The Practical Prepper
Early on in this blog, we talked in general about food storage in your preparedness. Today, let's take a look at some more specific guidelines:
What to Store
As you build your food stores, consider selecting items in the categories shown below. As always, it's important that your stored foods are things that you know how to prepare, and that your family already eats. Of course, it's important to follow a First-In, First Out (FIFO) rotation plan so that your food supplies always have the longest shelf life.
- Canned Foods: Typically having a good shelf life, canned foods are convenient in that they can often be eaten at room temperature. Also, food in metal cans can usually be heated directly in the can if need be. Some cans have convenient pull-tops, but don't forget to keep a couple of manual can openers handy. Consider the following canned foods:
Meats, like sardines, salmon, tuna, albacore, spam, potted meat: these have lots of protein, which will help keep your appetite sated and your muscles in shape. FYI, meat packed in oil (e.g., tuna) can often supply the oil required for cooking in some recipes.
Stews, soups, and chilies: can often be a complete meal in themselves, but watch the sodium content on some.
Vegetables and fruits: Aside from providing necessary nutrition for your body, many of these are packed in water or natural juices, respectively. The water from vegetables can be used as some of the water for recipes. Likewise, the natural juice from canned fruits is good to drink for hydration.
- Whole Grains and Beans: stored properly, rice, wheat, corn, and other whole grains have a very long shelf life. Not long ago, we did a series of posts on whole grains, including a good description of many grains to consider and another on how to store them. Likewise, we have a post on making beans a central part of your food storage.
- Long-Lasting Staples: Things like honey, sugar, salt, shortening, vinegar, spices, pasta, etc. are excellent food storage candidates. First, they are the building blocks for making all sorts of recipes, especially when combined with other foods. What's more, some of these items (e.g., honey, salt, and vinegar) have other, non-food uses.
- Sports/Hiking Foods: These types of products are usually designed to provide energy and nutrients in a convenient, portable package. Some examples include granola/energy bars, trail mix, and dried fruit snacks. We've found that it's important to study the ingredients of these products pretty carefully. There are some excellent products out there, but also an equal number of "health" bars or "trail mix" that are essentially candy. Also, don't underestimate the idea of making your own foods like this. Dehydrating your own fruit is an excellent option, since it gives you more control over the additives and can sometimes be much cheaper.
- Prepackaged Preparedness/Survival Foods: Generally speaking, this category includes foods that are specifically prepared for long-term storage, often with disaster preparedness and/or survival needs in mind. The two most common types of preparedness/survival foods are dehydrated/freeze-dried foods and Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs). Dehydrated and freeze-dried foods are great for preparedness planning, and we discussed such dried goods in our earlier post on food storage. One down side to dried foods is that they usually require water to rehydrate them for use in recipes. So, if dried food is a significant part of your disaster supplies, be sure to store extra water to accommodate it.
- Storable Beverages: Storing Juice boxes, evaporated milk, or powdered milk are all helpful options in addition to your basic water storage.
Things to Consider
When choosing your supplies, even foods in the above categories can have pitfalls:
- Some foods have too much salt or sugar, or are otherwise less healthy. Sometimes, you have to make trade-offs between longer shelf life or less additives. We've gotten in the habit of reading labels on everything, and we favor store-bought foods that have less than five ingredients, where possible.
- Eating high-sodium foods, or dried foods that haven't been rehydrated (like snacking on dried corn or peas) will require you to drink more water.
- While food packaged in glass containers is "canned" and has a good shelf life, the glass is more readily broken and can also allow food to perish more quickly than a metal can.
- Foil and plastic packaging is excellent for light-weight and portable food storage. However, they are easily punctured or torn, and they also have a relatively short shelf life.
- The more acidic a food is, the shorter its shelf life. Highly acidic foods like tomatoes, citrus fruits, and pineapple will usually only store for a maximum of a 1 to 1½ years. Foods with lesser acidity, like meats or vegetables, will store for 2 to 5 years, depending on the food ingredients and how it was processed.
- Foods with high fat contents also go bad more quickly. Typically, the oils break down and go rancid, spoiling the food. This is much of why nuts, salad dressings, mayonnaise, some meats, etc. don't last as long, or require refrigeration to extend their shelf life.
Believing that preparedness and self-reliance are key to individual freedom, Atticus Freeman is the founder of the Self-Reliant Info blog, in addition to authoring The Practical Prepper weekly blog here on Farm Dreams. Thanks for reading!