Storing food is one of the core tenants for the preparedness lifestyle. It is the most effective way to help mitigate ANY disaster (both big and small) and most preppers have a significant amount of time and resources invested in their food preps. However, far too often, novice preppers make fundamental mistakes that render their food preps not only inedible, but dangerous. When disaster does strike, these preppers will find that their lifeline of stored food is not going to last nearly as long as they expected because they fell victim to one of the 5 food storage mistakes that can effectively destroy your entire stockpile.
Food storage mistake #1 – Improper Storage Area
- Your food storage area must have a stable temperature of 45-70 degrees. Any higher than this and the foods will actually begin to slowly cook inside their containers. Any lower than this and the cold temperatures can compromise the containers themselves or even begin freezing the foods inside them. A stable, regulated temperature is vital for proper food storage.
- The area cannot be in direct light. Most people already know that you can’t store food in direct sunlight. However, even modern electrical lighting can significantly reduce the shelf-life of your stored foods. If you are storing your food in a basement or some other open space, it is important to either keep them stored in containers or to put them in an area that will not receive more than minimal lighting.
- The area must be completely free of pests. Mice, insects and other critters are very good at locating food, even in a well-kept home. It is a good idea to put some sort of rodent traps around the food storage area just to be safe. Additionally, make sure that the area itself doesn’t smell like food. If it does, you will need to re-address the containers you are using to store your food preps.
Food storage mistake #2 – Improper Containers
- Your food containers need to be completely airtight. Not only will this help eliminate the food smell that can attract rodents and insects, but it will vastly increase the shelf-life of your preps. Sealed canning jars, sealed 5 gallon buckets (with gaskets) and sealed commercial cans are your best bet for making your storage containers airtight. Vacuum-sealed bags are technically airtight, however these bags are typically thin (which means pests can eat through them) so it is a good idea if you’re going to use vacuum sealed bags to put them into hard plastic containers for double protection.
- Some foods, especially things like seasonings, flour and sugar need to be stored in containers that allow next to no light in to maximize their storage life. This is easily done by using additional plastic containers. Anything that is a solid color (nothing clear) will work just fine.
- If you are packaging foods yourself, use oxygen absorbers to get rid of excess air within the containers. The less air a container has in it, the less of a chance that any sort of bacteria will grow or that the food will stale.
Food storage mistake #3 – Stockpiling preps without using them
- At least once a week, actually use different food preps in your regular cooking. Having a big stockpile is great, but if most of it is going to expire before you use it then it’s not really serving its purpose. You should have a wide variety of expiration dates in your preps to avoid them all going bad around the same time.
- Make sure your preps are organized in something or in some way that makes it easy to use a “first in, first out” system. Keep newer cans in the back, use the oldest things first.
- Keep a small book or clipboard by your storage area. Every time you use a food prep, write it down, use this list as a way to restock. Even better, buy 2 of everything on your list. This is a very good way to extend your preps without breaking the bank.
Food storage mistake #4 – Using “Survival Food” as your main prep source
- The expensive freeze dried meals from Wyse or Mountain House are a great way to add to your existing stockpile of preps. However, there are far too many preppers out there that rely solely on these as their food stockpile. Not only is this a bad idea simply because of the lack of variety and limited nutritional value, but it’s a bad idea because for the price of even 30 days’ supply of Mountain House, you could probably build your own rotatable stockpile of stored food that would last 3-4 times as long.
Food storage mistake #5 – Underestimating water needs
- Water storage is a topic all on its own, however it is definitely one of the most common food storage mistakes people can make. I don’t know how many preppers I’ve met that will gladly talk about how much food they have stocked up, but when you ask them about their water storage, you find out that they are dismally unprepared. It takes water to cook pretty much anything. It definitely takes water to CLEAN anything. When planning out your food preps, take water into consideration. It may even be a good idea to store separate water specifically for cooking purposes separate from your drinking water.
- Don’t underestimate how much water it takes to cook the foods you are buying. For every can, bag or jar you put away, take note of the amount of water you will need to cook and/or clean up that item. Keep a running tally of how much cooking/cleaning water you have stored up… if you start having more food than you have water to cook it with, put the money you would have used for food preps into water until you are sure that you have enough water to use the food preps you already have.
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