Food Storage Methods

Food is the most primitive form of comfort. - Sheilah Graham

Typically this is food that is dehydrated or freeze dried (similar to the pouch products), packaged in double-enamelled #10 or #2-1/2 cans, nitrogen flushed, and has an expected shelf life of 10 to 15 years (or more). They retain about 80% of their nutrition. Many of these foods are all natural, containing no artificial colors, artificial flavors, white sugar or MSG. This is the type of food you will want to obtain and store, to prepare for a long term survival situation.


Nitrogen packed


"Nitrogen Packaged" foods have almost all of the Oxygen replaced with Nitrogen. It is the oxygen that causes most foods to spoil, as most microbes and insects require oxygen to live. When this method of preserving food is combined with freeze-drying, the result is food that will keep for long periods, retaining its nutrition and flavor. We have absolutely nothing bad to say about these methods of food preservation.


Freeze-dried


"Freeze-Dried" means that the food was held at just above freezing while in a Vacuum chamber. In a vacuum, the moisture is removed quickly, to a point where it is much drier than most other dehydrated foods. Because the food is not allowed to freeze, ice crystals do not form in the cells of the food. It is these ice crystals that can cause frozen foods to loose their texture and become "Mushy," because the ice crystals rupture the cell walls in the food. Freeze-dried food, when water is added, returns more closely to original freshness than does other dehydrated foods.


Freeze-drying is a process of preserving food that retains the delicious taste and nutrition of fresh foods. Fresh or cooked foods are flash frozen and then put in large vacuum chamber that remains as cold as -50' F. Minimal heat is applied, and the ice evaporates without ever going back into the liquid phase. This removes almost all of the moisture from the product. Finally, the product is canned or bagged and labeled for long term storage for easy use at a later date. Although the freeze-drying method is generally more expensive, it generally produces a shelf life similar to that of dehydrated foods. It is a good choice for fruits and meats.


Advantages:


  • Food keeps texture and shape
  • Quickly reconstitutes with warm water
  • Lighter, for carrying or backpacking
  • Keeps full taste and size or bulk

Disadvantages:


  • Higher price
  • Need expensive equipment for freeze drying process
  • Only cost effective for selective products-- meats, fruits, and vegetables
  • Requires more space to store since food remains full size

Dehydrated Foods


When food is dehydrated, the water is slowly cooked out of the fruit or vegetable, without actually cooking it. There are three different methods: air-dried, sun-dried, or kiln-dried. Food can be easily sun-dried from your home, whereas the air or kiln method requires more equipment. All methods are very cost-efficient for storing food. Once fruits and vegetables are dried, they are then stored in airtight containers. Usually they are packed with an oxygen absorber, which effectively removes the oxygen, leaving only nitrogen behind.


Advantages:


  • Lower price than freeze-dried Food
  • Food is compact - more can be stored in a container
  • Food can be dried at home (sun-dried)
  • Easy to reconstitute with water

Disadvantages:


  • loses some texture when dried
  • Some loss of taste compared to freeze-dried
  • Need a machine to create air tight seal and add oxygen absorber

To Bulk or Not To Bulk


Bulk foods are a wonderful way to inexpensively build a good stock of food for emergencies, but the important part is that you know how to use it, a five gallon bucket of wheat is not going to do you much good it you do not know how to process it or have to tools to do so. Another important thing to consider is whether or not you are willing to package it yourself; doing it yourself can save over half of the cost.


Bulk foodstuffs that are readily storable for many years are the way that many who take preparedness seriously have chosen, no wonder when we have uncovered grain and honey in Egyptian tombs that is still perfectly viable thousands of years later. Taking the raw components and turning them into a finished product is where the work and skill that you supply comes into play.


The fact is there are just not that many people these days that know how to produce a whole meal from scratch without using something from a box or can. Yes, canned and other prepared foods have their place but they have taken a dominating position in today's modern lifestyle. Taking the raw product and turning it into dinner is far more work that people today are willing to perform, we have a whole generation on our hands that can't cook much of anything without a microwave.


If you decide that the route of bulk "beans and rice" is for you, one of the first things that you are going to want to get is a good quality grain mill. Trust me when I say "you get what you pay for", the last thing that you need is to have a poor quality grain mill take a dump on you when you need it the most.


Ok, so I bought a bunch of bags of rice, beans, wheat and other bulk foods, now what? Good question, the simple answer is to package it for long term storage. The easiest method that I am aware of the works reliably is using mylar bags in five gallon buckets with oxygen absorbers, there is a huge amount of information about the process on the Walton Feed website (http://waltonfeed.com/). We have buckets that were packed by a friend of ours this way prior to 2000 that their contents are as fresh as the day they were packed!


Baking


For baking, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, oil and shortening, will all be assets in a survival situation. With these staple items, you can make everything from pancakes or rolls to breading fresh fish. if your looking for a simpler answer, mixes for muffins, corn bread and pancakes will not need to have eggs or measure ingredients added.


For long-term survival storage, honey stores for years and can replace sugar in recipes. Rather than storing flour or meal, purchase the raw grain and a hand mill. Then you can mill your own flour whenever necessary. Red winter wheat, golden wheat, corn and other grains can be purchased in 45-pound lots packed in nitrogen-packed bags and shipped in large plastic pails.


Canned Food


Canned foods have more calories pound-per-pound than do freeze-dried foods. They already have water, and have a good shelf life. Another advantage is you are already familiar with the preparation since these are foods that you eat every day. Canned goods bought in bulk are pound-per-pound, about 25% of the cost of the same product offered in freeze-dried or dehydrated form.


Canned Food Shelf Life Recommendations:
Meats2-5 years or until expiration date on can
Baby FoodPlay it safe - 1 year or until exp. date on can
Tomato sauce 1 year
Most fruits2-5 years
Fruit Juice6 mos.- 1 year
Vegetables1-2 years
Baked beans1-2 years
Spaghetti sauceUsually 1 year - use by exp. date
SoupsUsually 1 year - use by exp. date


Here's a rough way to figure out about how long your canned foods will last:


Low-Acid canned foods (pH level of 4.5 or lower) - last about 2 - 5 years. This includes canned meat, stews, soups, pasta, potatoes, carrots, peas,pumpkin, etc.


High Acid canned foods (pH level of 4.6 or higher) - last about 1 - 1.5 years. This includes tomato sauces, fruits, vinegar-based foods, etc.


* Canned food may still be edible if it's older than the recommended shelf life. The quality and nutrient content tends to deteriorate after this amount of time.

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