the entire bucket.
You should also take your cans out of the cardboard boxes if you have purchased foods in bulk. The standard package is six #10 cans in a box. That’s great for shipping, but cardboard absorbs moisture and can continually compromise the cans inside. Get the cans out and do whatever you can to keep them free of moisture.
5. Use common sense when opening food.
When we eat what we store we have to remember that the minute a can is opened, it is subject to the standard shelf-life of any consumer packaged goods. Most #10 cans come with a plastic lid and you can even buy additional lids if you lose one, but resealing a can with a plastic lid doesn’t mean you can return it to the storage area for another five years. Once it’s opened, you need to consume it on a regular basis.
6. Rehydrate your food properly.
What allows most foods to have a long-term shelf life is dehydration. In order to prepare most of these foods, the addition of water or some form of liquid is required to rehydrate the foods. Failure to rehydrate properly is perhaps the greatest fail when it comes to the enjoyable consumption of long-term foods stores. We’ve prepared an article on this subject that gives you guideline for various rehydration methods and food types. (Recommended: The Right Way To Rehydrate Long-Term Storage Food.)
This gets back to the fundamental concept of eating what you store and storing what you eat. You’ll gain valuable experience with various types of stored foods that will ensure that you can prepare meals that not only sustain you nutritionally, but that you’ll actually enjoy.
What would you add to this list? Share your suggestions in the section below: