Long Term Storage (Food Part 2)

five basic needs: 1) FOOD, 2) water, 3) shelter, 4) security, and 5) energy

Long Term Food Storage (LTS) is defined as food that can be stored 10 years or longer, some more than 30 years. Because of the long storage durations, things must be packaged correctly. To review, the biggest enemies of food storage are: light, heat, moisture, air, and rodents. LTS has to be packed in airtight, durable, sealed containers. This will require almost all store bought food to be repackaged, or you can buy prepackaged LTS items.

LTS is almost always packed in either #10 cans (coffee can size), or a combination of mylar bags and plastic buckets. Cans are the best; they are dark, sealed tight, very durable, impervious to rodents, easy to rotate/handle, and come in usable amounts that can be covered with a plastic lid once opened. But sealing cans requires special equipment that most of us don’t have at home.

The mylar/plastic bucket combination is the easiest for home packing. Mylar (a registered trademark of DuPont) is often used generically, it refers to a polyester film with high tensile strength and chemical stability, sometimes simply called a dry pack pouch. Mylar comes in a variety of pre-made sizes, most common are one and five gallon. The LTS item is placed in the mylar bag leaving room at the top, then put oxygen absorbers into the bag and seal using a hot iron (or a similar heat sealer). Another option is a vacuum sealer (this doesn’t require the oxygen absorbers). Exercise care when handling the mylar–it can be punctured–and store in a five gallon plastic bucket.

The advantage to packaging your own items is cost and flexibility. It’s much cheaper to buy mylar bags and buckets than it is to buy prepackaged items. Also you can package anything you want, including specialized or uncommon items.

But, the option of buying prepackaged LTS items also has definite advantages. When purchased this way, everything is done for you and done correctly, it’s nicely labeled and convenient – you order and pay for it, and it’s delivered to your porch ready to be stored away.

A hybrid LTS packaging option is to go to your local Mormon church cannery (they refer to them as Family Home Storage Centers). The Mormons have been involved in food storage since long before it was ‘cool’, and they have the system figured out. Best of all they are very nice, happy to share with non-Mormons alike, and essentially sell items at cost. You can buy the items in bulk (mostly 25 lbs bags) to take home and repackage yourself. But the best resource they offer is to allow you to volunteer to work on a canning crew where you all work together canning your own items (paying only the cost of the product and the cans). They have an extensive canning operation: starting with bulk size bags, you fill up the #10 cans, seal them with the metal lids, and place pre-printed labels on them. They provide boxes for each case of cans, also plastic lids. Obviously, it takes some coordination and time to get this done, but for the money involved and the finished product I believe this is the best way to do it. Here’s a YouTube video of the experience you can expect at the cannery.

Common LTS items are: black beans, pinto beans, nonfat dry milk, white rice, sugar, salt, wheat, dried apple slices, pasta, oats, dry onions, and potato flakes.

As always, look at your needs, resources (including space), and local availability to create the LTS strategy that works for you.

(Wednesday: But Water is Heavy!)

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Store What You Eat (Food Part 1)

The storage system we have now (panoramic view)

five basic needs: 1) FOOD, 2) water, 3) shelter, 4) security, and 5) energy

We know that we’re going to eat, multiple times, everyday. We know that if we go more than three to four weeks without food we’ll die. We know that food costs keep going up. We know that food today is readily available and relatively inexpensive. We know that there are multiple systems involved in getting food to the stores each day, and if one of those systems fail it doesn’t arrive. Those, and more, are the reasons to store food.

Food storage is discussed in two categories: short-term or Store What You Eat (SWYE) and Long Term Storage (LTS).

SWYE is as simple as it sounds: stock up on the non-perishable foods you eat on a regular basis. When you first begin–unless you have the extra money to go buy cases at a time–follow the “copy can” method. Each time you go shopping, if you need one can of say, tuna, buy two (or three or four…) instead. Put one can in your kitchen pantry, take the others and write the date on them and put on your SWYE shelf. Your SWYE food can be stored in any cool, dry area. Racks can be purchased to make food rotation easier. Then, when you need a can of tuna, use the one in your pantry and replace it with the oldest one (you dated them remember?) from your SWYE (add that item to your shopping list!). Rinse & repeat.

In a short period of time you’ll have your initial goal of two weeks food storage complete. From there build your SWYE to 30, 60, then 90 days. Remember, food storage’s biggest enemies are: light, heat, moisture, and air. Most SWYE items are canned or well packaged so light and air aren’t a big concern. But heat and moisture can be, so plan accordingly. I should also mention rodents, of course they won’t get into cans, but that mac ‘n cheese box…

Non-perishables are the easiest to store, but if you have the freezer space (I highly recommend a deep freezer) you can also add meat and other frozen items to more fully round out your food preps. Yes freezers are vulnerable to power outages, so have a plan. Know how long your freezer will stay ‘cold enough’ without running, and prepare to either provide auxiliary power, or to use the items if needed.

Storage system we want to get

I’ve been asked, “what do you store?”. My response is along the lines of store what YOU eat, develop YOUR own plan, blah, blah, blah. But I do understand the usefulness of someone helping you get started. The irony is that I’m also, relatively speaking, getting started myself. That being said, here’s an overview of our family’s SWYE: canned beans, vegetables, fruits, meats, soups; summer sausage, cereals, man ‘n cheese, tortillas, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, condiments, peanut butter, jelly, baking staples, cooking oil, spices, bouillon, coffee, hot chocolate, power and granola bars, and crackers. Again just a list to get you started and thinking about what would be good for you – your plan has to be your own.

(Monday: “Long Term Storage (Food Part 2)”)