6 Tips For Long Term Food Storage

By on July 7, 2013

When looking into a self sufficient lifestyle, it is important to consider long term food storage. Here are 6 tips for long term food storage and some options for preserving your hard grown produce.

How Canned Foods Can Supplement Your Stores

Typically, when people think of long term food storage, they turn to canned goods. Canning is a great way to keep and eat the excess from your seasonal crops at a later date. If you are looking to feed your family for extended periods (over winter, or if you can’t get to the store), you should remember that the amount of canned food you would need may cause a storage problem! Each person for proper nutrition requires one can of protein, one of fruit and one can of vegetables daily. This means a family of four would need at a minimum 12 cans daily. When canning don’t forget that you can happily can acidic foods (fruit, pickled vegetables) in an ordinary boiling water bath – if you want to can foods with low acidity (such as vegetables, dairy, meats), remember that you need to sterilise them at a higher temperature and this requires the use of a pressure canner.

Why You Should Make Your Freezer a Pantry

You can freeze many of your excess crops. Also, by buying up when the price of summer fruit, vegetables or meat is cheap, you can save money by freezing for the winter when these goods may be imported or just not available. The optimum freezing temperature is around -18°C (around zero degrees fahrenheit) – this is the temperature at which food spoiling bacteria stops growing. Remember freezing is a great way to have nutritional meals ready whenever you need them. Try making more of that wonderful homemade soup, casserole or stew and freezing the rest – this is a tasty time-saver!

Why Drying Foods is a Great Option

Another long term food storage mechanism is dehydrating – this is simply removing the water from your meat, fruit or vegetables, preventing bacterial growth. Drying out your summer fruits and vegetables is great fun. You can do it easily at home in your oven.  Cut your preferred fruit into very thin slices, spread the pieces evenly in one layer on a bake-sheet, turn your oven on to its lowest setting and dry out your fruit. This will take approximately 6 to 8 hours (possibly longer), and you will have a chewy dried snack. If you want to dehydrate your produce in a more economical way (it is inefficient running the oven for that long), I would suggest a dehydrator – there are plenty on the market. Once you’ve removed the water content from your produce, pop the pieces in an airtight container and store in a dark place.

Other Long Term Food Options That You Should Consider

Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s) are another option and you can expect a very long shelf life – to be between five and seven years. MRE’s do not have special storage requirements or need to be refrigerated. However, they will need to be stored away from rodents and bugs (or they become someone else’s meal!).  Each meal is a complete meal and contains roughly 1,200 calories. An average adult will need two per day. The meal packages will include condiments and eating utensils. The food in the packages can be heated by immersing the packages in hot water or they can be eaten cold.

Freeze dried foods are also a popular long-term food storage option because of their extended shelf life, up to 30 years if unopened, and there is a wide variety of foods available.

6 Tips For Long Term Food Storage

So here are 6 tips you should think about when looking to store your produce long term.

  1. The shelf life for most canned goods is roughly 12 months
  2. You can also store grains for a long period. Grains you can store include wheat, barley, oats, corn, buckwheat, and rice. As a reminder, brown rice because of its natural oils can turn rancid and deteriorate considerably faster that white rice. Brown rice is considered to have a shelf life of between six and twelve months whereas white rice can be stored for years if properly contained. Factors that can have an effect on foods are exposure to extreme temperature changes, exposure to light and the packaging material itself.
  3. Sealable food grade plastic buckets, barrels, and glass containers are ideal for grains or any type of food. Grains and whole grains in particular will attract weevils that burrow into the hull to lay eggs. The grains must be in a container that the weevils cannot “chew” through to get to the grains. Cardboard and burlap containers will not stop weevils from getting at the grains
  4. Whole grains if stored properly can be stored for years. Archeologists’ and others have found grain storage bins with grain in them that was thousand years old and by all appearances the grains appear to be intact and in some cases, they would germinate to produce more grain
  5. Meats such as chicken, beef and pork can be canned and stored on the shelf for years if you use a pressure cooker that allows the water temperature to reach at least 240ᵒF/115.5ᵒC. Foods like meat that are low in acid can provide a breeding ground for certain bacteria so that is why many foods preserved using vinegar or foods high in acid can be canned safely using a hot water bath of 212ᵒF/100ᵒC, which is the boiling point of water at sea level
  6. Don’t forget, if you are looking to store food long term, find waterproof and airtight food grade plastic containers. You can also use oxygen absorbers in each container of your dried food to prevent bacteria growth.

Here is a Guide to the Shelf Life of Some Common Food Staples

  • Honey indefinite shelf life
  • Salt can be stored indefinitely
  • Cooking oil 2 years
  • Olive oil 6 months
  • Powdered milk 1 year in the container it was purchased in, placed in glass/plastic air tight container significantly increases shelf life
  • Sugar lasts indefinitely
  • Dried beans 1+ years and this includes all legumes
  • Dried and ground spices between 1 and 3 years
  • White rice uncooked 2+ years
  • Brown rice uncooked 6 months
  • Vinegar both white and cider is considered to have an indefinite shelf life but cider vinegar may lose its taste after several years if the container has been opened
  • Flour all purpose between 6 and 8 months if left in the package it was purchased in, place in glass or plastic containers to increase shelf life

One of the most important things to remember about long term food storage is that you are preventing bacteria growth via preservation methods – so your food won’t spoil. So store your foods out of direct lighting, in a cool dark place. Give some of these a go and become more self sufficient.

Happy Homesteading!

For more information on food preservation see:

 

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One Comment

  1. Sadie

    July 21, 2015 at 8:07 am

    What a great article! I never though of canning meat before! It just looks strange to me, but this year I will definitely try it. Thanks for sharing!

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