Having some food storage is a great way to have peace of mind in a dangerous world, and it serves as an edible insurance policy in case times get tough. But there are right and wrong ways to go about it. Avoid these blunders and you’ll have a more viable backup food supply.
The temperature of your storage area can play a big role in the longevity of the food you’ve set aside. Cooler is better than warmer, and constant temperature is better than fluctuating temperature. Take your food storage out of the garage, for example, and move it to the basement. The seasonal hot and freezing temperatures of the average garage can drastically shorten your food’s lifespan, but the steady cool of the basement can make it last.
Sunlight sure is handy for growing food, but after that—the relationship takes a sour turn. If you can’t store your food in containers that are impermeable to light, then store them in a dark place. Those jars of home-canned veggies will start tasting pretty weird if you store the clear jars in a sunny area, and they won’t last as long, either.
As with light, you need moisture to grow the food, but then you don’t need it anymore. Moisture should be very low in most food-storage techniques. A dry place is the best place to store your food, and for dry food staples the moisture should be low inside the packaging too. Use food-grade desiccant packs inside your buckets, jars, or bags of food to remove moisture and make the food last longer.
Low levels of oxygen can equate to low levels of spoilage. Oxygen-absorbing packets can be purchased from food storage specialty suppliers, and used inside your food containers. These are sold in a variety of sizes, and measured in CCs. In a quart jar of dry goods, you could use 50- to 100-CC packets. Use 50 CCs for rice, flour and mixes. Use 100 CCs for beans and pasta. In a 5-gallon bucket, you’ll need about 1000 CCs. Use more than that (around 1500 CCs) if the bucket is full of beans or pasta. That’s a hell of a lot of pasta, up to 35 pounds worth, and more than 60,000 calories on average.
The last thing you want to see in your carefully prepared food storage is evidence of mice and rats having their way with your stuff. The right containers, poisons, and traps are a big step forward in rodent-proofing your food stores. And they beat the noise and smell from a cupboard full of cats.
—Put it in glass. Mason jars are my favorite glass containers. These canning-friendly jars with tight-fitting metal lids will keep all of the critters (rodent and bug) out of your storage. The biggest jars make a great receptacle for rice and other staple foods. 20 pounds of rice will fit perfectly into 6 of the large “half-gallon” mason jars.
—Put it in metal. Canisters and boxes made of metal are another great barrier against rodents. Those big, ugly Christmas popcorn tins can hold a lot of food and supplies. Any other metal containers have food storage potential, but avoid direct contact between your food and galvanized metal containers. Galvanizing is done with some pretty nasty chemicals.