Storing your Food
In order for your dehydrated food to reach its maximum shelf life it must be stored in a cool dry area. That means that garages, attics, and sheds are generally not the best option because of the variation in temperature. It's also best to keep your food out of direct sunlight.
How Much Food do you Need?
Here is a great food storage calculator to help you get an idea of what you need.
The rule of thumb is that you can't have too much food. Store as much food as you can. If you have more than you need, you can trade for items you don't have. For example, if you have a surplus of flour, maybe you can trade some for batteries in an emergency.
Dehydrated tomato powder has a few uses. It's made from tomato paste, but you can reconstitute it to any thickness you need. You can use it for ketchup, sauces, soup, and basically anything you'd use a regular tomato for.
Don't forget to store seasonings. Seasonings can completely change a meal, which allows you to cook a variety of dishes with limited supplies. Because seasonings are dried, they generally last for years, though they won't last as long as a sealed #10 can because they're not airtight.
Another way to add variety to your food storage is by storing a 3-month supply of the food you're already eating on a regular basis. This can include pasta, soup, canned meat (tuna, chicken, Spam), beans, salsa, honey, etc. Just make sure to rotate through your supply, keeping the newest foods in the back of the pantry.
Dried beans require rehydration before being used in a meal. The easiest method is to soak the beans overnight (8 hours). To prepare the beans more quickly, boil the beans for 4 minutes, remove them from the heat, and then let them soak for 1 hour.
Potato Flakes vs. Potato Pearls
Potato pearls have a tendency to spoil more quickly than previously thought. For that reason, potato flakes are becoming the preferred form of dehydrated potato storage. Potato flakes can also be used as breading.
Flour doesn't have as long a shelf life as wheat. Wheat can last for 30 years of more, while flour usually lasts around 10 years. The only down side to storing wheat is that you need to grind it before it becomes useful for food.
It's important to get a hand crank grain mill. It may be easier to use an electric mill, but you can't rely on electricity to always be available. A good reliable grain mill is vital for food storage.
One more thing to know about flour is that wheat flour requires more yeast than white flour.
A Few Things to Remember
If you're storing #10 cans–as many people do–don't forget a can opener. It's a good idea to have a separate can opener intended specifically for your food storage. That way you can have a can opener that doesn't have years of use on it already. It's also nice to have a spare. You can always use a survival knife or some other makeshift opener if you really need to, but investing a couple bucks in a second can opener isn't a big sacrifice.
Food is obviously high on the priority list when preparing for a disaster. However, attention should also be given to other grocery supplies that may not be available in times of emergency. Remember, it only takes 72 hours for store shelves to be completely emptied when customers are panic buying. If you don't have what you need before that time, there's no guarantee you'll be able to get it in a pinch. Take a look at the items you regularly buy and make sure you've stocked up enough that you're no longer dependant on the store if it closes. Consider getting batteries, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaners, soap, shampoo, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and floss. Whatever you think you may eventually need, get it now while it's available.
It is also recommended to stock an emergency supply of any medications you may currently be taking. Hospitals can close in a disaster too.
When you're shopping for food storage—comparing calories, servings, variety, etc—it's easy to overlook a few things. First off, it doesn't matter how much food you have if you don't have water. Please don't forget to store water. It is recommended to store 1 gallon per person per day. Remember that water is used for more than just drinking. The more, the merrier.
When choosing a water container, look for one that is BPA free to ensure your water is free from unnecessary toxins. If the container doesn't say "BPA Free," it most likely does contain BPA.
If you're storing your water on cement, like inside a garage or unfinished basement, elevate your containers off the ground a few inches. This will prevent contaminants from leeching into the water from the cement. You can put a couple boards down as a barrier, while still providing a solid foundation for the containers to rest.
There are several ways to purify your water. Here are a few:
- Boil the water.
- Treat it with chlorine bleach. (1/8t for each gallon.)
- Expose the water to sunlight for several hours. This requires a clear container.
- Use water purification tablets.
- Use a hand pump, like a Katadyn water filter.
- In a pinch, strain your water through cloth to remove large sediment.
When water has been stored for long periods of time, it can acquire an unpleasant taste. One way to work around this problem is to store drink mixes. Drink mixes are generally good for several years because of their high sugar content. They also offer some extra calories when you're low on energy.